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Biography of Ken Howard, LCSW, Founder & Executive Director of GayTherapyLA

There are many therapists who purport to work with gay men.  But our issues are different, and most of my clients want a therapist who is also a gay man, like you, who understands you on a deeper level and gay men’s culture and community.

I have devoted my professional career as a therapist almost exclusively to working with gay men, as individuals or in gay male couples.  I have over 24 years experience doing therapy in Los Angeles (or West Hollywood), as well as coaching services locally or nationally/globally via phone or webcam.  No other therapist in Los Angeles has as much experience working as a specialist for gay men.

I’m on the faculty of the University of Southern California’s (USC) Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, part-time, teaching advanced courses in psychotherapy theory to graduate students.  I also have experience designing and implementing mental health programs for gay men (and with people living with HIV/AIDS) in non-profit organizations.  I work with individuals, couples, executives, and celebrities/people in the public eye.  I also speak on issues related to gay men’s mental health and well-being and other LGBT issues to schools, organizations, and corporations.

What this means for you is that by working with an expert specialist in gay men’s issues (overcoming personal or professional challenges) you are likely to have a shorter duration of your course of therapy, due to less time spent explaining terms only a gay man would know, and more access to my experience working with many clients in the past who have gotten help to resolve issues that are similar to yours.

If you had a heart problem, you wouldn’t trust cardiac surgery to an inexperienced doctor.  If you have psychological, emotional, situational, or other life challenge, you need expert psychological help, not someone who is newly-trained.

Therapy can be affordable in a fee that we negotiate based on your income and individual circumstances.  For more information on fees and insurance, see here.

If you are just shopping for price, I’m not the therapist for you.  I have a boutique practice that is kept small so that there is more individual attention on you, including the option for reasonable text messages or phone calls between sessions to support your weekly goals.  It is a fee-for-service practice with immediate openings; I can often see you the next day or within the current business week (Mondays through Fridays).  I’m happy to talk to you about fees and times available.  Call or text 310-339-5778 if you would like more information, or if you’re ready to make an appointment now.

Background and History

Like everyone’s life and career, my story and my journey to becoming a therapist has its place in our country’s social, cultural, and even medical history.

By the late 1980’s, I had had extensive training and experience as an actor, including earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre at UCLA, one of the leading theatre schools in the United States (with peers/colleagues such as actor Tim Robbins and actress Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: SVU”).  Like other young actors, I sought opportunities in the “teen coming-of-age” movies characterized by that period.

However, that period was also characterized by the height of the AIDS crisis, which was a medical, psychological, social, and cultural trauma, and as a young gay man coming out in Los Angeles in 1985, I lost many friends, teachers, and acquaintances to the carnage of the AIDS epidemic.  After some frustrations in getting a lucrative acting career off the ground, I grew restless with its seemingly insipid priorities, compared to what was happening all around me in the AIDS crisis.  I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.  I had to to my “part”.   As a young, ambitious, and I think smart young man, I got frustrated that my mind and talents weren’t being used for anything beyond “burger boy” roles and a very modest impact on society.

Fired up by this frustration, I decided that I wanted to do MORE with my life.  If it had been the 1940’s, I would have been in the military at that age to fight in World War II.  In the 80s’, I “enlisted” in the war against AIDS, not as a physician (I didn’t have the background or patience to pursue Medicine), but as a trainee in mental health — first in Psychology, then in clinical Social Work.  I volunteered at AIDS Project Los Angeles as a “Phone Buddy”, doing phone counseling to people with AIDS.  And I noticed that the guys who had more mental health support survived longer, and better, than their peers with poorer mental health.  Later, formal research proved this observation.

My own diagnosis of HIV in November, 1990, led me to abandon the pursuit of long (5+ year) Ph.D. Psychology programs, because at that time Iwas literally afraid that I would not live to see the completion of a Doctoral program, and I was far too obsessive-compulsive to die with a half-finished degree.  I chose to pursue the two-year, full-time MSW (Master of Social Work) program in Mental Health at the University of Southern California  School of Social Work, where my internship training right from the very beginning emphasized the population I wanted to work with most (gay men), and to do my part in the fight against AIDS.  Later, I got very interested (in love, really) with helping people with more severe psychiatric disorders, or “chronic mental illness”.

After years of formal, supervised training, I earned my California state license to practice psychotherapy, which is the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), with special additional training as a psychiatric social worker, which qualifies me to discuss medications and their use in more depth, but not as precisely as an MD psychiatrist.

Most people don’t know that in the United States, the majority of psychotherapy and counseling services are provided by clinical social workers, not psychologists as might be expected. I was licensed as an LCSW on my first attempt in 1997 (LCS#18290, verifiable at http://www.bbs.ca.gov), after completing 3,200 hours of clinical experience in not less than 24 months of work, supervised weekly by an LCSW, and rigorous written and oral exams (with an approximately 30% pass rate).

The University of Southern California (USC) Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and is one of the top 5 schools of social work in the United States. It was here that I started my specialization in working with gay men, gay male psychology, gay mental health, HIV mental health, and community research and advocacy. At USC, I was Chair of the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual Student Caucus. Before USC, I completed nearly two years of various post-baccalaureate courses in psychology after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (BA, 1987).

In addition to providing psychotherapy for gay men, I have over 10 years experience in non-profit organization administration and over 7 years in qualitative business research and business/industrial psychology.  I have taught field internships for social work interns, supervised mental health, case management, treatment advocacy, peer support, home health care, and other social services programs, including over five years of service in programs for homeless people with severe mental illness.

