Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A. DiTomasso, Ph.D., ABPP

First Advisor

Takako Suzuki, Ph.D, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Virginia Salzer, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Emily Chernicoff, Psy.D.

Fourth Advisor

Andrea Bloomgarden, Ph.D.


Despite the prevalence of discrimination in American society, little is known about the effects of equal rights activism on mental health. Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, discrimination against marriage, adoption, employment, and other rights and privileges given to heterosexual individuals is still legal and socially accepted in most American communities. Previous research has suggested that these individuals have higher incidences of depression, anxiety, and substance use than the general population. The experience of discrimination and punishment responses learned from societal messages is believed to contribute to these clinical issues within this community. This qualitative study found that equal rights activism is effective in reducing depression and anxiety within the gay community. Principles of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy explain the phenomena of improved mental health during the process of coming out to oneself, coming out to others, and participating in activism to improve the rights and privileges of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.