Grad aims to advance counseling for LGBTQ+ communities

Jacoby Geenen wearing a dress in an outdoor setting.

Jacoby Geenen. Courtesy photo


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

After struggling to find clinical treatment as a gender-diverse individual, Arizona State University graduate Jacoby Geenen found that mental health providers who cater to the LGBTQ+ community were sparse. This discovery amplified Geenen’s purpose and defined their pathway at ASU.

Wanting to make an impact in this area, Geenen, from Chandler, Arizona, pursued a bachelor’s degree in counseling and applied psychological science in the School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at the Polytechnic campus.

“I wanted to take action and facilitate a compassionate and knowledgeable approach to providing mental health support for this type of diversity,” they said.

As a student, Geenen’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community was unwavering, and many of their activities and projects reflected this cause.

“I continuously worked toward facilitating strength and empathy for myself and others,” they said.

Motivated by this mission, Geenen promoted and supported PRISM, an LGBTQ+ student organization at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, and dedicated school projects to learning more about challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces, among various other advocacy efforts.

“One project that particularly stood out to me during my time at ASU was a presentation in my Cultural Aspects of Health class. I investigated the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in the health care system and discovered this population’s beliefs, customs and patterns of behavior in our society and the ways this community faces bias and prejudice,” Geenen said.

“Despite the emotional turmoil that is embedded throughout the statistical analysis of this population, this project created ripples of motivation for my own advocacy efforts and solidified my desire to create the change I want to see in the world.” 

Following graduation, Geenen says they plan to continue pushing the boundaries of their self-expression, and personally and professionally advocate for those “oppressed by the systemic categorizations of binary genders and neurotypical expectations."

Geenen added, “I will continue to demand the right to my own existence, to my unique experiences and to my individual efforts to consistently modify our societal outcomes.”    

Here, they tell us more about their experience studying at ASU and plans for the future.

Note: Answers may have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom, lab or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Throughout my learning at ASU, concepts that promoted major shifts in my perspectives were intersectionality and the minority stress theory. Recognizing the nuanced relationships between minority stress and intersectionality offered a framework of empathetic understanding that carved the building blocks to encapsulate my multicultural focuses.

Distinctly, in my research methods class, I began to conceptualize the sheer limitlessness of intersectionality when trying to quantify participants' experiences into numerical data. This process highlighted the expansiveness of these topics and how quantitative data can be constricting when conveying an inherent understanding of individual experiences within such complex systems of identity.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for a number of reasons. First, this institution is widely respected for its research opportunities. I realized that if I ever wanted to take this educational route, ASU would provide ample opportunities to fulfill that desire. I also greatly appreciated that there were multiple campuses. The provision of ASU facilities throughout various locations in Arizona offered a variety of entryways for socialization.

I thrived on the Polytechnic campus. It is close-knit; the campus is small enough to easily memorize the layout; and the scenery is breathtaking. Despite my comfortability on this campus, I greatly appreciated the ability to travel to alternative campus locations in an attempt to expand my social systems through clubs, events and additional resources.  

Q: During your time at ASU, did you have any clinical experience, internship(s) or other applied projects that were significant?

A: One project that particularly stood out to me during my time at ASU was a cultural practices presentation in my Cultural Aspects of Health class. During this project, I managed to conduct an interview with the previous president of Prism and Qmunity — LGBTQ+ student organizations at the Polytechnic campus and Tempe campus — before he graduated from ASU. The interview was very informative and gave me overwhelming insight into the systems at play that create roadblocks for sexual and gender minorities to receive the medical treatment they may need.

Q: Thinking back, what do you think is the most interesting moment or story or accomplishment in your ASU journey?

A: My most interesting accomplishment at ASU was the growth in my self-expression. I have immensely expanded how I express myself and how I have identified throughout my time here. Prior to my ASU experience, I had already been out for several years, yet my unwavering dedication to present myself in authentic ways was exacerbated by my educational emphasis on multicultural advocacy.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU and what was it?

A: Dr. Laura Jimenez taught me the most important lessons during my time at ASU. One topic that had a substantial impact on me was the opportunity to provide care and empathetic treatment while still expressing my individuality. Recognizing that every person has personal experiences and biases that construct who they are does not negate an individual’s ability to provide support.

I learned that a provider does not need to erase themselves in order to positively impact a client's life, nor to be multiculturally focused. This lesson eased some of the expectations that I had throughout my college experience of how I thought I was supposed to live. It enabled me to further discover myself while gaining the skills to offer culturally sensitive mental health treatment to others.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My best piece of advice for those still in school is that this experience is an opportunity. An opportunity to discover yourself, to gain knowledge that can be inaccessible elsewhere and to create changes that empower you and others. This experience also provides the ability to recognize what does and doesn’t work for you as an individual. You can absolutely love the major you are in, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with every piece of information presented to you. Acknowledge your own experiences, and remember that you can build the life you want for yourself, in whatever way is meaningful to you.      

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot at ASU is the Multicultural Communities of Excellence, or MCoE, at the Polytechnic campus. Not only did I consistently promote and support Prism, but I regularly utilized this space whenever I needed to calm down. Classes can give me a bit of anxiety, so any time I was feeling overwhelmed I would take a walk around campus and then go to the MCoE to sit. I would take deep breaths and try my best to prepare for the rest of my obligations. It was wonderful to have a space that felt so comfortable and safe for me whenever I needed it. Ultimately, it truly was the main spot on campus where I could reassure myself that I would be accepted.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are not entirely set in stone. My ASU experience has fulfilled much of my desire for learning and activism. I genuinely think I may continue to advance my education down the line, but once I graduate, I want to take some time for myself.

I am looking forward to dedicating time to my art, furthering my opportunities for self-expression and guaranteeing my capabilities in maintaining my mental health. I want to take this time to find ways to advocate that are not strictly within the confines of a clinical system. From sculpting with clay to potentially drawing children's books for mental health and multicultural awareness, I am eager to continue my path in a manner that works best for me.

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