The nature of sexuality counseling is being redefined as an essential skill for counselors, regardless of concentration. In the December 2013 issue of Counseling Today, Wynn Dupkoski Mallicoat and Donna M. Gibson argue that it is crucial for mental health counselors to have a basic understanding of sexuality and sexuality-based interventions. They state that sexual behavior is oftentimes connected to ones overall wellness. Since sexuality is a developmental process, it is common for people to have concerns in this area. Counselors need to be prepared and have the necessary skills to work with clients who are struggling with sexuality issues.
For more information, please view the original article: Sexual Healing Article in Counseling Today
It is likely that many counselors-in-training lack the fundamental skills for sexuality counseling because of their limited access to specific training courses. Many programs offer it as an elective, but do not require training in this area however; sexuality counseling is a required part of the curriculum in the MA Clinical Counseling program at Alliant International University. The goals for the course are similar to the information found in Mallicoat and Gibson's article.
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More specifically, the Sex Therapy course at Alliant International University focuses on the development of:
- (a) students’ knowledge base related to human sexuality;
- (b) an understanding of the varied sexuality issues which may be encountered in professional counseling practice;
- (c) students’ skills in assessment and intervention skills with sexuality issues;
- (d) awareness of dynamics of sexuality that intersect with larger societal systems of privilege and oppression based on gender, sexual orientation, race, class, abilities, national origin, and religion;
- (e) understanding of the social justice advocacy competencies as they intersect with sexuality issues; and
- (f) increased awareness of one’s personal perceptions, attitudes and affect related to sexuality issues.
Mallicoat and Gibson list specific goals to increase sexuality counseling competency include:
- Exploring the various dimensions of sexuality
- Increasing self-awareness regarding sexual biases, values and beliefs
- Increasing comfort with addressing sexuality with clients
- Becoming more proficient in the assessment and diagnosis of sexual problems
- Increasing knowledge of healthy sexual development
The authors also list a few interventions a counselor may use to invite conversation about sexuality into the session:
- Counselors can communicate an invitation for clients to discuss sexuality, including having books on the bookshelf that focus on sexuality and sexual behavior.
- Discussion to clients is to include sexuality-specific questions in the assessment process, including specific questions on an intake form.
- Encourage discussions around sexuality.
- Highlight sexuality as part of overall wellness when discussing your philosophy of counseling.