BDSM and Therapy Project

The mission of the BDSM and Therapy Project is to increase the knowledge and skills of therapists when serving people with BDSM sexuality, and to educate the BDSM community about high quality therapy and how to interact with mental healthcare providers around these issues.

The BDSM and Therapy Project will document best practices for therapy, from the point of view of the community and from the point of view of therapists with extensive experience in working with the BDSM community.  It will include exploration of the common barriers to high quality therapy and mental health services experienced by the BDSM community.

The BTP has created a training DVD for counselors and therapists, demonstrating some aspects of culturally competent care when working with clients who express BDSM sexuality.  This DVD is entitled Therapy with BDSM Clients. All CARAS members are eligible to receive this resource for free as part of their membership benefits.

The BDSM and Therapy project is also engaged with an ongoing effort to provide a balanced presentation of benefits and risks of BDSM play, focusing on clinical issues and personal development.  For example, some people within the BDSM community have proposed the following possible benefits of BDSM play, which may serve as a point of departure for more systematic assessments:

  • Develop better negotiation/communication skills
  • Have opportunities for Self-exploration
  • Learn one’s own limits and boundaries
  • Have experiences of personal freedom
  • Access the ‘dark side’ of personality safely
  • Have opportunities for connection and intimacy

The BDSM and Therapy project is also concerned about articulating the possible risks of BDSM play and clarifying situations where BDSM play is not healthy or helpful.  People from the BDSM community have voiced the following:

  • Barriers can develop between self and vanilla lovers
  • Alienation and isolation from stigma, internalized negative stereotypes
  • Having limits pushed too far in a scene
  • Potential for BDSM to be dehumanizing and destructive

In order to avoid mission overlap with other, established community efforts, prominently the Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) initiative currently hosted by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), the scope of the BTP will not include the creation of a referral list of BDSM friendly or kink friendly therapists or providers.  It will not include providing direct therapy services to the community.  It will not include lobbying for changes of policy at any governmental agency or professional organization.