A large portion of my clients identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or as members of a conservative religion. Having worked with so many people who identify as conservative, I have had a sort of “insider’s view,” bringing me to develop a deep understanding of how multi-layered and complex the intersection of religion and sexuality can be for my clients.
Often times, those who identify as conservative and, also, desire to cultivate sexual vitality experience unexpected barriers, such as, sexual misinformation, erotic unawareness, unfamiliarity with or avoidance of their own body, unawareness of their own capacity for sexual pleasure, difficulty with being assertive and negotiating sexual desires (if known), misconceptions about what is “normal,” as well as, varying degrees of sexual shame. It is because of these and other barriers that many of my clients find difficulty accessing sexual vitality.
In these sessions, I incorporate the client’s sexual values as we work together to integrate what it means to be both sexual and conservative. Some of the ways I approach this is by getting to know my client’s values around sexuality and doing my best to ensure that my clients have access to the latest, most useful information about sexuality; including, sexual desire, functioning, cultural influences and healthy relationships.
For the conservative client, gaining access to accurate and thorough sexuality information and skills for collaborative negotiation can prove essential in the cultivation of eroticism and access to sexual vitality. I do not believe it is my place to tell somewhat what they should or should not do in their sexual lives, but it is my honor to make sure they have access to necessary information in order for them to then decide what feels best for them moving forward.
I am so fortunate to get to work with individuals and couples who have experienced a shift in their religious beliefs. Anyone who has gone through such a shift understands that it can come with an enormous impact, and often brings with it immense emotional pain, relationship conflicts, and significant feelings of loss. Additionally, many of my clients are in what are called “mixed-faith” marriages, where one still identifies as a believing member and the other now identifies differently.
Whether I am working with the client who has experienced a shift in their faith, the couple, or someone whose loved one has distanced from the church, it is an honor for me to help them learn to migrate a landscape that is now looking quite different from anything for which they had prepared or previously known. Some examples of concerns addressed with these clients have to do with managing conflict and healing relationships with family members and other relationships, negotiating boundaries with family and community, identifying personal values, navigating sexual development, parenting concerns, grief work, and so on.