Possibilities in this time of COVID-19? (and why email coaching is a great option!)
What do I do in my role of Sex Coach, Somatic Sex Educator and Certified Sexological Bodywork?
I am a practitioner offering Sex Coaching, Somatic Sex Education and Sexological Bodywork to anybody with a body and especially LGBTQ+ clients. If we drew my work on a spectrum, at one end my work involves talking, listening, curious questioning and use of coaching tools. This looks more like a ‘talking therapy’. Then there is the somatic and embodiment aspect, which can be integrated into all my contact with clients. This involves a range of somatic focusing, body awareness, breath, movement and self-touch.
Moving along the spectrum, my Sexological Bodywork training enables me to offer touch and bodywork, which could be as slow and simple as holding a fully clothed client’s hand or stroking their shoulder. A client and I might work together to offer the client practice at receiving touch which they (and their body) asks for – a nurturing back massage, or some pressures on their legs, or whole-body mapping, which may or may not involve sensual or sexual feelings or intention. At the far end of this spectrum is extended erotic touch and bodywork, activities such as genital mapping and massage, orgasmic experiences and anal touch (which is probably what a lot of people imagine is going on in my session room every day!)
It is a fluid spectrum and with each client we might move back and forth, dipping into different modes of being, depending on the needs of the client and what is emerging from the work.
I offer this whole spectrum of work online on Zoom or Skype. The exception, of course, is that at the further end of the spectrum, I cannot offer touch on a video call. However, the client can touch themselves as part of our work, and this can, of course, be ‘extended’ and ‘erotic’! I can guide, or I can witness them in their experience, including pleasure and arousal.
Why this might be challenging with COVID 19 and we are all moving our work online?
Here we are in March 2020, and all of us face a very challenging situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement for social distancing and social isolation. Clearly, practitioners offering bodywork and massage are having to take a careful look at our practices to protect the health and safety of everyone and to support the slowing down of the outbreak.
So, there is currently a mass migration of sexuality practitioners moving (more of) their services online. I wrote a previous blog about successful online sessions Somatic Sex and I regularly see clients who are geographically distant and cannot come and see me in person (Florida, Czech Republic, Italy to name a few client locations). It can work brilliantly and there are advantages at the best of times, such as not having to travel anywhere, sessions are cheaper, you can stay in the comfort of your own home. Some clients want to work online because they need a queer practitioner or a specialism they cannot get closer to home.
The importance of continuing
It is so important that practitioners like us, who support people with embodiment, presence, self-care, body awareness and somatic approaches to trauma and distress, can continue, even more so at a time like this! People are in desperate need of connection with themselves and others and for inner resources and co-regulating relationships that will sustain us through the very difficult times that are to come. Although we would all like our nervous systems to be in the same room as our client’s nervous systems, we need to do what we can with the tools that we have – and this is where these online video platforms come into their own.
What are Online possibilities?
Usually, my online sessions are 1 hour long, compared to 90 minute or 2-hour in-person sessions. Usually, clients book a series of sessions, after our consultation call, or after our initial session. We check-in, do some kind of embodiment practice, we might do some kind of written or internal focusing exercise that opens up the direction of the session. The session can be whatever the client and I agree on together, and it can include (but doesn’t have to);
– Having a space to talk about sex, pleasure, their body, or whatever they want to explore.
– Some somatic work, such as body scans, movement, breathwork, self-touch etc.
– Practices such as undressing rituals and ‘show and tell’ of their body/genitals.
– Masturbation witnessing and self-pleasure coaching.
– Practices such as the Genital Interview or Ass Dialogue.
– Reflecting together on the client’s experience and integration of their experiences.
– I set homework (home play) for them to do in between sessions.
– Exploring ideas about sex, pleasure, intimacy, relationships and how they are impacting on our lives, and forming intentional ways of being.
– And so much more!
However, here are a few reasons why Online video sessions might not work for everyone…
• You have to deal with the technology and not everyone can or wants to.
• Some people do not have sufficient privacy to talk out loud in their homes (students in shared accommodation, people with families, etc)
• English might not be your first language and perhaps writing is easier.
• Some people struggle to focus on a screen/distraction.
• Self-consciousness and social awkwardness!
• Time zones and finding a convenient time to connect.
• Not everyone enjoys or benefits from talk-based work.
• Concerns about online privacy/data protection.
• Shyness and shame about the subject matter.
• Fear of becoming upset or emotional on the online call.
Where does writing and email coaching come into this?
In writing this blog, I have realised that some of my best moments of ‘Psychological flow’ are when a client or friend has asked me for advice about something (e.g. about opening up their relationship with their monogamous partner, or what do about being unable to orgasm without porn), and I have responded in writing. There is a spaciousness in being able to take your time, as the client and the practitioner. I have found that the exchange has been rich, clear, abundant in resources, ideas and curiosity, whilst not losing empathy and connection. I can send links, TED talks and suggestions for homework.
‘It’s like writing a journal but with a kind witness’
Some advantages of email coaching;
– Privacy (especially in these times of a houseful of social distancers!)
– Great if writing is your preferred self-expression.
– Flexible hours. You can send your email to me at 3 am if you want.
– Easier to start conversations about sensitive subjects
– Less pressure for some introverted and sensitive people.
– Disability accessible for clients with Autism, ADHD, and those with stutters and who have difficulty with spoken communication.
– No complex technology or apps. It can be hand-written postal letters.
– Some older people might prefer writing and fewer screens.
– You can easily email in your busy and unpredictable schedules, in your own time.
– Less pressure, you can take your time, think and edit to ensure your meaning is clear.
– A safe, confidential space to share parts of your personal journal.
– It is possible for us to design a ‘Witnessed Journal’ practice where you journal every day for a fixed time, and I read it as your witness.
– Your work is saved! You can come back to the learnings, resources and the richness of the reflections for months and years to come.
– We can create a flexible package that combines face to face online with email work and consider bodywork and face to face sessions in the future.
– It is cheaper (in my case) than either face to face sessions or online coaching.
The territory to explore is expanding…
I advertise as a Sex Coach, Somatic Sex Educator and Certified Sexological Bodyworker, yet what my clients and I end up discussing is much broader, and I welcome this. Other subjects we can explore and work on include;
Gender free and gender-affirming sex and pleasure, LGBTQ and Queer identity and community, Trans identity and transition, Intimacy, attachment, emotions, Sexual and romantic relationships, Ethical Non-Monogamy and Polyamory, kink and BDSM, sex work and working in sexuality industries, Communication, Consent and boundaries, Difficult and traumatic experiences, self-care, embodied planning and goal setting, and more.
If I cannot support you in all or part of the work you need, I would always signpost you if possible.
So, what to do now?
I have booked onto two courses in working online and Online Somatic Sex Education, to enhance what I offer.
This is a Quintimacy Hugs Online event I am holding for 6 weeks from next week FaceBook Group
If you are interested in connecting, whether online or through the medium of writing emails or posted letters, I would love to hear from you, and we can have a confidential and no obligation ‘chat’ in a way that works for you. firstname.lastname@example.org