Behavioral Health Support Specialist Program

Train to become a behavior health paraprofessional uniquely attuned to the needs of LGBTQ+ clients in Los Angeles. This innovative 12-month online certificate program, offered tuition-free through a grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), was created to address the expectations and requirements of a multicultural client base. Please note, there is a 260 hour internship requirement. Format: Online and Remote

This program is perfect for...

  • New and aspiring behavioral health paraprofessionals
  • Multidisciplinary paraprofessionals with prior certifications wishing to train in behavioral health
  • Workers seeking additional competencies to address specialized behavioral health concerns of LGBTQ+ clients

What you can learn.

  • Become a valued member of an integrated team advocating for clients and their families in a behavioral health care setting
  • Identify research-based treatment interventions appropriate for developmental life stages, beginning at adolescence
  • Demonstrate cultural competency and humility, and adhere to ethical and legal standards when interacting with clients
  • Discuss emerging health care issues, including those specific to LGBTQ+ communities
  • Analyze the patterns of substance use among target populations, including LGBTQ+ communities, and those with trauma exposure
  • Understand how intersectionality, medical mistrust, discriminatory exclusion, homophobia, and transphobia impact LGBTQ+ individuals

Become a paraprofessional in one year.

woman sharing with counseling group

Established in 2022, the Behavioral Health Support Specialist (BHSS) Certificate provides foundational training for working and aspiring paraprofessionals. It was created to serve a workforce increasingly expected to provide clients and their families with treatment and behavioral health care related to substance use disorders, self-harm, violence, homelessness, and certain illnesses. 

The program focuses on the specialized needs of LGBTQ+ communities in health care settings and covers topics including: the field of behavioral health care, scope of practice, cultural competency, communication strategies, ethics and confidentiality, and human sexuality. Students – enrolled annually as a cohort – will learn about the challenges facing LGBTQ+ clients. Courses are held online and remotely, with required in-person fieldwork through community-based partners in Los Angeles.

Format: Online and Remote

Duration: 1 year



Click below to view the required and elective courses, if applicable, for this program.

Required Courses

Students must complete all ten required courses below, for a total of 37.5 academic credit units.

This three-session seminar is designed for trainees returning to school after a long gap, who may require additional skills to maximize their continuing education experience. The course will help students make the transition to college-level instruction.

This course supports Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

This course provides an overview of health care and behavioral health systems. Trainees will study how these systems affect the LGBTQ+ community and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Topics include: behavioral health care reform, system components, health care payment structures, health care delivery, consumer and provider perspectives, and emerging behavioral health care issues in the 21st century.

This course equals 4 academic units.

To function effectively in dynamic and complex health care system, behavioral health paraprofessionals need an understanding of laws, regulations, and ethical issues involving the rights and responsibilities of patients, families, and providers. Taught by experts in health law, this course presents the fundamental legal structure affecting health care in the U.S. The course also provides an overview of the ethical and moral questions regarding behavioral health treatment. 

This course equals 4 academic units.

This course reviews human sexuality with a strong focus on the LGBTQ+ community, psychosocial aspects of human sexuality, and its impact on individuals and society. Trainees will develop skills and knowledge around sexual and relationship decision-making and behavior. The broader goals include increased understanding of the biological, developmental, and scientific aspects of human sexuality, and developing a greater awareness of self and others. This course also explores aspects and current trends in preventing and treating such diseases as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

This course equals 4 academic units.

This course explores the fundamentals of cultural competency and client intersectionality, including the cultural impacts of race, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and socioeconomic status on identity development, behavioral health access, and treatment. Trainees will examine commonly encountered cultural obstacles to behavioral health services. 

This course equals 4 academic units.

This course provides the foundational knowledge and skills needed to support integrated behavioral health teams. Instruction covers the professional scope of practice, role delineation, and job functions. Trainees also learn how to work with clients from the LGBTQ+ community across life stages – from youth to adolescence to senior – and assess their cultural competency to communicate effectively with patients from a variety of cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

This course equals 4 academic units.

