Masters of Sex: What is Surrogate Partner Therapy?
As a psychotherapist, working with and specializing in sex and sexuality, I have had the honor of working with and observing the highly effective and life changing therapeutic process known as Surrogate Partner Therapy.
What is Surrogate Partner Therapy, you ask?
Well you may have seen the movie The Sessions, and perhaps the Showtime series Masters of Sex, and if so, you might have a basic idea already of what it is.
But as TV and film can be limited, its important to know there’s a lot more to the ideas behind this therapy.
Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) purports to help women and men who have had traumatic life or sexual experiences in their past, and/or people who have had trouble with sex, intercourse, or orgasm due to pain or other organic causes. Surrogate Partner Therapy can help with painful intercourse for women, body image, and learning to become comfortable with your sexuality, body, and helps deal with specialties such as disabilities etc.
But in my experience and observation surrogate partner therapy is so much more.
Often seen as strange, because the surrogate partner — who works in tandem with professionals like psychotherapists or psychologists — does get intimately involved with the client, and this, unfortunately, is seen as weird in our society, and in many cases downright unacceptable. But if you were having intimacy issues and trouble getting off the ground in sexual relationships, wouldn’t you want to know about a solution that could really help?
In a society where sexuality is already repressed, in the sense that we don’t quite feel comfortable talking about it, we’re constantly bombarded with sexy images, which leads to a nation of fetishizing, hiding, self shaming, and more, SPT can help society to shed some of this subtle repression, and in this way I do see that SPT is gaining more and more acceptance as people become more aware of it and it’s purpose.
If I could, I would have the clients that I have worked with write testimonials, but I can’t. As a therapist, I’m bound by confidentiality laws, of course, but what I’ve seen is that many frustrated, lonely, scared single and coupled people have gone on to live fully functioning and fulfilling adult lives full of sex, intimacy, and all the other joys (and pitfalls, too) that go along with having satisfying long term relationships. Surrogate Partner Therapy is not just about sex, it’s a process in which individuals can learn to have successful long term relationships not just with other, but with sex, and most of all with themselves.
What makes SPT more effective than sex therapy alone? Sex therapy is generally talk-therapy based, and though many people achieve a lot of succes via insight and have the ability to manifest and make changes on their own, some people find the limitations that brought them into therapy in the first place often prevent them from moving forward without some physical role modeling and practical experience.
Sex therapy via talk therapy focuses on theories, but putting them into practice is left solely up to the client. Another limitation of talk therapy is when individuals come into therapy alone. We as individuals are hard pressed to make changes by insight alone, coupled with the fact that often we may be blind to our own limitations. We cannot properly disclose issues we are unaware of. Couples, family, and group therapy therefore provide the therapist with a bigger picture of the dynamic the client has in social, family, work and other settings in which he or she reports having concerns. Surrogate Partner Therapy provides the client with a one-on-one personal guide and partner towards healing.
Consider a woman who has pain during intercourse, or painful intercourse. This seemingly small yet significant fact prevents her from going on dates, it prevents her from even talking to men, it even prevents her in many cases from making eye contact or associating with men altogether. The fear is always there. She cannot close the deal because she’ll suffer in pain, and this brings a great deal of embarrassment, humilitaion and shame.
This in turn has a profound effect on her self esteem. She doesn’t feel like a whole woman. She’s missing out on life experiences. After working with a surrogate partner who provided her a safe space to explore, expand, grow, and develop her interpersonal skills, whether they be sexual, physical, or emotional, she now not only experiences wetness, pleasure and arousal during sex; she feels safe in her own skin. Surrogate Partner Therapy provided her with not only the corrective physical experience, but the corrective emotional experience as well.
Consider the man who suffers from erectile dysfunction or premature/rapid ejaculation. He’s very much affected in the same way to his core. It affects every aspect of his life from dating to meeting women, to having successful and satisfying relationships. It develops into low self esteem, depression, and low confidence. SPT can alleviate all these symptoms by dealing with some core issues.
Surrogate Partner Therapy is not for social or sexual outcasts either, just about everyone I know, no matter how liberated and open minded, could probably benefit from SPT, or at least exposure to some of the concepts. SPT combines concepts found in sex research — think Masters and Johnson’s Sensate Focus — a set of specific sexual exercises for couples or for individuals aimed at increasing personal and interpersonal awareness of self and the other’s needs, and to focus on their own varied sense experience, rather than to see orgasm as the sole goal of sex.
This is combined with some more new age-styled and Eastern philosophies, such as mindfulness, meditation, and breathing, staying in the present moment, focusing on the breath and ultimately focusing on the body. The long term effects of Surrogate Partner Therapy are not just that it improves your sex life and intimate relationships, but can improve your dating life, your relationships with friends, and family, your relationship with your career, and so on. By learning to become truly connected to your sexuality, through your mind and body you open doors that you never even knew were closed.
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Experts, Y. (2018). Masters of Sex: What is Surrogate Partner Therapy?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 6, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/masters-of-sex-what-is-surrogate-partner-therapy/