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Harvard University Sexual Issues in MFT Discussion

 

Based on the week’s readings (see attached chapter), comment on an aspect of the topic that was interesting or important to you. Be as reflective as possible in your remark, from both a scholarly and personal perspective. Include your own personal reactions in addition to an academically based (bio-, psycho- and/or social) perspective.

In addition to your comment on the reading, provide a reference and brief discussion of either:

  1. A current news story related to sexuality (reproduction, gender, sexual orientation, sexual politics etc.)—because this topic is based on the week’s news, it does not have to be directly relevant to the class topic for the week …or…
  2. A resource (website, article, book, film, video, etc.) that IS related to something in this week’s topic/readings, with brief discussion that is clinically useful/relevant.

Please respond to two peers:

1. One of the things that stood out to me is when Buehler (2017), stated that not addressing sexual problems with teen clients could lead to various mental illnesses such as depression, eating disorders or substance use. To be honest, that was never something that crossed my mind as a potential cause for mental illness. I assumed that if sexual issues came up it would only be when working with couples, but not individual clients and definitely not with teens. However, I do feel that it is an important topic to talk about with clients.

The topic of sexuality can be very taboo in some families, including mine. Sexuality and sexual issues is not something I ever heard my family talk about. I am thankful that despite my extended family’s beliefs, my mom was very open minded about it and actually took the time to talk to me. She would answer any questions I had, and even spoke to me about safe sex. However, I realize now that her views on sex were very biased and heterosexually oriented. I hadn’t minded it before because it wasn’t an issue for me, but when my sister mentioned she was bisexual it made me think about how she probably needed more or a different education on safe sex. This also brings up the fact that there is just not enough and very biased education on safe sex. As future clinicians, we need to be more knowledgeable and aware of our biases to prevent ourselves from making assumptions and ensuring that we give the best possible care.

2. In the book by Buehler, I appreciated the focus on helping therapists gain the necessary knowledge around sexual health in order to be successful in their therapeutic practice. To me, there is probably no other topic than sex that would stir up countertransference issues given that most of us have been brought up with sex-negative bias and/or have had sexual trauma of some sort. The author describes countertransference with the term “vicarious traumatization” as a therapist’s inner experience as a result of his or her empathetic engagement with and responsibility for a traumatized client (p.7). And for a therapist by discussing sexual issues/health with a client might trigger internal issues causing distress and ultimately avoidance of the issue. And if left unobserved or addressed, the therapist is sending a message to the client that talking about sex is not ok. Ultimately leaving an important part of a person untouched. Buehler goes on to describe a four-step process by which therapists can address their viewpoints on sexuality and how to create awareness from the client’s point of view.

I was raised in a South Asian family where the topic of sex is taboo at best. Girls are supposed to remain virgins until marriage otherwise families are looked upon with shame and dishonor. I never got the “sex talk” – but the “your body is a temple and I have to protect it from men” statement. Lucky for me I went to an all-women’s college where I learned firsthand about sexuality and all its various forms. There was no shame on campus and it was cooler to be sexually self-actualized than not. Despite a more bold and open college experience I still have a background rooted in traditional Indian views of sex and the same and stigma it brings upon women that I will need to address and work on.

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