The mission of the Association of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness (ACSSW) is to promote sexuality as a central aspect of being human that includes the intersection of interpersonal and intrapersonal influences on sexual expression and identities inclusive of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender and gender expression, physical and mental health and abilities, and socioeconomic status.

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Upcoming ACSSW Live Webinars

Tough Talks with Teens

Presented by: Rachel Jacoby Ph.D., LPCC-S (OH), NCC, CFLE, and Latoya Smith, Ph.D., LPC (TX)

Friday, October 21, 2022

8:00-10:00AM PDT / 10:00AM-12:00PM CST / 11:00AM-1:00PM EST

ACSSW Courses Available for Homestudy

Application of the Sexual Values and Behaviors Discrepancy Model with Individual Adult Clients and Couples

A review of the counseling literature indicates that counselors and helping professionals at large may lack confidence in their assessment and treatment of issues related to sexuality. Founded in theory and empirical research, the Sexual Values and Behaviors Discrepancy Model (SVBDM) is a reflective model for counselors to assist their clients in safely reducing discrepancies between their ideal and practiced sexual values and behaviors. The SVBDM is comprised of three steps: Identification and Operationalization of Potential Sexual Issues, Counselor’s Self­-Assessment, and Reducing Discrepancies and Maintaining Safety.

This program seeks to increase attendees’ confidence in treating clients with issues related to sexuality and to develop attendees’ comfort with discussions regarding sex. We offer assessment strategies and case examples with individual adult clients and couples. Additionally, we will review the potential strengths and limitations of using this model to treat client issues related to sexuality.

Aging Sexual Expression: Applying a Radically-Informed Sex Positive Framework

Aging is a reality. Dare we say – an opportunity. Because life is perceptually and sequentially experienced, one can surmise that only during the older stages of life is it possible to truly appreciate our body’s story, our innermost desires, and our sexual capabilities. True to all reality across the lifespan, we either can choose to be aware of our bodies’ needs or not. Sensual sexual experiencing requires intention and attention. Age offers the opportunity to embrace the changes and seasoned awareness of sensual experiences beyond that of traditional sexual activity. As a result, we are able to manifest a sexual script that is authentically us. If we mindfully seek to explore and expand our sexual script we will create one that is intentionally unique and free of most of the internalized sexual negativity consumed growing up. A sexual script is informed by our own biology, our experiences, our culture, and all the messages we have ever received about sex and sexuality. And like our own life, our sexual script is not static, and therefore, we are all capable of changing the way we view our sexual selves, our bodies, and our perspective on the human sexual experience. Again, it requires intention, and attention. From the time we are born to the day we pass, sexuality is in a constant state of change. Older sexuality is no different. In fact, sexual desire fluctuates across the lifespan for a myriad of reasons, and yet, remains to be an important aspect of life to the last breath. There are many contributing factors that reinforce and challenge human sexual behavior including how we respond to our aging body and our own sexual script. However, it is when we expand our horizon of sexual experiences beyond penetrative sexual activities that we start to understand the true potential for human connection and intimacy. Unfortunately, there remains barriers that prevent older adults and society from respecting and honoring older adult sexual expression. Although sexual problems increase in frequency as a result of physiological aging, the presence of sexual behaviors, as well as interest in sex and sexual expression and desire remain active among older adults (Lindau et al., 2007; Schubert & Pope, 2020; Schubert & Pope, 2022).  This presentation will address the barriers and myths surrounding older adult sexuality and explore a sex positive approach to counter each barrier. This presentation will further expand on how adults change and adapt to their bodies and sexual functioning, and how vitality and resiliency support sexual needs and expression.  Lastly, the audience will receive information on how to incorporate a sex positive framework that is guided by radical respect and approached from an intersectional lens.

Using the Sexological Ecosystem to Understand and Assess Sexual Issues

The sexological ecosystem of each individual client or couple can be used to understand and assess the unique systemic interactions that contribute to sexual development and sexual health, as well as impediments to sexual pleasure and well-being. The sexological ecosystem consists of five subsystems, which range from those containing institutions most involved with the individual’s development, to the element of time, the most abstract system. This presentation will cover the elements of and interactions within the nested framework of the sexological ecosystem including family of origin; school system; healthcare system; social justice; and the effect of the passage of time.  Next, participants will be given examples of questions that can be used for assessing the client’s sexological ecosystem and interactions between and among subsystems.  Finally, case studies will clarify how this approach can be used not only at the beginning of treatment but throughout the process of therapy to enlighten both therapist and client of variables that may be hinder or facilitate progress toward sexual well-being.

