Description

Introduction to BDSM and Kink

Research examining the experiences of BDSM-identified individuals indicates a need for cultural competency training for mental health professionals (Hoff & Sprott, 2009; Kolmes, Stock, & Moser, 2006; Nichols, 2006). A study assessing therapists’ attitudes toward BDSM found that while 76% of participants reported having treated at least one client who engaged in BDSM at some point in their practice, only 48% of those clinicians felt they were culturally competent on BDSM lifestyle and behaviors (Kelsey, Stiles, Spiller, & Diekhoff, 2013). The effects of a lack of BDSM cultural competency among clinicians can be seen in the results of a survey investigating BDSM-oriented individuals’ experiences in therapy; the participants reported encountering biased care that pathologized them and reinforced internalized stigmatization and heterosexism, and missed opportunities for treatment unrelated to the individuals’ sexual practices (Kolmes, Stock, & Moser, 2006).

Clinicians unfamiliar with BDSM practices face common issues, including: countertransference; lack of competence in working with people with newly emerging sexual identities and/or with their partners; and discriminating between sexual abuse and “play” (Nichols, 2006; Pitagora, 2015). This seminar has been designed to bolster cultural competence in BDSM sexuality, which to date has been lacking in clinical training. Included will be a review of the literature related to healthy expressions of BDSM sexuality and the experiences of BDSM-identified individuals who have attended therapy. Core content includes the definition of terms and common BDSM practices, an exposition of commonly held stereotypes, clinical issues and guidelines for practice with this population, and a discussion of case studies.

After attending the presentation, clinicians will:

  • Describe BDSM behaviors and lifestyle
  • Describe four common fallacies of BDSM sexuality and explain how these might relate to personal biases and countertransference;
  • Apply these areas of new knowledge into existing areas of practice.

Activity Schedule:

  • Introduction (5 minutes)
  • Section 1 (20 minutes): BDSM basics
    • terminology (5 min)
    • power roles (5 min)
    • the scaffolding of consent: negotiation, consent, communication/safewords, aftercare (10 min)
  • Section 2: (40 minutes) Presenting problems and clinical guidelines
    • common misconceptions (10 min)
    • common presenting problems (10 min)
    • countertransference (10 min)
    • clinical approaches (10 min)
  • Section 3 (15 minutes): Case presentation 1
  • Section 4 (15 minutes): Case presentation 2
  • Section 5 (15 minutes): Case presentation 3
  • Q&A (10 minutes)