There is no denying that many people are helped by having strong, communicative relationships with therapists. All throughout history people have had confidantes, friends and co-workers with whom we could confide and share personal issues with. But has that been enough?
In the 20th century, the idea of taking time to speak with a person trained in psychiatry or psychology to sort out our troubles, traumas, insecurities, anxieties and so much more really took root. It wasn’t entirely accepted early on, but therapy has now become a cornerstone of maintaining strong mental health, and reaching out when we can’t be strong. Therapists can help with so many of our issues that they become very trusted and relied upon. The relationship people build with their therapist can be one of the strongest in their lives.
But there is one major failing in the therapist/patient dynamic: many therapists are never specifically trained to deal with issues of a sexual nature.
Why no connection to sex?
Given how prevalent sex is in our lives, from the personal to the political to the societal, it is absolutely shocking that people entrusted to care for our mental health may not have sufficient knowledge of the various different sexual issues, including identity, kink and fetish, sexual impulse control, differing relationship dynamics and much, much more. Our sex-related universe is expanding and opening up at a rapid rate. There are new developments in sexual understanding and identity emerging all of the time. Are therapists keeping up with them?
While it is frightening to think of an ill-informed therapist trying to guide someone through delicate, difficult or traumatic sexual issues, it is even more scary to know that there are ill-trained therapists who might use their lack of information to then perpetuate false information. This could be out of sheer ignorance or complete malice. Therapists could shape the ways a vulnerable person thinks that could be more damaging and harmful than the issues the patient was dealing with to begin with.
In no way am I trying to paint a negative picture of therapists and their intentions. But the reality is, people have preconceptions about different aspects of sexuality and even the most disciplined therapist might have difficulty maintaining professionalism—especially if they really believe they are doing good. The examples in the article are all very valid things people in those situations hear. Queer folk are still frequently told they are “that way” because of childhood trauma. Poly folk are repeated reminded their relationships won’t work out long term. Porn gets blamed for relationship issues on the daily. Some fools still think fetish and kink is some rare condition that only happens to kink.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg of sexual misconceptions that float around every damn day.
So, if you are considering seeing a new therapist, and your concerns involve or have a connection to sex, be upfront when you meet the prospective therapist. Ask what their background is, what they are comfortable with, what their qualifications around sex are. This might be hard, but in the long run, it might be one of the biggest steps you take.