Dominance & Submission Therapy

Created by Dr. Charley Ferrer

DHS, MA, CS, HT

What is D/s Therapy?

Dominance & submission (D/s) Therapy is a cognitive based therapeutic modality specifically structured to work within the confines and boundaries of a Dominant & submissive relationship.  Unlike mainstream therapeutic modalities, D/s Therapy reinforces the relationship between a dominant and their submissive taking into consideration the diverse nature of the BDSM (bondage discipline, sadomasochism) community and their beliefs thus encouraging integration and acceptance of the individual in his or her perspective role. 

What is the objective of D/s Therapy?

The primary focus of (D/s) Therapy is to assist couples and individuals in discovering, embracing, and integrating their sexual sadomasochistic desires as well as their dominant and subservient/submissive yearnings to enable them to lead a more productive and emotionally healthy life.  

The secondary focus of D/s Therapy is to assist the individual who seeks to improve his or her understanding of their sadomasochistic desires prior to entering a Dominant & submissive relationship working through any issues the individual may

have identified for themselves or issues the D/s Therapist observed/assessed should be addressed to assist the individual in cooping and reducing his/her stress (and in many cases anxiety) as the individual moves toward full integration of core self and aiding in the further development of a more mentally and emotionally stable and healthy individual.  This is similar to mainstream therapy in which individuals seek counseling to improve their life and cooping skills.  

The core heart of D/s Therapy is based on the premise that it is not the therapist’s place to judge, govern, nor restrict another’s sexual desires or relationship preferences but to assist the individual in discovering the vast array of information and the possibilities available both, traditional and modern, and let them judge for themselves.

Thus the focus is to aid the dominant in his or her mastery of their submissive including encouraging emotional and physical control and technical expertise as well as hands-on-training in the tools used within the D/s relationship.  The same is true for the encouragement of the submissive to enmesh and surrender to the dominant and seek out training in doing so. 

How is a Dominance & submission relationship defined?

A Dominance & submission relationship is defined as two or more individuals, regardless of sex, uniting for an extended period of time in which they interact continuously and exchange physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, and sadomasochistic energy and practices within the context of one individual being the Dominant and the other individual being the submissive.  In cases involving polyamorous couples, there may be more than one submissive.  An individual can also be considered entering into a relationship with himself in which he or she desires to grow in their personal acceptance of the D/s lifestyle.  

It is understood that D/s and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochistic) relationships vary greatly among individuals as does the meaning for conservative mainstream relationships, thus D/s Therapy uses the term Dominance and submissive relationships in its broader sense incorporating all types whether Sadist/masochist, Master/slave, or Discipline/submissive.

Understanding what is at the core of a Dominant or submissive individual?

Though there are many clinical and lifestyle based definitions for Dominance and submission including the all encompassing BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) term,  for our purposes, we define the individuals participating in it as follows:  In most cases, but not all, within the context of knowing that he or she is unique and worth while, the submissive surrenders his or her power and emotional self to the dominant placing his or her emotional, physical, and spiritual development in the hands of their dominant partner and trusting that in doing so the dominant will honor and cherish their gifts of submission and selflessness and help them enhanced those gifts (skills) thus making him or her stronger and more powerful in their submissive position (and as a person) than when the relationship began.  The same is true, in reverse, for the dominant who enters the relationship looking for acceptance of their domineering and sadistic tendencies and sexual desires.   Both the dominant and submissive enter the relationship with an equal responsibility to make the relationship function successfully within the context of a Dominant and submission lifestyle; tailoring it to suit their specific needs and using D/s Therapy as a way to achieve that goal through coaching, counseling, and technical assistance.

How does D/s Therapy work & assist the individual?

Unlike traditional therapy where differentiation of the couple is encouraged and acceptable, the focus of D/s Therapy is on the surrender and enmeshment of the submissive and the empowerment of the dominant. 

It is understood that the individuals in the relationship (both the dominant and the submissive) will struggle with their inner desires and emotional needs as well as their sexual desires and fantasies as they fully embrace their role and come to terms with the reality of sadomasochistic practices or dominant/subservient behavior.

It is further understood that societal, cultural, and religious beliefs play a significant role in the difficulties an individual experiences while accepting themselves fully in their desired role as dominant and/or submissive—as well as the internal dichotomy of feeling both identities at once. (The switch.)

Participants in D/s Therapy understand that they are consciously seeking to go against established traditions and conservative sexual norms in order to embrace a more restrictive lifestyle as a submissive or a more regulatory dictate as a dominant.  They also understand that some psychological assistance may be necessary in making the transition and under D/s Therapy the practitioner is coaching them to integrate the specific role they have indicated they prefer (dominant, submissive, or switch).   

