Finding Freedom logo 2019

January 24-25, 2020

Riviera Resort in Palm Springs, CA

2020 Theme: LGBTQ Recovery, Health, Wellness and Longevity


Event passes currently available for $150!

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View our full Agenda.

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About the Conference

The Finding Freedom Symposium is about bringing forward relevant information for best practices in supporting the LGBTQ community with co-occurring disorders. Our intention is to offer a container for discovery and focused discussion to find effective solutions for professionals and their LGBTQ patients - CE credits will be offered!

Our goal is to cultivate a conversation that will lead to clinical, research-based information. The conference is open to the community, treatment professionals, doctors, therapists and anyone who is interested in the unique issues facing sexual identity and co-occurring disorders treatment. We invite you to join for education, conversation and connection.

Last year's "Out Your Inner" fundraiding event was a massive success! This year, we will be hosting the fundraiser on Friday evening titled "Out Your Inner Star." The fundraiser supports Sanctuary Palm Springs TLC for LGBTQi+ Youth, and everyone is encouraged to join us and help raise money for this fantastic organization!

The Finding Freedom LGBTQ Symposium 2020 features keynote speakers with a wealth of knowledge on topics relevant to sexual identity and co-occuring mental health and addiction treatment.

Here are just a few of the names and topics that will be on display at the conference:

Keynote Sessions

David Fawcett, PhD

Embracing an Unanticipated Life: Resilience, Connection and Lifelong Recovery in the LGBTQ Community.

Krista Gilbert, PhD

The Intersection of Mom and Clinician: Raising a Non-Binary Child.

Out Your Inner Star

Last year's "Out Your Inner" fundraising event was a massive success! This year, we will be hosting the fundraiser on Friday evening titled "Out Your Inner Star." The fundraiser support Sanctuary Palm Springs TLC for LGBTQI+ Youth, and everyone is encouraged to join us and help raise money for this fantastic organization!

Agenda – CE credits will be offered!

  • Thursday, January 23, 2020
    7:00 p.m. Blue Tiger Town Hall Meeting: Internalized Shame Due to Heterosexism
    John Dennem, CADC-II, PCC, CAL State University LA

    Recovery is often seen as monolithic. Sexual, cultural and racial identities are often glossed over or not considered during inpatient treatment. Research has established that identities such as sexual, racial, and cultural are determinates of health. The experience of identity development in opposition to dominate society can lead to the development of health disparities (e.g. SUDS, Obesity, Diabetes).

    Internalized shame leads to a shame identity (Kaufman, 1974). Dealing with shame as an identity is different than shame-based behavior. This workshop highlights the difference between the two and participants will disover ways to move toward an emotional sobriety which can have lasting effect and promote long term sobriety and increase positive self regard (self-esteem).

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Describe a shame based identity
    • Discuss how shame is often avoided in session due to practitioners own shame.
    • Discuss how shame-based identity comes about.
    • Explore an approach that is beneficial and not iatrogenic to the patient
    • Employ cultural, racial, and other identity evidence-based interventions
  • Friday, January 24, 2020
    10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Tour Local Facilities
    1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    Grand Ballroom III
    Exhibitor Setup
    1:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
    Registration Open
    12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
    1.25 CE
    Lunchtime Session - Continuum of Care: Developing a Community Culture of Long-Term Recovery Support Cheryl Houk, Stepping Stone, San Diego

    Addiction is cunning, and powerful. Stepping Stone of San Diego (SSSD) has developed a continuum of care model for supporting clients for up to the first two years of their recovery. This continuum of care is successful because it is designed to keep the client involved and connected to the sober community and support services for as long as possible. This gives clients a better chance to build a stronger foundation of recovery before moving on to independent living.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify innovative ways to involve the client in the continuum of care
    • Examine ways to build a continuum of care and how to fund it
    • Discuss the importance of creating a sense of community for clients
    1:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
    Break and Visit Exhibitors
    1:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
    3.75 CE
    LGBTQ+ Health, Wellness and Longevity
    This afternoon workshop will feature cutting edge issues in health and wellness in the LBBTQI community. Experts from the Desert AIDS Project will highlight concerns, trends, risk factors, resources and treatment updates on the topics listed below.

