I recently spoke to a room full of Systems Therapists. They were specifically come to listen to me talk about how work with Alternative Sexuality clients. This workshop presentation matters a great deal to me because this is the state conference. It is an opportunity to teach therapists around Wisconsin how to be more open and accepting of differing sexual mindsets. Like most people, they were not exactly sure what that means. I tend to define alt-sex as any sexual expressions (be it words, ideas, feelings, actions) that are not currently openly accepted within Western culture.
So there I am standing up there as the token ambassador of kink and open relationships. Many of these people are by nature a bit more accepting, or they wouldn’t be at my lecture, but I still had to provide the foundations of what this all means. They realize it is not all about what they see in the media but they also don’t really know anyone that publicly talks about alternative sexuality. Hence, it is my job (and belief) to educate.
Now here is the thing, this field of Alt Sex Therapy is a new creation. We have evolved to a place where such a thing can exist but there is really no governing body of approaches. CARAS is the closest thing I know of in the country. I’m happily directly involved in the organization and most likely presenting at the Alt Sex conference this year. Still while we are working on a curriculum for graduate level classes in therapy and creating ethical standards, there is a lot to be done in basic information for those that are not looking to work directly in the alt sex therapy field.
Hence my presentation discussed how to come from a strength based sex positive approach to working with clients. The ability for therapists to know when they need to refer specifically to an alternative sex therapist and the overarching needs of using power dynamics and differing models with open-relationship clients. Two hours later the questions about abuse vs consent, feminist considerations, and legal concerns were all addressed.
I wondered if the therapists were freaked out. I was concerned that what felt like basic information to me was too extreme for the audience. I wanted to present beyond all else that those that are involved with alternative sex expression are clients just like any other that deserve respect, understanding, and legitimacy. These are people’s lives and the core of their sexual being matters deeply to me. I wanted these therapists to be able to relate and look beyond the stereotypes and their personal fear to embrace these individual clients with knowledge and consideration.
I realize that this is a lot to ask of any group after two hours with a basic introduction to Alternative Sex Therapy, however I still had this hope. It wasn’t until the evaluations came back later that a smile passed over my face. The response from the traditional therapists were extremely positive. They expressed how important they felt this emerging field was, that they were really excited to learn more, and that the ideas challenged them greatly but they found themselves more equipped to work with or refer these clients to someone else. To me, this is a victory!
It may sound dramatic but if I can touch just one person out there that can help someone positively embrace their sexuality within a therapeutic setting, then I feel like maybe things are changing. I know what it is like to feel like you can’t express huge parts of your life to a person that is supposed to be there to support and help. Hence, I find myself brimming with joy at the understanding that there are more therapists out there that can help and even more on the way that are specifically focusing on Alt Sex.
I encourage you to support anyone you know in the health field that wants to learn more about Alternative Sexuality. Yours may be the only voice they hear and so what you say has influence. You can be a positive force for change within your community by being open (as much as you feel comfortable and safe with of course) about how alternative sexual expression is a healthy way to live ones life.