What 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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I 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 email@example.com to request a client info package. Services also available for those in the helping professions. www.JusticeSchanfarber.com
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