The Benefit of a Slower Pace

Surrogate Partner Therapy moves at a very measured pace. The first stage of the work is dedicated to building communication skills, building trust, learning to be present, and learning conscious touch. This slower pace has a great benefit: by the time we get to erotic work, we are comfortable with each other and we have some skills and can experience authentic connection.

Often I work with clients that have had some sexual experience. (Often times they haven’t had any, and that’s ok too.) But I bet they haven’t had the experience of a deeply safe and satisfying connection, or they probably wouldn’t be seeing me. Maybe they’ve had a few casual sexual encounters. Maybe they’ve only ever seen sex workers for their experience. Maybe they had a traumatic event or events in their lives that have affected how they can show up in relationships, especially sexual relationships.

Every client I see is unique. The work can look similar but it’s never “the same”. I meet clients where they are and with my toolbox, we create sessions that fill in any gaps or give them the education they never received. Many times the education is sex education, but often it’s body awareness education.

Yesterday I saw a client I’ve been working with since last summer. We’ve built a trusting relationship and we’ve done a lot of Wheel of Consent work, often asking ourselves, “Who is this for?” Other questions include:

How do I want to be touched?

How do I want you to touch me?

How do I want to touch you?

This session was our first erotic session. We’d moved into the next, and likely the last phase of our work. It was time to start putting all our skills together.

I love sending this video to clients early in the work. It helps them understand why we move at a slower pace:

In this video, Ilan Stephani talks about how the animal kingdom, specifically tigers, establish relationships. Ilan then compares it to the order we tend to establish relationships. I have this printed for my office to remind me why I do my work in the order and pace that I do!

This poster is in my office to remind me why I do my work the way I do, at a slower pace.

I share this video with my clients and I share that if we establish safety and proximity, the sex will come easily (assuming both want that kind of relationship). Sometimes I assume they are rolling their eyes in their head, thinking, “Yeah, sure. Can’t we just get to the thing I came to work on?!” But thankfully they trust me and we proceed.

Yesterday my client and I had a plan for our session, body and genital exploration. We would take turns, each having 30 minutes. I started by touching him. I touched for my curiosity and pleasure. There was no goal in this touch other than being present and curious. I had so much fun running my hands all over him. Did he enjoy it? Yeah, he did. But ultimately it was for me. I wouldn’t want him to just tolerate it. It’s important that it’s something that feels ok to him too. But what I’m not doing is looking for his reaction. This is a practice in direct pleasure. (Otherwise, it would be in-direct pleasure, when I’m getting my pleasure from his pleasure – which is ok but not the most efficient way to feel good. You can learn more by reading The Art of Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent by Betty Martin and Robyn Dalzen.)

At 30 minutes the timer went off and we switched places. He started his exploration and it felt amazing to me. While he was still touching me for his curiosity and pleasure, I was definitely reaping the benefits. I could feel my skin start to come online. It was waking up. First, a few little noises slipped out from between my lips. As his touch continued I let myself get lost in it. Before long my hips were rising to meet his touch, I was moving into his fingertips, my audible pleasure increased. I even felt the most delicious whole body orgasm move through me. The 30 minutes was delightful. When the timer went off, I laid there wanting to share some thoughts but my body was buzzing with so much electricity that I also didn’t want to say a thing. I gave myself a few more moments and then I put my practitioner hat back on.

“Do you see how that could have EASILY moved into other forms of sexual contact?”

We have safety, proximity and now it’s so easy to move into the touch/sex phase.

We both experienced so much fun and pleasure in this session. The slower pace really pays off, for both the client AND myself. Nothing beats a client with conscious touch. Why is it “conscious”? Because we know who it’s for. More on that in another post. 🙂

Interested in Surrogate Partner Therapy, check out the information on the front page and then schedule a call.

What is Human Connection Coaching?

