BraxtonDutson--Stacey - 8:9:22, 5.21 PM
10:52AM Aug 10, 2022
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Hi folks, welcome back to the thoughtful counselor podcast. This is Dr. Stacy Diane Aranjuez li Tom and I am joined today by one of my dear friends and esteemed colleagues. Braxton Dustin Braxton is an approved a sec supervisor. He specializes in religious conservative individuals, and also supporting folks who present with out of control sexual behavior. Braxton is the host of the birds and the bees podcast, and also has a growing subscriber base on YouTube. I've known Braxton for nearly five years, we first met in Las Vegas at an a sec conference. And we've stayed connected ever since he's someone that I look up to, for all things sex therapy, and I am so excited to have him joining us today. Hi Braxton.
Hey, how's it going, Stacey?
I'm good. I'm so excited for our conversation. When we were thinking about what we were going to talk about, there were like five or six different topics that all felt super pertinent and so so interesting.
Oh, yeah, there's, there's so much we could talk about, and I'm really excited about talking about the three C's today, it's gonna be so fun.
I think so too. So I am curious about leaving a little bit of foundation here leading with a bit of a foundation. So tell me more about what drew you into the field of sex therapy? How did you get into this work and what interests you the most about it?
So I started in my therapy career because I wanted to work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. So my whole goal was to continue becoming specialized in that until I got to my first semester, my master's program, took a human sexuality class, learned that I could become a sex therapist and what that entails, which is education, diving really deep into sexual health. And at that point in time, I started shifting from trauma and sex and trauma and relationships, to knowing that that's a component of it. And I still worked with people who experienced that, but then also shifting to how can we teach to possibly end this before it happens. And so I shifted into sexual health, which is teaching, talking, engaging with those that that don't quite have the education, find out ways to be able to change that. So we do get the education and I just, Stacy, I love talking about sexual health.
Well, I think you're very good at it. I know I have learned a lot every time you and I have connected about this topic. And every time we meet, I always leave our conversation with just another little nugget of sexual health information.
Well, I'm excited by hopefully we can grab a few of those nuggets. Today, as we're talking today to
Yes, listeners you are in for a treat. This is just going to be a big nugget party. And I'm so excited for you. So what I'm hearing you say is part of the reason why you got into this work was to be more proactive rather than reactive. So recognizing the need for sexual health information and education, and being really mindful about how to incorporate that into your work as a sex educator, and as a sex therapist. So I know you've been involved in clinical practice for some time, as a licensed clinical social worker. Can you share a little more about your practice how long you've been working as a sex therapist and some of your areas of expertise. I know folks are really interested in out of control sexual behavior, and even the ways in which religious conservative ideologies impact our sexual health and functioning.
Absolutely. So I started in 2015. That's when when I started into the therapy practice, I had graduated, and I started actually doing in home therapy. So I was in people's homes, typically lower socio economic, and individuals that had a lot more challenges and being able to get to therapy. So I was in their homes doing therapy with them. And I also soon after that, about six months after I graduated started at the healing group I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah that they specialize in maternal mental health, sexual health, relational health and trauma, and also in religious, religious issues. So I got into that field very quick. So that was right at the very beginning of 2016. And I've been going strong ever since. So as I started working with couples and individuals, I found that I liked the merge between understanding religious issues that come up so much more conservative individuals that grew up in more conservative religious sects, such as maybe more orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are the Mormons. And our people know them as Mormons across the world. So having connecting with those individuals and understanding and working with people that typically haven't had many conversations about sexual health, or it's more prescribed, and how you're supposed to be as a sexual being, I do a lot of work with with those individuals. I see, typically, couples, individuals, and I do work with teenagers over the age of 13, as well. I also have my own practice that that works at a high school, just because I really love working with older teenagers, they're just, they're a lot of fun. And there's a lot of sexual health that's being discussed whether or not we're talking about it or not. And this, it became a passion of mine very quickly.
So it sounds like you're a real powerhouse in this field, you're doing a little bit of everything. And you're focusing a lot on supporting young adults 13 and older. And one of the things that I found as well in my clinical practice is that when folks are raised with really conservative religious ideologies, there tend to be a bit of a conflict between the extent to which they feel they have permission to engage in pleasure, and masturbation and to view explicit content on media online. And it sounds like that's something that you've also seen quite a bit in your practice.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I would say that comes up probably most, for the people that come in and see me I feel out of control my sexual behavior, I don't want to act in this way. And I'd say anywhere from trying not to masturbate to, I feel like I feel distressed in what imagery I'm viewing, reading, engaging in, I don't want to anymore. Infidelity comes up in the couples work that I that I do. But a lot of the work that I have engaged in has mostly relied or revolved around individuals feeling out of control. And the distress is absolutely real, what I find is that what issues come up is on a huge spectrum from viewing imagery once every six months and feeling suicidal when they do to people feeling like they're having a hard time not going to massage parlors or breaking their relationship agreements within their relationships. So what I see is a huge spectrum. But the distress all typically comes down to a similar distress of I feel out of control. And I've done a lot of training with Doug brown Harvey, who is really big into the out of control, or has done a lot of research and engagement and out of control sexual behavior. And I continue to do a lot of research in that too, because I just find that that's a really helpful way to help people in a less shame based manner. Find out what they do want versus what they don't want.