    HIV and Aging
    Dr. Tulika Singh, Assoc. Chief Medical Officer and Director of Research and Jill Gover, Behavioral Health Manager, Desert AIDS Project

    This presentation will highlight concerns facing those living with HIV now that the life expectancy is much longer. The largest population living with HIV are over 50 years old.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify the long-term needs HIV/AIDS patients are facing
    • Explore ways to manage stress and HIV specific stressors
    • Examine Mental Health concerns such as survivors guilt, grief and loss

    Anal Cancer
    Matt Moran, NP, Senior Nurse Practitioner Specialist, Desert AIDS Project

    This presentation will provide an update on anal cancer and the overall risk to the gay community. Attendees will examine the statistics, risk factors and the screening process for anal cancer and the treatments available.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify risk factors for anal cancer
    • Examine types of screening and treatments
    • Discuss ongoing treatments and potential clinical trials

    Hepatitis C – The Silent Killer
    Dr. Shubha Kerkar, Director, Infectious Disease & Hepatitis Center of Excellence, Desert AIDS Project

    This presentation will provide an update on Hepatitic C (HCV) and the many risk factors for the LGBTQ+ community. Attendees will review the most recent information from CDCP on infection rates and information on how to treat and cure the disease will be provided.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Review trends and infection rates
    • Identify risk factors for HCV
    • Explore the impact of being undiagnosed and untreated
    • Examine overall liver health information

    PrEP and PEP – What You Need to Know
    Andy Ansell, PrEP Program Manager, Desert AIDS Project

    This presentation will provide information about Pre-Exposure Prophylaixis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Presenter will review treatment issues, side-effects and costs.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Explain the difference between PrEP and PEP and how they work
    • Explore the myths about PrEP
    • Identify the known side-effects of each
    • Discuss costs of treatment and how to access care, even if you think you cannot afford it

    Trans Care
    Anthony Velasco – Nurse Practitioner and Co-Chair, Transgender Health Program, Desert AIDS Project

    This presentation will focus on Transgender Health. A wide range of specific needs concerning the Trans community will be discussed, from hormone therapy to coping with discrimination within the community.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify health issues are specific to the Trans community
    • Explore the myths about PrEP
    • Examine available resources and potential roadblocks are ahead (health and legislative)
    • Explore what is on the horizon for Trans Health and what to expect
    5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
    1.0 CE
    Hors d’Oeuvres Reception / Posterboard Session: Portraits of Addiction
    James Barry, PsyD, LAADC

    This poster presentation will exhibit the human nature of addiction through the addict-self drawings of anonymous persons who offerred their stories to educate others. These drawings, telling the narrative of addiction, were collected and assembled by Dr. James Barry over 10 yeas.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Examine clients afflictions, addictions, and humanness through art
    6:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. "Out Your Inner Star" Fundraiser to Benefit Sanctuary Palm Springs
  • Saturday January 25, 2020
    7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
    Grand Ballroom III
    Continental Breakfast and Visit Exhibitors
    7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
    8:30 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.
    Grand Ballroom II
    Welcome Message from Conference Organizer
    Renee Baribeau
    8:45 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.
    Grand Ballroom II
    1.0 CE
    Keynote Address: Embracing an Unanticipated Life: Resilience, Connection and Lifelong Recovery in the LGBTQ Community
    David Fawcett, PhD

    This workshop examines pathways toward a productive and healthy life in recovery. Far from being an end in and of itself, recovery is simply the beginning of a journey which most of us never anticipated and for which we were often ill-prepared. This presentation is a skills-based, interactive workshop which first addresses how we can rewrite our life story by moving beyond limiting beliefs to expand awareness of our own potential. This may require difficult yet productive therapeutic work and diligence as we begin to uncover and accept the particular constellation of talents and individual gifts. Although most people consider resilience a character trait, it is actually a set of skills that can be taught and perfected. Various components of resilience will be discussed, including mindfulness practices, living with intention, gratitude, giving service, and a sense of purpose. Each of these will be examined with examples from the presenter’s life while eliciting interaction with participants about their own experience.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify techniques to overcome and rewrite limiting beliefs that constrict potential in recovery.
    • Discuss worthiness and other concerns that impact their ability to acknowledge their own strengths, gifts and talents.
    • Examine the central role of connection in recovery and its special role in the LBTQI community.
    • Explore various skills inherent in creating resilient life in recovery, including the challenges and rewards of that process.
    9:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Break and Visit Exhibitors
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    1.5 CE
    Sharing the Road; Many Paths – LGBTQI+ Long-Term Recovery Options
    Panel Discussion facilitated by Renee Sievert
    Davina Kotulski, PhD, Susan Lake, Mark Accomando, TJ Woodward

