- Factors Impacting Professional Practice in Sexuality Education, Therapy, and Research.
Schwab, Ethan, Darling, Carol A., Barrett, Anne, Rehm, Marsha, Denton, Wayne, Department of Family and Child Sciences, Florida State University
The factors that currently impact professional practice in the field of human sexuality are invisible in the available literature. The current study addresses this gap, and also identifies similarities and differences between professions, as well as the role of an ecological systems framework in explaining professionals' experiences. The present study drew on past literature that outlines the historical nature of sexuality education, therapy, and research. The sample was drawn from a previous...
Show moreThe factors that currently impact professional practice in the field of human sexuality are invisible in the available literature. The current study addresses this gap, and also identifies similarities and differences between professions, as well as the role of an ecological systems framework in explaining professionals' experiences. The present study drew on past literature that outlines the historical nature of sexuality education, therapy, and research. The sample was drawn from a previous data set where the author interviewed experts in the field(s) of sexuality education, therapy, and research. Twenty-seven sexuality educators, therapists, and researcher were interviewed using purposive and snowball sampling. Beginning with contacting the membership directors of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT; the predominant professional body for sexuality educators and therapists in North America), and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS; the predominant professional body for sexuality researchers in North America), to gain the initial potential participants, a snowball sampling technique was subsequently used to garner the remainder of the respondents. To conduct these interviews, the author contacted each potential participant personally through email. Participants were interviewed through Skype or a telephone conversation typically lasting between 35 to 90 minutes. They were then asked to provide their experiences regarding their joys, challenges, what they would have done differently; areas where the field needs growth; factors to be studied; and suggestions for the future of sexuality education, therapy, and research. The interviews were analyzed using a grounded theoretical (GT) strategy, resulting in the production of themes. Two main themes, as well as many sub-themes, were identified that explain the factors impacting professional practice in human sexuality. Meaningful work and the personal characteristic of diehard determination, both encompassed what a professional must attain and overcome to remain in a sexuality-based career. Meaningful work for sexuality educators was comprised of student epiphanies and the public's desire for accurate information. For therapists, this included the overwhelming trust of clients and the variety of clinical treatments and problems. For researchers, this was represented through the variance of the phenomena studied, and a senses of pioneering. Diehard determination in sexuality educators was seen through confrontation and conflict and maintaining sensitivity. For Therapists, this was represented by insufficient training and clients' beliefs about normality. Sexuality researchers remained determined despite funding being an ever-present challenge, institutional review boards not understanding sexuality research, and work being undervalued. Many unique similarities and differences were observed among professions. Similarities were seen through participants' recommendations for future professionals wishing to enter the field. Themes included: holistic views and a change in sociopolitical ideology. Many differences among the experiences of each profession were observed through professional's perspectives on future directions for sexuality education (such as the need for external collaboration), therapy (e.g., the usefulness of a standardization of certification), and research (e.g., the desire for internal unification among professions). Additionally, an ecological systems framework was helpful in explaining the factors that impact professional practice in human sexuality. This framework was useful in describing the experiences of respondents in the context of natural impacts (such as time), human-behavioral impacts (such as the personal interactions and difficulties in collaboration between sexuality professionals and those in other fields of human science), and human-constructed impacts including regulatory systems (e.g., restrictive funding priorities). Many implications for theory, research, and professional practice were identified. The results of this study noted the extent to which novel methodological, measurement, and theoretical approaches are needed in the field of sexuality. It is particularly important for training and regulatory bodies to work together to create internal consistency among the various professional practices within the field of human sexuality. Professionally, regulation through credentialing standardization could further be researched, with the possibility of increased credibility among professional practices.
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