Reading for therapists


The following resources are tailored to therapists and related practitioners specifically. Most of the books I list in my other reading lists are useful for therapists too, in terms of acquiring general knowledge about BDSM and power-based relationship dynamics. I especially recommend that you check out my Kink 101 reading list and this article, entitled BDSM vs the DSM: a history of the fight that got kink declassified as mental illness, if you’re really new at learning about kink and SM and want to work with kinky clients.

NEW! Kink and Trauma: BDSM as Self-Care for Survivors by Masti Khor and Chanelle Gallant (here)

This zine is an incredible resource by kinky queers. Their intro page says that while they both have school credentials, “Our real skills are our lived experiences as survivors and BDSM players, and school sometimes (but mostly didn’t) help to put words to those experiences.” It features a “trigger rope map” and a whole bunch of concrete tips and tricks for navigating play as a survivor. There’s really nothing else like it, and in my humble opinion it should be taken up widely.

Becoming a Kink-Aware Therapist by Caroline Shahbaz and Peter Chirinos (here

I haven’t read this book yet, so I can’t vouch for it personally, but the authors have now launched an online training program for therapists called Kink Knowledgeable, which comes endorsed by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the US- based advocacy group that successfully campaigned to get the diagnoses of sadism and masochism removed from the DSM. If you’re interested in becoming a more kink-competent therapist, both the book and the training could be useful avenues. I’ll update this once I’ve read the book.

Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures by Peggy Kleinplatz and Charles Moser (here)

This is an edited collection of kink-positive scholarly research with a non-exclusive focus on sociology and counseling. It’s the first of its kind and is very solid. Not every piece is a winner, but a lot of it is really great. I’ve written critiques of several of the pieces in it, as a series of blog posts which I link to below.* There are several essays of note in here. “Learning from Extraordinary Lovers: Lessons from the Edge,” by Peggy Kleinplatz, covers ten points discussing how BDSM and related relationships (can) provide a model for healthy erotic exploration. In it, she relates three or four case studies from her private practice in which BDSM has been directly, and successfully, used as a therapeutic tool for couples. The book also includes “Psychotherapeutic Issues with ‘Kinky’ Clients: Clinical Problems, Yours and Theirs” by Margaret Nichols, and “Investigating Bias in Psychotherapy with BDSM Clients” by Keely Kolmes, Wendy Stock and Charles Moser – both excellent pieces that may help you tailor your work with clients. Note that this book was simultaneously published as an issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, so if you have access to a scholarly journal database you can download individual articles of interest.

Safe, Sane and Consensual by Darren Langdridge and Meg Barker (here)

This collection follows very closely on the heels of the Kleinplatz and Moser book. It’s mostly scholarly work and it has an entire section about BDSM as therapeutic, mostly written by clinicians, including Kleinplatz once again. I’ll post a more detailed review once I’ve read it in more depth.

Leading and Supportive Love: the Truth About Dominant and Submissive Relationships, by Chris M. Lyon (here)

This book is more about D/s relationships than BDSM play, but it’s got a lot of great material. It’s not about D/s or BDSM as therapy, but more so about how to best understand D/s relationships and their practitioners without pathologizing them. And yet, it doesn’t read as defensive justification, just nuanced exploration. Also, it doesn’t use any of the lingo particular to the BDSM or power-exchange communities, so it’s very accessible to people who might be put off by all the unfamiliar acronyms and concepts that may come up in kink-related literature.

Unequal By Design: Counseling Power Dynamic Relationships by Raven Kaldera, Sabrina Popp, M.D. (here)

This collection is short and sweet. It features several top-notch pieces written by kink-friendly therapists who are also kink practitioners themselves, so you get a double whammy of insight. Even BDSM-friendly professionals don’t often come out and self-identify as BDSMers, and these authors’ choice to do so, I think, offers a kind of credibility and a level of nuance you won’t find in many places. As well, it provides perspectives on what it’s like to bridge these two worlds, and where the common ground lies. Highly recommended reading.

The NCSF Resource Library (here) is also pretty solid, but their materials on counseling work don’t go into great depth when it comes to kink. Yet? They do have a good primer for therapists on non-monogamy, so perhaps kink is on the way?

*Here are the links to my reviews of some of the articles in Kleinplatz and Moser’s Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, listed in the order in which the articles appear in the book.

  • Review of “Introduction: The State of Our Knowledge on SM” by Charles Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz
  • Review of “Differences and Similarities Between Gay and Straight Individuals Involved in the Sadomasochistic Subculture” by Niklas Nording, N. Kenneth Sandnabba, Pekka Santtila and Laurence Alison
  • Review of “Sexual Spanking, the Self, and the Construction of Deviance” by Rebecca F. Plante
  • Review of “24/7 SM Slavery” by Peter L. Dancer, Peggy Kleinplatz and Charles Moser
  • Review of “Mainstreaming Kink: The Politics of BDSM Representation in U.S. Popular Media” by Margot D. Weiss
  • Review of “Understanding Sadomasochism: An Empirical Examination of Four Perspectives” by Patricia A. Cross and Kim Matheson
  • Review of “Discrimination of SM-Identified Individuals” by Susan Wright

3 thoughts on “Reading for therapists

  1. This is a brilliant list; thanks for posting it. I am a psychotherapist-in-training and a submissive so I’m coming at this from several angles.

    1. How has this gone for you since you made the post? I think we therapist should work first to find a common ground to stand on with our clients.

  2. having discussed kink, BDSM and power with different mental health and holistic practioners over the last couple years, professionally and personally, I’ve very grateful for this list. Thank you.

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