    This panel is inspired by the origin and history of the recovery movement that includes conscious contact with a higher power, prayer and meditation. During this workshop, presenters will discuss practices from mindfulness and consciousness practices to the 12 steps of AA and nature-based approaches. Panelists will discuss several evidence-based practices that they teach and use with their clients.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Explore spiritual modalities on the road to recovery
    • Examine the contribution of spirituality, nature, and mindfulness based practices and other forms of spiritual healing that aid in the recovery process
    • Discuss emerging approaches to recovery
    11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
    Grand Ballroom II
    1.0 CE
    Keynote: The Intersection of Mom and Clinician – Raising a Non-Binary Child
    Krista Gilbert, PhD

    Utilizing a case study from the presenter’s personal experience, as well as current research/data re non-binary/transgender adolescents, the key clinical pitfalls and best practices will be presented both from the perspective of the family member and the treatment provider.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Explore the personal narrative of the speaker’s experience of being the parent of a non-binary/transgender youth as a case study and as a clinical expert in working with the LGBTQ population to learn about the shortcomings, challenges and pressures in the current treatment offerings.
    • Identify areas of personal bias related to working with non-binary and transgender adolescents
    • Discuss the specific family dynamics around non-binary and transgender adolescents
    • Examine key clinical considerations/treatment planning in providing treatment to non-binary and transgender adolescents and their families
    12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. Lunch on Patio
    12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. Coffee Cart Open All Afternoon
    Mini Workshop Repeating in Ballroom Narcan: What, When and How to Administer It Amanda Cowan

    Presenter will review current trends of opioid use, review how opioids are absorbed and metabolized in the body. Participants will learn how to identify and respond to an opioid overdose, including how to administer Narcan (naloxone), an opioid antidote.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify an opioid overdose and safely administer Narcan
    • Explore CA laws on Naloxone tracking, distribution and administration
    • Review common misconceptions about Naloxone
    • Leverage conversations around harm reduction and overdose prevention
    1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
    1.0 CE
    A-1 Fragile Power: Why We Need to Expand Cultural Competency to Include People Who Live in Identities of Power.
    Paul Hokemeyer, PhD

    Historically, psychotherapeutic formulations that address minority populations do so through a lens of the diminished power these human beings possess. These include the constructs of minority stress as it relates to the LGBTi population and feminist psychology. But there is another side of the power bell curve that exists and has not been openly explored in the realm of theoretical constructs and clinical formulations. Power, and it's expression exists in the intra-personal, inter-personal and sociocultural realms of everyone's life. In the psychotherapeutic experience it must be addressed through a lens of cultural competency and clinical excellence. In his book, Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough (Hazelden, 2019) Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, explores the phenomenon of power and develops a clinical formulation to effectively address it. He will discuss his findings in this dynamic presentation.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify three cultural markers of people who live in identities of power
    • Discuss the transference and countertransference that arises between therapist and client around differentials in power identities
    • Explore how power is worshiped and disdained in our modern zeitgeist
    • Identify a new clinical formulation to address patients who live in the world in elevated power

    A-2 The Importance of Attachment Healing for LGBTQ+ Persons in Substance Use Disorder Treatment
    Rigo Brueck, PhD, LP, LMFT | Hazelden Betty Ford

    Many LGBTQ+ individual experience intense rejection, betrayal, bullying, and abandonment. The use of alcohol and other drugs as attempts of self-medicating or self-soothing leads to additional experiences of pain and suffering. When providing treatment and therapy for LGBTQ+ persons, a sole focus on the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is in most cases not enough. Healing the ability for attachment and connection is an important part of restoring the person to wholeness.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Examine state of the science of Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
    • Review of proven therapy approaches for SUD
    • Explore tools and techniques for healing attachment and connection

    A-3 Assessment, Demographics, and Trends of LGBTQ+ Population
    Todd Connaughty, MA, LPCC, LADC | Pride Institute

