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Surrogate Partner Therapy 

Frequently Asked Questions by Clients

  • What is your COVID policy?
    Surrogate Partner Therapy is, by its very nature, about emotional and physical intimacy. There are things that can be done to lower the risk of exposure (such as meeting online for the first few sessions, when meeting in person isn't absolutely necessary) but nothing that can eliminate the risk entirely, as touch-based exercises usually become necessary at some point. In order to keep myself, my clients, and the people we interact with at lower risk, I am making a commitment to limited lifestyle choices outside of my work with clients, and ask that they make the same for the duration of our in person work together.
  • I don't live in the Washington, D.C. area. Can I still meet with you?"
    Most likely, yes! Below are my usual suggestions. Given COVID, the plans are a little different. Feel free to reach out to discuss your circumstances. * * * * * Depending on how far away you are, here is what I may suggest: Within 30min: Weekly sessions for 60 min at first, perhaps progressing to longer over time. 30min-2 hours away: Double sessions once a week (for 2 hours each) or every other week 2-5 hours away: A two or three day weekend each month, where we would meet 2-3 days in a row, perhaps for longer sessions each time, for a total of 4-8 hours each weekend. 6+ hours away: Consider monthly weekend sessions, if possible. If this is not possible, you may want to consider a one time, 10-14 day intensive with another surrogate partner (which I do not offer).
  • Will you travel to meet me?
    In general, no. If you would like to experience this process, you will need to travel to D.C. to meet with me. Feel free to reach out to me about your particular circumstances, but in general, travel is not currently part of my practice.
  • I don't want to do anything sexual in a session, but I do want to work on my social skills, anxiety, or body image. Is working with a surrogate partner worthwhile?"
    Absolutely! Sometimes surrogate partners are mistakenly called "sex surrogates," which can be really misleading. The majority of time I spend with clients is not at all sexual or erotic, and some clients never want or need that form of contact. Instead, the majority of the time is spent in conversation, in sensory exercises, in non-sexual, nurturing forms of touch, debunking myths around sexuality, and practicing clear communication. This can be incredibly helpful if you have social anxiety, inexperience, and/or autism to practice the skills needed for healthy relationships and to become more comfortable in your own skin. Sexual contant need not be a part of the process in order to receive great benefits from it.
  • How much does surrogate partner therapy cost?
    Most surrogate partners charge $150-$300 per 60-75 minute session. As an intern, I charge considerably less-- $100/hr for online sessions at first, and then $125/hr for in person sessions. You will also continue to meet with your therapist regularly at the price you two agree upon.
  • How long does it take?
    Each person's situation is different, and it is impossible to guess how many hours it will take anyone to complete the process, however, some rough estimates are as follows: If you are able to experience bodily responses to arousal on your own without a partner (usually through masturbation), but are finding it challenging to be with a partner due to lack of experience, anxiety, early ejaculation, erectile unpredictability, or inability to have an orgasm, 40-50 hours* is a good estimate. If you have more generalized challenges-- low libido, low arousal in response to stimulation, difficulty reaching orgasm even through masturbation, erectile dysfunction as the result of a physical issue-- it may take longer than 40-50 hours*, depending on your goals and the nature of the issue. If you have experienced trauma, it completely depends on how much the trauma is still affecting your life today. For some, 40-50 hours is enough; for others, weekly sessions for a year or more* help to gradually move in the direction they want to go. There's really no way to know until we start. * Please note that the time quoted was about hours spent together, not number of sessions. Depending on our availability, these hours can be spent in 60, 75, 90, or even 180 minute sessions, depending on what makes the most sense.
  • I am already in a relationship. Can we work together?
    Under most circumstances, no. Generally, Surrogate Partner Therapy is not appropriate if you already have a partner. Instead, working with a sex therapist or couple's counselor with your personal partner is strongly recommended. Together, you and your personal partner can complete the same kinds of exercises as in SPT, hopefully contributing to both your growth in the process. There are times, however, when SPT may be appropriate for someone in a relationship-- if your personal partner is not able or willing to participate in couples sex therapy with you, if your partner gives their explicit understanding of SPT and blessing to pursue it, and if your partner is included in the process of determining boundaries for the work. Understanding, consent and boundaries can be covered in a three way conversation with you two and your therapist, or as part of a four way conversation with you, your partner, therapist, and me.
  • What kinds of activities happen during each phase of the process?
