• Ania Schwartzman

How my experience of being a college sexuality counselor helps me in the work I do

During my junior year of college, I volunteered to be a counselor at our student sexuality clinic. There were no limitations as to who could become a counselor. The only requirement was that we had to participate in the week long training offered at school. We listened to speakers talk about sexuality, gender identity, and demonstrations on how to use contraceptives. As someone who had always been very,very shy about sexuality, I thought this experience was fascinating. Being a counselor forced me to reconsider any preconceived notions I carried about sexuality. I was encouraged to be openminded and not judge others for how they chose to live their lives. When a student came to speak to me about her experience as a dominatrix, I learned to control my facial expressions that may relay my shock. I learned how to listen. Listening may seem easy to some, but it truly is a skill that needs to be practiced. I practiced how to talk about subjects that made me feel uncomfortable. I can tell you that talking in depth about how to insert a female condom is not easy, especially to a group of co-ed freshmen. And I learned how to be discreet. This was especially useful since my college was small and most of the students that came to see us were the same students who lived in our dorm or we would socialize with at parties. I can assure you that when I was recognized as being a student sexuality counselor, the cocktail banter was certainly interesting.

The skills I learned as a sexuality counselor; listening, being nonjudgemental, keeping an open mind and being discreet are the core skills I use when working with clients. Each woman has her own set of values and beliefs that are reflected in the wardrobe choices she makes. The women I work with share their closets with me and through this they share their intimate secrets. They want to know that the information I gather is kept private. They also want to know that I won’t judge them for the choices they've made. When a woman shows me a dress she’s kept for 10 years because she hopes to one day fit into it again, I express my understanding by validating her needs and letting her know that as long as it serves her well, she will not be judged for keeping the dress. There are women whose style is very different than my own. My intention with these women is to find the clothing that expresses their own style. What I offer to them is an outsider perspective that communicates how their wardrobe is perceived by the world. If what I observe does not sync with their intention, we work together to make sure it does. And I do this with the very same skills I learned being a college sexuality counselor .


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