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Dr. T Recommends: Must Reads for Healthcare Professionals Addressing Sexuality and Mental Health

I'm an occupational therapist and counselor with only 2 years of working experience and no formal clinical education about sexuality or mental health. At least not in the way we expect it to be. However, I have always encouraged myself and the students/practitioners I mentor that there isn't anything in this world that we cannot learn. There is this misconception that we lack evidence and literature to learn or practice in this area of ADL (Activities of Daily Living) which isn't entirely true. Just because an occupational therapist did not lay a concept down does not mean the literature and evidence are non-existent. It's like saying just because an occupational therapist didn't write an anatomy book, we don't believe in the concepts of the human body anymore.

Occupational Therapy & Occupational Sciences continues to be a part of the healthcare team and a profession that is trying to develop. It may take a while to provide concreteness and comprehensiveness in the way we want to deliver inclusive treatments, but before that, we all have some learning to do. When this profession and my passion for sexuality made little sense, I turned to the love of my life aka books to find answers and probably try connecting the dots.

And now, I want to be that mini resource that can guide you to a range of books that are excellent for beginners, intermediates or pros and save you some time and energy depending on how much/less you want to learn. I have read too many books to be in this tough spot where I can curate some of the best for you, but I assure you it is going to be worth your time.

1. What Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know About Sex by Stephanie Buehler:

Written by an author who is both a psychologist and sex therapist, this practical guide provides information, tools, and exercises to increase the confidence and comfort of the mental health professional called upon to treat sexual issues during the course of therapy. They based the book on the premise that the therapist must be comfortable with their own sexuality in order to offer appropriate treatment. This guide discusses the characteristics of healthy sexuality-for both client and therapist-and explores the reasons that may underlie a therapist's discomfort with addressing sexual issues. Using case studies and sample dialogues, it covers a multitude of common and unusual sexual problems, couple's issues, questions that parents may have about sex, working with LGBT clients, sex for survivors of trauma, sexuality and aging, sexual pain disorders, and how to assess whether more extensive sexual therapy is needed.

2. Exploring Immigrant and Sexual Minority Mental Health by Pavna Sodhi:

Dr. Sodhi is a psychotherapist and researcher who explores exceedingly complex issues surrounding the phenomenon of immigrant (ethnic) and sexual minority identities in transition through this book. Dr.Sodhi recommends a multi-framework (Diversity and Identity Formation Therapy- DIFT) grouping of theoretical perspectives to enable clients and therapists to come to a new understanding of the problems of, as well as potential solutions to, identity transitions.

3. Gender: A Graphic Guide by Meg Barker, Jules Scheele:

In this unique illustrated guide, Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele travel through our shifting understandings of gender across time and space – from ideas about masculinity and femininity, to non-binary and trans genders, to intersecting experiences of gender, race, sexuality, class, disability and more. Tackling current debates and tensions, which can divide communities and even cost lives, the authors look to the past and the future to explore how we might all approach gender in more caring and celebratory ways.

4. Sexuality and Intellectual Disabilities by Andrew Maxwell Triska:

This book summarizes sexuality and gender identity in clients with intellectual disabilities for therapists, social workers, educators, and healthcare providers. It bridges the gap between research and practice, with engaging case examples drawn from the author's own practice. Guidance on everyday issues like dating and sex education is juxtaposed with material on complex, current issues in topics like LGBTQ inclusion and sexual offending. User-friendly "toolboxes" provide brief guides to practical issues like using trans-friendly language and providing family interventions.

5. Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness (edited by Teresa Theophano, Stephanie Schroeder):

Headcase is a groundbreaking collection of personal reflections and artistic representations illustrating the intersection of mental wellness, illness, and LGBTQ identity, as well as the lasting impact of historical views equating queer and trans identity with mental illness. The pieces offer personal views from both providers and clients, often one and the same, about their experiences. In the anthology, readers will access the inner thoughts of an array of individuals, including a therapist with dual status who also is transgender and practicing in the Midwest; a lesbian writer and psychotherapist recounting her mother's experience with forced institutionalization, shock therapy, and "conversion therapy" in the 1950s; a queer illustrator presenting unique glyph illustrations that represent a panoply of identity-related questions and answers; an award-winning gay male writer discussing his struggle with depression publicly for the first time; and a trans activist of color writing about surviving madness in the inner city and how his community of mental health and social justice youth activists help each other thrive. Several contributors also document the difficulty of navigating flawed health care systems that limit affordable access to genuinely affirming, effective services.

6. The Psychology of Human Sexuality by Justin Lehmiller:

Written for students of human sexuality and anyone interested in the topic, this textbook offers a guide to the psychology of human sexual behavior that is at once inclusive, thorough, and authoritative in its approach. The text presents the major theoretical perspectives on human sexuality, and details the vast diversity of sexual attitudes and behaviors that exist in the modern world. The author also reviews the history of sexology and explores its unique methods and ethical considerations. Overall, this important and comprehensive text provides readers with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the science of sex and the amazing complexity of human sexuality.

