I want to be clear that this blog is in no way meant to show disrespect to the countless, wonderful therapists all over the country who want to help people struggling with issues around BDSM. There are plenty of therapists who advertise that they are ‘kink aware professionals’ or ‘sex positive therapists’. They will include LGBTQ as populations they are comfortable working with.
The problem is that ‘kink aware’ is not the same thing as ‘having extensive knowledge pertaining to BDSM and kink’. Being sex-positive is not the same thing as having a deep and thorough knowledge of human sexuality and the myriad ways that people identify sexually. Sex-positive does not mean that the therapist understands the differences between polyamory and open-relationships, among other relationship types and sexual expressions.
A sex-positive, kink aware therapist is likely non-judgmental and supportive of your alternative sexuality. But all therapists should be non-judgmental and supportive of alternative sexuality. These terms reflect the therapist’s attitude, not the therapist’s knowledge.
If you are struggling with kink issues that are difficult, and perhaps even humiliating to talk about—as a few examples: diaper fetish, cross dressing, a desire to be choked and beaten during sex—the last thing you want is to reveal your deepest held secrets to a wonderful therapist who hears what you have to say and can’t totally hide their shock.
Many clients have told me that they went to kink positive therapists who were wonderful and wanted to help, but who had no understanding of the client’s kink and had no idea how to help him or her. Some therapists even tried to skirt the issue or offered to help the client ‘work through it’ (which does not work).
When you are looking for a therapist, and you want someone who understands your specific sexual issues, you want to look for someone who has extensive knowledge about Kink/BDSM/Fetish/Alternative sexual expression/Alternative relationships. Read their websites and blogs to make sure that their knowledge is broad and deep.
The therapist should not only know the correct terms used to describe orientations and activities, they should show a clear understanding of the complexities of the lifestyle. If you get the feeling their knowledge primarily comes from reading books, you should probably keep looking. A good kink therapist should understand that there are as many variations of kink as there are variations in human beings. They should understand that people are driven to kink for different reasons and that they get different things out of practicing it (and they should be able to demonstrate an understanding of what those things are). They should know the difference between a ‘disciplinary spanking’ , vs a ‘cathartic beating’.
These distinctions are important because when you are confused and struggling, you probably don’t want to see a therapist who doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. Of course it is wonderful to talk to a therapist about your personal struggles and have them support you, but it can be frustrating and less than helpful to talk to someone who can’t walk through the labyrinth with you because they are completely lost on the path.