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Four primary themes regarding counseling BDSM clients are addressed: popular culture, mental health contexts and the DSM, parallels with now-defunct homosexual paraphilias, and resources for counselors. The authors present an introduction of commonly used BDSM terms based on field research and supported by a case study. Attention is given to challenges BDSM clients face, paraphilic disorder codes used to clinically define BDSM activities, and how diagnostic codes pathologize nontraditional sexuality, which can create a disjunction between counselor education and clients’ lived experiences. This disjunction is emphasized by popularizations of BDSM, such as E. L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy, which expand social acceptance while also solidifying misrepresentations of the kink lifestyle.

Original Citation

Freeburg, M. N., & McNaughton, M. J. (2017). Fifty Shades of Grey: Implications for Counseling BDSM Clients. VISTAS 2017. Retrieved from