Biography of Ken Howard, MSW, LCSW – Licensed Psychotherapist (CA LCS #18290)

_MG_0648Like everyone’s life and career, my story and my journey to becoming a therapist has its place in our country’s social, cultural, and even medical history.

By the late 1980′s, I had had extensive training and experience as an actor, including earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater at UCLA, one of the leading theater schools in the United States (with peers/colleagues such as actor Tim Robbins and actress Mariska Hargitay of “Law & Order: SVU”).  Like other young actors, I sought opportunities in the “teen coming-of-age” movies characterized by that period.

However, that period was also characterized by the height of the AIDS crisis, which was a medical, psychological, social, and cultural trauma, and as a young gay man coming out in Los Angeles in 1985, I lost many friends, teachers, and acquaintances to the carnage of the AIDS epidemic.  I felt increasingly moved to do something to help the fight.  I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.  I had to to my part.

Fired up by this frustration, I decided that I wanted to do MORE with my life.  If it had been the 1940′s, I would have been in the military at that age to fight in World War II.  In the 80′s, I “enlisted” in the war against AIDS, not as a physician (I didn’t have the background or patience to pursue Medicine), but as a trainee in mental health — first in Psychology, then in clinical Social Work.  I volunteered at AIDS Project Los Angeles as a “Phone Buddy”, doing phone counseling to people with AIDS.  And I noticed that the guys who had more mental health support survived longer, and better, than their peers with poorer mental health.  Later, formal research proved this observation.

My own diagnosis of HIV in November, 1990, led me to abandon the pursuit of long (5+ year) Ph.D. Psychology programs, because at that time Iwas literally afraid that I would not live to see the completion of a Doctoral program, and I was far too obsessive-compulsive to die with a half-finished degree.  I chose to pursue the two-year, full-time MSW (Master of Social Work) program in Mental Health at the University of Southern California  School of Social Work, where my internship training right from the very beginning emphasized the population I wanted to work with most (gay men), and to do my part in the fight against AIDS.  Later, I got very interested (in love, really) with helping peole with more severe psychiatric disorders, or “chronic mental illness”.

After years of formal, supervised training, I earned my California state license to practice psychotherapy, which is the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), with special additional training as a psychiatric social worker, which qualifies me to discuss medications and their use in more depth, but not as precisely as an MD psychiatrist.

Most people don’t know that in the United States, the majority of psychotherapy and counseling services are provided by clinical social workers, not psychologists as might be expected. I was licensed as an LCSW on my first attempt in 1997 (LCS#18290, verifiable at, after completing 3,200 hours of clinical experience in not less than 24 months of work, supervised weekly by an LCSW, and rigorous written and oral exams (with an approximately 30% pass rate).

The University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and is one of the top 5 schools of social work in the United States.  Before USC, I completed nearly two years of various post-baccalaureate courses in psychology after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (BA, 1987).

In addition to providing psychotherapy full-time in  my office in West Hollywood and supervising associates, I have over 10 years experience in non-profit organization administration and over 7 years in qualitative business research and business/industrial psychology.  I have taught field internships for social work interns, supervised mental health, case management, treatment advocacy, peer support, home health care, and other social services programs, including over five years of service in programs for homeless people with severe mental illness.  I am currently a part-time Adjunct Lecturer in clinical practice for the USC School of Social Work.


Prior to expanding my practice to full-time, I was the Associate Director of LAFAN (Los Angeles Family AIDS Network) and Clinical Director of SPECTRUM, the HIV social services clinic at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. I have also worked in other areas of community advocacy, organizational consulting, and teaching. I served as a consultant to the UCLA/Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center, where I co-wrote a national training curriculum in HIV and mental health, and was a member and Co-Chair of the LA County HIV Mental Health Task Force for nine years, co-chairing its annual conference for mental health professionals for 8 years. I was a teaching consultant to Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers-Squibb Virology, and LipoWear, Inc. on HIV mental health and other strategies for successfully living with HIV/AIDS.

I served on the Board of Directors for LAGPA (the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapists Association) for four years. For two years, I wrote a monthly column for A&U (Art & Understanding), America’s AIDS magazine, on HIV mental health. I wrote a chapter published in the book, AIDS and Mental Health Practice: Clinical and Policy Issues (Shernoff, Haworth Press, 1999), in addition to regular contributions to the gay magazines Poz, Instinct, Frontiers, and IN LA. I have served as a regular advice columnist for LGBTQ youth called “Dear Trevor” for The Trevor Project website ( I make regular TV and radio appearances on mental health, HIV/AIDS, and gay rights issues, including as a commentator on the much-repeated “50 Wickedest Women of Prime Time” on E! Entertainment Television.

