Is surrogate partner therapy legal and ethical?
No state has any laws which prohibit surrogate partner therapy. In California, at least two cases involving a therapist referring to a surrogate partner were reviewed by the CA State Licensing Review Boards and in each case the board determined that no unethical behavior was present. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, Kamala Harris of the Alameda County DA’s Office (and later, California Attorney General) stated unequivocally, ”If it’s between consensual adults and referred by licensed therapists and doesn’t involve minors, then it’s not illegal.” Additionally, in August 2010, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) affirmed that if the surrogate partner is properly trained and educated, surrogate partner therapy is not unethical.
How many IPSA Certified Surrogate Partner Therapist are currently working?
There’s only 28 in the United States and half of them are gay male surrogates working with gay male clients.
Would Surrogate Partner Therapy be helpful for me?
Are you feeling uncomfortable with your sexual orientation or gender? Are you dealing with insecurity and/or lack of experience with all things sexual? Are you afraid of not being able to perform sexually the way you want to? Are you struggling with long-standing physical or emotional issues with sex? Do you need help building skills for dating or for satisfying intimate relationships? If the answer to any of these is “Yes,” then Surrogate Partner Therapy might be helpful for you.
If I want to work with a Surrogate Partner, do I also need to have a therapist?
Yes. The involvement of a therapist is a cornerstone of this team therapy process. Sessions with your therapist are interwoven with your sessions with surrogate partners such as Tamar. If you are not already working with a mental health professional, Tamar can help you connect with a therapist who is supportive of this work. She is also happy to speak with you briefly on the phone or by email correspondence to answer questions about the process and help you make an informed decision regarding whether or not to seek out this form of help.
What can I expect from this work? How is it structured?
In general, trust, comfort, relaxation and communication are the best foundations for healthy sexual functioning. As they are also the basis for most satisfying intimate relationships, therapy starts by building those qualities together. Then, depending on your needs, sufficient time will be spent helping you learn to get more pleasure from giving and receiving sensual touches. Some sessions may include sexuality education, social skills coaching, coping skills counseling or whatever else you need to experience within a relationship. All of this will happen in the context of growing self-awareness and sexual self-confidence. It may take a lot of reprogramming to pay attention to the deep inner core of your erotic nature and to find satisfying ways to express it with another person. Many people are caught in constricting interpersonal expectations, self-sabotage or pre-programmed sexual behaviors. You can expect to be led safely, patiently and without judgment to your own desires, both emotional and physical, as the source of pleasurable sexual relating. Most importantly, you’ll experience improved emotional and authentic physical responses. Eventually you will reach a point where you feel ready to begin new relationships with partners of your own choosing using your therapeutic experiences as a positive model.
What is the role of the Therapist in this triad model of intensive therapy?
What the client has already learned–and what they are striving for in life–guides all of us in the triad. We listen hard for what they are ready for next. The therapist’s job is to hold the through-line of intention before, during and after the Surrogate Partner Therapy process. In addition, the therapist maintains a keen awareness of the client’s individual strengths and weaknesses. There may be anxiety or ungrounded excitement at the beginning and fear of change may arise at any point in the process. The therapist’s job is to anchor these emotions as they arise and guide the client in their inner growth and behavioral intentions. The therapist provides outside perspective. When issues come up in the relationship, as they should, the therapist helps identify the most useful working edges for the client.
What is the role of the Surrogate?
The client must be able to depend on the surrogate to hold steady to the therapeutic process so there is always a level of emotional safety, even when challenging issues arise. Through modeling sexual self-awareness, sexual behaviors and desires are normalized, as well as any anxieties that may accompany them. Initiating patient and persistent desensitization can gradually free the client from triggers to anxiety or shame. The surrogate builds layer upon layer of positive sensual experiences, mostly through the teaching and partnering in the successive practices of Sensate Focus, in order to overcome memories of past traumatic experiences and/or build confidence in a new, more pleasure-centered, sensation-based sexual expression. During the therapy period, the surrogate is frequently reflecting for the client in developing awareness skills and then reporting their observations to the therapist. From this inside view, the surrogate articulates what is and isn’t happening in the relationship–witnessing the struggles and the triumphs, and celebrating the successes as they happen along the way. As the process continues, they set the stage, teach the skills and become the other player in a variety of learning games involving intimate body experience. In subtle ways, they become whatever kind of partner the client needs in order to take the internal steps of mental, emotional, psychological and sexual growth.