Therapists' personal sexual values and their values for clients: implications for practice and training



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Texas Tech University


The role of values in psychology has been debated extensively and has evolved greatly over the history of psychotherapy. Empirical literature has addressed the issue of values in psychotherapy and found values to permeate the therapeutic process (e.g.. Beutier, 1979; Jensen & Bergin, 1988: Kelly, 1995). Research has also shown that therapists' values influence the effectiveness of therapy as well as influence, and often change, clients' personal values (e.g., Arizmendi et al., 1985: Beutier et al., 1983; Kelly, 1990; Kelly & Strupp, 1992). More recently the area of religious values has received closer investigation, and discrepancies between the values of therapists and clients have been found (e.g., Bergin, 1980, 1991). Bergin (1980) theorized that there is likely a significant discrepancy between the values of therapists and clients, which is not limited to the area of religion. One of the main areas addressed in therapy, an area for which most therapists likely have specific values regarding their own personal practices and the practices of their clients, is the area of sexuality. This study described therapists' personal values about sexuality and their values for their clients. Specific areas of sexuality assessed included: premarital sex, casual sex, extramarital sex. open marriages, sexual orientation, sex in adolescence, and sex in later adulthood (e.g., age 70 or older). Training therapists' received was also assessed. Results suggest that therapists espouse fairly liberal sexual values, and therapists who differ demographically sometimes differ in their values. Results also suggest that therapists feel comfortable working with a variety of sexual issues in therapy. Adequate training in sexual issues, however, was found to be lacking.



Psychotherapist and patient, Psychotherapy -- Moral and ethical aspects, Sex (Psychology), Sexual ethics