When the girls and I were throwing around blog ideas for Dirty and Thirty a hot topic was Sexual Surrogacy. I had never heard of it and my first thought was this is legalized prostitution. After doing some research I thought to myself, is this really that unconventional? I mean, we have therapy groups for EVERYTHING. There are therapists that claim they can hear what animals think, therapy to help us cope with death, therapy to help with eating disorders, therapy for alcoholics, therapy for people that were sexually abused as a child, and therapy for various obsessions. The list is endless. So I ask you, why not have therapy for people that may be 35 years old, a virgin and completely uncomfortable with him or herself. Why not help them become comfortable with their sexuality. Help them become comfortable with touch. Help them feel the excitement of a relationship and the pain of a breakup. Help them be comfortable to have a sexual experience in a safe environment.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Shai Rotem a certified surrogate partner for a one-on-one interview.
K: So what exactly is Surrogate Partner Therapy?
S: Masters and Johnson, the original practitioners of modern sex therapy first started using surrogate partners more than 60 years ago for single clients (clients without partners) who needed experiential learning. After having a high success rate working with couples, they realized that the success rate of therapy was very low for single clients who only met with verbal therapists in the traditional therapy model. Verbal therapy wasn’t enough for these clients. So, Masters and Johnson invented the role of the surrogate partner, training people to work with their single clients. A surrogate partner is a person who acts as the temporary partner of the client in this therapy model.
K: How come you can be intimate with your clients but a therapist can’t?
S: A licensed psychologist can’t touch the client – it is unethical according to their code of ethics. That is the major reason there are surrogate partners – touch is allowed in Surrogate Partner Therapy. A therapist can’t have two hats, we work together, the verbal therapist is having the talk therapy part with the client and the surrogate partner is having the experiential therapy with the client. For some people talk therapy is enough, some other people need the actual experience in order to heal.
K: Is this legalized prostitution?
S: When someone pays another person to have sex with them that is prostitution and illegal. When someone pays me they are paying for therapy and that is legal. Also, in some cases, the client’s issues require a focus on emotional intimacy and social skills – not sex.
K: How long was the training to become a certified surrogate partner?
S: One month training and two years of internship to become certified.
K: Who is “IPSA”?
S: IPSA is the International Professional Surrogate Association. It is the international organization which is responsible for:
1. Training practitioners to become certified surrogate partners.
2. Standardization of the clinical work in the field.
Here is the IPSA website: www.SurrogateTherapy.org
K: Who makes up the majority of clients, men or women?
S: There are more men referred to Surrogate Partner Therapy, around 80% men versus 20% women. For many men their sexuality is their identity, so when a man has a sexual concern, he will prioritize it. When a woman has issues with her sexuality she goes shopping, lunch with the girls or to the spa. In order to have babies we need men to have erections but we don’t need women to have orgasms. Many women with issues around intimacy and sexuality will deny it or will go to verbal therapy but will have some fears entering into Surrogate Partner Therapy. Men are more open to SPT, wanting to heal their issue.
K: Are you in a relationship? If so, does your line of work affect your relationship?
S: Yes, I’m in a relationship and it makes it better. I’ve been practicing communication skills and emotional skills for a long time. I know how to be sensitive to a woman. My partner is very supportive of my occupation. She thinks I’m an angel because I’m helping other women.
K: What might a client want to address?
S: Here’s an example; a 45-year-old virgin woman comes to surrogate partner therapy. What does this woman want? She wants to overcome anxiety. She wants to be comfortable with her own body. She wants to learn how to get in touch with her body. She wants to get in touch with her sexuality. Some people have never experienced this, or never had an opportunity to practice it in a safe space. The client wants to learn, heal and grow. With this type of therapy they can explore the relationship between a man and woman in a safe place. Every session is very well planned with me and with the verbal therapist according to the client’s needs and input. The client has full control over the therapy process.
K: What happens if the client gets attached to you?
S: We are human beings. We get attached. It’s a normal thing in relationships. The clients know the relationship is temporary. We encourage them to feel and get in touch with their emotions and feelings. We empower them. The client sees the verbal therapist and then they see me and it goes back and forth. One does not happen without the other. I talk with the therapist twice a week before and after I see the client. When a client gets to the last stage of the therapy process we (the therapist and I) prepare them for termination of the relationship with their surrogate partner and prepare them to create relationship in post therapy. At this stage we also practice dating skills with them. A surrogate partner is like a training wheel. When they find the balance we take the training wheels off.
K: So they are paying you to take them through all stages of a relationship?
S: Yes. In the beginning of therapy we focus on communication and creating rapport. Later, we teach them how to feel comfortable with touch, starting with holding hands and gradually moving to touching different parts of the body. In the therapy process we use structured and non-structured exercises, we as humans learn best in an experiential way.
K: Do you ever get attached to your clients?
S: Of course. In healthy human connection we get attached, it is an important part of every close relationship. The therapy is personal so we learn how to create healthy attachment, it is also an important component in the healing process.
K: How did you get into this field?
S: It started when I was 18. I kept attracting girlfriends that had issues around intimacy and sexuality. Our relationship helped them to heal. I had a couple of years that I attracted women who were sexually abused in their past and I was the first man they were able to trust. So later at the age of 26 I decided to work with women professionally, I took the surrogate partner’s training and started to work in conjunction with different therapists. Years later I found out there was sexual abuse in my family and it made me understand why I was attracting all of these women. I realize that I was born to do this.
K: Who can benefit from surrogate partner therapy?
S: Any person who is having difficulty in creating a satisfying relationship due to social, relational or sexual dysfunctions. We have special programs for people who were sexually abused, people with fears of intimacy, women with Vaginismus, men with erectile dysfunctions, men with early ejaculation, people with fear of touch and virgins.
K: How can people contact you?
S: My website is www.surrogatetherapy.net. Some potential clients contact me directly and others have their therapists contact me. Prior to Surrogate Partner Therapy, we have a three-way meeting between the prospective client, the therapist, and the surrogate in the therapist’s office. In this meeting, we determine if this therapy model is appropriate for the client.
This may not be conventional for some people and even a bit hard to wrap our minds around. I definitely feel more knowledgeable about surrogate partners and while it may not be something I would participate in, I’m glad it’s available to people who require this type of surrogate therapy.Written by Kimlai Yingling
Creator of EatinAsian.com