Dominance & Submission Therapy
Dr. Charley Ferrer
DHS, MA, CS, HT
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.