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Therapist Sheffa Ariens offers a “Sanctuary of Sanity in the South”

on Thursday, 23 February 2017. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Kink Aware Professionals Featured Member

By Inara de Luna, Guest Blogger

sheffa ariens headshot

By Inara de Luna, Guest Blogger

Sheffa Ariens

Today, we’d like to introduce you to another Kink Aware Professional from our directory. Sheffa Ariens is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Raleigh-Durham, NC, who works with individuals, families, and those in all sorts of relationships. She welcomes the non-conformists, especially kinksters and polyamorous and other non-monogamous folk in her practice. She says, “My work is infused with mindfulness, playfulness, embodiment, and a deep respect for the many ways we each construct satisfying relationships.”

We asked Ms. Ariens to tell us more about her work and how she can be of service to our audience.

NCSF: What made you register on the Kink Aware Professionals Directory?

Sheffa Ariens (SA): KAP allows our community to pool our expertise and provide support for each other. In times of uncertainty, it’s crucially important to know who we can turn to, who we can entrust with our vulnerability, and who will meet us with integrity and compassion and direction as we deal with situations that are complex and challenging.

It’s important that the people we seek out for help won’t imagine problems where there are none. That is why I’m grateful to the organizers and admins of KAP, and that is why I registered.

NCSF: Why do you think it’s important for members of alternative communities to have a therapist knowledgeable about their lifestyle?

SA: Graduate schools don’t teach about kink, they don’t teach about polyamory or non-monogamy. In fact, many of the teachings are so exclusively geared towards normative and monogamous models of relationship that they pathologize any other form of relationship.

Therapists who are normative in their own personal lives often enter private practice armed with a sense that anything outside of the vanilla or monogamous world is harmful, and their ignorance leads them to cause much harm to their clients under the guise of helping them.

Therapy is vulnerable - you are baring your soul to someone you don’t know, who is revealing little of themselves, and the therapist holds power. If that therapist turns around and begins enforcing their personal beliefs onto you, telling you that the things that turn you on and light you up are inherently wrong, that is an abuse of power, whether well-meaning or not.

We also have a lot of therapists who are non-judgmental but have very little actual experience or knowledge about the kink/alt world. It’s great that we have people who are willing to learn and listen, especially with therapists that hold specific expertise or specialties, in remote areas, or who take insurance where others may not.

I appreciate that KAP lets therapists self identify as kink friendly, kink aware, or kink knowledgeable, so clients can anticipate how much experience the therapist actually has. Some people may feel safer with someone who is not simply friendly, but actually understands the language, roles, altered states, and practices, without needing terms explained, and who has a real sense of community wisdom to draw upon.

NCSF: Can you talk a bit about the most common services you offer?

SA: My practice is focused on individual therapy and relationship counseling for adults, specializing in non-monogamy, polyamory, kink, and other non-traditional relationship styles. I also have expertise in working with trans and queer clients.

In addition to the traditional approaches to talk therapy, I include mindfulness and body awareness in my work, and welcome inclusion of the spiritual and political as well.

NCSF: What’s the most important thing people in alternative relationships should know or do in regards to relationships in general?

SA: Communication is key in any relationship, and it becomes exponentially more important when you have multiple people in connection or when you push boundaries for play. Find the thing that is hardest to talk about and learn to talk about it.

Cultivate a part of you that can observe your thoughts and feelings and send messages out when you feel stuck or frozen.

Practice how to give words to the fleeting emotions and reactions inside of you, even if you think they’re not that important and maybe you should ignore them. Rank things on a scale of 1 to 10 so you can let people know about the smaller concerns rising in you before they become big.

Stop telling yourself how you should feel about something and just tell your partner(s) all the ways you actually do feel.

Learn to say “Yes, and” instead of saying “yes, but…”

Listen; if neither of you is listening, then no one is getting heard.  Take turns, repeat back what you hear, imagine what your partner actually is feeling when you listen to their experiences.

NCSF: That’s a lot of great advice. Thank you!

Next question…Child custody is a big topic for alternative families. Do you have any advice for kinky or poly families who are dealing with that issue?

SA: This is a complex topic. For me, the most heartbreaking situation happens when one parent decides to villainize their former partner and accuse them of sexual perversion, dragging their private life through public court and pulling their children away, despite attempts while married for both partners to be consensual, involved, and transparent.

Because this does happen and the courts can be discriminatory, I advise everyone to be even more conscientious about honesty, mutual care, and erring on the side of caution when you have kids.

I especially advise caution if a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy is put in place in order for one parent to engage in a kinky or non-monogamous outlet while the other does not. DADT often indicates that the other person can’t actually accept the reality of what is happening, so they’re asking their partner to edit out large parts of reality to support the other person’s efforts at denial.

In every case I’ve personally seen, the denial eventually comes crashing down, and the rage of all that was avoided comes out in a torrent of demonization of the partner and their life choices. This is a set-up for a court case where the kids are pulled away because the parent feels betrayed and manipulated, despite having agreed to the exact situation, or even having asked explicitly for that arrangement.

Nothing hurts more than being denied access to your children. Exercise caution and make sure everyone is truly, deeply agreeable.

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Sheffa Ariens is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, specializing in counseling for non-conformists, especially in the realms of ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, and kink, and growing expertise with queer, trans, and non-binary issues. Sheffa's goal is to be a sanctuary of sanity in the south, reminding folks that they are normal and healthy and awesome, whether or not the people around them understand that. She helps her clients uncover their own wisdom and learn new tools for navigating life. She works with individuals, couples, and poly families, as well as others who identify outside of the traditional paradigm. For more information, see her website at

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The NCSF Kink Aware Professionals Directory is THE resource for people who are seeking psychotherapeutic, medical, and legal professionals who are informed about the diversity of consensual, adult sexuality.

If you are a professional who would like to be listed in the Directory, please create a free account and then click HERE to enter your directory listing.

If you’d like to participate in our KAP Featured Member series, please contact the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Inara de Luna is a sex and relationship expert, a consent activist, and a professional writer and editor in these fields. She founded the Sex Positive Loving Facebook page and the Council for Consensual Intimacy Facebook page. Feel free to Like both of those pages for more information on those topics and to join the national conversation about sex positivity and consent culture.

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