Surrogate partner therapy

what is it?

Surrogate partner therapy is a treatment modality for people who have sexual and relational concerns, but no consistent partners with whom to practice what they learn in sex therapy. Surrogate partners, clients, and therapists work in a close partnership in order to help clients resolve interconnected social, emotional, psychological, and sexual concerns. In addition to talking with clients, surrogate partners engage clients in experiential learning--structured and unstructured experiences in relaxation, communication, sensual and erotic touch, and social skills -- designed to build self-awareness, reduce performance anxiety, and resolve long standing difficulties with intimacy and sexuality. 

 

The roles of therapist and surrogate are distinct, and require different boundaries. Therapists talk with clients, while surrogate partners are able to talk and touch.

how long does it last?

The length of the process varies greatly depending on why the client has sought help and whether they are ready to make changes in their life. Clients typically work with a surrogate partner for 6 months or longer. It is not uncommon for a client to need a year or more to recover from sexual assault or remedy long term sexual dysfunctions. Most clients need 30-40 hours with the surrogate partner, in addition to months of work with their therapists prior to, during, and after the course of surrogate partner therapy.

what is the triad?

Surrogate partner process relies on a triadic relationship between therapist, client, and surrogate. This triad (relationship involving three people) is meant to provide an ethical and supportive environment in which the client can be vulnerable and grow emotionally. While a surrogate and client will have sessions one-on-one, the surrogate and therapist will communicate with each other after every session in order to plan future sessions and discuss client psychology.

closure

At some point the therapist, surrogate, and client reach the conclusion that it is time to bring the surrogate and client relationship to a close. The process of closure is considered the final stage of the work, and is not done without careful consideration and care for the feelings of all participants. Clients generally continue to see their therapists after they finish working with their surrogate partner, as they generalize their learning to other relationships with friends, family and new romantic partners.