My decision to return to school and become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist over ten years ago came at a point in my life where I yearned to learn about relationships and how to help better them for others, and in turn, myself. Since beginning my journey, I have been blessed to continually learn from my mentors, peers, and clients – and just when I am beginning to feel like I need to know more, or want more experience in an area, an opportunity arises to do just that. I came to understand that to be a truly competent couples therapist, I needed to learn more about how to talk about intimacy and sexuality. This is not a topic that I have avoided (for lack of comfort or otherwise) in my work, but one that would find me without enough tools in my toolbox to truly help and guide the couple to their preferences. However, intimacy and sex are not topics most people are comfortable talking about (therapists included). So how do we bridge this gap? What I have found is that when the subject is invited into the therapy room and the silence is broken, it often brings sighs of relief and possible hope that it can be improved and/or healed. The timing of the founding of the Northwest Institute On Intimacy (NWIOI) and the availability of AASECT training in the Northwest answered my quest for more education, training, and teamwork in the area of intimacy, spirituality and sexuality.
Couples come to me to work on “communication.” A stepping-stone in this area is how to name an issue or problem in the relationship. Intimacy is a pillar for a meaningful connection with one’s partner. My work has shown that when the intimacy and sexuality aspect of a relationship is in good health, the relationship is as well. We are not just talking about how many times a week a couple has intercourse. A foundational piece of the intimacy puzzle is pleasure, and learning what pleasure means to each member of the relationship. Therapists need to be comfortable having these conversations with their clients, which also means facing their own biases, values, and beliefs. We need to provide a safe place for clients to discuss this area of their lives. I saw a pool of experience, knowledge, and guidance in the area of intimacy and sexuality in the NWIOI. As I often do, I jumped with great enthusiasm into the pool (because timing is everything) to learn how to swim better with clients in this area. The pool is deep, long, and gives me hope that I can be a more integrated, knowledgeable couples therapist who can help couples write the new narratives of their relationships.