I love that strength based perspective, you have Braxton, you are so good at what you do. And one of the things that I also appreciate is how you contextualize the wide range of out of control sexual behavior, and it matters less about how we as clinicians perceive their behavior to be out of control or not on a control. And what's more important, it sounds like it's focusing on the extent to which they feel distressed by whatever it is that they're experiencing.
Absolutely, the distress is a really important aspect to find what and how we want to support someone because if that person came in and had looked at some sexual imagery, and is feeling suicidal, because they and the interesting thing was the sexual imagery may be something like Victoria's Secret ads, it doesn't necessarily mean something that may be classified as more quote hardcore pornography. That doesn't if we get caught and bogged down in the details of Well Is it is it not I mean, that's not really a big issue, is it? Then we're dismissing distress, but we can also provide some education or some support later on have like, why is that so distressing? But the main part is when people are coming in and finding out or letting you know, as a clinician, I'm distressed we want to meet that distress and help them be able to cope with it, while then also understanding why that distress is so intense. If it's something say on that scale, or even if it's something that might be more along the lines of Yeah, It's distressing, you could lose your job, your relationship, those are distressing issues.
So I find this to be such a wonderful reminder to meet clients where they are, and to bracket off our own maybe internal thoughts or expectations of what out of control behavior is and what it is not.
And I also encouraged to keep the conversation going by being curious, you'll often hear people come in and say, I am in here because I am addicted to sex pornography, I though use the addiction, language and terminology. And what I want that to be a cue for therapists is to recognize, Oh, I heard addiction, I need to be curious, let's not stop the conversation at addiction and start treating, let's start finding out what addiction means to them. And what do they want you to know when they use the word, I'm addicted.
I love that. That's an important reminder, I think as well for clinicians, regardless of with whom they're working regardless of their population. So I know that some groups of folks, you might feel this desire this interest to watch online pornography can also include children. And I know you've done quite a bit of work and research on this so much. So you developed a whole model called the three C's.
Yes, yes. And the three C's what I find in everything that I've looked at, from anecdotal work to what I've been seeing in, in the limited research, especially with kids and teens, because it's really hard to say, hey, let's let's let this control group look at pornography. And we'll give it to them because it's not super ethical. So a lot of what we've seen is in anecdotal, as well as what, what parents have reported. So from what we've seen here is that I've seen different categories come up. So the three C's to help parents, again, my podcast is all about supporting clinicians and parents and talking to kids about sex or talking to their clients about sexual health. And what I wanted to be able to do is help parents remember, where might my child be in this because often I would have parents bringing their young kids or their young teens and say, my kids addicted to sex, my kids addicted to pornography, I need you to fix this. And oftentimes, it also comes down to the kid was curious, that kid was unsure, it was an accident, or they're coping with something. So the three C's are clicking, which is clicking through, I've seen some of the these are the funny ones that I see. Like, had a kid came in that was looking for tights. The poor girl was wanting wanting to look at tights, but she spelled tights, ti Ts. And, you know, just an interesting way if you don't know it's a gh t. But young kids don't know how to spell that. So total honest mistake, but Google Absolutely. You know, it's like, oh, this is what you want to see. Great. Yeah. And mom found out it was like, Oh, my gosh, my daughter's looking at pornography. Now, when it was a complete accident, that's a lot of what clicking looks like misspelling Pokeyman. They're clicking through something, and you know, their Instagram or Facebook or something pops up, and they just come through. And so they're exposed to this. That's clicking. Curious is one that I see much more frequent, which, even just a couple of weeks ago, I had a client talk with me, and we found our son, and he was looking online, and it was looking for naked images. I'm like, Well, tell me how you found that. It's like, well, he didn't find anything because he spelled it and I have it he spell it. He spelled it nice ID and I s ID Neysa ID, or na s ID. So these, when they started asking because I encouraged her start asking questions about that, then he's like, Well, I just don't know what naked people look like. And I want to know what naked girls look like another naked boy is like just the entirety of being curious about what sex is and this body that we have. And what's the same about me? And what's the same about you and what's different? So the curiosity is something that can lead them to asking questions, and Google is the first thing and this is a generation that that is where you go as you can just Google it. And then the final one is, is coping, which is one that we'll probably talk a lot more about today, too, which is we've got maybe some older teens are some younger kids that are trying to cope with parents divorcing bullying at school, feeling down eating issues, lots of things I mean, this world is not Easy, especially for kids. And there's a lot of reasons and a lot of issues that can come up in coping, that mean, sexual imagery masturbation is definitely one way that that feels a lot better than going through the world in a in a distressed space. So I usually find that as a great way to start asking the questions and seeing where your child might be.
As I hear these three C's, every time you went through a new See, I had a lightbulb moment of power that makes sense for this client, or oh, that fits this one, you know, client who was presenting with distress because her child was, you know, looking at what she thought was pornography, he wanted to buy a new baseball glove, and didn't know that it was a Dick's Sporting Goods, not just Dick's So, and when you mentioned, misspelling Pokemon, I did have a client once, who was a big fan of Squirtle. And you can imagine that that might not have led to, you know, wholesome images of Yep, a water based Pokemon turtle creature. And so that led to some, some tough conversations between, you know, mom and the kiddos. So I love this model of curiosity, cliques and coping?