7. The Gender Affirmative Model: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Supporting Transgender and Gender Expansive Children:

This warm and timely book provides mental health professionals with a guide to the Gender Affirmative Model, the leading approach for working with transgender and gender expansive children and their families. Using an easy-to-follow framework, readers will learn how to facilitate and enable children to live in their authentic gender with necessary social supports. The authors describe how to address distress and build resilience within children and families, while also strengthening awareness of the complex interplay of cultural factors with gender. They also address the complex psychological, social and community challenges faced by transgender and gender expansive children, as well as the potential mental health struggles that can arise as a result of bullying and more subtle forms of societal discrimination.

8. Pocket Guide to LGBTQ Mental Health by Petros Levounis:

This book is an informative and affirming manual for mental health clinicians working with patients of diverse gender and sexual identities. The editors have brought their specialized knowledge to the project and, along with contributors who are experts in the field of LGBTQ mental health, have created a book of uncommon empathy. The volume's structure is simple, consistent, and effective, with 10 chapters covering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and allied individuals. Some chapters overlap because some people identify with more than one of these identities. The writers have drawn on both the scientific literature and their own clinical experience to create a volume that is informative, practical, and easy to read.

9. Sex, Love, and Mental Illness by Stephanie Buehler:

This book covers information for couples in which one or both partners suffer from mental illness with resulting sexual problems. Although created with the intention of serving couples, this book also serves as a guide for healthcare professionals who work with families and couples as it dives in unpacking the effects of mental illness—and of the medications used to treat it—on sexual desire and performance and provide ways to maintain both physical and emotional intimacy. The first section of the book centers on common sexual concerns and loving someone with a mental disorder. The second addresses a wide range of mental disorders, their effects on relationships, and ways couples can work together to overcome those effects.

10. Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski:

This book serves as a great guide for both laypersons and healthcare professionals who are trying to understand the basics of sexuality. The book explores ways we experience pleasure and elaborates on the science of human sexuality. It’s a nonjudgmental look at sexual desire, backed by scientific research and data. It also comes along with a workbook manual that people can work on to challenge assumptions, understand their sexual view of themselves and help them express their sexuality more authentically.

11. Adult Transgender Care: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Training Mental Health Professionals by Jillian C. Shipherd:

The book meets a unique need by providing detailed information, clinical interventions, case studies, and resources for mental health professionals on transgender care. It takes an interdisciplinary approach emphasizing the complementary contributions of psychiatry, psychology, and social work in providing transgender care within an integrated treatment along with overviews of how to conceptualize and provide treatment with complex and difficult clinical presentations and considerations for understanding how to address system-level challenges to treatment

12. Sexuality and Occupational Therapy: Strategies for People with Disabilities by Bernadette Hattjar:

This book is intended for occupational therapy clinicians, educators, and students who seek to acquire greater understanding of how to address sexuality concerns in occupational therapy practice, including approaching the topic, understanding the specifics, and referring to an appropriate specialist in this area. Highlights include-, Overview of Occupational Therapy and Sexuality, Arthritis and Sexuality, Cancer and Sexuality, Diabetes and Sexuality, Spinal Cord Injury and Sexuality, Cardiovascular Disease and Sexuality, Traumatic Brain Injury and Sexuality, Stoke and Sexuality, Mental Disorders and Sexuality, Adolescents With Disabilities and Sexuality. Occupational therapy endeavors to treat the "whole person," and Sexuality and Occupational Therapy reflects that holistic spirit of the profession.

13. The LGBT casebook by Petros Levounis:

The aim of The LGBT Casebook is to help clinicians, trainees, and other mental health professionals address the mental health needs of LGBT people in the context of problems these individuals face in their everyday lives, including homophobia and discrimination. It provides an ideal general overview and roadmap for professionals new to treating LGBTQ+ patients or have little experience can gain a better understanding of psychiatric diagnoses within the context of an LGBT individual's everyday life. A glossary at the back of the book defines both clinical and colloquial terms and phrases that clinicians and patients use to define themselves and their peers. By introducing a diverse range of people, diagnoses, and presenting problems, it will serve as a valuable reference book for all mental health professionals when assessing and treating the mental health concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients.

14. The Gender Creative Child by Diane Ehrensaft:

The Gender Creative Child unlocks the door to a gender-expansive world, revealing pathways for positive change in our schools, our communities, and the world. It serves as an excellent guide for parents and professionals through the rapidly changing cultural, medical, and legal landscape of gender and identity. This comprehensive resource explains the interconnected effects of biology, nurture, and culture to explore why gender can be fluid, rather than binary. As an advocate for the gender affirmative model and with the expertise Dr. Ehrensaft has gained over three decades of pioneering work with children and families, she encourages caregivers to listen to each child, learn their particular needs, and support their quest for a true gender self.

