Development and evaluation of the sex positivity inventory for counselors




Burks, Ashley

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Sexuality is highly stigmatized and typically accompanied with shame-inducing attitudes, misinformation, and behaviors which make seeking sexual wellness a daunting task (Iantaffi, 2016). Despite the challenges of accessing sexual wellness, research shows several mental health correlations to sexual wellbeing that contribute to happiness, socioemotional development, and overall wellness (Anderson, 2013; Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004; Pariera, 2018). Unfortunately, sexuality is not addressed in many counselor preparation programs which leaves counselors underprepared and potentially apprehensive of addressing sexual issues with clients (Burnes et al., 2017a; Sanabria & Murray, 2018; Talley, 2020). Instead, researchers and advocates are now calling for a new approach to counselor education called sex positivity (Cruz et al., 2017; Mosher, 2017; Phillips, 2022). Sex positivity is an approach for addressing sexual issues in counseling that includes an emphasis on strengths and wellbeing, acknowledges individuality and embraces multiple ways of knowing, upholds professional ethics, promotes open, honest, humanizing, and peacemaking communication, and explores the impact of sexuality across multiple levels of the social structure (Williams et al., 2015). Incorporating this type of approach in counseling is important because it reflects the counseling professional and ethical values and prepares counselors to address sexual issues with clients in a useful and humanizing way (Burnes et al., 2017b; Cruz et al., 2017). However, research on sex positivity is limited and mainly conceptual in nature (Bloom et al., 2019; Litam & Speciale, 2021; Neuer Colburn & Upton, 2019). This means that definitions of sex positivity and approaches for implementing sex positivity are lacking in empirical evidence (Ivanski & Kohut, 2017). To address these issues, I developed and analyzed the Sex Positivity Inventory for Counselors (SPI-C) using Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). The goal of this study was to clarify the definition of sex positivity and illuminate sex-positive attitudes, knowledge, and skills. The EFA results supported a six factor, 34-item scale of sex positivity that accounted for 32.9% of the variance. The factors included Procedural Sex Positivity, Comfortability with Sexuality, Perceived Sex Positivity, Fundamental Sex Education, Sexological Worldview, and Unconditional Positive Sexual Regard. The SPI-C had an excellent internal consistency of 0.96 meaning it is suitable for future research. The findings of the SPI-C support Williams and colleagues’ (2015) conceptualization of sex positivity. Additionally, the SPI-C illuminates basic educational needs (Abbott et al., 2015; Reissing & DiGuilio, 2010; Zeglin et al., 2018), the need for comfortability to discuss sexual issues (Kelsey et al., 2013; Mercer & Dermer, 2020; Miller & Byers, 2012), and useful practices to establish competency in sexuality counseling (Cruz et al., 2017; Sanabria & Murray, 2018). The SPI-C will be a useful measure for inclusion in counselor education, improving counselor self-awareness and competency, and increasing empirically based research on sexuality counseling.



counseling, counselor education, multicultural competency, sex positivity, sexuality, wellness



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