Yes, I, you were, you're nailing it, when it comes to that is exactly how that shows up in office. The thing is, if we start without asking questions, it's hard to understand what see the child might be in? Or where the person you know, it's there's a lot of reasons that to anyone could be exploring that. And I experienced this with, with even some adults and a little less, usually, once we get older, the clicking is a lot less of a of a response. But the curiosity definitely is, and, and coping is definitely one that I see show up too. So I'm not sure if you want to, like we can talk more about each one of those and how I might go about addressing them. I'm definitely open to exploring some of these, what what do you think would be most supportive for for your, your listener group?
Well, given that this is your area of expertise, I would love to go over each one of those C's. And if you double click on each one and do a deep dive. So let's start with clicking tell me more about what you see in practice and how you might empower clinicians to dive into this and roll around in this a little bit.
Absolutely. Okay. So there was one that that started really intense with clicking one that I had when I was when I was working. This is before I knew the three C's or anything, but I was working in home and working with a mom and a son, a three year old son. And randomly, no reason this kid comes into the, into the kitchen while I was doing a session with with his mom, and he grabs the garbage can and starts hip thrusting the garbage can. And then he was saying if this garbage can if this garbage can. And it was so beyond like, usually he was kind of a spasm. I mean, I don't know what three year olds, not a spouse, but he was this was outside of his behavior, like and so one of the first things going through my head is, oh my gosh, is there sexual abuse happening? Or where are we getting this behavior from? And so in asking and exploring, and we just had this moment where like, what's been on his he had your phone, and we pulled up the phone, and for whatever he was just speaking into it, he got the Google speak. And he really liked the Michael Myers. Experience, like the Friday 13th. But then he also was learning to say words that were just like, that could get his mom gone. So if he said naked, or if he said something like a body part he would like it would kind of fire her up a little bit. So he really thrived on that. So he was just combining words, Michael Myers naked. But he was doing it with the Google Voice text. It was like there's no way he can search this. He can, can search it. So I came across some videos, the videos had a lot of explicit, it's had a lot of hip thrusting. And that's where we came to he wasn't being sexually abused or anything. But this was just something that had happened within the last week or so. And the behavior had changed with that too. That is the clicking that is the accidental coming across getting information that is definitely not age appropriate. And we started working with identifying different parental locks that could be put on the phone that could be put on Google instead of shaming the parent or shaming the child into like, you should never look at that and what's your problem? It's being enabling, okay, how can we make this less accidentally exposed. And Google's got those Apple has got different parental controls. So I encourage you to look into those. And parental controls, I think are great for across the board through this. But I don't want it to be a crutch. Like if that same, we'll just block it off. So we never get into the home, and we'll never have to talk about it. That is not what we're looking for.
I love that reminding parents reminding clinicians that when you're having these really difficult, uncomfortable, often conversations with your kiddos about human sexuality and bodies and, you know, pornography, that we have to have these conversations, we get to do this with our clients and with our children. And part of it is just being mindful about how it's done. And being mindful about what our children are potentially exposed to.
One of the things that I encourage in this realm, if you find that your child, you start asking questions, and you find out that they may fall more under the clicking category, be loving, be curious and start explaining to them they don't necessarily need a full on depending on their age, because you want to do age appropriate sexual education. But ask them what they thought about what they saw, if they have questions about what they saw. Let them know that, that you can be the person that can come ask if they have any questions. But usually in the clicking again, it's this accidental thing. And so we're trying to be able to support them, and understanding what they saw to a certain degree. And then asking any questions, this sets sets us up so well, for the next two categories. Because if you stay curious, and you answer questions, and you build that connection with your child, the goal is to have them come and ask you the curiosity questions later on down the road. And if they run into something that they open the conversation with you so that you can be the adult and support them. We don't want this to become like whoop, don't talk about it, don't talk about it, because they will run into this research is lots of research is reporting that it's somewhere between the age of eight to 10. So some research has said 10 Others have said eight others and said nine but I've seen it in that range. That's the first point of exposure to sexual imagery. So online, maybe more hardcore and explicit imagery. So that, knowing that that is a case of not if but when we want to start building this relationship now, especially if you find something like this, that a child's clicked on?
Absolutely. I think about Joker's who was a very well known individual or Adlerian therapist, and when he talks about the reasons why children misbehave, he always says Don't get furious get curious. And this is this is what I'm imagining, as, you know, a parent of a young child and as a as a clinical therapist, working with parents who have young children, reminding them, hey, this is an important conversation. This is an opportunity to have these discussions and create that space, build that relationship and make sure we're not shaming these children about what it means to be sexual beings and that it's okay to be curious. And it's okay to have these conversations. Oh,
I love that don't get furious get curious. So important in that good. I find myself more in the Adlerian side of things to in therapy. So that's to look more into him. Yes, absolutely.
Okay, so we've rolled around a little bit in the clicking. Do you want us walk? Do you want to walk us through the next see?