In cases where the individual does not wish to act upon their sadomasochist desires, the focus would be in normalizing the behavior to a level where the individual will not be pledge with guilt, anxiety, or self-loathing thus enhancing their quality of life.

The D/s Therapist will assist the individual and couples as they struggle with cultural, societal, and religious views which conflict with their desires and do not accept the role of women as dominant nor men as submissive, much less the desire for a sadomasochistic or dominant/submissive relationship; thus aid with their struggle both inside and outside of the relationship as the individual/couple learns new ways to interact within the context of their desired D/s relationship. 

The D/s Therapist will also address the ridicule and rejection experienced (or possible) by loved ones, as well as legal consequences which may arise from the individual/couple’s participation in a D/s lifestyle and for embracing their sexual and spiritual freedom. 

The D/s Therapist understands that the individual/couple has an internal, emotional, and even spiritual calling that dictates his/her heart’s true nature and this should be accepted and encourage much as homosexuality, bi-sexuality, and transgender currently are.

There is no psychopathology nor personality disorders diagnosed as sadomasochistic tendencies are considered a normal alternative and diverse sexual preference which varies in degrees within each individual.  The person’s desire to be dominant over others or subservient to another is considered normal so long as there is no other underlying psychological dysfunction such as schizophrenia, psychosis, or antisocial behavior.  Thought there are individuals who use sadomasochistic practices during the performance of criminal acts, psychopathology is not diagnosed so long as the need for sadism or masochism, regardless of the level of sadomasochistic play and behavior portrayed, is conducted between two (or more) consensual adults and permanent harm is not intentionally inflicted. 

As with thrill seekers, in some cases, dominance and submission is a form of internal self surrender and an individual’s test of strength and endurance.  This is true for both the dominant and the submissive.  This is considered normal psyche behavior. 

It is understood and accepted that past childhood and sexual trauma may have lead the individual to associate pain and subjugation with sexual desire, and that the individual may be using Dominance and/or submission as well as sadomasochistic practices (whether from a dominant or submissive perspective) as a way to eradicate past fears and/or rework past trauma into a more positively acceptable framework for themselves.   In these cases, the individual’s desire is viewed as a healthy choice so long as their cognitive functioning and decision is based on self empowerment and enlightenment and not manic or obsessive needs nor to perpetuate violence on another.

Sexual deviation and polyamory is acceptable and viewed from a diversity perspective.  As with other therapeutic modalities, communication will be emphasized to ensure the successful cohabitation of the individuals involved.

The progress of each participant in D/s Therapy, as in other therapeutic modalities, is based on the individual’s determination and effort for personal growth.  Individuals are encouraged and assisted in their desire to embrace their true nature by learning new social, cognitive, and physical skills to enhance their safe participation in sadomasochistic activities in various degrees whether as a dominant or submissive.

How is Domestic Violence defined in D/s Therapy?

Although part of a D/s relationship is based on a degree of agreed upon consensual “non-consensual” practices in which the submissive (and in some cases the dominant) requested or agrees to be pushed beyond their physical or emotional endurance through physical and/or mental interactions to include mental manipulations and extreme physical use, domestic violence is defined as the willful infliction of permanent harm or injury to another or subjugation of an individual without their consent; where consent was denied or withdrawn for a particular activity; any activity in which an individual in the relationship (whether dominant or submissive) has not consented to physical or mental/emotional sadomasochistic activities nor was cognitively able to consent to the same due to mental impairment or physical duress; and where the lifestyle’s standard norm of safe, sane and consensual interactions was not practiced and thus is not tolerated, condoned,  nor encouraged under D/s Therapy.

In cases where the D/s Therapist suspects domestic violence, abuse, or pathological behavior, he or she would take appropriate steps as required by law and discuss her observations with the individual/couple.

Who would benefit from D/s Therapy?

D/s Therapy would be beneficial for individuals and couples entering or already involved in a Dominance and submissive relationship.  It would also be beneficial for individuals who would like to work on self-empowerment and self-improvement before committing to a relationship in which much of their core being is tested and the relationship is highly emotionally and physically charged.

Who would not be appropriate for D/s Therapy?

Individuals suffering from or diagnosed with mental and emotional disorders such as schizophrenia, all types of psychotic disorders, moderate or high mental retardation, and other cognitive disorders where the individual is emotionally or mentally low functioning and their ability to consent is impaired should not be accepted into D/s Therapy. 

