Counselling Articles

Kink friendly therapy – What counsellors, therapists, life coaches and helping professionals need to know in a post Fifty Shades of Grey world

kink friendly therapyWhat does it mean to be a kink friendly therapist or helping professional?

With Fifty Shades of Grey thrusting kink and bdsm into the mainstream, kink aware therapists, counsellors and life coaches are more important than ever. Doctors, physiotherapists, social workers and other helping professionals should also be educating themselves on issues surrounding kink and bdsm.

The first thing to understand is that kink is not inherently pathological. Like eating, having (vanilla) sex, playing sports, going to work or many of the other activities we engage in, kink and bdsm can be understood to have a full range of expressions – from relatively healthy to relatively unhealthy.

For the uninitiated the whole thing can feel confusing and distasteful, especially for people who are in the business of healing or protecting. “Why would anyone give their power away or allow themselves to be hurt or humiliated sexually?” It’s a very reasonable question, and one that has many possible answers. The answers run the full spectrum –

At the healthier end of the spectrum, kinksters may be expressing mature, playful attitudes around sexuality and power. (Did you ever role-play doctor, or good guys/bad guys, cops and robbers etc as a kid?) Or they may be exploring shadow aspects and polarities within themselves  – victim/villain, exploited/exploiter, sadist/masochist, powerful/powerless, abuser/abused etc. When approached with awareness and consent, these can be considered healthy explorations of archetypes. Many kink practitioners consider their activities to have healing or sacred qualities. Or they may simply enjoy strong sensations, role-play etc… Sometimes a snake is just a snake.

At the less healthy end of the spectrum, your clients or patients may engage in non-consensual abuse, control  and manipulation. Abuse of power happens in the kink/bdsm communities just like everywhere else. Kink and bdsm can reflect low self esteem, poor boundaries and truly harmful beliefs and behaviours.

Some people are drawn to kink and bdsm in a conscious or unconscious attempt to integrate childhood abuse, neglect or trauma. The raw impulse to integrate and heal is primary and should be supported. The degree to which a client’s kinky proclivities actually further healing and integration is not a foregone conclusion, and so kink should be approached as neutrally as possible in terms of  your own values, projections and bias. Wanting to be slapped across the face during sex  is not inherently bad or sick. Your client may love extreme sports, or they may prefer floggings. Both can hold useful material. Neither is necessarily a problem. If you find yourself believing otherwise then please, as a helping professional, carefully  examine your prejudice and how it may be harmful to your clients or patients.

Your kinky clients will benefit from your self-awareness, self-education and kink friendly approach. Examining your own judgements, fears and beliefs will make you more trustworthy, confident and helpful. Whether your clients’ kinky desires, activities or relationships are presenting issues, or they come up peripherally, your willingness and ability to have frank discussions will be valuable. If in doubt, try transparency. Ask questions. Your open mind is the key to building trust in the client relationship.

Suggested reading –
SM 101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman
Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink by Midori
The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino
Radical Ecstasy by Easton and Hardy

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Conscious Kink for Couples - The beginner’s guide to using kinky sex and BDSM for pleasure, growth, intimacy, and healing - by Justice Schanfarber


Campbell River Counselling Justice Schanfarber HakomiI provide kink friendly, kink aware therapy, counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples all over the world by phone or skype, and in-person locally. (Vancouver, Campbell River, North Vancouver Island.) Email to request a client info package. Services also available for those in the helping professions. www.JusticeSchanfarber.comLike Justice Schanfarber on Facebook



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Counselling Articles Sex and Relationship Advice

When the love of your life leaves – 5 steps to help you heal

Wife husband leaves marriage relationship counsellingThe end of a relationship or marriage can feel like death. Grief is an appropriate response. This means anger, sadness, denial might all arise.

It’s visceral. Breathing is hard. You can’t sleep. For the person being left it can feel like the end of the world. You wonder if you’ll even survive. To say you’re hurt and confused or angry is too little. It feels much bigger, like everything has been turned upside down and shaken, like the ground has disappeared under your feet.

Along with negotiating urgent practical matters like finances, housing and parenting, you might also come face to face with abandonment, rejection and self-esteem issues, some of which may have been dormant and are arising for the first time.

This is a very, very tender spot to find yourself. It’s immensely uncomfortable. In my work as a counsellor I notice patterns and common tendencies in my clients. I’ve also identified opportunities and choice-points for moving forward in a healthy way. Here are five principles that can help –

1. Feel what you feel
Feelings aren’t negotiable. They can’t be wrong. They simply are. It’s important to feel what you feel. When we deny uncomfortable emotions they come back to haunt us, or they drive our behaviour from underneath consciousness, without our active consent. Rule of thumb – there’s no need to either encourage or deny feelings. Notice them, name them (“I feel sad”) and watch them change over time. Note – Anger is a feeling. Fear is a feeling. Sadness is a feeling. “S/He’s a control freak” isn’t a feeling. (More on that in a future article.)

2. Take thoughtful action
We don’t necessarily choose our feelings, although we choose how we act on them. As much as noticing our feelings is important, it would be a mistake to act on them without consulting our rational, thinking self. The trouble is, when strong feelings are present we don’t have much access to the part of our brain that makes well-considered choices. Take some time. Let feelings settle before you make important decisions around child custody, financial agreements or emails to the in-laws. Breathe.

3. Get support, but not from your (ex)partner
The person who is leaving the relationship is almost certainly not the person to help you cope with the pain you feel. You might feel extremely needy or drawn to this person right now. Do not give in to the urge to seek comfort there, especially if it is not offered. If you are holding out hope for reconciliation, say so, but then get support elsewhere. Seeing you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take support from others is the most attractive thing about you right now in your (ex)partner’s eyes. Turn to friends, family and community for support. Tell them what helps, and what doesn’t. Find a counsellor or therapist that you trust.

4. Stay open, even when it hurts
When we feel hurt and angry we look for an explanation. We want to understand. We assume we shouldn’t feel this way, that it’s a big problem. And so we search for a reason. The reason we find is almost always some version of I’m bad or They’re bad or The world is bad. What these three positions all offer is a way out of the confusion. Assigning cause (blame) does relieve some tension. The problem is that each of these three beliefs locks us into an adversarial relationship – with self, with other, or with reality (the world). I’m not saying that your relationship ending wasn’t caused by you or them or the unfairness of the world. But getting too fixated on any of those causes makes you rigid and closed to possibilities that might be just around the corner.

5. Help others
This piece of advice was given to me by a friend over a decade ago when a relationship was ending and I was in deep pain. His simple and wise words led me to the act of writing this for you now. Helping others gets us out of our own head and puts us in direct contact with the universal experience of suffering. Everybody hurts. Help someone. Share their pain, and feel your own soften.

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber Trying to grow, fix, change, understand or save your marriage? I provide couples therapy, marriage counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships – Sessions by telephone/skype worldwide. Email to request a client info package.

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