Yesterday I was reading a book I had been working on for over a year, “Sex without Guilt in the 21st Century”. When I placed it down for a minute to take a bite to eat, I glanced down at the book and was startled to realize that the author was none other than Dr. Albert Ellis, well know psychotherapist in Behavior Therapy and founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). This threw me off, how come I didn’t know he was well know in the field of sex therapy and sexuality? Had we ever discussed this part of his work in class? To my recollection, no. Was this information even in our books? After a brief review, it seemed the answer was also, no. There is something incredibly wrong with this picture.
Albert Ellis was frowned upon for his openness in sexuality education, research, and therapy. In the 50’s he lost or was denied teaching positions and presentation offers within his Alma Mater schools, among others, because of his work. Today we deny him the respect of discussing one of his bigger area’s of research.
As social workers, we were educated and trained to help our clients become comfortable enough with our working relationship and often urge them to discuss the taboo, sex included, yet it appears even in our professional education we avoid these topics. In this case, not only did my education not enlighten me about the works of Dr. Ellis in the taboo field of sexuality, but it also held little discussion of sex therapy outside of the normative discussions of couple’s therapy. How is this helpful to ourselves, our clients, and our profession? How can we help our clients reach this comfortable stage if we cannot even teach our students how to discuss this material in the class room, let alone with their clients or like minded professionals? This remains a hindrance to ourselves and our clients; helping to further the idea that these topics are taboo by ignoring them in our education.
It left me wondering what else we are not learning that can help us become better professionals? The staple of good research has always been auditing results and reevaluation over time. The curriculum of social work work should not be immune to such standards. There is little hope for our culture to find some normalcy in our differences if subjects like sexuality are still taboo for the professionals who are supposed to be breaking down those barriers.