In our last class session we covered Clinical Perspectives on Human Sexuality. We discussed a range of topics, including the purpose of assessment, various assessment instruments, sex history forms, and so on. We also discussed some of the considerations in making counseling safe for discussing sexuality and sexual behavior. I think of this as practicing the clinical ‘gift of hospitality.’ On this topic, I like the points made by Joyce and Cliff Penner in their book Counseling for Sexual Disorders. They say it is important to acknowledge with the person or couple the difficulty in talking about sex – it’s probably better to just say it since it is likely on their minds. It is also important to ask for the information that is needed, and a common mistake is to not get enough information. According to the Penners, common anxieties for people include:
- Sexual terminology - what words to use to describe their problems or concerns.
- Explicit discussion – discussing sex in a more open and explicit manner than they are used to.
- Counselor’s gender – it doesn’t matter what the counselor’s gender is, it can be a source of anxiety for different people.
- Reporting unacceptable behavior – talking about behavior that might be considered wrong or immoral.
- Exposing secrets – fears about discussing things like pornography use, fantasy, abuse, and so on.
- Sharing problems that “no one would understand” – another common anxiety, as many people feel alone in their suffering.
- Revealing one’s value system – this anxiety has to do with what the counselor will think of the client’s values once they are shared.
By the way, this book was originally published in 1990, but I found out this past fall that they revised it in 2005, and the new edition is available from them directly. This is one of the more helpful, practical resources for the Christian clinician.