Yes. Let's go curious. So curiosity. This one is one that I see come up frequently to the curiosity one, this is the across generations, if you will, at least the the generation in the last three generations, I should say, printed material, where if you go back even to your grandparents, there's a really good chance that someone somewhere was in a locker room. And was like, Look at this, huh? Have you ever seen this before? And it's like the oh my gosh, the printed material? Like what? Oh, what's going on there? And so depending on what it is you're looking at, there was you know that someone was bringing it in, and then the curiosity strikes and it's like, oh my gosh, but that's what that's what female bodies look like. That's what male bodies look like. This is what a sex position looks like. This is starting to be the education of that. Well, now fast forward, and we go into the Google age. Now we just now it's all in our pockets on the computer. We've got all sorts of methods of being able to get in Any information whenever we want however we want, and kids are getting younger and younger and getting phones earlier and earlier. And oftentimes parents aren't putting many passcodes on it. Now we do have some of those newer phones, like the gab phone, there's another one starts with a T. So you can have some that don't necessarily have internet connection, which can be a great way. Again, I'm saying parental controls can be really helpful and supportive, but they can't be your end all be all, that can't be the only thing that that you're addressing here. So right now what we're seeing is eight to 10 being exposed to sexual imagery. And there's a part of them that is going to respond in certain ways. Some are going to be like, Oh, I don't want to look at that. And others are going to be like, Whoa, I don't think I should be looking at this. And I'm also what did I just see? What is that? What, what were they doing? What was she doing? What was he doing? Is that really was that what I'm supposed to look like? Immediately only needing to look at one sexual image. Or even if it's not even considered super sexual. If you drive down I 15 here in Utah. Our billboards are riddled. It's fascinating we have in Utah we they dubbed it a sexual health. Oh, my heavens, sexual health crisis. I can't remember exactly the wording that Todd Weiler put in there. But we have a problem. And ultimately, we drive down i 15. And we see billboards for like breast augmentation. And we see all sorts of these images that are just on the billboards, that as a kid, you might be like, what is augmentation? Why is this picture of breasts up on the up on the Billboard? So all these things can build curiosity? of why and especially if you're looking at a female bodied individual, that may start going, am I supposed to look like what am I supposed to look like? Now we start talking about sex? How am I supposed to be in sex? How am I what is attractive? What is this? What is that you start bringing LGBTQ experiences and someone's finding out their sexual orientation are really starting to come into their sexual orientation. What does it mean to be a lesbian? What does it mean to be bi? What does it mean to be gay? What does it mean to be trans? What does it mean to be all across the demisexual? All these things start to play into it. And we want to know what is quote unquote, normal. All of these questions, and we keep going for so much longer, may lead us to what do I do? What am I supposed to look like? What do breasts look like? What do Volvo's look like? What do penises look like? All of these things, and, and more? What's the Bloat job? How am I supposed to do this. And in those experiences, you're going to come across sexual imagery. The main thing that I encourage parents to talk again about an earlier is to be able to help them come to you as a parent in an adult authority figure in sexual health so that you can be one of the first lines of let me tell you what this is, let me tell you, maybe I don't exactly know. But I can take a few minutes, kind of figure it out, do my own research, listen to a podcast, do something to be able to help my child understand in an age appropriate way, what they are probably going to see run into, and what is more realistic than what they might see. And that what they could be seeing online, especially if they're watching videos or reading literature, that it's meant for entertainment. And that is not a documentary on people's sex life.
Yes. I love what you just said that a sexual explicit material is not a documentary, it's meant for entertainment. And so, you know, if we are framing our expectations for our bodies, ourselves, our identities and the ways in which sex is practiced, then we are limiting our per view of who we are, who we can be and what sex is supposed to be.
Absolutely. I think that if we're going to take in the real, real world view, I think of it is the Fast and Furious, right? We have nine series, I think it's nine. There's probably more
way too many as it is.
We have all these Fast and Furious videos, and they're all about driving cars, the cars that are there, there's I mean, really cool things that go on in those vit in those movies. And we don't show any parts of those in the driver's ed courses, at least here in Utah, maybe in other places. Teaching kids to J turn and things like that. But telling your kids or even incorporating that it can kind of be a fun thing for us to talk about but ultimately comes to a place of we're not educating people how to be spies like James Bond by watching James Bond. We are not teaching people to drive cars by Having watched Fast and Furious seven, we're not having him do all these things because those are meant for entertainment. And the more higher they go up in the ratings, the more adult it becomes, right? G is, it's for kids, it's for whole family, PG, you kind of want to watch what some of the humor is their PG 13, you kind of get into a sense of some older kids 13 And above rated are 17. And above. So the ratings, we could get into the some of the fondness of the ratings, but the whole point is being able to get into that there's more adult entertainment, the higher up you get. And again, I know it's hard because a lot of people are saying, well, how can you call it adult entertainment? This is pornography. This is this is problematic. And I'm not trying to get into that argument I'm more getting into the reality of it is it is not a documentary, kids are going to see this and without education, we'll take it as a documentary. Not as I'm watching a film that someone has curated, has scripts to has said, This is what we're going to do that there's possible exploitation in it. We don't know that everyone's consenting, we just don't we hope so. But we don't we don't know how much people are getting paid. They don't there's just not sexual literacy or, or pornography literacy. As Marty Marty Klein would would state that is like porn literacy, understanding what it is you're watching, why you're watching and how it's been created. You're just looking at it going, Oh, and in a heterosexual sexual film, you might see that, that all of these heterosexual girls like to have a jacket on their face, or that like this sort of thing, or that like that sort of thing, or this is what you're supposed to do as a male bodied person as a female bodied person. And some people may like that, but you got to have a conversation. And that conversation is not happening in the sexual experience. And so being able to help them understand, like, everything you're looking at, are people that are being hopefully paid some exploited. And that this does not reflect what you in a relationship may experience. Some of it may be actions, but the majority of this you're going to need to have conversations about.