15. Handbook of Evidence Based Mental Health Practice with Sexual and Gender Minorities by John Pachankis:

This handbook offers a comprehensive array of evidence-based approaches for treating sexual and gender minority clients' mental health concerns. The interventions detailed here span a diverse spectrum of populations, including sexual and gender minority youth, transgender populations, same-sex couples, sexual minority parents, and bisexual individuals. Chapters also address numerous mental and behavioral health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, trauma, body image disturbance, and sexual health. In addition to an overview of the research evidence supporting each clinical presentation and approach, chapters contain practical how-to guidance for therapists to use in their clinical practice. This book reflects a true integration of the best of sexual and gender minority research and the best of evidence-based practice research, presented by the leading experts in the field.

16. Sexuality and Gender For Mental Health Professionals by Christina Richards, Meg Barker:

This book is ideal for all members of the multidisciplinary team as it explores inherent complexities of sexuality and gender. Breaking down these complexities, this practical guide familiarizes students and professionals with all the common and many of the less common sexualities, genders and relationship forms, and explains experiences and issues relating to each. Some areas explored in the book are explanations of various forms of sexuality, gender and relationship structures; common concerns relating to specific group; key practices and treatments relating to specific and suggestions for professional practice with these groups.

17. The Psychology of Sex by Meg Barker:

This book browses through different ways that we have created and sustained certain understandings of sex and sexuality. Bearing in mind the subjective nature of sex, the book explores cultural concerns around sexualization, pornography, and sex addiction, as well as drawing on research from sexual communities and the applied area of sex therapy. When so much of our relationship to sex happens in the mind, The Psychology of Sex shows us how important it is to understand where our ideas about sex come from.

18. Transgender Mental Health by Erica Yarbrough:

This book forgoes clinical jargon in favor of accessible, straightforward language designed to educate clinicians on how to address the basic needs of the TGNC community, thus increasing access to mental health care for TGNC individuals. The book is organized into four sections discussing gender spectrum and TGNC experience; mental health factors in TGNC care and examining sex and sexuality, support systems, and transitioning/detransitioning; general physical health along with the social, psychological, and physical needs of their patients and discussing all major gender-affirming surgical procedures, as well as nonsurgical interventions.

19. That’s So Gay! by Kevin L. Nadal:

In this book, Kevin Nadal provides a thought-provoking review of the literature on discrimination and microaggressions toward LGBT people. These accumulated experiences are associated with feelings of victimization, suicidal thinking, and higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and other health problems among members of the community. The generous use of case examples makes the book ideal for gender studies courses and discussion groups. Each case is followed by analysis of the elements involved in microaggressions and discussion questions for the reader to reflect upon. This book includes advice for mental health practitioners and students who want to adopt LGBT-accepting worldviews and practices. It has tips for how to discuss and advocate for LGBT issues in the realms of family, community, educational systems, and the government.

20. Sexuality and Intimacy: An Occupational Therapy Approach:

Conversations around sexuality have been silenced for far too long in the occupational therapy profession, but sex is an ADL that is deeply valued by many clients. Sexual and intimate occupations encompass a broad range of personally meaningful activities for building intimate partnerships, developing a sense of self, actualizing desire, and experiencing pleasure. However, lack of knowledge, bias, embarrassment, and other barriers can prevent practitioners from addressing sexuality and intimacy with their clients. This textbook presents a comprehensive and holistic occupational therapy approach to sexuality that challenges readers to consider co-existing perspectives and practices related to sexual occupations and equips them to effectively address this important area.

21. Cultural Differences and the Practice of Sexual Medicine: A Guide For Sexual Health Practitioners:

Individual sexuality represents the cumulative effects of biological, psychological, and cultural influences. Yet much of the study of sexuality―including issues ranging from sexual identity to sexual response―has been conducted through a Western lens. Thus, this book adopts a global perspective, focusing on how cultural practices and values can impact health care, treatment, and outcomes. In this regard, it covers three broad domains: Sexual Identity and Orientation; Sexual Response and Dysfunction; and Sexual Diversity. Each chapter consists of two parts: a general description of the relevant issues, and a discussion of how these issues can be relevant to clinical practice. The book offers a valuable, practical tool for specialists in sexual medicine and sexual psychology, for sexual healthcare givers, and for sexological researchers who want to better serve their patients by developing an awareness of and sensitivity to cultural differences, and by providing a framework for dealing with issues of sexuality and sexual health that takes cultural values into consideration, while adhering to best practices in patient care.

22. Trans Sex: Clinical Approaches to Trans Sexualities and Erotic Embodiments:

Trans Sex seeks to move trans sexualities from the margins of gender-affirmative clinical practice to center pleasure, and to spark creativity and empathic attunement within the client-provider relationship. Whether they be mental health or medical providers, trainees, or seasoned practitioners in gender-affirmative work or sexualities, readers will be able harness creative strategies to enhance their practice and become more imaginative providers.

PS: If you have read other books or clinical textbooks that you think should make addition to list, let me know in the comments and let's keep building on the resource list!

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