Psychotherapists' experience with clients who engage in consensual sadomasochism: a qualitative study

J Sex Marital Ther. 2008;34(1):67-85. doi: 10.1080/00926230701620936.


Consensual sadomasochism (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism; BDSM) is relatively common, but the experience of psychotherapists who work with clients who engage in BDSM has received little study. We conducted semistructured interviews with 14 therapists experienced in working with BDSM clients. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for thematic content. Therapists emphasized the importance of cultural competence, including a nonjudgmental attitude and knowledge of BDSM practices and cultural values. BDSM was rarely a central issue in therapy, relationship issues were clients' most common presenting concerns. Therapists who practiced BDSM themselves often encountered boundary issues with clients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masochism*
  • Medical History Taking / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sadism*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires