Beyond the Basics: Understanding Kink and its Impact on Mental Health



Presented by: Elyssa Helfer, M.A., LMFT

Recorded workshop available via video on demand




Through this course, participants will gain knowledge about the basics of kink, both from the lens of understanding kink identity and various forms of kink practice. By discussing the current debates within the kink therapist community and the kink community at large, participants will learn to approach clients from an informed perspective allowing for enhanced therapeutic connection and greater understanding. We will explore the various outcomes that can result from participating in kink and reasons for engaging in kink practice. Lastly, we will discuss the psychological consequences of experiencing negative therapeutic interactions based on conscious and unconscious bias towards the kink community and strategies to address them.

Learning objectives

  • Explain mental health outcomes for living in line with kink identity
  • Explain sexual and non-sexual BDSM
  • Discuss personal and professional bias therapists have towards kink community

3 hour course

20 min- Kink 101

Who practices?

Profile of Kinksters- (research)

Kink terminology

Types of Dynamics (exploring various hierarchical structures)

Sexual v. Non Sexual BDSM

20 min -History

DSM changes

Shifts in kink perspectives

Kink development

Etiological theories


Radical Feminist

Escape From Self


Guilt Reduction Theory

Disinhibition Theory

Kink identity development- Samuel Hughes

20 minutes -Benefits/Consequences of kink practice

Individual mental health outcomes

Relationship outcomes

20 minutes- Current kink debates

SSC v. RACK v. 4Cs

Power Exchange v. Authority Transfer

Kink as identity v. Kink as leisure

20 Minutes- Healthy kink v. Abuse (Red Flags)

10 minutes-Play/Relationship Negotiation

Pillars of kink negotiation

25 minutes- Pathologizing Kink

Negative therapeutic interactions

Sources of kink shame

Strategies to address bias

20 min- Common issues in therapy/ Case Studies

15 minutes- Questions, discussion

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