Are We Ready to Serve? Couple and Family Therapists’ Attitudes Toward BDSM and Their Perceived Competence Helping BDSM Practitioners

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Cultural competence is a core component of delivering effective psychotherapy to clients with diverse sexual lifestyles, including BDSM practitioners, who constitute a substantial minority of the population. Couple and Family Therapists (CFTs) are uniquely prepared to explore relationships and power dynamics, but no research has explored CFTs’ psychotherapeutic relationship with BDSM practitioners. This study measures CFTs’ BDSM attitudes, perceived competence, and the relationship between these and related professional factors. Results indicated that CFTs (n = 132) have positive attitudes and moderate perceived competence; attitudes and perceived competence were negatively correlated. Controlling for various professional factors such as AASECT certification, we found that participants with at least three or more hours of BDSM-specific training had significantly more positive attitudes and significantly higher perceived competence. Including these hours in graduate training or continuing education credits could help CFTs to feel more “kink aware” and competent to deliver ethical care for this population.