In 2017 Dr Dwight Norwood (LicSw) wrote a blog about touch in therapy and posed the question was it ‘helpful or harmful’?
The creation of an artificial mind-body split in psychotherapy began around the 1970s with the advent of cognitive-based therapies which, I believe, helped contribute to the divorcing of our emotions from their very real physical base—without our bodies there would be no emotions! Around the same time, controversy and publicity surrounding some approaches to sex therapy practices and an increase in risk management practices led to an emphasis on protecting people receiving therapy from abuse through inappropriate touch.
I remember the days of Martin Cole a member of the now COSRT, who died in 2015. He set up an Institute of Sex Education and Research in 1966 which included the use of female therapists acting as surrogate partners to treat men primarily with ED. At the time he was respected for his endeavours. He was also instrumental in the film ‘Growing Up’ in 1971 which was described by Lord Longford and Mary Whitehouse as ‘pornographic smut’. Baroness Thatcher (prior to being Prime Minister) declined the invitation to attend the showing of the film. Martin Cole campaigned for the legalisation of abortion, helped to set up the first Brook Advisory Service on contraception outside London and founded the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
So where are we now? The film The Sessions, for a time brought the issue to the public foreground in 2013. Specifically looking at the needs and rights of people with disabilities. Indeed, COSRT held a conference in 2013 where at least three people and organisations spoke on the value of sex surrogacy.
Questions are always raised about the legality of sex surrogacy and Codes of Ethics and Practice which broadly state that touch in therapy may contravene the sanctity of the therapeutic relationship, psychosexual therapy is a ‘talking therapy’. However, what it fails to address is that many modalities of psychotherapy, for example Gestalt, support the use of appropriate touch.
COSRT has considered the practice of sexual surrogacy carefully and whilst we acknowledge that some members believe that it is very effective and useful, COSRT does not consider that the practice of sexual surrogacy is well enough developed in the UK at this time to be endorsed.
They also state:
Meanwhile we will continue discussing this matter as an organisation, canvassing views from members, the public as well as continuing to engage with other major psychotherapy organisations who are looking to COSRT to lead the discussions in this specialist field.Practice Guideline 11 – Sexual Surrogacy (March 2015) and the COSRT Ethics Committee Discussion Paper – The Ethical Considerations of Sexual Surrogacy
It is my view that this topic needs further consideration, particularly for those with disabilities who may feel forced to use the services of some who may be unscrupulous.
The debate is not over!
Judi Keshet-Orr – Founder and Course Director LDPRT