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Guest Blog: When You Have a Kinky Therapist

on Tuesday, 11 July 2017. Posted in NCSF News

by Nicole Guappone 

I first started seeing my therapist nearly three years ago. I wanted someone LGBTQIA+ friendly, sex-positive, and poly-aware. Kink was not a big part of my life yet. Still, the intake coordinator matched me with someone based on my requests and I’ve been with her ever since. A few months after I started seeing her, a friend invited me to an open house at a local dungeon. The next time I saw my therapist, I told her I went, and she listened just like she always does, until there was a pause in the conversation. “OK,” she said, “it’s time for The Conversation.” (That’s how it sounded, like The Conversation was capitalized.)

            In the interest of honesty and disclosure, my therapist revealed that she is a member of that dungeon and that this is one of the challenges of working with kinky clients and also wanting to remain in the local scene herself. Some therapists choose to stop playing in public, others will travel out of state to go to events. But some don’t want to give up the community they’ve already fostered in their area, and that’s understandable.

            So what’s it like having a therapist who is kink-identified? I, personally, really like it. It can be hard enough being kinky and dealing with all of the complex emotions that play can bring up, so it feels good having a therapist who “gets” it. As someone who likes to push her own boundaries and play with emotional edges, having a therapist like this is especially helpful. Is having a therapist like this also tricky sometimes? Absolutely. If you’re looking for a therapist and want one who is kink-identified or end up with one who is, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

 

1. Maintain Boundaries

One of the magical parts of therapy is that you get to spend an hour talking about yourself. Therapists interject, they help you process, they do their job. But the sharing is one-sided—that’s part of the deal.

            This professional therapist/client relationship can feel a little tainted if you suddenly know this personal thing about them—they’re kinky!—and it kinda feels like when you were a kid and you ran into a teacher at the grocery store. Teachers look so strange outside of the classroom…

            And now that you know one personal thing about your therapist, you might want to know more. Dominant or submissive? Relationship status? Biggest fetish? Guess what? It’s none of your business! Sure, at some point probably everyone who’s had a therapist has wondered about their therapist’s life. Every once in awhile you might even feel like you’re obligated to know more because you reveal to them your deepest, darkest secrets and vulnerabilities. It’s only fair, right?

            If you like your therapist and have been working with them a long time, it’s totally natural to be curious about what they’re like outside of the office. But trust them—their lack of sharing is for your own good. In training, therapists learn how to keep their personal biases from affecting their work with clients. You and I (most likely) haven’t had those lessons. So even if you know your therapist is kinky, understand that you know because it’s relevant to your professional relationship. It is not an invitation for more questions or prodding into their personal lives.

 

2. Negotiate and Plan Ahead

It’s a word we in the kink world all know. Negotiation! It’s important to hot, healthy scenes and/or non-monogamous relationships. But you just found out you might run into your therapist at the dungeon. Now what? Chances are, they are used to having these conversations, so they will probably tell you how they prefer to handle it. Maybe they like checking in before they go to events to make sure you don’t run into each other. Maybe they’d rather not check in and just bail if you happen to walk in while they’re there. But…what if one of you is already engaged in a scene? Have you broken the “rules”?

            There are no simple answers and there are always ethical guidelines. Some things are personal preference. Others, well…probably you don’t want to let the accidentally-seeing-your-therapist-in-a-scene-thing happen. Therapists have their own thoughts about all of this and they talk about it amongst themselves frequently—not even just kinky therapists, but any who may worry about seeing clients outside of the office.

            But I’ll tell you how my therapist and I handle it: It’s an ongoing process. If I know I’m going to an event this weekend, I’ll usually bring it up in session or at the end of the session. This in no way obligates her to tell me her plans, but now she knows mine. If she makes plans another weekend, sometimes she checks in with me before we end our session. We don’t even have to do this too often, usually only if specific events are coming up that the other is likely to go to.

            Despite the nature of your relationship with your therapist, it can still feel awkward talking about this stuff with them, especially when you’re being extremely cautious of those boundaries I mentioned earlier. But remember, it’s a sacrifice your therapist has chosen to make if they wish to stay active in the local community and it’s something you need to be OK with if you like seeing a therapist who can better understand this part of you.

            Some therapists and clients get specific, i.e. clients go to the club or events held on Friday nights and their therapist takes Saturdays. Or, one person takes odd-numbered dates, the other, even. That might work for some, not for others. Just find out what works best for you.

 

3. Process Together

This is something else that may be a personal choice. Typically, if my therapist and I run into each other at a non-play event or a conference, the next time we see each other in the office, we’ll start with that. The first time we ever ran into each other, both of us freaked out a bit and we processed together in our next session. She asked how I felt when I saw her there. I asked her how she felt when she saw me. We figured out how to best navigate those situations. I prefer—and she appreciates this—giving her at least a smile and nod of acknowledgement when I see her.

            Even still, no matter how many times we have this conversation, it’s always a little awkward. Processing doesn’t have to be long and drawn out; just take a few minutes at the start of a session if you like. I know that my therapist values this processing and it seems like it’s something we both need. Even if the conversation is awkward, I’m comfortable enough trying to navigate it with her. Ideally, you should be able to talk to your therapist about anything!

 

 

Being kinky and having a kinky therapist can be a blessing and a curse. Maybe a kink-aware therapist is all you need or want, especially if you don’t really plan to talk about your kink in session. But if you like to push yourself and your boundaries with your play, to learn about yourself and your partner(s) through play, it is amazing to work through these things with someone who understands kink on a deeper level. It’s just one more type of negotiation you learn how to do, and in the end, it’s all worth it.

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