Absolutely, gosh, there's so many good nuggets, just in that part of our discussion alone. I really love the Fast and the Furious metaphor. Because we like you said don't learn to drive by watching Fast and the Furious. And if people, you know, to expound on that a little bit, if people are thinking, Oh, that's the kind of car that I should be driving. That's how my car should look. Well, I don't see any Subaru foresters you know, ripping down those highways. And, you know, similarly kids might be saying, well, that's not what my body looks but someone my peanuts are evolved to look like. So that am I good enough attractive enough or worthy enough for for this? Oh,
I love that. I love that you took it to that next level because I was thinking I'm like, Yeah, my 94 Honda Accord four cylinder stick shift. Driving. It's like, why don't I get to J turn? Well, I don't get to do much of anything, but move forward with this.
Yes, if everyone is driving cars, but what about if I really love motorcycles? And, you know, can I like cars and motorcycles? You know, you bring that into sexual identities?
Absolutely. Absolutely. This is what I'm supposed to want. This is what I'm supposed to enjoy. This is how Yeah, for anything like you're saying that could be with anywhere across the spectrum. This is how a bi person is supposed to be this is how this or this I shouldn't like this, like, oh, yeah, there's so much so much that we could infer from watching a video or multiple videos depending on what you're what you're looking at.
Absolutely. Okay, so we have gone through clicking, we've explored a bit of curiosity. So let's take some time to really unpack that third C which is coping.
So coping, this, this plays into I mean, if you're if you're a therapist, yeah, this is what we talk to people about all the time, right? How are you coping with? Depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, what are your coping skills? What are the coping mechanisms and I like to differentiate between mechanism skill, and just like those two, sometimes we can see like, mechanism is something that functions that works. I will often encourage clients to understand that like, if you want to have a skill, you develop it, oftentimes it's not the first thing that will come up, but we have code Bring mechanisms. So what I think of is that if someone is saying I am looking at sexual imagery, I'm reading this erotica or I'm involved in doing something sexual that I don't want to do that may be under one of those coping mechanism experiences. So we're looking at it going, what don't you like about it? What would you like to change? And what are you unsure about changing? Maybe Maybe I really like being turned on in this certain way. And I really want to understand more of what. And we start asking the question of what is what's going on underneath? What is it doing for you? So oftentimes being able to help someone go from like, what is this coping mechanism that's causing you distress, and what is behind the distress? Oftentimes, like for teenagers, I, it is not uncommon for someone to feel like they are not enough that they don't feel accepted at school. Parents are going through divorce. They're being online bullied, they are being I mean, we could go through a whole list, there's a lot that teens have to go through right now. And being an LGBTQ individual, like finding out more of your sexual orientation, feeling rejected, and in scholastic endeavors, or even in our social settings, all those things play a big role and can feel I want you to think back to when you were in high school, or junior high, and just how important it was to be socially accepted. That's a huge deal, right? Even if you weren't super on the side of like, oh, I want to be super popular. That's okay. But there's probably a little bit of you. It's like, at least I mean, my Outcast friends are together, or, Hey, I may not be popular, popular, maybe I am popular, I gotta keep a status. But there was always this engagement of where am I within this. And if we feel rejection, if we feel ostracized, like that is a distressing scenario to look at. So I highly encourage parents to check in with their their kids on what stressors they're facing. And please, please, please don't do the I was a teenager, once it's not that big of a deal. I know exactly what it's like to be 16
the invalidation that come up with that so
much, right? Like, we may know what it's like to be 16. But I can tell you, I guarantee you right now we could, we could sidetrack we won't. But we could go into what it was like for Stacy, what it was like for Braxton to be 16 years old. And that was, I mean, it was, what 15 1617 years ago, for me, something like that. I can't remember, I'm not doing the math super well, but some around that, and to be 16. Now, as I work at this high school, I see these 16 year olds, I'm like, holy, what you're facing that. I mean, I know what it's like to want to drive. I know what it's like to experience this. And I know it was like to be in high school in 2005. But I do not know what it's like to be in high school now in 2000 22,022. So being able to be curious, what is it like, right now, for you to be in high school, what challenges you're facing? What are the things that are coming up for you, is going to give you more information on if your child is experiencing stress, depression, overall anxiety, stress in school, all of those things can add to, I don't feel really good, or I'm having a hard time I don't know exactly what to do. But I found that masturbation and viewing the sexual images, makes me feel good. helps me kind of get away from these worries, super easy to be able to do that. And finding and having that understanding, and that information can really help you start to support your child. By finding what's going on underneath this. If we only stopped that we need to get you off of sexual imagery, or we need to stop you masturbating, then we really are trying to take away a coping mechanism without trying to replace it with some other methods of coping.