Individuals who are prohibited by law to participate in sadomasochistic or alternative sexual practices, sexual predators and/or sex offenders should not be accepted into D/s Therapy and referred to a more appropriate counselor.

Individuals who are under twenty-one or the legal age of consent for your state or country should not be accepted into D/s Therapy. (The practitioner should check the legal stature in their community and be guided by their instinct and view of the mental and emotional maturity of the individual.) 

What if an individual isn’t sure whether they want to engage in a D/s relationship or related activities and is struggles with which role would be best for them?

The D/s Therapist need not overly encourage an individual who voices their sexual preference concerns or has questions and doubts about their sadomasochist desires and thoughts.  The therapist should assist the individual in normalizing their sexual desires so long as the patient is not suffering from a cognitive disorder or prohibited by law as mentioned above.  

If the individual or couple is not sure which role (dominant or submissive) would suit their personality best or feels drawn to both, the D/s Therapist should encourage the individual to learn both roles and decide for themselves when and with whom they wish to engage in a specific role understanding there is a place in the BDSM community for a person who is both dominant and submissive—this is called a switch.

The D/s Therapist should employ the use of books, videos, hands-on demonstrations, as well as workshops to aid the individual/couple in their awareness.  Also referrals to various reputable D/s organizations would be appropriate.

What are the benefits and differences of D/s Therapy as compared to other therapeutic modalities?

Cognitive awareness and acceptance is the primary focus and at the core of D/s Therapy which will propel the individual forward.  The D/s Therapist should employ whichever therapeutic modality works best with the individual/couple to produce results and improve the individual/couple’s capacity to function.

Treatment is goal focused on specific issues and training requirements for the dominant and the submissive. 

Journaling is a necessary tool to ensure progress and assist in self-discovery and  refocus the individual in his or her objectives and enable them to achieve their ultimate goals. 

As the basic core of D/s Therapy is its non-judgmental acceptance of the Dominance and submission lifestyle, the individual (couple) is encouraged to normalize and desensitize themselves from past cultural, religious, and societal beliefs and thus self-acceptance and couple integration produces a higher functioning individual and healthier relationship. 

What is the length of treatment?

As with any other therapeutic intervention, the length of treatment is based on the individual’s (couple’s) participation and desire (and in some cases ability) for personal growth.  However as this is a goal focused therapeutic method, the average length of treatment varies anywhere from six months to a year.  It should be noted that some individuals may seek therapeutic intervention in which a single session may be all that’s necessary. 

As with any relationship, it is understood that issues will crop up thus maintenance and quarterly reinforcement of traits learned should be part of D/s Therapy.

As for the use of BDSM tools and skills, these can be taught by the D/s Therapist or discovered and practices through D/s organizations and workshops.  As with anything else, the skill level of an individual is left up to them to master.

What consideration should be given to a therapist’s reservations or prejudices?

As is true for any other therapeutic modality, the D/s Therapist needs to understand their patient’s sexual needs and sadomasochist desires are normal and assist the individual in accepting themselves without causing further harm due to the therapist’s own bias, religious, and/or cultural beliefs.  In cases where the D/s Therapist feels the individual/couple is outside of their scope of practice or comfort zone, the D/s Therapist should refer the individual to another D/s Therapist, Sex Therapist, or D/s consultant.

What are the training requirements for the D/s Therapist?

A D/s therapist should have an extensive background in human sexuality with no less than one year of training and education in human sexual behavior from an accredited program.  The D/s Therapist should have taken courses in sexual diversity focusing on human sexual behavior, sadomasochism and diverse sexual expression, homosexuality, and transgender issues.  

A Masters in Counseling Psychology or higher with emphasis in human sexuality is preferred.  However, individuals trained or licensed as mental health practitioners who have no less than two years of human sexual behavior and sex education training with emphasize on alternative lifestyles are acceptable.

Although it is true in most instances and therapeutic modalities that a therapist may effectively counsel an individual through an issue without ever having experienced the situation themselves, the unique intricacies of D/s relationships makes it essential for

the D/s Therapist to have extensive first hand knowledge of the dynamics of a D/s relationships and sadomasochistic practices from either personal interactions or continuous live observations of no less than one year in which at least four hours a week were devoted to D/s practices.  Merely reading about the lifestyle is not enough!   

What training will be made available for D/s Therapist?

A certification program is being developed and will be available through The Ferrer Institute and another educational sexological/therapeutic institution.  

Ongoing yearly training and workshops will be available to assist the therapist in improving their craft.  Monthly online workshops and discussion sessions will be made available.  Individual training and re-certification will be required every three years to ensure the D/s Therapist is covering all aspects of the D/s relationship and obtains any new information available in this realm.