What is surrogate partner therapy?

Surrogate partner therapy is a modality of somatic therapy that helps a client overcome relational and sexual challenges, following a triadic structure: the client meets regularly with both a surrogate partner — sometimes referred to in the media as a “sex surrogate” or “sexual surrogate” — to practice hands-on partnership skills, and a therapist, to process and integrate their learnings.

What types of issues does surrogate partner therapy seek to address?

A transfeminine non-binary person and transmasculine gender-nonc

Every surrogate partner has different areas of expertise — the areas listed below are ones I’m passionate about:

  • recovering from sexual abuse and trauma
  • exploring one’s sexual or gender identity
  • exploring one’s body and sexuality after a significant change (e.g. surgery, a physical accident, a breakup or divorce, coming out as LGBTQIA+, losing a loved one, receiving a positive STI result)
  • overcoming social anxiety, particularly in dating and relationships
  • learning healthy consent practices
  • learning how to achieve orgasm
  • learning how to delay orgasm or maintain arousal for longer
  • inexperience with dating and relationships
  • overcoming dependency on porn (aka “porn addiction“)
  • letting go of sex-shaming religious and cultural narratives

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection. broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

How long does surrogate partner therapy take and what is the schedule like?

NB_stockphoto2

There is no predetermined length to the surrogate partner therapy process — each journey is as unique as the person taking it. You, your therapist, and I will have regular check-ins on your goals and progress throughout the work, and we will decide together when you are ready to ‘graduate.’ Typically, the process takes at least six months of weekly sessions, with an average of about one year. Some factors that can affect the duration:

  • your goals
  • frequency of our sessions
  • how long you’ve been seeing your therapist
  • your experience with other therapies and forms of healing

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection. broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

Schedule

The typical schedule for surrogate partner therapy is either weekly or bi-weekly:

  1. Client and surrogate partner meet
  2. Surrogate partner and therapist discuss session on phone and plan for next session
  3. Client and therapist meet to process session and discuss other areas of client’s life

Some surrogate partners offer intensives: time-contained surrogate partner therapy in which the client and surrogate meet for longer sessions several days in a row. I have found  that intensives leave clients feeling unsatisfied with the results and both of us feeling drained, so I am not offering intensives at this time. That being said, if you have a limited time frame or budget, I’m open to discussing meeting for a limited number of sessions.

What isn’t surrogate partner therapy?

NB_stockphoto_3

Surrogate partner therapy is not:

  • Indefinite: I will never be your actual girlfriend — I’m like a cute sidekick who helps you learn the skills you need so you can then take them out into the world and blow everyone away with your awesomeness
  • All about sex: It’s about relationships, communication, self-awareness, and slowing down. After a few months, my clients typically see changes in all their relationships — family, friends, coworkers — not just romantic ones.
  • Quick and easy: Surrogate partner therapy takes some real personal work. There’s a reason it’s supported by a therapist — the intimacy and vulnerability of being in relationship can touch on some of our deepest wounds.

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection. broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

How do I decide if surrogate partner therapy is right for me?

photo-by-kelly-sikkema-on-unsplashI always suggest talking to your therapist about it to start. (If you don’t have one yet, you’ll need one before we start working together — you can find more info on that here). Your therapist can help you decide if surrogate partner therapy is a good fit for you. If they’re unfamiliar with the work, send them my way. I’m always happy to talk to new therapists about surrogate partner therapy and guide them through the process.

Sometimes, just talking with your therapist about the challenges you’re facing can help. Sometimes, you may find you need actual practice — that’s where surrogate partner therapy comes in. Surrogate partner therapy provides a unique opportunity to learn and practice relationship skills in a contained, safe(r) space with a partner. At every step of the way, I’m engaging in the work alongside you; over time, we build a loving, trusting peer relationship.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

How do I know if you’re the right surrogate partner for me?

headshot4-1First things first, read through the “My Practice” page to learn about my values and practice, and to make sure you’re located close enough to work with me. You can also check out my blog and Instagram to get to know me a little better.

Next, talk to your therapist to discuss what you’re looking for in a surrogate partner. Here are a few blog posts that you might find helpful:

If you’ve read through my website and you feel ready to work with me, contact me to get started.

Where can I find other surrogate partners?

The International Professional Surrogates Association (IPSA), the organization I trained with, has a referrals service. You can find a map of all active IPSA-certified surrogate partners here, or contact IPSA’s referrals coordinator here. If you’re located in the UK, there’s also a clinic called ICASA (I don’t know much about them so can’t verify the quality of their services).

If there are no surrogate partners in your area, I recommend looking for a Somatic Sex Educator or Sexological Bodyworker in your area (see below).

What other modalities might I look into?

Somatic Sex Education and Sexological Bodywork are two modalities I encourage many clients to look into. They are both forms of sexual healing work that share many concepts with surrogate partner therapy, but they differ from it in that they 1) include only one-directional touch and 2) don’t require the involvement of a therapist.

If what you’re really seeking is just sex, you’re probably looking for an escort. Unfortunately, prostitution is illegal in most parts of our country. (If you want to support the fight to change that, consider donating to the sex worker support group I’m part of – Bay Area Workers’ Support – or badass organizations like DecrimNY.) I can’t say much more about this topic here, but I would encourage you to check out Switter if you want to find conversations about it.

What are your fees? Do you offer sliding scale spots?

Check out My Practice for more information on my fees and sliding scale options.

What does a typical surrogate partner therapy session look like?

Each of our sessions will involve a mix of mindfulness, touch- and movement-based exercises, play, and communication. Each session looks different for every client, and we’ll mold your work to fit your needs and desires.

Check out the videos below for examples of some of the foundational exercises of surrogate partner therapy.

May I//Will You

A communication and touch game that helps us develop better awareness of our boundaries.

Sensate focus

Sensate focus is the core methodology of surrogate partner therapy. It helps us learn to touch our partner with groundedness and self-awareness.