Mr CK and I have officially The Best Therapist In The World (According to Us.) We really landed on our feet – when we decided to explore joint counselling as a way to ease the transition to living together and deal with some past traumas, we thought it would be really difficult to find someone who would accept us in all our poly, kinky weirdness. Instead, the first person we contacted turned out to be the perfect therapist for us (and has an office a minute from our house, which doesn’t hurt.)
Most people, however, are not so lucky when trying to find a therapist – and the more ‘out of the mainstream’ traits one possesses, the harder it is. So I thought I’d put together a quick guide to help you find, and work with, a sex-positive therapist who’s a good fit for you.
1. Use an appropriate directory
There are directories of kink-aware (etc.) professionals. Try the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (multiple countries, somewhat US centric,) the Open List (US only) or Pink Therapy (mainly UK,) or even just do a Google search with some keywords and see what comes up. If you can find someone who is already versed in working with sexual minorities, you’ll be on much better footing right from the beginning. But if this isn’t possible or you can’t find someone suitable from these resources…
2. Put everything on the table upfront.
By ‘upfront,’ I mean ‘ideally before the first appointment.’ Chances are you’ll talk to a potential therapist on the phone, or at least by email, before setting up your first appointment.
I listened hesitantly as Mr CK laid everything out on the phone to our potential therapist a year ago. Queerness? Check. Polyamory? Not an eyelash batted. Surely BDSM would be too much for her to deal with? Nope. (‘Consensual sadomasochism? Oh yes I know what that is.’) It was a difficult conversation to have with a total stranger we were potentially going to entrust with our innermost traumas and strains, but it was so, so worth having. Because when we walked into her office, we knew that none of the many facets of our unconventional sexual identities were used against us.
3. Make it clear your identities aren’t the problem.
The other piece of our success was making it clear that ‘we’re queer, polyamorous and kinky… and none of those things are at all problematic for us.’ It was context, not a statement that these things needed fixing. If your therapist pathologises your sexual identities or tries to convince you they need to change, fire them immediately and go to someone better.
4. Be unapologetic.
This applies in your initial disclosure of your identities and also any subsequent discussion in case they come up. If you act like your identities are something to be ashamed of, your therapist is more likely to react in kind or to perceive them as some kind of problem. If you’re matter of fact and unapologetic, they’re more likely to take the information on board as nothing more than useful background knowledge.
Say this: ‘Just so you know, for context, I’m queer, polyamorous and practice BDSM. Do you know what those things are?’
Not this: ‘Um, I know it’s weird, but… I do some unusual sexual stuff. Please don’t think I’m a freak but…’
5. Expect them to educate themselves
Unless you’re unbelievably lucky, your therapist will probably not be an expert on all the different facets of your identity. Educating them is not your job. Of course, you will need to talk about what words like ‘polyamorous’ or ‘kink’ or ‘sex positive’ mean to you, but you’re paying them to help you, and that includes educating themselves. If they’re asking you basic or 101 questions, suggest some resources and move the conversation on. If they make no effort to learn, they’re not a good therapist.
6. Don’t be afraid to steer the conversation
If things come back to aspects of your identity that aren’t relevant to the subject at hand, don’t feel afraid to steer the conversation back in the direction you want it to go. ‘I don’t think X is relevant here’ is a useful phrase. Again, if they insist that an aspect of your sexuality is a problem when it isn’t problematic for you, think about moving on. If they use any expression resembling, ‘you wouldn’t have this problem if you were [monogamous/vanilla/whatever,]’ I strongly suggest ditching them straight away.
7. Remember you deserve top quality care.
You’re probably paying a lot of money for therapy, but whether you are or not, you deserve the best care from your therapist. They work for you. You can end the therapist/client relationship any time you choose and there are amazing therapists out there, so please don’t settle for someone who doesn’t treat you – all facets of you – with the respect you deserve.
How has your experience of therapy been as a sex-positive, LGBTQ+, non-monogamous or kinky person? Tell me about it in the comments or drop me a line.