Sex, Religion, and Spirituality: A Primer for Working through Complex Intersections of Client Beliefs and Values

The intersection of sexual wellness, religious beliefs, and spiritual practices is incredibly vast. Religion and spirituality can influence values towards sex in many ways, including viewing sex as a deeply spiritual practice, as well as religious doctrine that places limits on sexual behavior in the pursuit of maintaining purity as defined by each tradition. The impact of religious and spiritual values regarding sexual desire and behavior can likewise range from sexual health and value integration to sexual dysfunction, interpersonal distress, and internalized shame. Practicing clinicians and students in training may be unprepared to integrate religion and spirituality within counseling practice, particularly within the value-laden intersection of beliefs and sex/sexuality. In this presentation, attendees will receive a brief overview of the varied beliefs and values relating to sex within major religious traditions and the nature of sex as a spiritual practice more broadly. We will explore how value conflicts might be experienced by clients and how sexual and religious issues might present in a clinical context. We will also discuss how to navigate the counselor’s own value conflict if their view of sex and sexuality differs from the client’s beliefs and values. Attendees will learn strategies for assessing beliefs and implementing interventions to help clients work toward sexual wellness within the context of their values and religious or spiritual practices.  

Supporting Young Women: Combatting Social Media Expectations, Dismantling Sizeism, and Bolstering Sexual Health

With the growing number of social media applications in our society, it is no secrete that many young women compare themselves to the ideal, beautiful bodies of models, socialites, and artists who presence permeate social media (Perloff, 2014). This comparison, namely to the ideal beautiful body, leaves little room for flaws; this expectation of perfection is far from obtainable, yet this quandary does not keep young women from trying to obtain the perfection that amasses social media (Fardouly et al., 2015). Researchers have found that the impact of social media has negative affects on mental, emotional, and sexual health. Specifically, findings suggest that young women who compare themselves to the ideals they see on social media may body shame, have poor self-esteem, or develop a negative body image, among other negative mental health outcomes. In addition to these social comparisons, our society and helping professionals also adhere to outdated and harmful Weight Normative Models that perpetuate sizeism and fat phobia (Tylka et al., 2014). This program will describe social media’s impact on young women’s self-esteem, body image, and sexual health; compare Weight Normative and Weight Inclusive approaches to health and wellness and provide interventions that honor inclusive approaches; and share evidence based interventions that can be used to support young women struggling with body image, self-esteem, and body shame.

Counseling LGBTQIA+ Clients with Disabilities: Skills, Strategies, and Approaches

This presentation will focus on practice strategies to best support individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ and disabled through the lens of intersectionality. Intersectionality is rooted in the notion that everyone has their own unique experiences that relate to one’s identity. Identity is the construction of many key facets of a person which may include, but are not limited to, race, sexual orientation, gender orientation, class, physical ability, and disability. When providing therapeutic support to an individual who identifies as being a part of any marginalize group, the therapist must be skilled in their cultural awareness and intervention selection to best support the client. Therapists need to be skilled in their clinical approach when working with individuals who have an intersection of more than one marginalized identity to provide a safe and progressive therapeutic environment. With that, not all interventions are appropriate for all individuals. For example, affirming cognitive behavioral therapy approaches have been shown to be more effective that cognitive behavioral therapy interventions as is for gay, lesbian, and bisexual clients (Pachankis et al., 2015). However, from a disability-centered lens, cognitive behavioral therapy might not be appropriate for all individuals with disabilities (e.g., individuals with moderate to severe cognitive impairments). In addition to this, there is scant information available to practitioners that is tailored LGBTQIA+ clients. The goal of this presentation is to discuss the implications of having limited information to rely on that provides specific interventions based on the intersection of disability and sexuality and gender orientation, while highlighting key concepts, like affirming cognitive behavioral therapy that can be tailored to meet the needs of disabled LGBTQIA+ clients.

