This is an excerpt from ReBloom, because in the last year alone I’ve had six clients come to me, specifically to heal the retraumatization that happened with their most recent practitioner. We can’t afford to wait in sending this piece out. So, without further adieu…
How to find a safe sexual healing practitioner
I don’t have a perfect track record as a guide. I’ve made mistakes in my practice, most of which happened when I mis-assessed the person who came to me, and it turned out they were beyond my scope of practice.
I’ve thus, had to refer out a few clients after we’d already begun working together, which in my opinion, is not ideal. But it was also better than continuing to serve them in unhelpful ways, or trying to be a superhuman savior to make up for the gaps in my skills.
All this to say, I’ve now established a pretty clear rubric for who I work with and who I don’t. I also have a solid discernment system, which includes a required “feeler call” before working together.
During these calls, I share with total transparency that the goal is for us to both feel into three big things:
Is this a safe working relationship for us both?
Is this an ideal working relationship for us both?
Is this a doable working relationship for us both?
Then I share:
Safety is about scope of practice. Are your needs and my skills compatible?
Ideal is about chemistry. Do we like each other? Vibe? Have an inherent feeling of trust?
Doable is about resources. Is this the right moment for you to dive into this deep work? Are you resourced with supportive friends or family, enough cash, enough time?
If you’re looking for someone to help you heal your sexual trauma, if they don’t ask you questions along these lines, please ask yourself these questions before you sign on to work with them.
Please ask yourself: Do I feel safe here? Do I get the feeling that they’re actually qualified to work with me? (It’s about both their training/experience AND your gut instinct.) Do their skills and my needs match up?
This will require you to do some self-analysis around what you need. You might need support around attachment and abandonment issues, specifically as it relates to sex. You might need support unhooking from narcissists in romantic situations. You might need support feeling sensation again in your sexual organs. Are they experienced with your stuff? Have they been trained? Do they show both humility and confidence?
Please ask yourself: Do I feel like I can open up to this person? Does our communication flow? Is there ease in how we’re relating?
Sure, you might be nervous or have challenges trusting people, but do you get the general sense that you like each other and can relate eye-to-eye? It matters that you vibe.
Please ask yourself: How intense will this process be, and do I have the time, money and emotional support to rest and digest through our work? Is this really doable for me right now? Is there a smaller, more doable step that might be a better fit? Or if it’s a stretch, do I feel fully devoted and committed, anyway? Like maybe it’s divinely aligned?
Healing takes time and money (and sometimes what feels like never-ending naps). It doesn’t happen over night. And it can actually put you back to invest in something that’s beyond your current capacity in terms of money, intensity, intimacy, time or energy. You can go small and slow. I know it’s hard to believe. I know there’s tons of shame around that. But please hear me out: doability is way more efficient than over-doing it.
I’m not saying don’t get the care you need. Get it, by all means! But just gauge how intense it will be to receive, and see if you can find ways to make that intensity more doable for you.
Okay, those are the three big things to feel into initially. If you get a green light on all three, here are a few other bits that I highly recommend…
No dual relationships.
Your trauma resolution practitioner should not also be your lover*, your new auntie, your mentor who doesn’t pay you for free internship labor, or your dog sitter. Keep things singularly focused until that focus feels resolved. It’s just CLEANER that way. And things can get messy in trauma land. The cleaner the container, the better.
Then, after time passes, if it feels right to you both, you can negotiate a way to become colleagues or buds.
If you’re already colleagues, sometimes two people with lots of experience can navigate dual relationships with grace. But mostly, I’d still recommend keeping the container professional during the time that one person is paying another.
*Sexual Surrogates are an actual thing. But with that, sex is on the table from day one. Not the same as a healer all of the sudden asking you to date.
No shady marketing tactics.
Is your potential practitioner’s marketing consensual, open, non-attached, clear and transparent? Or is it sneaky, scarcity-creating, discrete, vague, or full of hype without depth of practice?
