Therapy can be a great gift to give yourself and your relationships. Unfortunately, many individuals who are kinky or practice alternative lifestyles, find themselves struggling to find a therapist who is nonjudgemental and educated surrounding Kink. This struggle is not unfounded. The sad truth about the mental health field, is that awareness and education on sexuality is incredibly lacking. Most Master’s levels clinicians take one course in graduate school on human sexuality, and they are often not educated at all on Kink, Polyamory or other alternative lifestyles.
Therapists who are component to help clients who sexual minorities, are sex-positive and have reflected on their own bias and beliefs surrounding sexuality, so not to displace their own beliefs and bias unfairly on to you.
Kink-competent therapists understand that being Kinky in itself does not mean a person is mentally ill, traumatized, or that kink is a problem that needs to be fixed.
I made this post because I have seen the struggle Kinky people face with finding a suitable therapist, I hope my suggestions can help you find a therapist who “gets it” and helps you flourish and embrace yourself. Feel free to comment below if you have additional suggestions or resources I can add to list!
1) Know Where to Look
Finding a therapist and combing through the directory of Psychology Today can be overwhelming. Specific directories targeted toward the Poly, Kink and Sex Positive community can help assure you that you will find a therapist who is a good fit.
Here are a few directories I recommend:
- The Kink Aware Professionals Directory: https://ncsfreedom.org . KAP is a great place to find therapists, and other professionals, who understand BDSM. The website differentiates between Kink-Friendly, Kink-Aware and Kink-Knowledgable professionals, based on the level of experience and knowledge a professional has working alternative lifestyles.
Poly Friendly directories include:
- The Open List- http://openingup.net/open-list/
- The Poly-Friendly Directory: https://www.polyfriendly.org
Certified Sex Therapist directory:
- ASSECT Directory (See details in section 2) http://www.aasect.org/referral-directory
Sex Worker friendly directory
- Pineapple Support https://pineapplesupport.com/pineapple-support-therapists/ this list consists of sex-worker friendly therapists who are kink aware. Pineapple support can also supplement the cost of therapy for entertainers in the adult industry in need of financial assistance.
2) Know What to Look for
Some key terms: “Kink-Aware”, “Kink-Friendly”, “Kink Knowledgeable” “Sex Positive”
When looking at a website or directory for a mental-health professional, these terms indicate that the therapist is either educated and experienced working with the Kink population, and/or is accepting and affirmative toward BDSM practices.
“Sex Positive” A Therapist who identifies as Sex-Positive will almost certainly be non-judgmental toward all safe, sane and consensual sexual activities including Kink.
ASSECT Certified Sex Therapist: AASECT, or the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, offers a Sex-Therapy Certification that involves extensive training and education on BDSM and working with clients who practice alternative lifestyles. These therapists undergo hours of training, supervision, and self-reflection on their own sexual biases, If you are looking for a Sex Therapist, AASECT is the way to go.
Be Aware, that in most states in the USA, ANY therapist can say they practice “Sex Therapy”. A competent Sex Therapist will have additional training, and can call themselves a Certified Sex Therapist. For AASECTS website and list of therapists, see the link in the section above
3) Ask Questions
If a therapist does not openly identify as Kink-Aware or Sex-Positive on their website or directory listing, ask them! Most therapists offer a free brief consultation over the phone, where you can ask these sort of questions, or you can email them.
Some ideas of questions you can ask…
Have you worked with Alternative Lifestyles before?
What sort of training or experience do you have working with clients who practice BDSM, or are in a relationship centered on Power-exchange?
I am kinky/Poly/in a BDSM relationship, and I am looking for a therapist who has experience in this area, would you be a good a fit for me?
Are you Sex Positive?
Do you have training or experience working with fetishes?
I know that sex can carry a lot of internalized shame and stigma— these questions are not easy to ask. But you will save time and money by being direct. You will be more likely to find a therapist who is a good fit, and weed out those who aren’t.
Also, understand that finding the right therapist can be a lot like dating. It can take time to find the one you “click” with. Don’t be afraid to shop around. Generally you should know after the first three appointments if they are a good fit or not.
4) If you have a bad experience with a therapist, know that it is probably NOT about you
Sadly, I have heard too many stories of people who felt judged, shamed or misunderstood by a Therapist who was sex-negative and uneducated on BDSM.
At the end of the day, therapists are everyday people. We receive the same negative cultural messages about sexuality that our clients do. Unfortunately, when these messages are left unexamined and therapists remain uninformed, these attitudes can be transferred onto the client. I wish that therapist’s were given more training around kink ands sexuality in general, but this is generally not the case.
If your therapist reacts negatively to your kink, understand that it is not an indication that something is “wrong” with you. It’s not about you. Please, don’t let this experience close you up and make you hide who you are.
I always recommend addressing your therapist directly if you felt hurt or shamed by them. If your therapist is any good, they will own up to their mistake, examine their behavior and repair the rupture in your relationship. But, if you continue to feel a lack of understanding, it’s OK to look for someone who is a better fit.
5) Ask around in the BDSM community-
If you are a kinkster, you may be familiar with the website fetlife.com. Fetlife is pretty much “facebook” for kinky folk…with slightly more explicit pictures. You can find events or “Munches” in your community. If you live in a major city, there may even be local Dungeons where you can attend events to get to know other members of the community. Ask people in the community for suggestions if you are looking for a therapist. Word of mouth can provide some great leads.
Therapy should be a space to be your authentic self. So many members of the BDSM community battle shame surrounding their sexuality, which in turn can lead to depression, anxiety and loneliness. If you are looking for a therapist, know where to look, and what to look for, in order to find someone who will help you embrace and accept your sexuality. You deserve it.