THE HEALING PATH
"Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers
within yourself that you have built against it."
In the 1970's, pioneering researchers in human sexuality Masters and Johnson developed Surrogate Partner Therapy as a way to help people overcome obstacles to social, emotional, and physical intimacy.
This form of therapy is always based on a team of three people: therapist, client and surrogate partner, who work together towards the client's goals. Often, a client begins their healing with a talk- based therapist and later a surrogate partner is invited into the team so the client can continue on their healing path. After an initial meeting between all three, the client meets separately with their therapist for continued talk-based psychotherapy and individually with their surrogate partner for talk and touch-based therapy. The surrogate partner and therapist each have a different vantage point and regularly communicate to share insights on how to best help the client.
Working with a surrogate partner is beneficial to both the client and therapist.
For the client, the relationship of trust, healthy communication, and mutual respect created with the surrogate partner serves as a foundation for future partnerships, offering a reminder of what is possible in life. Together they mutually participate in communication and touch-based exercises-- many of which are not possible in a talk therapy setting. Unlike a partner the client might find in the "real world," the surrogate partner is trained to guide the client through a series of structured, research-proven exercises. The pace is always within the zone of comfort for the client, creating the best possible chance of success.
For the therapist, the insights provided by the surrogate partner can be invaluable. The nature of the surrogate partner-client relationship challenges the client to show up in a different level of physical and emotional intimacy, often mirroring how they might act in a romantic relationship outside of therapy. The surrogate partner and therapist each share feedback after they meet with the client which can help the therapist identify patterns, cognitive distortions, and monitor progress towards the client's goals.
Why work with a
Who would you be
that is holding you back?
Most clients begin their healing journey with the help and guidance of a licensed psychotherapist or sex therapist. After establishing a baseline of stability, emotional awareness, communication skills, and resilience with the therapist, it may be time to put these skills into practice. If a client already has a partner with whom they can practice emotional and physical intimacy, that is usually the preferred route.
If a client doesn't have a romantic partner, however, the therapist may suggest inviting a trained surrogate partner into the therapeutic team, who will act as both a guide and peer in the process outline briefly below.
SEX EDUCATION, NUDITY & SENSUALITY
WORKING WITH EROTIC ENERGY
REFLECTION & CLOSURE
Tune in to emotions in the moment, practice consent, cultivate relaxation, speak with authenticity, experience non-sexual touch with mindful awareness
Debunk myths, ask the "silly" questions, enjoy a variety of non-sexual sensations, gradually develop comfort with mutual nudity
Not every client wants or needs this phase, but for those who do, it is an opportunity to work directly with sexual issues according to the client's goals
Celebrate successes and recall lessons from this transformative process. Closure is an essential step to transfer skills to a future relationship
and build resilience.
Sessions are usually 60-90 minutes, depending on the phase of the process. They may occur once a week, several times a week, or in an intensive format of several times a weekend or 3 hours a day for two weeks. It depends on the nature of the presenting problem, the client's location, and the availability of the supervising therapist. Please contact me to discuss possibilities.
While the content may change depending on where a client is in the process, each session includes a few key features: developing rapport and trust, relaxation and communication exercises, hands-on touch, and closure. Skills are broken into small, digestible pieces and are presented at a pace that is best for the client. Throughout the process, the surrogate partner and client build deep bonds of mutual respect and care, much like any healthy partnership. Tender feelings of care and affinity may develop, while still honoring the context of the relationship between professional and client.
After the process has completed, the client continues sessions with their therapist to integrate the experience, process any feelings of grief or loss due to their relationship with their surrogate partner ending, and harvest lessons learned. Additionally, the process may reveal new areas to be explored in talk therapy.
I primarily work with cisgender straight men, aged 25-55, of all abilities, backgrounds, and body types*. I am based in Washington, D.C. and am currently accepting clients as I complete my internship to become fully certified through the International Partner Surrogates Association, with special considerations given COVID.
This is heart-centered work for me and I love what I do. I am open to all kinds of individual stories, and I am particularly drawn to working with clients who are:
Survivors of trauma or sudden life changes
Adult virgins or those who have minimal relationship and/or sexual experience
People experiencing shyness, lack of confidence, or social anxiety
People working with sexual dysfunction or adjusting to changes in their body
Under most circumstances, Surrogate Partner Therapy is not appropriate for individuals who are currently in a relationship.
* While I am totally open to (and excited about!) working with women, non-binary folks, trans men and women, all sexual orientations and people outside the 25-55 age range, there may be a someone even better suited to working on a particular case within the surrogate partner community. The International Partner Surrogates Association (IPSA) can help connect you with the best surrogate partner or feel free to reach out to me for some suggestions. I am committed to each client's healing, even if that healing doesn't happen with me.
Hi! I'm Erika. I love connecting with people and being a part of their journey of learning and growth. So many people have shown me unending kindness, patience, acceptance, playfulness, and commitment in my journey and it is a joy for me to offer these same qualities to others in their journey.
I completed the first phase of surrogate partner training through the International Partner Surrogates Association. I have a short waitlist of clients as I complete the internship phase of the certification process. During this internship I am receiving additional supervision and guidance and am able to offer sessions at a discounted rate.
I believe in this power of this work and am happy to chat about it. Whether you are a potential client or collaborating therapist, don't hesitate to reach out to me with questions.