The Case for
Kink Clinical Practice Guidelines
This is an all volunteer project, a donation of any size would help us complete this project
Why Mental Health Practice Guidelines are Crucial for Working with Kink, BDSM, & Fetish*
As helping professionals, mental health workers have an ethical and a professional responsibility to provide culturally humble care to our clients. This care is especially crucial for individuals who are underserved and misunderstood in society, such as those involved in kink and fetish. When some find their way to mental health professionals for help, they may be fortunate to find a therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced with kink and BDSM. Yet, many more may find clinicians unfamiliar with kink who have unaddressed biases or may pathologize them. Due to this care gap and high likelihood of negative experiences, people involved in kink often fear being stigmatized and can experience the negative effects of minority stress.
To change this, in the Spring of 2018, a team of highly experienced clinicians gathered to explore what constitutes clinical best practices in working with those who are interested and/or involved in kink, BDSM, and/or fetish eroticism. Since then we have been doing ongoing work to create these guidelines. Read on to find out where we are in the process!
Where We Are Now: Summer 2019
When we work together, we can create a safer world and better mental health resources for those who need them! Because our goal is to have this project be community-informed, we gathered community input so our guidelines are culturally aware, clinically relevant, strengths-based, and useful. We invited community-members who are involved in kink/BDSM as well as clinicians, educators, and researchers familiar with the kink and fetish client experiences to share their ideas via two online surveys that wrapped up in June 30, 2019.
Currently we have finished the language for the guidelines themselves, taking into account that feedback, and and are in the process of fleshing out the supporting documentation for the guidelines. We estimate their final publishing in Fall 2019. Stay tuned!
Kink Awareness is Growing
The past few years have seen more and more people finding their way into kink and BDSM. With this greater interest, there has been a growing demand for therapists and other healthcare providers who are sensitive to their interests, experiences, and relationships. Kink-involved clients are often tired of having to educate their clinicians, and are ill-served by the therapeutic community when judged or pathologized, especially when that results in clients being given actively harmful clinical information. It's time to take advantage of this momentum to start to articulate what competent care might include, in a careful, systematic way.
Need for Development of Clinical Guidelines
Since the early 2000s, calls for clinical practice guidelines for working with BDSM clients have been published periodically. Recently, though, there has been an increase in the number of empirical studies and case presentations that address therapeutic concerns when working with kink-identified clients and patients. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of continuing education training workshops, online educational offerings, and conferences that address the need for kink competence in therapy. Given these changes, an appropriate next step in developing this area of competence is the creation of proposed clinical practice guidelines for therapists and counselors.
*What We Mean With These Terms
We use BDSM (short for Bondage, Discipline &/or Dominance, Sadism &/or Submission, and Masochism) and kink as an umbrella term to cover a wide range of behaviors, practices and identities. These words encompass things such as intense sensation (including but not limited to “pain”), eroticizing power dynamics and differences, "unusual" sensual stimuli (“fetish”), role play or dramatization of erotic scenarios, and activities that induce shifts and changes in consciousness (called “headspace” in BDSM/kink subcultures).