I completed a volunteer internship providing individual, couple and group psychotherapy for gay and bisexual men at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Mental Health Department, where I co-facilitated a group for adult gay male incest/sexual abuse survivors. After this, I completed another nine-month clinicial internship in psychiatric social work (individual and group therapy) at Pacific Clinics Pasadena, specializing in assisting persons with schizophrenia and other severe/persistent mental illness and developing a model for care called Psychosocial Rehabilitation.


I was born and raised in the area of Washington, DC, and I have lived in Los Angeles since 1983.  I have been successfully living with HIV since 1990. I am legally married to my wonderful husband, Michael Ryan, Major Gifts Officer for the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County (“The Music Center”).   I live and work in an active, visible, social, and civic role in the community of West Hollywood to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” of my practice, empowering people to lead fuller lives — psychologically, professionally, emotionally, physically, sexually, politically, socially, and spiritually.

My job is to provide you with a private, safe, confidential space to come each week, at a time set aside just for you, with my undivided attention, where you can work toward goals that are important to you and that would relieve you of burdens or improve your quality of life. Everything we talk about is strictly confidential, except for the most extreme legal situations (like if you were suicidal and a few others I could explain).

Many people think they have to really “need” therapy to come in; that’s not really true. Our work can begin whenever you WANT it to. There is really no such thing as people who “need” therapy versus people who don’t. Everyone could benefit from knowing themselves better and setting goals to improve their life.

The most common technique I use is called the cognitive-behavioral approach. This is a very interactive technique to change the way you think about yourself, which changes the way you feel, which changes your behaviors, which then changes your life in all kinds of positive ways. With some people, I also draw from a more casual “life coaching” approach, where you learn how to get more things done, deal with anger, manage your time, deal with drinking or using, make a budget, plan your career, feel better about yourself, or communicate better with others.

I also draw on Developmental Psychology, Existential Psychology, Positive Psychology, and Executive Coaching/Life Coaching models, as appropriate for your individual situation.  I am not an “old-school psychoanalyst”, silent and passive – my style is active, verbal,  interactive, and somewhat informal.  That said, I help YOU do the work so that your gains are your achievements to own, implement, and benefit from, for a lifetime beyond after your work with me concludes.

I deliberately keep my practice small and “boutique-style”, to ensure that I provide you prompt accessibility to me and specialized attention.

I engage in continuous professional self-improvement that adds value to the skills I offer you by conducting ongoing research in my specialty areas, reading academic journals and articles, attending local and national conferences, and investing in paid consulting, coaching, workshops, and accredited Continuing Education to keep my skills current and sharp to help with your specific issues with the latest data in the field.  I provide customized, individualized Plans of Treatment for each of my clients, based on your needs and goals.

I am accessible to my clients via email and phone calls promptly between sessions (up to 15 minutes) free of charge, to ensure continuity of care and accessibility to you.

This focused style of service, along with my extensive experience (20 years) that bring you additional value to your therapy/coaching sessions, are why my fees are somewhat less flexible than newcomers to the field who “accept insurance” on HMO panels or charge low fees to get established or build a caseload.

I realize therapy requires a significant financial investment for anyone who undertakes it.  You are not only paying for my time at your sessions, but also for the extensive and varied overhead costs required of therapists who offer services in a private practice setting.  You pay for the session time, but also for access to the benefit of many years of experience and perspective, helping others just like you.  Hopefully, you find the investment in yourself, your quality of life, your future, and the VALUE your therapy brings to your life is worth any ”budgetary re-arranging” and prioritizing you might need to do to make private therapy possible.

However, if cost is a concern to you, I offer a discount for packages of pre-paid sessions (at various package options).  I offer a discount on certain off-peak session times of the day in my schedule (subject to availability).  I also offer a discount for “email exchange” consulting services (coaching only).  Phone sessions are available for local residents and residents throughout California (therapy and coaching), and for US/International clients (coaching only).  Please ask for details on these programs.

What is happening with you that I might be able to help with?

Please contact me to discuss anything you see on the website, if I can answer any questions for you, or if you would like to book an appointment:

Phone:  310-726-4357


“Have the Life You Want!” (c) 2011 Ken Howard, LCSW

2 Responses to “Biography of Ken Howard, MSW, LCSW – Licensed Psychotherapist (CA LCS #18290)”

Leave a Reply for James Russo