    THREE-WAY INFORMATION GATHERING SESSION When our schedules align, we'll begin with a three way conversation between you, your therapist, and me. This initial session is a chance for the three of us to get clear on your goals, how the process works, and to ask any further questions. There is no pressure or expectation that you will work with me if you determine it is not right for you at this time. PHASE 1: SENSATE FOCUS During this phase, you will tune in to emotions in the moment, practice consent, cultivate relaxation, speak with authenticity, experience non-sexual touch with mindful awareness. Example exercise: Giving and receiving a hand caress PHASE 2: SEX EDUCATION, NUDITY, & SENSUALITY In this phase, you will debunk myths, ask the "silly" questions, enjoy a variety of non-sexual sensations, gradually develop comfort with mutual nudity. Example exercise: Progressive disrobing as far as we both feel comfortable. PHASE 3: WORKING WITH EROTIC ENERGY Not every client wants or needs this phase, but if you do, it is an opportunity to work directly with sexual issues according to your goals. Example exercise: Sexual activities that we both consent to, using safer sex practices. PHASE 4: REFLECTION & CLOSURE Even if we skipped phase 3, we will still complete phase 4: closure. This is a time when we will celebrate successes and recall lessons from this transformative process. This step helps you transfer skills to a future relationship and build resilience. Example exercise: A meaningful way of saying goodbye that we create together. AFTER SURROGATE PARTNER THERAPY You will continue with your therapist for at least three more sessions after our work together has come to an end in order to process all that you learned throughout the process and any feelings that came up after our relationship has come to a close.
  • I really just need practice having sex. Can we just do that?
    The short answer: nope! Skills like mindfulness, presence, connection, relaxation, and being comfortable in one's own skin are essential for most people to have fulfilling sexual encounters, and yet many people never learn how to do these with a partner or habitually skip past them. Regardless of your experience, we always start at Phase 1 and progress through the phases in order to work on these essential abilities. Some may move through the phases more quickly than others, but these steps are necessary to make sure that both of us feel safe, comfortable and relaxed together. During Phase 3 sexual activities are possible, if both of us feel comfortable and consent to the activities. A commitment we make to each other is that neither of us will ever have to do anything we don't want to do.
  • Is Surrogate Partner Therapy prostitution?
    A few things distinguish Surrogate Partner Therapy from prostitution: 1) The intentions of the work are quite different. This is a space for healing, for clients for whom this work is deemed therpeutically beneficial and necessary, not directly about pleasure or entertainment (though it can be fun!) 2) SPT is about long term benefits, not immediate gratification. If you are looking for gratification you will likely be disappointed, as you would have to wait many sessions before this could even be possible. 3) It is always in conjunction with a therapist. A licensed professional is surpervising the course of treatment. Ongoing dialogue between your therapist and me ensures that all exercises and activities are therapeutically relevant in working toward your goals. 4) There is no promise of any sexual activities! You may not ever want or need to participate in sexual activities, as you may feel like you've learned what you need from other exercises in the process. If you feel like you would like to practice sexual activities, there is no promise or guarantee-- just like in any non-transactional relationship. Only if both of us feel safe, comfortable, connected and willing will we then discuss and consent to the activities we will engage in together.
  • Will my problem be fixed?
    Much of it depends on you! Two clients could approach the process with the same presenting problem and come out of it with very different outcomes. This therapy is, ultimately, inner work that only you can do. Your therapist and I are here as a supporting role in this process. How much you reflect upon and integrate what you are learning in sessions with me and your therapist will directly affect what you get out of it. Many issues resolve as the result of this process. Others may resolve, but in a different way than you might expect. If your body has suffered a severe injury that affects your sexual functioning, for example, your body may not ever be able to perform in the way you want it to. The goal then, may not be about your body, but rather, how you can experience yourself as a complete sexual being regardless of how your body performs.
  • Do I really have to see a therapist?
    Yes. This is not negotiable.
  • How should I choose a therapist?
    Reach out to me for recommendations of therapists in your area, and let me know where you are located. It can take a couple tries to see who you would like to work with, so I recommend checking out their websites and reaching out to 2-3 people. Important: In your intro email to them, please mention the following (and feel free to cut and paste): "I received your name from surrogate partner, Erika Davian. In working with you, I understand that you may or may not determine that Surrogate Partner Therapy is the right course of treatment for me. Even so, I want to mention my interest in SPT now, so it is an option "on the table" as we work together." Aside from that, you may want to ask about their location, therapy style, specialties, experience, cost, if they take insurance (sadly, most who work in SPT don't), any discounts for packages, and if they offer online sessions. Working online with a therapist is convenient and considered just as effective-- they just need to be licensed the state where you live.
  • I'm ready to start the work! What's next?
    FIND A THERAPIST At first, you need to begin working with a therapist who is open to collaborating with a surrogate partner. If you currently have a therapist, ask if they are open to collaborating with a surrogate partner, invite them to check out my website, and let them know I am happy to do an informational call about working in this model. If you do not have a therapist currently, or if your current therapist is not open to surrogate partner therapy, please contact me directly and I can refer you to someone in your area who is familiar with this form of treatment. Next, you begin working with the therapist you chose, developing a rapport and trust. The Surrogate Partner Therapy process can sometimes bring up difficult and unexpected feelings, and it's important you have a strong "home base" to return to in case things become challenging. Reaching this point may take several sessions or several months. Another reason why it is essential you start with a therapist is because the talk therapy and at home exercises you receive from them might be enough to resolve your issue, without the need for working with a surrogate partner. SPT is a time, energy, and money intensive process, and I don't want you to invest these resources unless it's truly what is needed. If, after a while, working with a therapist isn't enough to resolve your issue, then you or your therapist may bring up the possibility of surrogate partner therapy. At that point, reach out to me to determine my availability. I hope to work with you some day!
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