Do you feel empowered or disempowered reading their sales page? Needy, or discerning and in-choice? Comfortable or uncomfortable?
Reading someone’s sales page who’s selling to you in an ethical way will feel neutral in your system, even if you’re excited and ready to dive in, bummed you can’t afford it, or unsure if it’s a right fit.
Reading someone’s sales page who’s selling to you in an unethical way will make you want to gag a little, grasp for their approval or jump on the chance before it’s too late.
No co-dependent dynamics.
Your trauma resolution practitioner should be showing up for you, 100%. Responding to your emails? Yes. Maybe offering some extra time at the end of a session if things aren’t complete? Sure! Checking on you the next day if your last session was challenging? So wonderful.
But if they’re reaching out to you more than you’re reaching out to them; if they’re emailing, calling, texting or inviting you to do things with them outside of sessions (perhaps daily?)… if they’re over-compensating for your struggle in a way that seems strangely generous… it may be that they’re actually feeding off of the attention they get from you. Which is inappropriate and not why you hired them.
Also under the category of co-dependent practitioner dynamics: if your healer expects you to take responsibility for upholding the boundaries of the professional container. Nope. That’s their job, not yours. You’re probably seeking support to improve your boundaries. Not have them crossed and then later get blamed for it.
No surprise sexual touch. Always clearly negotiated and consensual touch.
Some healing modalities (like sexological bodywork) include genital touch for healing purposes. While I’ve never gone this route myself, I’ve heard of many having positive to phenomenal results. That said, those who’ve had horrible experiences were the ones who experienced sensual touch outside of the original parameters of the work they signed up for.
The tantra dude who, after a few sessions, convinces you that having sex with him will heal you. NO.
The sexological bodyworker who rushes you onto the table, tells you what she thinks you need instead of listening to and negotiating what you’re ready for. Not okay.
The somatic experiencing practitioner who always offers you the hug first, instead of asking if you want one, or letting you ask for one yourself. Not ideal.
Standards for negotiated touch are higher with a trauma resolution practitioner, specifically because you’re often working on things like boundary repairs, asking for what you want and consent.
Share a world view.
Does your practitioner understand what it’s like to be you? Maybe because they share a similar identity or past? If you don’t have a ton in common, do they demonstrate deep reverence for where you’ve come from?
Or… do they bypass your pain, pushing you towards forgiveness before you’re ready? Do they deny the impact of systemic oppression on the body and one’s healing process? Do they support public figures who diminish your identity?
Solidarity with your practitioner is essential to feeling safe… and feeling safe with your practitioner is essential to the healing process.
Trust referrals… and your gut.
What qualities do you need most in a healing practitioner? (Hint: ask yourself what qualities make you feel physically and emotionally safe with someone. The two things overlap.)
Then tune in:
Do you get the sense this person has those qualities?
Do the referrals people write mention those qualities?
When you read their writing or experience their presence, how do you feel?
Safe, expansive, inspired? Or uncomfortable, eager, needy? You want to feel the former, not the latter.
Alright loves, those are the big things.
Of course, everything is relative, and you are the best authority over your own life and choices. Please know that if you fall in love with your trauma therapist or become best friends with your somatic experiencing practitioner, I’m not over here judging you as bad or ethically corrupt. Life happens. People hit it off.
That said, these guidelines are a sound foundation to work from, especially if power dynamics are a wobbly part of your history. If you DO find yourself in a funny spot with a practitioner and don’t feel great about it, get a second opinion from a trusted, compassionate, nonjudgemental guide.
When my clients have come to me with these stories, I meet them with tenderness and understanding. It’s human to get into tricky dynamics on our healing paths. I’ve gotten into many myself.
Which is how I got so clear on what flies in my world, and what doesn’t.
Sending you love and so much trust.
PS – If you want to grow your skills in becoming a safe trauma-informed guide, check out ReBloom Your Business. It’s an intimate 6-month program of one-on-one support and small group education for enhancing your capacity to guide powerfully and safely in the realm of trauma. xo