Episode 11

Published on:

19th Feb 2021

11 - Sex Therapy & Education: why are all the therapists 'affirming'?

Therapist Timothy Courtois pursued graduate education to deepen his knowledge of the role sexuality and intimacy play in our lives. He quickly came to feel that this program was using some of the same tactics of moralizing and indoctrination that he’d left behind after leaving a controlling religious community. We discuss the program's mixed-up understanding of sexuality, consent, and power dynamics in relationships. We set the stage for future conversations about a richer psychological and embodied view of sexuality.


Extended Notes

  • How did Tim get started in this field?
  • How did Tim find out about the AASECT program?
  • Prior to joining the program, Tim was working for a religious organization and it became apparent that there were going to be conflicts.
  • Tim shares a little bit about his experience with the program and the materials in it.
  • The program had a strong focus on BDSM porn and trans issues.
  • Tim, as a therapist, wanted to be better equipped to handle new sexual issues but didn’t feel like watching porn and other materials in the program accurately helped him in this area.
  • In the program, it was clear that it was “morally wrong” to make moral judgments about others. Tim found that troubling.
  • It was clear that if you had any adverse responses or sensitivity to the materials being shown, those feelings needed to be “drowned out.” Tim wasn’t a fan of this method. There was so much room for exploration of one's own emotions that was ignored.
  • When we try to buck our norms and be submissive with our behaviors, it can disconnect us from our instinct.
  • The footage Tim saw was quite disturbing. He explains what he watched in the program.
  • What is the pain that clients are bringing to us?
  • It was a room of therapists watching these videos and they felt like they couldn’t speak up.
  • In a lot of ways, Tim saw this “cult-following” to be much worse than the Christian organization he left.
  • Did the program have an overview of intimacy and relationships?
  • Let’s talk about morality and pedophilia within the program.
  • There were some heavy contradictions in the program that Tim disagreed with.
  • Virtual sex should not be considered “real sex.” It’s completely different from the real thing.
  • How do you educate children about sex in a healthy way?
  • You’re either going to be waterboarded with information or it’s suppressed. There doesn’t seem to be a happy middle.
  • A lot of parents are concerned about their child’s sexual health, especially when they want to transition.
  • What is the internet doing to our perceptions of sex, love, and intimacy?
  • In the program, porn was a huge no because porn has a religious, moral, and political agenda.
  • Tim shares a common story that many couples face when one of the partners has a porn addiction. What is your moral obligation as a therapist?
  • We have to be able to point to something that goes beyond what the research paper says.
  • What does a healthy, well-balanced, sex life looks like?

This podcast is partially sponsored by ReIME, Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics:


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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.