In recent years it has become apparent to therapists like Esther Perel, Terrence Real, and others that all therapists that treat couples and families need more training in sexuality, intimacy, and sexual dysfunction.  Up until 2015, there was no training in the Pacific Northwest for therapists wishing to add AASECT certification to their skillset. A therapist had to travel outside the state to a program that usually required travel for a long weekend once a month for two years. This made it cost prohibitive.

This is why we were down to 5 therapists with AASECT certification and two certified supervisors.

Is it unethical, however, to practice sex therapy without the minimum training provided through AASECT certification? The title “sex therapist” is not title protected, like “psychologist” is.  It is fair game to say you are a sex therapist or you practice sex therapy.  The onus is on the client to find out the therapists actual training. One quick scan of Psychology Today and you will find hundreds of therapists who say they practice sex therapy simply because they are “comfortable” with the subject.  But this ease did not come through an investment in training or the added credentials. When we practice outside our training in situations like these, we are dancing on a gray ethics line.  The most prudent course for us to take in situations like these is to get a supervisor who is an expert in this area.  Why?  Because, they will bear the liability in the case, while you as the therapist get training through supervision. In the area of sexuality, the research shows over 50% of your clients will come in with an explicit or implicit sexual concern. That’s a lot of your clients! This is the dilemma of inadequate training in sexuality and intimacy in all of our graduate psychotherapy programs.  Many in the field are beginning to recognize that training in this area is a critical ethical requirement if they are to practice in a way that

attends to the bio, psycho, social, sexual and spiritual needs of their clients.

But here is another issue.  Let’s say, you decide to refer out whenever a sexual issue arises or not take clients presenting with sexual issues?  Here is the other problem … you also can’t ignore sexual issues because you are NOT trained.  Double ethical bind, right? YES! Recent court cases have been tried that now make a therapist responsible for the case the moment they return a call, answer an email, take a case – regardless what presents – unless they can make a very clear case the issue is absolutely outside their scope of practice.  Which in this issue as an MFT they could not.  As a psychotherapist, training in sexuality and intimacy is quickly becoming a first-on-the-list training issue. A couple’s therapist would not be able to explain in a court of law how sexuality is outside their scope of practice. On the stand, cross-examination would simply reveal how inadequate the current level of training is (all psychotherapeutic training) by omitting more comprehensive sexuality training.

A therapist would still be held responsible to get the training.

The Northwest Institute on Intimacy (NWIOI) was specifically designed and established for psychotherapists trained in accredited programs to provide a streamlined cost-effective avenue to add these critical skills to their repertoire. Over the last two years, NWIOI has trained over 25 therapists. These therapists are in high demand – fewer than 5% of therapists in the country have this level of comprehensive training.  Yet, ironically every one of our clients walk in with ALL PARTS OF THEM affected by life’s challenges and stressors – and they assume the therapist is trained to help them. Given this, NWIOI also acts as a referral source for many physician groups and community leaders.

There is a place on the website where you can list your practice and receive referrals.

NWIOI offers the two courses for AASECT certification once a year, in this order:

  1. SAR – Sexual Attitude Reassessment               Every June      Four Days: Thursday – Sunday ending with the Pride Parade
    1. The earlybird rate is currently in effect until May 1.  After May 1 it goes up $160.00 to $750
    2. 14 CEUs
    3. Open to 20 students a year
  1. Advanced Clinical Sexology                  2nd Week of November  5 Days: Monday – Friday  46 Hour Intensive
    1. Registration begins Sept 1, 2017
    2. 46 CEUs
    3. Open to 20 students a year
  1. Supervision
    1. In addition to these two courses, over a two-year period, you will need to do 300 hours of case work involving sexual issues, and do 50 hours of supervision w an AASECT certified supervisor (50% group sup/50% ind sup).  If you are still studying for licensure – you can do supervision with an AAMFT and AASECT approved supervisor and have your supervision hours count for BOTH!


Here is more information on the upcoming SAR, which has about ten spaces available:   

The SAR is a required course for AASECT certification and THE SEATTLE SAR AND PRIDE PARADE is one of the most extraordinary SAR’s in one of the most beautiful cities in the country! It is a course specifically designed to help participants clarify their sexual beliefs and biases in a safe environment. It is a highly provocative, experiential, cognitive and affective experience, which is designed to push comfort levels, elicit feelings, confront attitudes, beliefs, and values about sexuality. Presentations encompass media, along with presentations by panels showing the potential range of human sexual expression today. SAR is not a clinical training in sex therapy nor is it traditional sex education; rather it enables the participant to move emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and psychologically into a zone of greater knowing, acceptance, and tolerance of human sexuality in all of its possible dimensions.

Super Earlybird   Before May 1st     $590.00

Professional        After May 2nd       $750.00

I encourage you to consider, adding this skillset sooner rather than later.  It is a joy to see how fast our supervisees who are preparing for their AASECT certification have found their practices full as they have added sex therapy and spiritual intimacy to their MFT skillset. In addition to seeing how much more confidence, competence, and enjoyment has emerged. My goal is to see the Northwest become the epicenter of excellence in comprehensively trained renegade therapists.

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