This course provides students with a basic level of understanding of  addiction from a historical, cultural, psychological, and  neurobiological perspective. This course examines alcohol and other drug  dependencies through a multidisciplinary approach with lectures,  discussions, film, exercises, and readings. To understand its  complicated nature as a disease, the course focuses on different  substances of abuse and the current genetic and environmental research  in the development of substance use disorders. Specific topics to be  covered include the biological, developmental, psychological,  environmental, and social factors that lead to vulnerability to  addictions; symptoms of addictive disorders; prevalence across the life  span among target populations, including adolescents, seniors, families,  and those with trauma exposure; and various treatment approaches,  including both behavioral and medication-assisted intervention  strategies.

This course equals 4 academic units.

High-quality communication between behavioral health care providers, patients, and families has been shown to positively influence client outcomes. Conversely, failures in communication lead to increased client harm, length of hospital stays, resource utilization, caregiver dissatisfaction, and staff turnover. Given the critical role of communication, this course provides evidence-based strategies to optimize communication for professionals working in health care. 

This course equals 4 academic units.

The Supervised Field Work Practicum, extending over two quarters, is designed for trainees who have completed the Behavioral Health Support Specialist Training Program's didactic courses. Trainees must complete a minimum of 260 hours of fieldwork with UCLA Extension's collaborating community-based organizations. They’re also required to attend roundtable meetings with their academic internship supervisors to attain completion requirements.

This course equals 5.5 academic units.

The program culminates in a capstone project course synthesizing the coursework and experiential learning components of the program while encouraging reflection on the program and future careers in behavioral health care. By completing the capstone project, trainees will demonstrate their readiness to enter the behavioral health field as paraprofessionals through the mastery of the program’s learning objectives and outcomes.

This course equals 4 academic units.

How to Apply

Prospective students will need to submit a completed application. Applications are accepted at any time before the established deadline listed below. Decisions regarding your admission into the program will be rendered approximately 3 weeks after the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

All courses in the Behavioral Health Support Specialist (BHSS) Certificate are fully sponsored by a grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration. In addition, all enrolled students will receive a $5,000 stipend to complete the program.

Application period: April 3, 2023 - July 3, 2023

Application requirements:

  • Resume
  • Transcripts or educational history
  • Statement of intent
  • Two letters of recommendation 

The applicant’s statement of intent should include professional goals, applicable skills, and experiences. It should highlight reasons and motivation for working with the LGBTQ+ population and other underserved communities.

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation. One letter should be from a behavioral health professional or a supervisor (current or past) who can attest to your professional accomplishments or your potential in the field. 

The admission committee will review submitted applications using an admission rubric. If denied, applicants can appeal the decision by submitting an appeal letter including any circumstances or factors not discussed in their application. The program director will review the applicant’s case and make the final decision.

To start your application, click 'Apply Now' below.

Estimated Cost Breakdown

All courses in this program are paid for individually, unless otherwise noted. An application form is required to establish candidacy in this program. From the 'Apply Now' button, complete the online application and pay the application fee if applicable.

Application & Candidacy Fee


Estimated Program Tuition


Estimated program textbook/materials


*The Application & Candidacy Fee establishes your candidacy in the program for a period of time covering normal progress toward completion and may allow you to access a variety of program benefits.

**Federal Financial Aid Gainful Employment Disclosures

The U.S. Department of Education requires colleges and universities to disclose certain information for any financial aid eligible program that, “prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation”. This information includes program costs; occupations that the program prepares students to enter; occupational profiles; on time completion rate; and for the most recent award year: the number of students who have completed the program, the number of students who complete the program within the estimated duration, the job placement rate, and the median Title IV and private loan debt incurred by those who complete the program. For gainful employment information for this program, visit our Financial Aid page.

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