While this should be a relatively straight-forward situation, choosing a practitioner for sexuality work, particularly body-based work, is something that needs careful consideration. Having had extensive experience working with the body for over 20 years, and now having moved into Somatic Sexuality and undertaking a Masters degree in Psychotherapy, the subject of "therapist knows better" has become a strong focus for me. Sexuality is a topic that is sensitive to a lot of people and it is surprising how many people have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a so-called professioanl. So, when adding touch into the therapy session, both client and therapist/practitioner have a level of responsibility around duty of care.
Here is a possible check-list when chosing a practitioner
- Trust your intuition
- Look at the practitioners reputation. What sort of people are offering the referral? Who is the practitioner 'aligned' with? Can the practitioner go where you want to go? There are some who have never received what they're offering and this can be plain dangerous.
- Does the practitioner like doing what they're doing, or are they in it for the money - or something else?
- Look for qualifications and/or experience in the field. Eagerness to "heal" someone and good intention is not a qualification. Is the qualification recognised legally - at least somewhere in the world. That said, some intuitive practitioners are awesome.
- Does the practitioner work to a code of ethics? While some practitioners may not be part of a governing association that has an existing code of ethics for members, they may have their own. Find out.
- Ask questions! Will you trust your process and your money to someone who won't or can't answer your questions?
- Is the practitioner part of an association? Is there one for what they do?
- Ego vs Skill. While the practitioner you chose may be an 'expert' in their chosen field, they are not an expert on you. If they say they know what's best for you, this could be an indication of their ego.
- Have you agreed upon what will take place before starting the session?
- What are their safe sex practices? Do they have them? For example some trainings do not teach the use of gloves or the like, believing that it takes away the 'personal' element from touch. You may get a huge payout for contracting an STI from a practitioner, but do you want the STI for the rest of your life?
- Trust your intuition
This check-list is by no means a conclusive 'must', it is simply what I would recommend as a way to help make sure that you can be responsible for the co-creation of your safety and also to make sure that you get the most out of your session with your chosen practitioner. Working with issues around sexuality can be confronting and uncomfortable at times, and it is helpful if you have a reasonable understanding of your own emotional process before going into such work. By knowing your own process you will know when you have been confronted for positive change as opposed to being shamed or coerced into doing something you didn't want to do by the "expert" practitioner.
This excellent quote from Joseph Kramer shows some of what I mean. Is the experience you have received or are looking to receive simply a pleasurable experience, or a learning one?
"Somatic learning theory tells us that new sexual behaviors are almost always learned by conscious repetition over time. Unfortunately, most sex educators—even body-based sex educators--do not assist their students in learning over time. They confuse offering pleasurable individual and group experiences with supporting and guiding authentic learning."
My belief for the outcome of a somatic sexuality therapy session is that the client will feel noticeably better about themselves, regardless of any (or lack of) emotional upheaval. Authentic learning is not always a pleasurable experience and to quote Barbara Carrellas, "Ecstasy is not 'nice'."