Sexual identity therapy provides professional mental health support for individuals who struggle with conflicts surrounding their sexual desires and orientation. Often these struggles involve conflicts between religious or spiritual beliefs and sexual orientation. For instance, same-sex attracted persons who hold religious beliefs which forbid homosexual behavior wonder how to resolve the experience of conflict between their sexual feelings and their religious faith. Sexual identity therapy principles can be applied by counselors, social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists and psychiatrists to assist individuals with these conflicts. The desired outcome of sexual identity therapy is a sense of identity and well being which resolves conflict and integrates sexuality, personal values and other aspects of personal identity.
The sexual identity therapy framework (SITF) provides guidance for the implementation of sexual identity therapy. Clients who seek assistance often have many questions regarding sexual orientation. Some want to change their orientation in an attempt to bring their sexuality more in line with their religious beliefs or personal values. While some individuals may report such change, shifts in sexual orientation tend to be modest and seem infrequent. Many people who say they have overcome homosexuality really mean they have ceased to have same-sex sexual behavior. This, however, can be a step toward a desired outcome. In sexual identity therapy, there is no expectation for change but rather a focused effort to develop congruence of values, behavior and identity.
Sexual identity therapists will provide clients with state-of-the-art, research-based information regarding sexual orientation as part of the process of informed consent. Sexual identity therapists do not promote theories of sexual orientation development which do not fit the lived experience of clients. Sexual identity therapists help clients find common sense, practical solutions to conflicts involving sexual orientation and personal values.
Sexual identity therapists recognize that same-sex attraction is stigmatized within the general society and many religious faiths, even if individuals are not sexually active. This stigma and social rejection can lead to significant stress and even mental and emotional problems. The SITF recognizes the full person and does not focus on sexual identity alone, but rather total well being and adjustment. Sexual identity therapy is a safe place for clients to work out their beliefs and values without pressure from therapists to choose a particular set of beliefs about homosexuality. Sexual identity therapy recognizes the vital importance of religion and sexuality in human personality and respects outcome which prioritize each dimension in different ways. Some clients choose a path which affirms homosexuality and others do not. In all cases, clients are respected and sexual identity therapists hold client self-determination to be a primary value.
A developing list of sexual identity therapists can be found on the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity website. Click the link for more information about finding a therapist.