For people with sexual problems, the Kinsey Institute's Sexual Health Clinic offers a rare opportunity for comprehensive treatment that considers both physical and psychological factors. At the same time, the clinic provides a setting where counselors and other professionals can be trained in this psychophysiological approach to treating sexual dysfunction.
"This holistic approach is being squeezed out of existence by the current health care system," says John Bancroft, head of the clinic and director of the Kinsey Institute. Carol McCord, a medical social worker who trained with Banroft, notes, "By training students in this integrated approach, we are helping to ensure that these important clinical skills are not lost."
The Sexual Health Clinic provides diagnostic assessment, counseling, and treatment in a variety of areas from loss of sexual interest to gender identity. "Sometimes clients think they are the only people who have a particular sexual problem," says Nicholas Lofthouse, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology. "When we give them information about the problem, it helps to normalize the condition for them -- they realize their problem isn't so unusual and that it can be treated."
Lofthouse and Jack Stevens, another doctoral student in clinical psychology, are participating ina practicum at the Sexual Health Clinic under the direction of Cynthia Graham, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology and a trained sex therapist. Lofthouse, Stevens, and Shelia Garos, an intern with IU's Counseling and Psychological Services, see patients either in cotherapy or under the supervision of the clinic staff, which includes Bancroft, McCord, and Graham. Other participants in clinical traning are Neil Carnes, a master's degree student in counseling in the School of Education; Meredith Reynolds, who holds a postdoctoral position at the Kinsey Institute; and Jennifer Bass, a research associate at the institute.
Central to the interdisciplinary approach to treating sexual problems are weekly supervision sessions where clinic staff and students meet to discuss ongoing cases. "We draw from all the areas of expertise represented by our staff to develop the best treatment plan for each client," McCord says.
These are dynamic, energetic sessions where everyone is engaged," Lofthouse says. "As a result, the sessions are a wonderful learning opportunity." Prior to the practicum, Lofthouse and Stevens passed the qualifying exams for the Ph.D., including a specializaiton in human sexuality. "It's very interesting to apply information I learned for the exams to real cases. Problems are not as pure and simple in the real world as they are in the textbooks.
"This training in a comprehensive approach to sexual therapy will be invaluable to me in the future," says Lofthouse. "I'm interested in pusuing a career that involves teaching, research, and clinical practice, and this is an opportunity to work with some of the top people in the field."
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