Note: This guide presumes a passing familiarity with the asexual identity. For some basic 101, you can view Asexuality: Basics for Health Professionals.
There are many issues to bear in mind when conducting therapy with a client who identifies under the asexual umbrella. Aces may have unique needs and experiences that challenge traditional practice and conventional wisdom within the mental health field. It’s best to educate yourself and learn how to account for these differences in order to preempt damage to the therapist-client relationship, or, worse, compounding the hurts you’re supposed to heal.
This is a draft/work-in-progress, to be reposted at a later time. If you’ve read or written any of the comments that helped me draft this post, it should be easy to see the fingerprints of that input all over this, but I’ve tried to develop a consistent, authoritative voice throughout.
I’m still mulling over Elizabeth’s suggestion to put together some advice (or “what not to do”s) for therapists of aces. It wouldn’t need to be ace 101 for therapists, since that already exists. Building off of that… here’s what I think would be some applicable sub-topics.
- signaling that you’re ace friendly — Some therapists will put it in their bio or have a little sign in their office indicating they’re (at least nominally) supportive of LGBT identities. Given the… complex relationship between the LGBT community and the ace community, aces can’t always take this as a sign that they’re in a safe space.
- making negative assumptions — A client who brings up their asexuality may not be doing so because their asexuality is something they want your advice on. Like other biographical information, this may be some background information that’s necessary to clarify other things the client wants to tell you about their life.
- pathologization — Sometimes clients may express personal or interpersonal distress over not feeling sexual attraction/not wanting sex/being averse to sex, etc. They may or may not identify as asexual. This distress is the problem to work on, not their sexuality itself.
Obviously, I’d go more in-depth with these. These are just summaries of what springs to mind. What other “Don’ts” would you want a therapist to be aware of?