Questions From Therapists

What happens in Surrogate Partner Therapy?

Through a fixed series of sessions, I work simultaneously on several fronts in order to help the client resolve issues of sexual functioning, and to integrate sensuality and sexuality into whole person development.

After an in-depth interview with the therapist and the client, and the formation of
the therapeutic team, I use the input of the team to design the structure of the sessions
to best meet the client’s expressed needs.

Typically, sessions will begin with relaxation and breathing, skills that are important in all satisfying relationships, and that are essential for male clients who have been struggling with the complexities of intimate relating with other men. In succeeding sessions, I focus on increasing skill development in the areas of sensual and sexual touching, and in simultaneously handling anxiety as it comes up. I encourage the client to stay present in his moment-to- moment body experience, as well as in his evolving emotional and fantasy life. Along the way, I teach and model body awareness and sexual self-confidence. As needed, sessions can include activities to clarify sexual and body information, roll plays, review and affirmation of belief structures, practice in communication and gay male dating behaviors, and graduated, conscious, consensual male/male sexual practice. All of this is targeted to the therapy’s overall goals.

What about the relationship? Is it safe for a vulnerable, transitioning, or highly anxious client? Is it useful as a therapeutic tool?

From the first meeting, through all the ups and downs of this delicate and time-limited relationship, including saying good-by in a mature and respectful way, my presence in the therapy process is intended to foster the client’s long-term goals. I am called in to help him do the personal work he needs and asks to do, and which cannot be done outside a real male/male relationship that includes physical touch, emotional interplay, and the potential for intimate body experience.

Through the relationship, he confronts his sense of self. He finds out what progress toward his goals feels like, and may uncover a new well of hope and courage he did not know he had. And at the very least, he will bring new questions and richer discussions to his on-going therapy.

In addition to teaching ways of touching and being touched, I have significant experience in staying present both for the client’s current feelings (to help him feel acknowledged, valued, and supported) and for his long-term goals (to help him continue to be challenged). I am involved personally in the relationship, and at the same time I sustain a strong container of awareness and skilled communication for all the confused feelings that come up. In this way, the relationship can model behaviors and attitudes of healthy and satisfying intimate interaction. As we engage in the full range of feelings and behaviors found in healthy intimate relationships, our relationship serves as a reference for future relationships.

“What the client in surrogacy gets that the client in psychotherapy doesn’t is the potential for physical touch, the potential for eroticism,” says Vena Blanchard, President of the International Professional Surrogates Association (IPSA). “The idea, the possibility of the intimacy puts pressure on the client in a clinically useful way. Their issues with eroticism emerge in a way that can be seen and resolved.”

What is the role of the Therapist in this team triad model of intensive therapy?

What the client has already learned about himself and what he is striving for in his life guide all of us in the triad. And both the therapist and I listen hard for what he is ready for next. But it is the therapist’s job is to hold the through-line of intention before, during and after the Surrogate Partner Therapy process. In addition, the therapist maintains a keen awareness of the client’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

There may be anxiety or ungrounded excitement at the beginning of the client’s relationship with me, and fear of change may arise at any point in the process. The therapist's job is to anchor and context these emotions as they arise, and guide the client in his inner growth and behavioral intentions.

I constantly seek the therapist’s outside perspective, while I work within the relationship to steer its course. When issues come up in the relationship, as they should, I count on the therapist to help me identify the most useful working edges for the client.

What is the role of the Surrogate?

As I work with the client, I am both personally effected by what is happening in the relationship, and at the same time hold steady to the therapeutic intention in order that there is always a level of emotional safety, even when challenging issues arise in the process.

Through my modeling of easy sexual self-awareness, I normalize sexual behaviors and desires, as well as the anxieties that may accompany them. Initiating patient and persistent successive desensitisation can gradually free the client from triggers to anxiety or shame. And I build layer upon layer of positive sensual experience, mostly through teaching and partnering in the successive practices of Sensate Focus, in order to bury memories of past traumatic experience, and/or build confidence in an new, more pleasure-centered, sensation-based sexual expression.

During the therapy period, I am frequently reflecting for the client where I see him in the development of awareness and the acquisition of skills, and then reporting my observations to the therapist. From my inside view, I articulate what is and isn't happening in the relationship. I witness the struggles and the triumphs, and celebrate the successes, in the moment, as they happen along the way.

As the process continues, I set the stage, teach the skills, and become the other player in a variety of learning games involving intimate body experience. In subtle ways, I become whatever kind of partner the client needs in order to take the internal steps of mental, emotional, psychological and sexual growth he has wanted to take.

Parent Category: ROOT

About Setting Up The Relationship

Is this therapy process appropriate for my client at this stage in his development?
If you have questions about referring a particular client for Surrogate Partner Therapy, I will be happy to consult with you on the phone. Without revealing personally identifying details, we'll consider your client's unique issues and concerns, as well as his readiness to learn, grow and be challenged through an intimate relationship.

We'll discuss time frame and logistics, and whether he is financially able to follow through. If we both think Surrogate Partner Therapy would be useful for him at this time, you'll inform him of this possibility, and set up a three-way meeting. But ultimately, it will be his choice whether and when he wants to make this dynamic investment in his future happiness.

Surrogate Partner Therapy