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Decoding Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) Through The Mind Of A Sexologist

The Sessions (2012), an American film based on the 1990 article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate" by Mark O'Brien, a poet paralysed from the neck down due to polio, was unique and bold, mainly for the audacity to make a film on such a topic. For a layman, it would be difficult to understand the process of sexual surrogacy or surrogate partner therapy at first impression. Surrogate Partner therapy, in its entirety, is too multifaceted as a concept and has to be understood sensitively.

The practice of Surrogate Partner Therapy, according to the International Professional Surrogate Association (IPSA), founded by Sex Researchers, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, is a three-way therapeutic relationship, known as The Triadic Model, between a licensed therapist and/or medical professional, the client or a couple, and a surrogate partner (teacher).

This clinical process is for clients with sexual, relationship and intimacy concerns; as well as a host of other issues such as trauma: physical or emotional, sexual abuse survivors, body dysmorphia, mental, physical and behavioural challenges and also, little or no experience with intimacy. There are many others which can be found in the book: Am I Normal If? written by Dr. Susan Kaye.

Shitij Rao spoke to Dr. Susan Kaye PhD and Dr. Anita Shyam MD about Surrogate Partner Therapy and its evolution and intricacies.

Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) is conducted by trained professionals who are connected with the clients through the psychotherapist or medical professional. SPTs augment therapeutic changes by various methods and tools for identifying the disconnections in being comfortable with sex, dating, intimacy and their own bodies. The client’s psychotherapist or a medical professional provides clinical and other necessary information to the surrogate partner about the client and the three work in tandem through verbal and written communication for “holistic” (which is both talk “neckup” and touch “neckdown”) healing of the client. The psychotherapist or the physician takes part in physical sessions between the surrogate and the client. Notes regarding each session are shared between the “team” which is the therapist professional, the medical professional and the surrogate professional.

Surrogate partners are trained and certified professionals. Surrogate partners collaborate with other professionals hand in glove throughout the process and mutually support clients to gain a deeper perspective of intimacy (into-me-cee) through physical healing and mental counseling.

What is Surrogate partner and Surrogate Partner Therapy?

Shitij tried to comprehend the topic for our readers. Dr. Kaye says “It is pertinent to understand this topic from the client's point of view. I have had clients from the ages of 20’s to their 80’s. One 55 year old male virgin who completed our program found a partner and we were invited to their wedding!”

“Over the years they have even had babies named after us,” she continues.

'PT as a concept was started for men and mostly men seek SPT. We try to understand our patients psychology and advocate change through better communication, both verbal and physical, along with certain behavioural changes augmented by the referring psychotherapist or the physical interventions by the referring physician. Our work is a team approach, a wrap-around service to guide clients to understand their vulnerabilities and support them in becoming more comfortable with their bodies and the body of another,” said Dr. Kaye and Dr. Anita.

“SPT involves many hands-on activities which are taught to couples and/or individuals. A therapist or medical professional can talk, write treatment plans and give advice but a SPT can be a coach, educator, mentor and guide. They can be a valued asset in a Hospital and clinical setting,” added Dr. Anita.

When asked about the legality of SPT in the United States, where Dr Susan practices, she said, “ It is ambiguous at the moment, there is no law which says it is valid and none which says it is not valid or legal, which places us in a legal gray area. It has been that way since the 1960’s when first practiced by the renowned medical doctor, Dr. William Masters, Sex Researcher and pioneer of using and teaching his therapy model which at that time he called Sex Surrogate Therapy.”

This therapy's methodology is stated as having four phases to ensure a successful treatment:

Emotional connection: Surrogate Partner Therapy begins with the surrogate verbally connecting and bonding with the client, creating a comfortable environment, and addressing boundaries and expectations. During this stage, both the surrogate and the client can get to know each other as individuals and develop a meaningful, heart centered relationship. She is a guide and a teacher. This first stage is critical in making the client feel at ease with this style of treatment and creating a solid foundation for developing emotional closeness.

Sensuality: The next step is to investigate the client's sexuality. This phase may include physical touch to assist the client in overcoming their sexual anxieties and blocks to connect to their own bodies as well as the bodies of a partner. At this step, the surrogate may work with the client on both verbal and physical practices to allow them to feel comfortable in their own body and next to someone else's body, which may include embracing or cuddling.

Sexuality: The surrogate and client focus on sexuality in the third step, which can include: Physical touch, sex education, what is their turn on and turn off, and if needed for the very last session, intercourse. The average number of sessions are between 10 and 12 and mostly 2 hours in length.

Closure: The fourth step is closure; once an acceptable goal is achieved as planned by the team members of the Triadic model, the therapy is ended, the surrogate and the client are to have no further contact or interaction. However, if further clinical needs arise, client is welcome to return to the referring therapist or the medical team.

According to these two experts men are accustomed to hide their feelings, especially fear and especially around relationships and intimacy! Societal stereotypical notions about being ‘manly’ should not stop a person (we now have male and female surrogate partners) from seeking guidance from a therapeutic or medical professional. Surrogate Partner Therapy is designed to guide seekers with relationship questions and concerns. The process begins with themselves. What we call “you with you.” In this process with our clients, we are on a journey to discover what we call “Plain Damn You.” How can we share ourselves “intimately” when we are unaware or disconnected from our own physical, mental or emotional well-being? Consult with your physician or a recommended psychotherapist. You are worth it! Your relationship's future may depend on it.”

Read Dr. Kaye’s book: Am I Normal If? We were designed to love and be loved….love spelled backwards is “evol-ve”.

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