Psychology Today:
5 Sex/Relationship Myths Therapists Should Stop Believing

April 27 0 Comments Category: Health


5 Sex/Relationship Myths Therapists Should Stop Believing

Believe it or not, your therapist is often wrong about sex

By David J Ley Ph.D.

You may find this hard to believe, but most therapists, psychologists and doctors have received no training in sexuality. A minority of mental health, social work or medical training programs offer graduate-level training in sexuality issues, beyond covering the paraphilias and sexual disorders included in DSM-5. Some programs address sexual diversity issues, but not all. Few, if any, states require specific training in sexuality issues in order to qualify for licensure. Only a very few states (California and Florida when I last looked) require a license or documented training in order to call oneself a sex therapist.

Why and how this came to be is a long, socially-driven tale, and I’m not sure anyone has ever really documented the story. But, what this lack of training means, is that therapists are subject to the same sexual biases, misconceptions, and myths, which permeate general society. Most therapists learn about sexual issues from the general media – NOT from professional journals or research.  As a result, many therapists hold some dangerous myths and misconceptions, and use these mistaken beliefs in their practice. Here are five of the most common ones, which I’ve encountered as I supervise, correspond with and train therapists around the world:

Kink is Rare and Unhealthy: Since the ideas of fetishes/paraphilias were first introduced in the late 1800’s, therapists have believed that sexually unusual behaviors and desires were just that: unusual, rare, and usually abnormal. But, the DSM-5 makes the distinction between paraphilic interests, and paraphilia disorders, now acknowledging that people can have unusual sexual interests, with no distress or dysfunction. In Scandinavia, they abolished the paraphilia diagnoses several years ago, with no regrets or reconsiderations in the time since. Recent research in Canada suggests that nearly half the population endorses interest in “unusual” sexual practices. Which begs the question if anyone really knows what “usual” or “normal” actually is. Numerous recent studies of people involved in BDSM show that they are often more emotionally healthy than the average person. And, the Fifty Shades of Grey Effect has shown that many, many “normal” people are interested in exploring their sexual boundaries.

Open or Non-Monogamous Relationships Don’t Work Long-Term: Therapists tend to be remarkably biased and judgmental about relationships that explore negotiated alternatives to infidelity. In a recent NY Times article (link is external), noted anthropologist Helen Fisher proclaimed that humans aren’t wired for nonmonogamy, and are fooling themselves if they pursue it. But, increasing numbers of relationships are negotiating these boundaries, and many researchers and therapists like myself are writing about the many kinky, polyamorous, swinger and gay male couples that we’ve seen establish and maintain very healthy relationships for decades. Several studies of nonmonogamous couples show that they tend to be more egalitarian, more open to sexual diversity, and more likely to practice safe sex. Given the incredibly high rates of infidelity and divorce in allegedly monogamous relationships, it leads one to wonder what exactly, therapists are thinking of when they say that monogamy works and nonmonogamy does not.

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