The BACP ethical framework states:
“We agree to maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries in our relationships with clients (including supervisees), and to periodically review any dual or multiple relationships. We will avoid dual relationships where there is a risk of harm outweighing any benefits for the client, and maintain a distinction between personal and professional presence on social media”
Within smaller minority communities such as those of LGBTQIA+, BDSM/Kink, and Consensual non-monogamy there is significant potential for dual relationships to occur. As such inadvertent crossovers between personal and professional lives can occur.
Being actively involved in the BDSM lifestyle for over a decade provides me with strong credentials, I am not just Kink aware but a kink-knowledgable therapist.
In the BDSM/kink communities, there is also the complicating element of play, often public, and generally considered erotic … though very often without explicitly sexual acts as part of the scene.
I also am part of the Polyamorous community, practising consensual non-monogamy within my sexual and romantic relationships.
BDSM/Kink and Polyamory are parts of my personal identity and stepping back from these is not something I am willing to do.
I also work for a local charity and sit on some panels, boards and groups. Consequently, I am a recognisable face within the local LGBTQ activism and education communities. This means I am regularly at fundraising, pride, marches, and networking events.
I, like my clients, have romantic, sexual and social needs that must be met in order for me to have a meaningful and authentic life and I feel it is vitally important to provide role-modelling for being able to live authentically this way.
If a therapist who is kinky or polyamorous is ethically prevented from socialising in the spaces they frequent, the therapist is effectively cut off from a major part of his or her community.
I also believe that it is good boundaries for clients to realise that we are not therapists 24/7 and that we do, in fact, have lives outside of our work.
As a Therapist, I will always do my utmost to respect the privacy of people coming to me for therapy and to ensure a level of privacy around my own sexuality, relationship, and lifestyle choices
The following are therefore preliminary guidelines that may get altered as experience and specific client relationships dictate to ensure that I am able to work respectfully and ethically within a small community.
This is likely to be the major concern of potential clients. It is also a central element in professional codes of ethical behaviour, as well as statutory requirements.
- All of the usual safeguards for confidentiality and secure record keeping will be strictly adhered to.
- Every client will receive, as required, a statement about their rights to confidentiality, as well as identifying the few exceptions that may be mandated by law.
- What is said in therapy, or other professional interactions, will not be shared with anyone else, without a signed release of information, or in the rare instances mandated by law and/or court order.
- It almost goes without saying that I will not out anyone’s kinky interests or activities. That is generally expected and adhered to in the community as a whole, in any case.
- If we meet in public, I will take my cue from how you acknowledge me, and/or what we have talked about and agreed upon. Otherwise, I may make eye contact, smile or nod, but not go beyond that. There are all kinds of ways that we might have become casually acquainted, other than our actual professional relationship. However, if you identify me to others as your therapist, it will be hard for me to deny it. Of course, I still will not talk about what we are working on.
- If we already know each other well, and if either of us considers the other a good friend, I will not take you on as a client.
- If we are merely acquaintances, including FetLife friends, but do not know each other well, it may be appropriate to work together as therapist and client. We will discuss the implications of any prior interaction and knowledge of each other, as well as how it may limit our friendship in the future.
- In between good friends and casual acquaintances, there is quite a bit of grey area. We would take even more time to discuss prior interaction, and how the transition to a defined professional relationship may or may not work. This is the kind of situation that small town practitioners likely have to deal with. In a city, some therapists may choose never to take on a client they have known previously.If we have been play partners on an ongoing basis, I will treat that as a good friendship, and I won’t see you formally as a client. If we played only once, very casually and briefly, and at least a year ago, we can talk about what it did and did not mean to each of us, and whether it will adversely affect the development of a proper therapeutic relationship. If we engaged in a public play scene in a club, it will be less problematic than if we’d had a lengthy scene in private, which would be interpreted as a more sexual and/or a more cathartic, power exchange experience. In that case, if a professional relationship would be appropriate at all, I will probably wait at least two years, rather than one, before considering it, and I am more likely to refer you to a colleague
- In general, nowadays, I rarely play in public and do not attend many events. If we have previously witnessed each other in scenes at parties and other public events, particularly if they involved nudity, pain, humiliation or emotional intensity, we will need to discuss whether and how that might affect working together.
- If you become a client, we will agree to share with each other any plans to attend specific public play events. After talking about it, if we still decide to go to the same one, we will set some rules for the event, such as agreeing not to watch each other’s scenes. The rare exception to that would be if a client requests me to observe a scene, which is directly related to something they are working on in therapy, so I can better understand the issue, and/or be helpful in a more specific way. The type of scene, the therapeutic issues, and other interpersonal dynamics, would determine how much discussion and preparation we would need to do before that might occur.
Friends and Acquaintances
There are prohibitions against dual relationships. Generally, this refers to romantic relationships, sexual activity, and being good friends outside of the therapeutic relationship. It might also extend to some business relationships. And it includes family members or significant others of either friends or clients.
Power Dynamic Boundaries in the Therapy Room
By the very nature of our training and experience, the professional role of the therapist can often be one of inherent power imbalance. Although it is generally routine to experience these power dynamics in the therapy room (even more so with ‘kinky’ clients), I believe our work together is more effective when I/we actively seek to level any dom/sub power imbalance in the work we do. So, although you may already be in some kind of power dynamic relationship with yourself, or any other(s), either as a Dom/Master, sub/slave or any other dominant or submissive power dynamic, I work with the person, not the role, and I would expect my clients to be open to this too.
If you are in need of therapy …
… and would consider doing that work with me, I hope you will raise any questions and concerns you may have, whether covered here or not. I want to be able to help you, and others in the community, in a safe and comfortable way. Once that kind of trust is established, we can work together, so that you can reach your full potential, according to your own definitions and goals. It will often be the case that clients come to me for issues and problems that are not all that kink related. But they don’t want to have to hide that part of their lifestyle, and they don’t want to spend a lot of time educating their therapists on the basics of BDSM and kink. You still get to explain what it all means to you, as a unique individual, which will take time and effort enough.
I welcome any feedback, questions, and concerns, that prospective clients, and others in the community, may need or want to share with me