SM and Psychotherapist Shopping

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November 1991

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1991 by William A. Henkin

<Q> How do I tell my therapist about my interest in SM?

<A> The way you phrase your question suggests you already have an ongoing therapy relationship. If that's the case my answer may depend on why you're seeing a therapist in the first place.

If you went into therapy specifically to deal with concerns that are SM-related I hope you shopped around to find a therapist who is educated about sexual matters in general, and is SM-aware in particular. You might have asked your friends in the community to give you the names of therapists they knew, or looked in SM publications for the therapists who advertise there for referrals. You might also have asked your therapist over the phone or in your first meeting about her or his knowledge of and attitudes toward SM and other alternate sexual practices, and used those answers to help you decide whether you wanted to work with that therapist or to keep on shopping.

If you went into therapy to deal with concerns that are not specifically SM-related, and SM just came up in the course of your work, you still have the right to ask your therapist what he or she thinks about the subject, and to reconsider your situation in light of the answers. Whether or not SM is your primary issue you certainly don't need a therapist telling you that what you like in sex is bad and wrong, or gasping, "You do what?" You want help exploring whatever troubles you so that you can find your own answers.

In general it is best to tell your therapist the truth about your feelings and to examine the reasons you feel reluctant to bring up any topic with her or him. For example, you might say, "There's something I want to talk about that I think is important to our work, but I'm afraid you'll think I'm really weird if I tell you." Most decent therapists will help you examine the reasons you feel unable or unwilling to talk freely with them first, and then explore the meaning of the subject to you.

If your therapist doesn't know much about SM and wants to learn, three good books to start with are: Urban Aboriginals, by Geoff Mains (gay male focus), the Samois anthology, Coming to Power (lesbian focus), and the new Leatherfolk, by Mark Thompson. The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual, edited by Pat Califia, is highly informative and not only for lesbians. Though nearly 20 years old The Last Taboo, by Gerald and Carolyn Greene, is a good het overview. If your therapist is ready for photographs both the visual imagery and the text in Michael Rosen's Sexual Magic: The S/M Photographs convey a great deal of information. And therapists with even the slightest Jungian bent may gain a lot of insight from Lyn Cowan's Masochism: A Jungian View, and Dark Eros: The Imagination of Sadism, by Thomas Moore.

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