    The session will highlight recent trends and demographics of the LGBTQ+ population seeking treatment with an additional focus and training on the LGBTQ-Affirming Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation (LACPE), a sexual orientation, gender development specific, development and culture informed psychiatric assessment.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify key components of the LGBTQ-Affirming Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation (LACPE)
    • Examine current trends and demographics of LGBTQ+ individuals seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders
    • Discuss the intersections of gender identity, sexual orientation, and other minority status and the impact of these on LGBTQ individuals
    • Examine and share the results from the Pride Institute study on gender minority clients in residential treatment
    2:45 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Break and Visit Exhibitors
    3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    1.0 CE
    B-1 Understanding LGBTQI Role Responsibility During Times of Collective Uncertainty
    Lauren Costine, PhD and Renee Baribeau

    Are we being heard? Everyone wants their seats at the table. When we do not feel heard, it can be interpreted as a micro-aggression. This is a common problem in the dominant culture and within our LGBTQi+ communities. There are external stressors in our current political, socio-economic, and social justice realm. Hard fought rights are being threatened to cause increased stress, anxiety and depression, common undercurrents of addiction and mental health disorders. During our conversation, we will look at the difficult questions that need to be asked such as: How do we protect ourselves, how do we support our dicerences, and how do we as a community build greater resilience and what are our role responsibilities?

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Raise awareness and understanding about the effects of the LGBTQi+ community, during times of backlash
    • Examine how internal and external stress affect the acuity of mental health and addiction disorders
    • Create effective tools for integration into treatment plans
    • Explore our role and responsibilities as clinicians, leaders and members of the communities

    B-2 Sexually Informed Addiction Recovery
    Joe Kort, MSW, PhD

    In the beginning of recovery, some men struggle to understand their true sexual identity and orientation. Sexual 􀂧uidity is often ignored or misunderstood. Erotic identity is different than sexual identity. Together we will explore the many ways sexual expression manifests and how to help clients assess themselves as LGB or straight.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Understand the difference between sexual identity and erotic identity
    • Explore various sexual identities that exist for males
    • Differentiate between straight, gay and bisexual and go beyond the binary
    • List at least 3 ways men express their sexuality from a strength-based perspective
    • Identify 4 ways to guide men how to self-identity their sexual orientation

    B-3 Beyond the ABC’s: Full Spectrum Clinical Awareness with LGBTQ Clients
    John Sovec, MA, LMFT
    Everyday LGBTQ clients walk through the door of treatment centers wondering if their identity will be affirmed and recognized as they work through the myriad challenges of substance use. As a professional working with the LGBTQ community, even the most well meaning clinicians can find themselves making mistakes in communication, treatment planning, and community involvement that make it challenging for an LGBTQ client to feel safe and understood.

    It is vital for clinicians to cultivated an awareness as to how biases and agendas develop and how the pervasiveness of these constructs can influence the therapeutic alliance. This workshop will explore a model of care that addresses the impact of sexual minority status on mental health, physical health, and recovery. We will explore the alienation of LGBTQ clients from their family of origin, understand coping mechanism that influence LGBTQ identity development, and how by creating an affirming and supportive environment, clients can regain and expand their sense of LGBTQ identity as the move towards recovery.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Explore a model of care addressing the impact of sexual minority status on mental health, physical health and recovery
    • Examine the impact of alienation of LGBTQ clients from their family of origin
    • Identify coping mechanisms that influence LGBTQ identity development
    • List at least 3 ways men express their sexuality from a strength-based perspective
    • Discover how creating an affirming and supportive environment, clients can regain and expand their sense of LGBTQ identity as the move towards recover
    4:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. Break and Visit Exhibitors
    4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
    1.0 CE
    C-1 Out in Recovery: Launching an LGBTQ-Focused Residential Addiction Treatment Program
    Karen Wolownik Albert, LCSW

    Gateway Foundation is one of the country's largest nonprofit addiction treatment organizations and has treated persons struggling with Substance Use Disorder for over 50 years. In 2017, Gateway conducted a 12-month retrospective patient outcome study identifying four key elements impacting higher levels of post treatment abstinence, and increased life satisfaction among participants.

