Surrogate Partner Therapy (SPT) is an adjunct modality within the field of sex therapy. Rooted in the work of Masters & Johnson, it is a unique form of therapy addressing issues of physical and emotional intimacy. It is diagnostic, therapeutic, and authentically intimate, modeling an actual relationship experience within the safe container of a caring, therapeutic setting. In this way it assists clients in later generalizing skills that will serve them in future relationships.
A Surrogate Partner works in a triadic relationship with a client and the client’s therapist. The client meets with their therapist once a week, as well as the Surrogate Partner once a week. The Surrogate Partner and therapist also consult weekly to discuss the client’s treatment and progress. The involvement of an engaged Supervising Therapist is central to Surrogate Partner Therapy. It is an absolute requirement of this work.
In interacting with a Surrogate Partner the client engages in experiential learning—structured and unstructured experiences in relaxation, communication, sensual and sexual touch, and social skills—designed to build self-awareness, reduce performance anxiety, and resolve long standing difficulties with intimacy and sexuality. The roles and boundaries of the surrogate are distinct from those of the therapist.
Therapists talk with clients. Surrogate Partners talk and touch.
Among other issues, SPT addresses inexperience, late life virginity, body image, performance anxiety, inhibited orgasm, diminished desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, vaginismus, shame, disassociation, pleasure avoidance, and physical impairment/disability-related concerns. If that sounds a bit clinical, know that Surrogate Partner Therapy is also deeply transformative. It involves playful sensuality, erotic exploration, and the creation of a genuine (if transitional) intimate relationship. It can, and generally does, lead to life-altering confidence, self-awareness, and self-acceptance for the client.