You can read about my professional boundaries, sexological bodywork and somatic sex education as disciplines at the Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers. Sessions are client-directed, erotic touch is one-way (practitioner to client), and gloves are used for genital touch. I am aware of the potential for erotic attraction within the client-practitioner relationship and ensure the focus is on the clients’ growth and learning.
A teacher of Somatic Sex Education, Caffyn Jesse, writes that talk therapy helps people develop “great insight into trauma and neglect they have experienced. But we can have all the insight in the world, and still feel paralyzed when it comes to experiencing joyful sex, asking for what we want sexually, and living our particular and ever-shifting sexual identities with confidence and peace. Embodied practices engage with our autonomic nervous system’s unconscious processes, so we can undo the effects of trauma and neglect at the cellular level.”
On Trauma and Somatic Sex Education
Working with sexuality and sexual difficulties often encounters trauma, be it sexual trauma, childhood trauma, or a legacy of repressive cultural conditioning about sexuality, gender, race, and their intersections.
Although I am not certified in treating trauma, my training has included elements of Somatic Experiencing, EMDR-related tapping, and current neuroscience-based breath and mindfulness techniques. As both a student and a client, I’ve learned how to impact nervous system function and improve capacity for self-regulation. Current trauma studies show that trauma can be resolved by including touch, movement, making of sounds, placement of awareness in the body, and breathing techniques. Developing awareness of what embodied boundaries and consent feel like then practicing expressing them can also facilitate post-traumatic growth. By incorporating all of these skills and strategies, I create a fertile environment for somatic trauma healing to occur without focusing on underlying causes, thought patterns or narratives. For more information, please read Unwinding Trauma Through Touch, an essay by Caffyn Jesse, a teacher of Somatic Sex Education and the author of Science for Sexual Happiness: A Guide to Reclaiming Erotic Pleasure.
I am familiar with how a trauma response feels in my own body and use top-down and bottom-up methods to return to a responsive, regulated state. Working with clients, I attune to their nervous systems and observe when they enter a trauma response or start heading in that direction. I teach basic bottom-up somatic tools to deal with the impact of trauma through nervous system regulation. I provide time and space for my clients to recover from their immediate response and, understanding what is out of scope for my practice, I leave the top-down processing aspects for you to work with.
I do not intend for my clients to have big cathartic experiences. I work with them to take little sips of discomfort and then sips of resources to pendulate and thereby increase their window of tolerance to distress. This is one way that I can support the work you might be doing with your client.
Although I have resources and techniques for addressing trauma responses, please do not send me your clients who are in acute crisis. My work is most useful to clients whose life situations are stable and have sufficient emotional support systems in place to foster growth.
For Therapists who do not specialize in sex therapy
Are your clients uncomfortable talking about sex with you or are you are uncomfortable talking about sex with your clients? Perhaps you don’t know how to answer clients’ questions or concerns about sexuality/sexual function and would like more resources.
For example, maybe your client wants to talk about topics that you may not yet have the training, experience, skills, or cultural competency to work with them on:
- anal sexuality
- LGBTQ folks/people figuring out gender or orientation issues
- other topics around sexually minoritized communities/experiences
Maybe you realize that you need to refer out, but your client does not want to see another talk-only therapist or sex therapists aren’t available in your area. Maybe your client is having sexual challenges that do not meet the criteria for sending them to a sex therapist, but professional support would still be useful to them, like:
- learning about their own anatomy, pleasure and improving their solo-sexual skills / masturbation
- learning about consent and practicing sexual communication skills
- having support while shopping for sex toys
- having embodied experiences of gender euphoria
- learning in their bodies about ejaculation, ejaculation choice, and erectile satisfaction and confidence
As with other therapeutic models, the client has the choice to share with you, and can sign a release if communication between us is useful and desired.
For All Therapists
Does your therapy practice preclude you working with clients while they experience arousal? Perhaps you’ve addressed the trauma, relational, and developmental issues your client presented with, but they are still experiencing challenges with their sexuality or sexual function.
Maybe your client
- needs support that you cannot offer them without crossing your professional boundaries.
- is not aware of sensations in their body and/or is uncomfortable with touch in general.
- goes home with assignments to do with their partner(s) but doesn’t do the assignments.
- has difficulty noticing what consent feels like in their body or has challenges navigating boundaries around touch and would benefit from practice.
- is not comfortable being naked or with how their body looks in the mirror.
- would benefit from support in learning how to be present in their body while keeping their genitals, arousal, and sexual pleasure as part of the conversation.
- could benefit from working in a triadic model with a touch-inclusive somatic practitioner.
- doesn’t know what kind of sexual touch they like, and desires a low pressure environment to experiment, independent of their partnered relationships.
- would benefit from bringing awareness to and/or changing breathing patterns to improve nervous system self-regulation.
- is so touch deprived that sessions with massage therapists are uncomfortably erotic.
Sexological Bodywork enables work with individuals or couples while they do exercises with each other, even if they’re clothing optional or involve genitals. I can help your clients
- develop somatic awareness.
- notice what consent feels like in their body.
- listen to what their body is asking for.
- communicate their body’s requests.
- change their requests as necessary when they notice a shift in their body’s response.
- develop a felt sense of safety while experiencing arousal and erotic touch.
I do not offer sexual surrogacy. I keep my clothes on, and touch is one-way. My clients don’t learn on my body. With me, they learn to bring more sexual awareness to their own bodies and bring another person with them to learn hands-on partnered sexual skills.
I use my hands to provide touch to clients only after they can identify what consent feels like in their body. I encourage them to listen to their internal boundaries and teach them how to verbally communicate about consent. When they request genital touch and it is relevant to their learning objectives, I wear gloves and follow STI harm reduction safety protocols. I do not work from a place of sexual attraction to my clients. I do not project my sexuality, sexual attractions, or repulsions onto clients. I work within a strict ethical code that specifies that I do not date clients or engage in sexual relationships with them. These procedures are made clear to clients throughout our work together.
I am happy to work in a triadic model, if you and your client would find it useful. In that context, I can observe what is happening when a client experiences touch or arousal and update you after each session via phone or email. You would also have the option to share with me anything you think I should know. This would require signed consent forms. Alternatively, we can work independently, and our client can choose what they share with us.
For Sex Therapists
I am able to support clients working through issues around:
- Erectile control (ED)
- Ejaculation choice (PE)
- Some compulsive sexual behaviors*
- Arousal non-concordance between partners
- Dissociation during sexual activities with or without gender dysphoria
- Medication side effects
I create the most benefit for clients who aren’t expecting a quick fix and are open to a longer process that includes developing embodiment skills and personal growth.
*I am comfortable working with a subset of clients who present with compulsive sexual behaviors. I agree with Dr. David Ley that not all behaviors labeled as sexual addiction can be resolved through an addiction model. For example, I don’t consider porn-watching in itself to be inherently problematic. However, if someone’s experience is of compulsive sexual behaviors that are not satisfying, I can support them in slowing down, being present in their whole body, and noticing more subtle pleasures. Through mindful masturbation techniques and healthy porn use (see Joseph Kramer’s PornYoga.com), I can guide them towards developing a relationship with their sexuality that they feel good about, that is in integrity for them, and doesn’t require abstinence. This approach yields positive results with my clients. It combines increased somatic awareness with de-shaming and shame resilience, without pathologizing their experience.