Mapping Sex Therapy Across the United States: Who, What, & Where Sex Therapy is Happening

This webinar will be discussing the study done by the presenters. The primary purpose of the study was to determine what someone who was interested in obtaining a provider for sex therapy would find if they simply searched for sex therapy using the Google search engine. The goal was to ascertain how someone might access providers in each state, what types of information someone seeking treatment for sexuality issues might find on provider websites, who is providing the services, what types of services are being provided, and whose services might appeal to given the content of the website. The researchers engaged in an online search for all 50 states and a target of a maximum of 10 providers were compiled from each state. The information gathered provided information related to sex therapy providers across the U.S, types of services offered, as well as potential issues related to provider competency and utilization of websites. The results of this study indicate that access to sex therapy for persons seeking a provider by searching through an online web browser yields mixed results depending on where the person lives in the United States and what their particular needs may be for treatment. The presenters will review the study results which includes information related the content of websites, who is providing the sex therapy services based on the region, and implications for competence and ethical practice.  

The Past, Present, and Future of Counseling Sexology

Since the Association of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness (ACSSW) recently became an Organizational Affiliate of the American Counseling Association, ACSSW is working to embody its mission to be the primary authoritative voice on the human sexuality-related components of mental health service delivery. As such, ACSSW’s leadership will present this workshop together, demonstrating a comprehensive and diverse approach to the topic. This session will primarily seek to summarize the recent research, advocacy, clinical practice, and training advancements in the field of counseling sexology. Sexuality continues to be an often-neglected part of clinical training for mental health providers. ACSSW will, through this workshop, elicit from the audience and address as a team the sexuality-related questions and issues most relevant to the attendees. This session will provide a case conference atmosphere between professionals.

Deconstructing Sex Education: The Whole Truth & Nothing but The Truth

Sex education in the 21 century is evolving. However, the sexualization of black and brown bodies continues to exist in modern day sex education, clinical assessment and intervention. Acknowledging these false beliefs is no longer enough. Moving from passive to active advocacy is necessary to change the narrative these beliefs impose on the BIPOC population. This session will address the role culture, religion, and social media plays in the clinician’s view of sex and sexuality. Participants will describe how the colonization of sexual behaviors influences the clinical assessment, education, and the treatment of clients. Additionally, participants will discuss how these negative beliefs and conditioned behaviors present in the counseling session and identify ways to actively deconstruct the false narratives of pleasure and consent to move from passive to active advocacy for their BIPOC clients.

Universal Sexuality: An Inclusive Approach to Sexuality and Disability

Historically, people with disabilities have been viewed as asexual beings whose sexuality and gender does not factor into identity, partnering, or the human experience. The lack of awareness of people with disabilities as having experiences as sexual beings had led to a lack of emphasis on sexuality and gender in counseling for people with disabilities. The dismissiveness of the sexual person and how sexuality and gender relate to identity is detrimental to the counseling relationship and leaves individuals with disabilities facing challenges when discussing such issues with their counseling practitioner. This program will focus on the foundations of sexuality and gender-based counseling for individuals with disabilities and how a universal approach to sexuality and gender is applicable to individuals with disabilities, like how universal technology applies to all people. Using the lens of inclusivity, this program will discuss approaches to discussing sexuality and gender, challenges specific to individuals with disabilities regarding sexuality and gender, and will emphasize the importance of practitioner training in the area of disability.

Sexuality Issues in Addiction, Treatment & Recovery

This session presents both developmental and consequential sexuality issues associated with substance abuse and chemical dependency, many of which have been historically neglected both in treatment and recovery. Beginning with a “timeline” of the development of chemical dependency, sexuality issues are identified in early drug use, addiction, detox, rehab and treatment, early recovery, and long-term recovery. An overview of the effects of each of the major categories of “drugs of abuse” and a discussion of sexual identity follows, identifying important considerations for recovery. Finally, strategies for relapse prevention are discussed, particularly around those sexuality issues that have typically not been considered in treatment planning and 12-Step recovery programs. The session is presented as a lecture, illustrated throughout with rich case histories from the presenter’s more than 25 years experience as a psychotherapist, sexologist and addictions professional, as well as findings from the presenter’s dissertation research on the topic. The session will also present useful advice for practitioners to better incorporate sexuality and sexual health into treatment plans for their chemically dependent and recovering patients.

