COUNSELORS’ EXPERIENCES WITH SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATING SEXUAL HEALTH INTO CLINICAL PRACTICE: A QUALITATIVE PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY
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Counselors have neglected the topic of sexual health in their discussions and work with clients. Despite on-going research and expansion on sexual health topics, counselors continue to report discomfort, lack of knowledge, and low self-efficacy as reasons for why they are reluctant to discuss sexual health. When counselors fail to inquire about or address sexual health topics with clients, comprehensive care could be compromised, and clients might not be receiving the treatment necessary to produce desired outcomes to enhance overall wellbeing. To address this concern, counselors and educators might consider adopting and applying the attitudes and behaviors of counselors who have successfully integrated sexual health into their counseling work with clients. This study expanded upon the work of Sangra (2016) by exploring the experiences of Licensed Professional Counselors (or equivalent) who reported having successful integration of sexual health into their clinical practice as a means to understanding the elements contributing to increased level of comfort, self-efficacy, and ultimately comprehensive care. A qualitative, semi-structured interview was completed with 11 participants. Successful integration of sexual health into clinical practice was demonstrated by four themes: perception of counselor’s role, counselor sexual health self-efficacy, sex-positive attitude, and sexual identity development. Results, discussion, and future recommendations to improve counselor education and training for sexual health topics are included in the study.