Wow. That's some powerful stuff. And I think that we often forget about that, as clinicians, how some of this behavior that can look problematic is serving some purpose. And when and when it comes down to it, the only behaviors we tend to repeat are the ones that work for us in some way. So to know more about what is the underlying reason and the distress, that perhaps the pornography viewing and masturbation serves, can give us a better understanding of how to support them, and then how to create an individualized treatment plan that empowers them to respond maybe in a more adaptive or helpful way.
Absolutely. Them being able to teach that masturbation when one of the issues that I see come up most in this coping scenario is many people don't, especially within religious conservative histories, they often want to make sure that masturbation is just something that you don't do. And I totally empathize with individuals that are in this state in this space, like being able to go okay, my religious belief system says that I need to control these passions, these desires. And yeah, haven't if I put on that hat as a therapist, and I recognize, okay, is it person, I have a value system that I want to follow. And part of that is saying to curb masturbation curb these desires, or maybe my relationship agreement says, like, I only have orgasms and sexual experiences while my partner's present with me. If that is my value system and my belief, it's hard to just say, hey, the research says masturbation is extremely supportive, and it's healthy. And it's something that most everyone does, especially if we're talking research before the age of 18. Most people are engaging sexually to, but let alone masturbation, tons of people are engaging in it. And if you don't, you're normal, and you're fine. If you do, you're normal, and you're fine. So what's your relationship with it? That's the research. We know that that's the case, however, to try and convince that other side that saying, Yeah, but I value also following my, my spiritual beliefs, I value this other thing. Being able to help balance or explore what's going to be helpful, I will often tell clients, hey, if we get to a place where, you know, we've we've dropped, we've, we've reached your goals. And the last goal is for you to be in a spot. It's like I hope to never masturbate again, we're going to have a different conversation about where your experiences and how you might engage differently, but also being a really, really understanding of yourself. And what's a typical response of a body. Because it is a method of decreasing stress. It is also very natural and fine for your body to experience that. And then being able to find out how and why this is a distressing thing. Because like you said, Stacy, like there's a lot of ways that we cope. And one of those things can come up with masturbation can be one of those that that is there that can be used or can be really distressing. So I started exploring that it gets much more complicated, but I know that that's one of those coping skills, it's very up in the air depending on the person we're talking to.
And yet, I do know that we know we've had clients in our in our clinical work that use masturbation for a variety of ways to alleviate distress. I've once worked with a client who felt a lot of shame around using masturbation as a form of allowing her to decrease the anxiety so she could fall asleep at night. But we know that masturbation serves a lot of really wonderful purposes. In our mental health, wellness, and our physical wellness, and our connectivity, and even the reasons why we masturbate, there's some differences there. So it could be anything from just decreasing stress, it could be distraction from stress, it could be cultivating connection, even we think about things like mutual masturbation or masturbating with a partner while watching pornography. There's a lot of different reasons why folks masturbate, and some of it might be for coping.
Absolutely. So when I'm working with say, say teens or young adults, in a scenario like this, or even adults in general, we start exploring, I typically start exploring what is going on in their head beforehand, oftentimes, we are in a society that is, this is such a unique space, Stacy. Because we are in a spot where we are our society is obsessed with sex, and sexuality obsessed. And at the same time, you can't talk about it, experience it, explore it, because there's the duality, that fight of like, we want to watch, you know, the big brother on the TV or you want to watch The Bachelor, we want to see all these sexy things that are happening. We're all wondering what's going on. And then on the other side, we're like, Well, I'm a sexual person, too, but I shouldn't be. And society is engaging both of those that you shouldn't be sexual, but at the same time, we want to learn everything and talk everything sex just on the lower end. So when I'm exploring this with people, oftentimes they haven't asked themselves Why do I want to masturbate right now? What's going on for me? What's happening when you typically come home? Are we in Do we have a habit? Is this just a pattern or is it helping us fall asleep when you decide to masturbate or when you decide to get on And then start clicking through what is your pattern your your steps to get to a place that you start to feel distress. So we start being curious about what is happening and why. Oftentimes, our clients aren't going to know that answer off the bat, they're gonna go, I don't know, it just happens. I'm out of control is the word that they'll say, or I'm addicted again, it's like that, that okay, let's find out some more information there. And as we start to dig and explore, oftentimes, you're going to find different things. It's coming up for the coping skill. So I love moving to a form of mindfulness, to be able to help them understand what is happening for me, it's going on in my body, when I want to experience or go into this, what am I looking to experience? Do I want relaxation? Or what do I want, then being able to start to transition to some of those coping skills going from a mechanism, I'm doing it because of something into a coping skill, I'm doing it because I want to engage this way. And I know my outcome will be something different. A coping skill can definitely be masturbation, but it it typically involves a little bit more of that mindfulness. I want to masturbate right now because I want to feel this way. And I'm going to use it for this method because I want to or because I feel good. When I do this, I'm gonna go outside for a walk, because I'm feeling stressed right now I want to engage in behavior that makes me feel not super great. And I don't want to choose that. So I want to use physical movement, I'm gonna go for a walk, I typically do better when I've got someone on the other end, maybe I need to reach out, maybe I can call a friend. Or, I mean, we can walk through all the different things that that might be great and coping skills. But the awareness is usually the part where people need to develop, what am I doing? Why am I doing it? And what do I want to do instead, if that's the case, so that we can start bringing choice and once we start bringing choice in, then we can choose to cope and the way that we'd like to cope. And we can have a little bit more self compassion for ourselves and what we're going through in the moment, versus beating ourselves up even more for trying to cope and deal with whatever it is we're dealing with.
