Santa Clara County LGBTQ Clinical Academy

Investigators: Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D., Liz McConnell, Ph.D., Predair Robinson, Ph.D., Jayme Peta, Ph.D., Em Matsuno, Ph.D.

Purpose and Goals: The goal of this project is to develop, conduct, and evaluate an in-depth, advanced 40-hour training on LGBTQ cultural competence for mental health practitioners in Santa Clara County.  With funding from Santa Clara County and collaboration with the county’s Office of Behavioral Health and Office of LGBTQ Affairs, we are developing this unique approach to ensuring that mental health service providers are meeting the unique needs and concerns of diverse LGBTQ populations in a culturally responsive and effective manner.  Our evaluation will measure the effects of the training on providers’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes towards LGBTQ-affirmative clinical work.



Enby: Understanding stress and resilience among non-binary people

Co-Principal Investigators: Em Matsuno, Ph.D., Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D., Nat Bricker, B.A., and Elizabeth Savarese, B.A.

Purpose and Goals: The aim of the enby project is to identify the types of minority stressors that non-binary people experience and what helps them manage those stressors, with the ultimate goal of developing and validating the first non-binary minority stress and resilience scale. Having this assessment tool is crucial in understanding the relationship between minority stressors, resilience factors and mental health outcomes as well as evaluating the impact of interventions on reducing minority stress for non-binary people. Non-binary participants will be recruited online to participate in one of four focus groups with 4-8 participants each, two of which will be limited to people of color only. Additionally, individual interviews will be held with approximately 6 non-binary individuals who are identified as community leaders within non-binary communities. Data will be collected and analyzed in spring of 2020.

Gender Kaleidoscope Study

Co-Principal Investigators: Arielle Webb, M.S., Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D., & Elizabeth Savarese, B.A.

The Gender Kaleidoscope Study aims to examine gender in all of its myriad forms within LGBTQ communities, with a special focus on individuals whose gender identity and expression fall outside of the binary of man/woman (for example, genderqueer, non-binary, and androgynous genders).  We are currently collecting data in a large national from 450 adults to explore gender identity and expression, sexual identity, relationships, well-being, stressors and resilience among diverse LGBTQ people. This study includes longitudinal data collection to examine how changes in the sociocultural environment and individual life experiences impact well-being over time. 


Resilience and Well-being in LGBTQ Latinx Individuals

Principal Investigator: Itzel Anaya, B.A.

Co-Principal Investigators: Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D., Alinne Barrera, Ph.D., & Teceta Tormala, Ph.D.

Gender and sexual minority (GSM) Latinx immigrants experience multiple minority stressors related to their immigration status, racial/ethnic identity, sexual orientation and/or gender identities.  Prior research suggests that these individuals also possess unique strengths that can help them overcome these adverse life experiences. This study will recruit GSM Latinx individuals, including bilingual and monolingual Spanish speakers, in order to characterize stressors and resilience factors. A survey of GSM Latinx Californians will assess sexual and gender identities, perceived experiences of discrimination, well-being, mental health outcomes, and bicultural identity integration, as well as differences between monolingual and bilingual GSM Spanish speakers, and first and second-generation GSM Latinx individuals.

Compassion Cultivation Training among Gender and Sexual Minorities

Co-Principal Investigators: Jessie Simonetti, M.S.; Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D., & Matthew Skinta, Ph.D., ABPP

This study is a randomized, controlled trial of an empirically-based psychoeducation program called Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT).  This program was recently developed by Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education to help train individuals on how to cultivate compassion and improve resilience. Currently, there are no published studies on the impact of any formal compassion training program, including CCT, with gender and sexual minorities (GSM). To address this gap, this study proposes to examine the influence of CCT on reducing emotional distress (i.e. depression, anxiety, stigma, shame) and improving well-being (i.e. mindfulness, compassion) among GSM adults. This study's recruitment will begin in Fall 2017 and CCT groups will begin in January 2018 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The purpose of this study is to utilize CCT to shift awareness and every day practices of compassion to not only be utilized in moments of deep suffering, but also as an active anchor or stance in daily life. Through CCT, the investigators hope to explore ways to strengthen resilience in this vulnerable population.


Cognitive and Risk Variables Associated with Gender Study

Co-Principal Investigators: Janna Holmes, M.S., Briahna Yuodsnukis, B.S., Brian Maruyama, & Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D.

This study aims to examine differences in interpersonal behaviors, emotions, and mental performance according to gender and sex assigned at birth. Specific measures of well-being, personality traits, impulsivity, aggression, substance use, and cognitive performance are being administered via an online survey of 100 transgender women, 100 transgender men, 100 cisgender women, and 100 transgender men.  Exploring gender differences in a mixed transgender/cisgender sample will inform the development of culturally competent assessment strategies for transgender populations and will highlight both similarities and differences among transgender people and their cisgender counterparts.  Data collection launched in 2019.

Civil Union Project Longitudinal Enhanced Study (CUPPLES)

Principal Investigator: Kimberly F. Balsam, Ph.D

Co-Principal Investigator: Esther Rothblum, Ph.D.

Other Investigators and Collaborators: Ellen Riggle, Ph.D., Sherry Rotosky, Ph.D., Ted Beauchaine, Ph.D., Robert Wickham, Ph.D.

Funding Received From: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (grant number R01HD069370); The Gill Foundation; The Scrivner Award of the American Psychological Foundation; The Placek Fund of the American Psychological Foundation; The University Committee on Research and Scholarship of the University of Vermont; and The College of Arts and Letters of San Diego State University

History of Project: In 2002, the CUPPLES Project investigators contacted and obtained information from same-sex couples who obtained civil unions in Vermont during that first year, same-sex couples in their friendship circles who did not have civil unions, and their heterosexual married siblings and spouses. The investigators conducted a survey of these three groups focusing on demographic factors, length of relationship, social support from family and friends, contact with families of origin, social and political activities, degree of “outness,” and division of housework, childcare, and finances. Originally called the Vermont Civil Union Project, this was the first study to examine same-sex couples in state-recognized relationships. The “civil union couples” will always be the first “legal” same-sex couples in the U.S. The researchers surveyed many of these same couples and their friends and siblings again in 2005 for a three-year follow up in which they focused on relationship quality and satisfaction.

In 2013-2014 the investigators conducted a third study that reached out to all of the participants from the original 2002 study. The researchers successfully recruited 786 individuals across all three of the original groups to participate in an in-depth survey focusing on many of the original topics as well as health, mental health, and other challenges and strengths that couples and individuals may face. By this time, many of the same-sex couples had gotten married, and some of the same-sex and heterosexual couples had broken up. Additionally, the researchers conducted 56 in-depth interviews with same-sex couples and with individuals who had previously been in same-sex couples that broke up. Interviews focused on the role of legal status in the lives of same-sex couples over the past decade.

We plan to continue to follow this cohort of participants in the future to examine relationships and well-being in the context of a changing society.

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