Sexuality and Cultural Worldviews

Cultural competency is fundamental to all clinical practice. The model of cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills ground this presentation. For counselors to engage in ethical practice when addressing issues of sexuality with clients, relevant cultural perspectives must be applied. Insomuch as there are always cultural differences between clients and counselors, it is the responsibility of counselors to recognize their own biases about sexuality and how these biases may interfere in the counseling process. Sexuality is viewed differently for different reasons—cultural, religious, ethnic, and gender beliefs. The counselor’s knowledge of a client’s worldview about sexuality, if there are conflicts for the client, and how they want to resolve these is necessary for culturally responsive and ethical practice.

Applications of Intersectionality to Sexology and Sexuality

Intersectionality continues to be taken up across several healthcare disciplines as an interdisciplinary enterprise (Bowleg, 2021; Chan et al., 2018; Hankivsky et al., 2014). Drawing from its social justice ethos (Collins, 2019; Collins & Bilge, 2020) and roots in Black feminism (Cole, 2020; Combahee River Collective, 1977/1995; Crenshaw, 1989; Lorde, 1984), intersectionality provides a platform for merging theory, research, and clinical practice and tackling power inequities that shape culture, barriers, and access (Buchanan & Wiklund, 2021). Notably, intersectionality builds upon a central analysis of power and determines the cultural and political implications of sexology and sexuality (Bowleg et al., 2015; Bowleg & Bauer, 2016). Due to its larger analysis of culture, politics, and policy, intersectionality offers opportunities to reinforce a sex-positive approach for a number of historically marginalized communities, especially multiply-marginalized communities (Hargons et al., 2020; Semlyen et al., 2018). To connect intersectionality’s core tenets, the presentation will draw from an extensive theoretical base to responsibly use intersectionality (Collins & Bilge, 2020; Grzanka, 2020) and describe the richness and genealogy of the theory (Hancock, 2016). The presentation will integrate an overview of key exemplars of extant research that synthesize intersectionality, sexology, and sexuality. To bridge theory with practice, the presenter will illustrate multiple takeaways for clinical practice and systemic interventions for dismantling inequities in sexology and sexuality. The presenter will also involve a case example to foreground future possibilities for clinical practice.

The Ethics of Sexual Issues in Therapy

Sexual health and wellness topics in therapy are often ignored, deprioritized, or even pathologized by clinicians. Sexual issues are one of the few issues still considered to be so taboo that they can only be treated by specialists (e.g., sex therapists). Though, of course, sex therapists may be able to provide more specialized treatment of sex-related presenting issues, it is often unnecessary for clients to see a sex therapist for sex-related issues that are only tertiary components of a clinical presentation. Nonetheless, mental health clinicians continue to avoid sexual topics during their care, sometimes missing important components of the issue’s history, etiology, and/or symptomatology. One of the largest barriers to clinicians broaching the topic of sex is the ethical concerns of professionals. There are fundamental misunderstandings of the ethics of treating sexual issues in clinical practice. This program will provide information related to these ethical considerations, including models for arriving at appropriate ethical decisions related to treatment of sexual issues.

Let’s Do It! A Sex Positive Approach to Sexual Health and Counseling

Although sexuality is part of the human experience, it is often disregarded in counselor training, in clinical practice, and professional counseling literature. With so few formal resources and training opportunities, students and counselors alike are left to explore human sexuality on their own – if they do it at all. More often than not, the mental health field as a whole, simply leave human sexual concerns to the “specialists”. Considering the wide variety of mental health concerns that are intertwined with the human sexual experience, it is imperative for counselors to receive a foundational training in human sexuality. Aligning with counselor identity and the wellness approach to mental health, this program will address the differences between a wellness model versus medical model approach to sexual concerns; explore the differences between sexuality counseling and the specialty field of sex therapy; and examine values, biases, and assumptions associated with personal sexual scripts by engaging audience members to examine their own beliefs about sexuality. Lastly, the audience will receive information on how to incorporate a sex positive framework that is guided by radical respect and approached from an intersectional lens.

