Thank you for your interest in Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT). SPT is very similar to human connection coaching but with different boundaries. Both modalities help clients overcome issues around human relating. Surrogate partner therapy focus on the sexual AND non-sexual sides of intimacy. Human connection coaching focuses ONLY on the non-sexual side of intimacy.
There are many ways Surrogate Partners practice Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT). For myself:
• I see SPT as a modality most effective when the client is well established with a mental health professional and continues after our work is completed for as long as needed to process the completion of our work together.
• I value the attachment nurtured between the surrogate partner (SP) and the client as part of the healing modality. This is why I feel a mental health professional is essential in the triadic model. The clinician positioned outside of the relationship allows reframing and generalization of feelings that occur within the client-SP relationship. This objective view is, at times, impossible for me, as the surrogate, to communicate and is essential for client growth.
• I approach the work as both a trained practitioner and as a vulnerable human being who has authentic feelings and responses when relating to another. That authentic connection is also part of the healing modality.
• I’m committed to engaging with my clients from a place of boundaried compassion.
• Outside of this therapeutic and triadic model, I offer other modalities of work with clients, such as cuddling and intimacy coaching, in a much more limited container. That work is not SPT, has different goals than SPT, and is not a substitute for SPT. These other options are an offering of different modalities for individuals with different needs.
What is Surrogate Partner Therapy?
Surrogate Partners work with a clinician (therapist) and their mutual client to form a triad/team. SPT is a hands-on supplemental modality used to model and practice healthy relationship, communication, and intimacy skills.
Where did Surrogate Partner Therapy Start?
The first surrogate partners were enlisted to assist Masters and Johnson in sensate focus exercises with single clients in the 1960s. The clients working with surrogates showed better outcomes than those working with their partners.
Do I need to be a sex therapist to refer to a Surrogate Partner?
Some clinicians that work with Surrogate Partners are Sex Therapists but many are not. I’m also open to working with Integrative Medicine Professionals.
Are Surrogates trained?
Surrogate Partners are trained professionals. That said, it’s important therapists do research and find the practitioners with the appropriate skills and background.
Who is Surrogate Partner Therapy For?
Generally, clients seek SPT because they experience obstacles to emotional or physical intimacy that prevent them from having healthy relationships. These obstacles may have physical indicators, such as orgasmic or erectile difficulty, genital pain, etc. while others are less immediately apparent. Clients often have a variety of backgrounds that contribute to difficulties in achieving healthy intimacy, such as a history of abuse or assault, lack of experience (sexually naïve/late-life “virgin”), social anxiety, issues surrounding orientation and identity as LGBTQIA+, or disability. Regardless of the obstacle, SPT addresses the whole person, rather than the symptoms.
The Arc of Surrogate Partner Therapy:
Before SPT, the client and therapist will have a well-established relationship. This not only ensures that the therapist is able to accurately assess if SPT is right for the client, but creates a rapport and foundation of trust that will be utilized throughout the client’s work with the surrogate.
As SPT is integrated into continued talk therapy, the work provides unique learning experiences and contexts inaccessible by talk therapy alone. Through these experiences, SPT supports clients in establishing somatic and emotional awareness, establishing healthy boundaries, and fostering communication skills, all of which within a context of trust, openness, acceptance, and permission.
If SPT is continued into the sensual and sexual phases, the work can highlight blocks around attraction, arousal, body image, social scripts, conflict, and other important relationship dynamics. The work can also address specific physical obstacles, arousal, shame, and expectations around sexual intimacy.
Work with a surrogate partner is concluded in a way that is mindful and respects the needs of the client. After direct work with the surrogate partner finishes, continued therapy helps the client process the work (including grief) in a supportive environment and apply the lessons to future relationships.
Is it Ethical to Recommend Surrogate Partner Therapy?
Yes. There are no therapeutic organizations that say it’s unethical to recommend SPT. In fact, many policies support collaboration when appropriate. For example:
AASECT Code of Ethics & Conduct: “When the certified member’s level of competence does not afford optimal benefits to the consumer, the Certified member shall, in a timely and efficient manner, recommend referral to better-qualified sources.”
APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct: “Psychologists consult with, refer to, or cooperate with other professionals and institutions to the extent needed to serve the best interests of those with whom they work.”
Ok, but is Surrogate Partner Therapy legal????
Yes. There are no laws against SPT. Neither SPs nor collaborating therapists have ever been prosecuted for the ethical application of Surrogate Partner Therapy.
Its is not illegal because any erotic or sexual touch is NON-TRANSACTIONAL.
In other words, the touch itself is not the service provided because it exists in a larger context of therapeutic work.
Surrogate Partner Therapy is an effective treatment for diverse obstacles to emotional and physical intimacy.
• Surrogate Partner Therapy offers safe, contextualized touch and relationship experiences. It also provides an opportunity for secure attachment and co-regulation, the prerequisite for self-regulation.
• SPT is a unique modality in which to explore relationship dynamics.
• SPT includes informed, professional guidance and real-world modeling.
• Surrogate Partners are patient and compassionate and offer a safe container in which to work which has ethical standards and professional checks and balances.
For more information about Surrogate Partner Therapy, please also visit SurrogatePartnerCollective.org.
Surrogate Partner Therapy in the media (not an exhaustive list at all)
Interested in either working together as a client or collaborating clinician, let’s connect!