The film "The Sessions," starring Helen Hunt, is inspiring a lot of curiosity. People keep asking me, "What exactly is a sexual surrogate?"
A sexual surrogate or surrogate partner therapist (SPT) is a person who works with clients to overcome sexual dysfunction and enhance relationships. The goals range from relieving anxiety around intimacy or dating to addressing specific concerns such as virginity, erection response, ejaculation timing, painful intercourse, inhibited desire or negative body image. Or the surrogate may try to facilitate more pleasure or overcome negative responses based on past traumatic experiences.
For anyone who has experienced changes resulting from a disability and does not have a partner to work with, the surrogate can help explore and develop sexual potential. Surrogates are not the solution merely for someone who cannot find a date — the goal of the relationship is to establish self-esteem through honest interactions and build confidence through hands-on practice. A surrogate partner is first an educator, second a facilitator and finally a practice partner who acts as a 'mirror' for her or his clients.
Surrogate partners differ from prostitutes in that they are professionally trained and work in a therapeutic situation comprised of client, surrogate and licensed supervising therapist (i.e. a licensed mental health professional). A surrogate usually feeds information back to both the client and therapist. Together surrogate, client and therapist work in a sort of therapeutic love triangle.
The three-way relationship is usually terminated by mutual agreement among the client, surrogate and therapist. Surrogates are responsible for preventing the transmission of HIV/STDs and conception.
Sound good? Finding a surrogate partner may be difficult if you don't live in California, Florida, New York, or Israel. Convincing your insurance company to cover this service may be even harder!
There are only a few dozen men and women who have been formally trained in surrogate partner therapy. When looking, I strongly recommend contacting the International Professional Surrogate Association and using someone who is a member and operates by IPSA's professional code of ethics. Otherwise, in this unregulated field, so it's buyer beware.
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