A Survey of ACA Members & Sexuality Training

The Association for Counseling Sexology and Sexual Wellness sent out a descriptive survey to counseling professionals using both CES-NET and ACA Connect Sexuality Interest Network to gauge the experiences in the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy about sexuality and sexual wellness in counseling. Nineteen questions were created by one member of the board utilizing current textbooks and research regarding sexuality training, and were reviewed and approved by the remaining members of the board. The survey was sent out two times to get as many responses as possible, and had 178 responses. This presentation will focus on presenting the findings of this survey, and providing implications for counselors and counselor educators (as well as other mental health fields) around what this means for the helping professions in both training and professional practice. Sexuality is a part of the human experience which cannot be ignored, especially in a counseling environment, and represents a call to action for counselors to address this at the systemic level to provide the necessary education and training to help counselors be prepared in session.

Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) Approach toward Sexual Health of Women who have Sex with Women

Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) is a feminist approach to counseling that emphasizes human development through relational connection, explores the impact of culture and social systems on emotional and psychological development, and (Jordan, 2010; Walker, 2008), and underscores how development and relationships with others cannot be understood separately from how those connections have been “raced, engendered, sexualized, and situated along dimensions of class, physical ability, religion or whatever constructions carry ontological significance in the culture” (Walker, 2008, p. 90). Wellness, therefore, is fostered through relationships that encourage empathy, authenticity and empowerment wherein individuals can realize their relational competence and create relationships that can sustain disruption and relational injury (Jordan, 2010). When counseling cisgender women in same-sex relationships, maintaining an RCT approach will allow the clinician to review and examine how clients have been impacted by heteronormative societal messages of what it means to be female, to be sexual as a woman, and how to perform in relationships.

Pleasure Advocacy: A Sexual Wellness Model

Mental health professionals have an ethical obligation to promote sexual health as an essential aspect of the human experience. This includes acknowledging sexual pleasure as central to sexual wellbeing. Competent clinicians need to obtain education and training in order to work effectively with their client to address sexual issues. This means being able to recognize the complex cultural aspects of sexuality and sexual pleasure which includes race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender and gender expression, values and beliefs, SES, physical abilities as well as current social/political events which work to oppress minoritized groups. The access to and ability to freely engage in “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences free of discrimination, coercion, and violence” as a fundamental human right unfortunately is not available to all people. This workshop will review the political and societal influences which impact sexual pleasure for oppressed groups in the U.S. Sexual pleasure will be redefined in a way that is more expansive and inclusive. Different tools that have been developed to measure sexual pleasure and satisfaction and their limitations will be examined. The presenters will discuss the WAS Declaration of Sexual Pleasure and the importance of pleasure advocacy as mental health professionals.

Ethical and Competent Practice in LGBTQ+ Sexuality and Sexual Wellness

This webinar will address the ethical competencies expected of professional counselors working with LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in the area of sexuality and sexual wellness. This presentation will integrate applied ethics as it relates to counseling practice with LGBTQ+ individuals in a variety of clinical settings. The webinar will explore issues such as boundaries, establishing professional relationships within the LGBTQ+ and counseling settings, value conflicts with clients, LGBTQ+ clients and social media and how to integrate the SAIGE LGBQQIA competencies with the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics.

My Kingdom for an Evidence-based Practice (EBP): Ethical Decision Making in the Sex Therapy Field

Sexual health and wellness topics in therapy are often ignored, deprioritized, or even pathologized by clinicians. Sexual issues are one of the few issues still considered to be so taboo that they can only be treated by specialists (e.g., sex therapists). Though, of course, sex therapists may be able to provide more specialized treatment of sex-related presenting issues, it is often unnecessary for clients to see a sex therapist for sex-related issues that are only tertiary components of a clinical presentation. Nonetheless, mental health clinicians continue to avoid sexual topics during their care, sometimes missing important components of the issue’s history, etiology, and/or symptomatology. One of the largest barriers to clinicians broaching the topic of sex is the ethical concerns of professionals. There are fundamental misunderstandings of the ethics of treating sexual issues in clinical practice. This program will provide information related to these ethical considerations, including models for arriving at appropriate ethical decisions related to treatment of sexual issues.