Our History

A look back at the beginnings of Seattle Counseling Service and the impact of the agency in our community over the past 45 years. Produced by YoyoString Creative Media 2014

Founded in 1969, Seattle Counseling Service is proud to be the oldest LGBTQ-focused community mental health agency in the world!

Started as part of the Dorian Society in Seattle in 1969, SCS later expanded to become an independent organization. We began in a rented house with one telephone and several volunteers who hung out, ready to answer the phone, talk with people who dropped by, and offer counsel and support.

SCS has been licensed as a mental health center since 1974. Among the programs pioneered by SCS, the Domestic Violence Program (started in 1982) was one of the first in the nation to offer help to those in same-sex relationships.

In 1985, SCS received status as a United Way agency. SCS was the first gay-specific agency to receive that status in King County.

SCS began offering services for people with HIV/AIDS concerns in 1985 by providing HIV Test counseling at the Seattle Gay Clinic. Long-term AIDS therapy and an AIDS drop-in group began in 1986, and the AIDS Crisis Intervention Program was initiated in 1989. In 1996, SCS placed a therapist on site at Bailey-Boushay House

In 1990, SCS became a sponsoring agency of Lambert House, a gay/lesbian/bisexual youth drop-in center.

In 2003, SCS and King County Public Health created a collaboration to house Project NEON, a harm reduction program for users of crystal methamphetamine. 2003 also brought the advent of SCS Chemical Dependency Services, assuming the role previously filled by Stonewall Recovery Services in King County.

In addition to its role providing direct services to sexual minority community members, SCS plays a significant regional role as a psychology and social work professional training site. SCS serves as the practice training site for an average of four universities each year. Since 1992, SCS has also provided training to mental health providers statewide to increase their capacity to appropriately serve sexual minorities in their home communities.

Collaboration is important to the staff and board of SCS. We are continually seeking ways to provide a continuum of care for clients. SCS works with other King County Mental Health Providers to advocate on behalf of clients in the mental health system. SCS belongs to the Cross Cultural Alliance, the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

Staff and Friends during 40th Anniversary Celebration in Cal Anderson Park.

Staff and Friends during 40th Anniversary Celebration in Cal Anderson Park.

Over the years SCS has garnered numerous awards for services provided to the community. At the 2006 "Saying It Out Loud" Conference, the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse along with the Mental Health Division of the Department of Social and Health Services presented SCS with an award for "leadership, compassion, and advocacy in meeting the needs of GLBTQ communities." The Seattle LGBT Community Center named SCS the best non-profit at the inaugural 2004 Fruit Bowl Community Awards. Also in 2004 the King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services honored SCS with the Exemplary Service Award for Systems Integration in recognition of the integrated services offered in chemical dependency, harm reduction, and mental health. In 2007, the Washington State Mr & Ms Leather Organization presented SCS with a community service award.

2014 marked the 45th Anniversary of Seattle Counseling Service, and the advent of the Dr. Deisher Founder's Award, honoring an individual who has given a lifetime of exemplary service to the LGBTQ community in the field of behavioral health. This inaugural award was given to Arleen Nelson, MSW, LICSW for her 35 years of service to the agency. Arleen was a co-founder of the first Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She also helped to develop and supervise an HIV Education Program during the early years of the AIDS crisis, and spent a large portion of the 90's as a couples and family counselor at SCS while also overseeing the long-term AIDS therapy program. Today Arleen continues to supervise SCS interns and provides invaluable consultation.

Arleen Nelson, MSW, LICSW receiving the first ever Dr. Deisher Founder's Award, with Deputy Director Donnie Goodman and Executive Director Ann McGettigan.

Arleen Nelson, MSW, LICSW receiving the first ever Dr. Deisher Founder's Award, with Deputy Director Donnie Goodman and Executive Director Ann McGettigan.

We continue to add new programs and services to meet the changing needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. For the latest updates, keep an eye on the Announcements section of our home page and subscribe to the SCS Newsletter.