So what I'm hearing you say is guiding clients guiding children, even adults to be curious about what's going on for them when they feel that urge or desire to engage in masturbation or to watch pornography, and to have them reflect back on what they're experiencing in that moment. And also what they want that end result to be.
Absolutely, if we start finding out more of the, like urges that come up, the thoughts that happen. As well as like how much control they feel over it, maybe they feel zero control, maybe they don't even notice it's happening. But maybe we can start developing that. So they can find the way of like, Oh, I get this urge or I have this thought. Or maybe they feel like they happen at the same time. But we start to get more information. And we can really get some extra support, maybe going to therapy is a really great option for them or for the child to be able to cope with the distress or the grief of an ending relationship. Or maybe there's some interactions we can engage in at school, if bullying is happening. Maybe we as parents get to address some support that they may need. Maybe they don't need their phone in the room after 10 o'clock, because there's been online bullying that's happening all through the night and they're not sleeping, there's so much that I've ran into that can be addressed. But we need to know more about it to be able to develop those coping skills, and the person can develop that mindful approach to it.
Absolutely. So part of the conversation that's really resonating with me is being curious about whether the masturbation is a mechanism or a skill. And if it's something that's a mechanism, perhaps was a different skill that can help them to grow so that they have another menu of options when that distress occurs.
Yes, and that it can be a skill. And it can also be a mechanism, the biggest part that I would put in there is that intention, oh, I want to do this, or I'm engaging in this, and I recognize it and I'm going to use it because I feel good. I want to fall asleep at night and masturbation is the way to do it. It's fast and I'm not feeling distress because I can choose that or I feel good between me and a deity or me and myself and a partner. We can start to reconcile what those things look like depending on the person and what they want.
There's some good stuff here.
I love having this conversation with you, Stacey.
I always love having our conversations as well. And even as we're having this one I'm thinking back to another, you know, time we had connected about out of control sexual behaviors. And one of the ways that I know you empower clients who present with this issue is when they say Ah, Braxton I'm feeling out of control. I can stop. You say well, why why are you not masturbating right now out of course. Full and decline, like why No, no. And that you give them that as an opportunity to externalize that as a point of awareness and say, Well, you do have some control if you're not masturbating right now.
We're talking about hard things, and you're not in the look at me with that disdain. Like, why would I masturbate right now? Like, why not? That's a good question either direction. Like, it's kind of meant in a silly way for that. But at the same time, it's also like, yeah, we're, we're not right now. And is that because you're not turned on is that because your body is being able to use its prefrontal cortex and its awareness to say, like, Hey, I don't want to in front of people, I don't want this, I don't, that it's pushed your brakes enough. But when you're by yourself, you the brakes aren't there, and you're still making these choices, but we to feel to be completely and I don't mean that to dismiss their behaviors, right? Or their feelings of like, I feel out of control. But any place we can start to see and help them see you are in, you do have some form of control. And there's a mechanism that is going on, subconsciously, that we want to pull up so that you can see like you're choosing not to right now, it's very appropriate that you're not masturbating right now. Let's, let's find out why you're choosing that. And so that you can identify when and how so you can really start to feel like you are in control, or that you do have some form of control over this.
Absolutely. So using humor as an invitation to self awareness and mindfulness and to be another mechanism to learn more about what's happening with them. When that desire
around all about the humor seems to help help things stick a little bit to be like, Oh,
get that. It's amazing humor. And counseling is one of my very favorite things to do. And, and, and I think it's very congruent with who you and I are, as people. bring that into the therapeutic setting. It feels so real, and I feel so I think again, just who we are. And so I'm glad we're able to role model that we can just be who we are in different spaces. So as we wind down this conversation, and I don't want it to add No, I wondering what are some other resources available, or even just your favorite ones that help help prepare parents, or mental health professionals to address this topic.
That's a that's a great one. So the book that has helped me probably the most, as a clinician, this is not one that I would give to clients because it's more of a step by step, how to run a group how to address out of control sexual behavior, the book is called treating out of sexual out of sexual out of control sexual behavior, by Doug Brown, Harvey, and Michael Vigorito. It's quite a thick book, when it comes down to like, steps. I mean, it'll go through assessment, it goes through different methods of being able to create a sexual health plan, it helps if you want to start a group for out of control sexual behavior, it helps while you're an individual work with the person, how to address the six principles of sexual health from consent to non exploitation, mutual pleasure, not getting pregnant, or STIs, honesty and shared shared values, being able to go through each one of those with your client can help you support them in creating their sexual health goal. Again, shifting the focus from I don't like I don't want I don't want to, what do you want? And what do you value and what is okay for you? Really helps. And that is a book that is if you're into this and you want to explore more in the curiosity realm and supporting clients in a non shaming way, with feeling out of control in their sexual behavior, that is a really good therapeutic book to read through and to explore.
That's kind of the gold standard. Yes. When it comes to treating out of control sexual behaviors?
Yeah, I would say it's probably I believe, it's the first of its kind and being able to provide another option for feeling out of control and your sexual behavior. And it is, I would say, the gold standard within that because it actually walks you through being able to treat and support.