    Gateway Foundation has utilized this outcome data to enhance program services, particularly to identified underserved populations. Gateway has provided substance use disorder treatment to the LGBTQ community in all of its programs and levels of care, however recently began development of a dedicated adult all gender unit--the Out in Recovery Program. The Out in Recovery program provides a safe, inclusive treatment milieu where patients can focus on healing and recovery without bias, and in the company of supportive peers and highly trained, knowledgeable and compassionate staff. The focus of this workshop is to discuss key factors discovered in the outcome study, as well as to highlight Gateway's process of program development including the specific steps of implementation of the Out in Recovery program. There are currently not enough providers who are truly meeting the many unique medical and behavioral health needs of our LGBTQ patients. This workshop will also promote discussion of treatment best practices with an understanding that there is no one path to recovery.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Identify four key factors to promote abstinence and increased life satisfaction post treatment for SUD patients
    • Discuss the diverse and unique needs of persons from the LGBTQ community seeking addiction treatment
    • Examine Gateway's program development and implementation process
    • List at least 3 ways men express their sexuality from a strength-based perspective
    • Discover means to enhance services to better meet the needs of the LGBTQ community

    C-2 An Overview of Ethics and Dual Relationships in the LGBTQ+ Recovery Community
    Mark McMillan, LMSW, CAADC

    Most Social Workers and other addiction professionals are well aware of the challenges faced when navigating dual relationships with their clients. This workshop will explore the unique and more uncommon challenges that LGBTQ+ addiction therapists struggle with in their local recovery community. Similar to dual relationships in rural areas, most local LGBTQ+ recovery communities are close-knit and well connected. From the perspective of the professional as a member of the recovery community, presenter will review different aspects of possible dual relationships, including clients taking service positions in the therapists 12-step home group, clients becoming friends with the therapist’s 12-step fellowship members, and other overlooked situations unique to the LGBTQ+ recovery community. Participants will gain more awareness of conflicts of interests that exist for the LGBTQ+ addiction therapist, the difference of inappropriate behavior and violating behavior in an ethical dilemma, and gain more awareness of maintaining a therapeutic relationship that honors the LGBTQ+ client while ensuring the privacy of the addiction therapist. This workshop will offer short case studies and personal experiences for group discussion.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Examine an appropriate ethical foundation of substance abuse treatment for LGBTQ+ clients
    • Identify 3 key differences between inappropriate behavior and ethics violation
    • Discuss how an addiction therapist can appropriately protect and maintain their own recovery program while navigating dual relationships with clients
    • Explore 2 case studies that illustrate more overlooked dual relationships unique to the LGBTQ+ therapist in their local recovery community

    C-3 Countering Toxic Male Spirituality: Reclaiming The Male Spiritual Journey
    Steve Kelly, LPC, CSAT

    Evidenced-based research is clear: Healthy spirituality improves the quality of recovery and increases long-term success in maintaining sobriety. And yet, what passes as spirituality is often shaming, dualistic, abusive, and violent and performance-driven. This toxic spirituality dominates what passes for male spirituality in our present culture. This dominance in present-day culture complicates and impeeds many in the LGBTQ -community as they seek to discover what healthy spirituality looks like. This presentation will: examine the latest evidenced-based research relating to recovery, spirituality, and the LGBTQ community; explore healthy spirituality as connection; present a healthy paradigm of the male spiritual journey and its implications for on-going recovery; provide resources for its implementation.

    Attendees will be able to:
    • Examine current data regarding the importance of healthy spirituality and meaningful recovery.
    • Explore healthy spirituality as connection (self, others, and the world).
    • Define key elements of toxic male spirituality.
    • Present a healthy paradigm for male spirituality (initiation, heroic descent, self-identity, etc.).
    • Discuss implications for the LGBTQ community and tools to implement.
    5:15 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Evaluations and Signout
    5:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Evening Events in Palm Springs
    Gay Playhouse, Dinners

The Coachella Valley LGBTQ+ Association

Course Description

The symposium is designed for clinicians, treatment professionals, therapists, and EAP providers. The goals of this symposium include educating treatment professionals about evidence based practices and LGBTQI specific issues in mental health and addiction treatment (co-occurring disorders). Presenters will address numerous topics including cultural competency, gender diversity, trauma informed care, suicide prevention and assessment, workplace issues, employee assistance best practices and organizational adaptation to change.

Contact Info

Renee Baribeau Michael’s House Community Outreach and Marketing Coordinator [email protected] 760-464-2138 Get LGBTQ Symposium and Michael’s House updates:

Sponsorship and Promotional Opportunities

We have several sponsorship packages and promotional opportunities for the LGBTQ Symposium. For more information on pricing and offerings, contact Renee Baribeau at [email protected]. Sponsorship Levels

Speak with an Admissions Coordinator 760-548-4032