Prior to expanding my practice to full-time, I was the Associate Director, Clinical Services for Los Angeles Family AIDS Network (LAFAN), and Clinical Director of SPECTRUM, the HIV social services clinic at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. I have also worked in other areas of community advocacy, organizational consulting, and teaching. I served as a consultant to the UCLA/Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center, where I co-wrote a national training curriculum in HIV and mental health, and was a member and Co-Chair of the LA County HIV Mental Health Task Force for nine years, co-chairing its annual conference for mental health professionals for 8 years. I was a teaching consultant to Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers-Squibb Virology, and LipoWear, Inc. on HIV mental health and other strategies for successfully living with HIV/AIDS.

I served on the Board of Directors for LAGPA (the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapists Association) for four years. For two years, I wrote a monthly column for A&U (Art & Understanding), America’s AIDS magazine, on HIV mental health. I wrote a chapter published in the book, AIDS and Mental Health Practice: Clinical and Policy Issues (Shernoff, Haworth Press, 1999), in addition to regular contributions to the gay magazines Poz, Instinct, Frontiers, and IN LA. I have served as a regular advice columnist for LGBTQ youth called “Dear Trevor” for The Trevor Project website (http://www.thetrevorproject.org). I make regular TV and radio appearances on mental health, HIV/AIDS, and gay rights issues, including as a commentator on the much-repeated “50 Wickedest Women of Prime Time” on E! Entertainment Television.

I completed a volunteer internship providing individual, couple and group psychotherapy for gay and bisexual men at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Mental Health Department, where I co-facilitated a group for adult gay male incest/sexual abuse survivors. After this, I completed another nine-month clincial internship in psychiatric social work (individual and group therapy) at Pacific Clinics Pasadena, specializing in assisting persons with schizophrenia and other severe/persistent mental illness and developing a model for care called Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Assertive Community Treatment.

Personal History

I was born and raised in the area of Washington, DC, and I have lived in Los Angeles since 1983.  I have been successfully living with HIV since 1990. I am legally married to my wonderful husband, Michael Ryan, the Director of Development for the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Community at California State University – Northridge.  I live and work in an active, visible, social, and civic role in the gay male community of West Hollywood to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” of my practice, empowering gay men to lead fuller lives — psychologically, professionally, emotionally, physically, sexually, politically, socially, and spiritually.

How to Enroll as a Client

My job is to provide you with a private, safe, confidential space to come each week, at a time set aside just for you, with my undivided attention, where you can work toward goals that are important to you and that would relieve you of burdens or improve your quality of life. Everything we talk about is strictly confidential, except for the most extreme legal situations (like if you were suicidal and a few others I could explain).

Many people think they have to really “need” therapy to come in; that’s not really true. Our work can begin whenever you WANT it to. There is really no such thing as people who “need” therapy versus people who don’t. Everyone could benefit from knowing themselves better and setting goals to improve their life.

The most common technique I use is called the cognitive-behavioral approach. This is a very interactive technique to change the way you think about yourself, which changes the way you feel, which changes your behaviors, which then changes your life in all kinds of positive ways. With some people, I also draw from a more casual “life coaching” approach, where you learn how to get more things done, deal with anger, manage your time, deal with drinking or using, make a budget, plan your career, feel better about yourself, or communicate better with others.

I also draw on Developmental Psychology, Existential Psychology, Positive Psychology, and Executive Coaching/Life Coaching models, as appropriate for your individual situation.  I am not an “old-school psychoanalyst”, silent and passive — my style is active, verbal,  interactive, and somewhat informal.  That said, I help YOU do the work so that your gains are YOUR achievements to own, implement, and benefit from, for a lifetime beyond after your work with me concludes.

I deliberately keep my practice small and “boutique-style”, to ensure that I provide you prompt accessibility to me and specialized attention to my limited caseload.

I engage in continuous professional self-improvement that adds value to the skills I offer you by conducting ongoing research in my specialty areas, reading academic journals and articles, attending local and national conferences, and investing in paid consulting, coaching, workshops, and accredited Continuing Education to keep my skills current and sharp to help with your specific issues with the latest data in the field.  I provide customized, individualized Plans of Treatment for each of my clients, based on your needs and goals.

I am accessible to my clients via email and phone calls promptly between sessions (up to 15 minutes) free of charge, to ensure continuity of care and accessibility to you.

This focused, “boutique”-style of service, along with my specialization and extensive experience (over 24 years) that bring you additional value to your therapy/coaching sessions, are why my fees and office policies are somewhat less flexible than newcomers to the field who “accept insurance” or charge low fees to get established.

I realize therapy requires a significant financial investment for anyone who undertakes it.  You are not only paying for my time at your sessions, but also for the extensive and varied overhead costs required of therapists who offer services in a private practice setting.  You pay for the session time, but also for access to the benefit of many years of experience and perspective, helping others just like you.  Hopefully, you find the investment in yourself, your quality of life, your future, and the VALUE your therapy brings to your life is worth any “budgetary re-arranging” and prioritizing you might need to do to make private therapy possible.

Phone sessions or webcam sessions are available for local residents and residents throughout California (therapy and coaching), and for US/International clients (coaching only).  Please ask for details on these programs.

See how I can help. Call/text me at 310-339-5778 to schedule a no-charge, 15-minute phone consultation.