So that's another good resource. Another way for folks to increase their competency. Any final thoughts or final nuggets for listeners,
if you're, if you're a parent listening to this, or if you're a therapist that works with parents at all, I do encourage see the book around here believe is called Helping your child helping your kids with adolescence. It is a it's a really fun book actually. It has a lot of like, how I don't know if it's clipart but It covers everything from race to LGBT to sex to technology and phones it if they want a, if you want to give a resource that can help you be curious, help your kids be able and the kids can look at this too and be like, Oh, I wonder what this is? Or if you want something that you can just look through and be like, What should I talk to my child about what's in conversation, I have their little short blurbs it is not a read through. It's like, this is something you can do quick section, some of the ways you can address sexuality, some of the ways you can dress masturbation, some of the ways that you can address religious differences, like you can talk these things through your through the adolescence that you have. And anyways, it's a great book to have, if they have those, I often refer to that birds and bees podcast. It's been I had a little bit of a hiatus for the last couple of years, just with COVID, and all that other stuff. And I'm starting to get back into that. My I'm transitioning it more to a clinical perspective, we'll also try to create nuggets for the parents. But I've gotten the best feedback from the clinician saying, Love these episodes, this is helping me in my practice. So I do encourage you to go to birds and bees podcast, mine's the one with the the blue and pink bird with the yellow background. And trying to think if there's any other sexual health resources that I just love referring to, I think some of the things that I've talked about today, even with using brake and accelerator, the come as you are is a really great book, to be able to help understand your own sexuality, and sexual expression, and to help recognize just how normal all of our responses are. And that's what research is demonstrating to us. So those are really good starts to being able to help engage with the, with the sexuality experiences, but I would say number one thing, if you're a therapist, and you're not talking about sexual health in your sessions, start finding ways to bring it up, even if it's just saying like, hey, how has this affected your sexuality? Or is it okay, if I ask you sexual related questions, because if you're not bringing it up, there's a good chance the client won't bring it up. But if you let it out there just a little bit like what what I want you to do with kids, is that that helps create a space where the client may go, I don't want to talk about it now, but maybe later. And what a safe place to be able to bring it up.
Yes, all of that, yes, I'm a big believer in just making sexual conversations part of our everyday assessment or everyday clinical practice, part of our everyday conversation with partners and family and children. Because it is such an important thing to talk about. And to be curious about. And, you know, I always say that it's not asking your partners, what their sexual desires are. That's the same thing as saying, I don't care about your sexual desires.
Yeah. So being able to have that those conversations really opens up a world of, of understanding and exploration even if someone like we're all sexual beings, even if you identify as asexual or very sexual or anywhere across the board. We live in a sexual society. Sex is a part of all of us. And sexual health is a part of what you get to decide and what is best for you. So let's help everyone explore that. And if you don't know, you can always listen to podcast you can always find some books, being one chapter head with sexually relevant and supportive information. So we love to love to support anyone that's feeling like they need some extra support. And there's a lot of resources out there to be able to get the information you need to help your clients.
Absolutely. And one really wonderful resource that you can use to help your clients is one that I also like to use. And that is the birds and bees podcast with Braxton Dotson and Braxton I also know you do supervision for a sec sex therapists in addition to consultation, work and other trainings. Can you share some information about how listeners can get in contact with you?
Absolutely. So if you're interested or you have questions or comments, I love hearing like how something helped during a session or whatnot. So feel free to send me stories or inquiries, but you can email me Braxton t email@example.com. So that's my first name, middle, and last name. So t is and Tom in the middle, but Braxton t firstname.lastname@example.org. You can email any of those or if you have any inquiries and you're wanting to become a sec certified as a sex therapist. I can support you in in in being a supervisor for helping you find a supervisor. Also, if you have questions or like you said any any response to this, I love hearing how this this helps in practices. As you can also check me out on Instagram, where you can look at birds and bees podcast. I try and post there. I'm not the best social media guru. But those are some places that you can get a hold of me and and connect with me.
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to connect with us today at the thoughtful counselor podcast. I know the time difference is quite a bit of a change. And so thank you for being so bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Absolutely. I should also add to that I love presenting I've done interstate and international presentations. And so if if you want me to come to you, or to do some zoom changes or to counsel or provide support to you and your clientele or you and your clinicians or your parents that are that are local in your area. Contact me I'd love to be able to support you in providing sexual health education. That's local for you.
Wonderful. Thank you so much Braxton you are the best at what you do. And I'm so grateful to have you on the thoughtful counselor podcast.
Thanks so much Stacey. I've really enjoyed our time together. Likewise,
take care of my friends. We'll see you.
Soon, the thoughtful counselor is Deza Daniel Raisa Miller, Aaron Smith, Jessica Tyler, AC Diane Ananias. And me, Megan Smith. scholly. Find us online at the thoughtful counselor.com. Our funding is provided by Palo Alto University's Division of Continuing and Professional Studies. Learn more about them at Palo Alto u.edu forward slash concept. The views and opinions expressed on the thoughtful counselor are those of the individual authors and contributors and don't necessarily represent the views of other authors and contributors, nor of our sponsor, Palo Alto University. So if you have an idea for an episode, general feedback about the podcast, or just want to reach out to us, please drop us a line at the thoughtful email@example.com Thanks for tuning in, and we hope to hear from you soon.