Human connection coaching supports clients in experiencing secure attachment. Through secure attachment, past wounds can begin to heal and clients can recognize that feeling of safety out in the regular world and in future relationships.  In addition, human connection coaching supports clients in communicating boundaries, developing agency and a sense of empowerment in addition to discovering their needs and wants. 

Esther Perel says, “The quality of your life ultimately depends on the quality of your relationships.” I believe that not only means the quality of your relationship with others but also with yourself.

How my Life Experience Shapes my Work

In my own personal experience, having someone in my life who holds me with positive regard, believes in me, wants to hear what I have to say and who looks at me with affection, has granted me a mirror in which I can see myself through their eyes, leading, ultimately, to loving myself.

In the last 5 years of this work, I’ve been able to give that experience to others. I want my clients to feel loved the way I’ve felt loved. It took me 40 years to experience that feeling. I don’t want it to take you any longer than it already has.

Something I once wrote about my work: “My clients see me for so many reasons. I describe my work as human connection coaching. It’s about human contact. It’s about co-regulation of the nervous system. It’s about just connecting and feeling human. I’m not tied to your life. We can talk and I’m not going to get my feelings hurt because I’m just here to listen. I can help find your edges. I can help find your boundaries. I can help you practice asking for what you want. No request is criticized. I may not be a yes but I’ll never shame you.

Is Human Connection Coaching for you?

Human Connection Coaching sessions can focus on:

Personal empowerment

Self acceptance

Physical comfort

Communication skills

Alleviating loneliness

Intentional touch

Building safety

The list could go on and on.

Each client’s needs are evaluated individually. Here are a few initial questions to consider:

Are you looking for support that is emotionally and/or physically intimate but non sexual?

How would you like to feel after our first session?

What stops you from connecting the way you’d like to?

Are you looking for support with sexual intimacy, specifically?

Are you working with a therapist?

There are no right or wrong answers. These are all areas we would discuss when determining the best plan for you.

Where, How, and What Else

I work across the Mid-Atlantic including Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I also see monthly clients in San Diego and across Southern California.

I also offer cuddle therapy. Cuddle therapy is non-sexual, fully clothed and client-led. And guess what? These sessions don’t even have to include cuddling or touch! We start every session with, “How would you like to connect?” This is where my work started. Cuddlist, the premier professional cuddle training organization, has been my home since their start in 2015. Clients have found these sessions to be a safe space to experiment with human connection and human contact.

Sometimes my clients need more or something different. Maybe they need to have a plan that is more customized, includes more guided exercises and/or desire we work in collaboration with their therapist. Maybe they have specific sexual intimacy needs including coaching and sexual or relationship education… areas that tend to step outside the cuddle therapy container. I’m here for that too.

What I’m not here for is your entertainment. I love working with people and supporting them in their growth. I can be a huge yes to that! I won’t be a huge yes to less.

“But Michelle, aren’t I just paying you to be my friend?” That’s a great question! I love what I do! I get paid so that I can do what I love. I am so fortunate to walk through this world, supporting myself, while supporting my clients in meeting their goals. I come with a BIG toolbox of knowledge that I want to share with you. If I wasn’t getting paid to do this work, I’d be getting paid to do something else and not available to share what I know with you, to connect with you. So thank you for valuing me.

What’s your next step? Let’s connect and see how we feel about working together!

Additional information about surrogate partner therapy can be found here.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Michelle Renee (she/her) is a human connection coach.

Michelle Renee (she/her) introduces herself as an emotional support human.  She works within a spectrum of touch and connection as a Cuddlist® Certified Practitioner and an IMBT Trained Surrogate Partner.  Michelle is also a Certified facilitator of Cuddle Party®, a consent and communication workshop. A student of Betty Dodson, she occasionally facilitates female sexual empowerment and genital confidence workshops. 

Michelle is not a sex therapist but she is a sex geek, experienced in kink/BDSM, polyamory and other relationship structures.  Your weird isn’t weird to her.  In her world,  you’re normal.