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Anonymous on September 8, 2011

Is a surrogate partner right for me?

I'm 36, and I’ve been a C2-3 quad for the last 15 years. In that time, I've never had a relationship. I feel so incredibly sexually frustrated I can hardly stand it anymore! I would like to meet a woman but I don't have much confidence and I have a poor self body image. I have a colostomy, a mucous trap and an indwelling catheter. Do you think a surrogate partner could help and how do I go about hiring one?

answered by
Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH on September 8, 2011

Thanks for your question. I can certainly understand your frustration, and I’ll do my best to provide you some helpful information.

A surrogate partner may be able to help, but let’s start at the beginning...

What is a surrogate partner? A surrogate partner is a certified, hands-on practitioner trained to help people with their sexual difficulties. A surrogate also helps people develop knowledge and skills around sex. Although a surrogate partner helps clients understand their sexual bodies – and this may include some actions that are normally considered sexually intimate – it’s important to note that a surrogate partner is not a prostitute.

When might a surrogate partner be a good choice? People who have any type of sexual problem may benefit from a surrogate...especially if the type of treatment needed includes personal education, facilitation and sexual exploration.

A sexual surrogate generally works with a client to develop personal goals that can range from relieving anxiety around intimacy or dating, to addressing specific concerns like body image. For anyone who has experienced changes resulting from a disability and does not have a partner to work with, a surrogate could be ideally suited to help explore sexual potential and regain confidence.

What do you need to know about surrogates? A surrogate partner usually works with a client, alongside a licensed therapist. The surrogate talks with both the client and the therapist to augment the work being done with the therapist. Generally, surrogates protect themselves by only working with people referred to them by a therapist. By talking first to a therapist about the possibility of a surrogate partner, you can also protect yourself from working with an untrained surrogate, or one without any reputable credentials.

What are the drawbacks of using a surrogate partner? For one, cost can be prohibitive for many people. According toan article in Psychology Today, expect to pay $200-250 per hour for consultation with a surrogate partner. And, depending on where you live, finding a surrogate can also be challenging…but the International Professional Surrogate Association’s (IPSA) website is a good starting point for finding a trained surrogate.

Are there any other options to help work through your sexual frustration and lack of confidence? Although hiring a surrogate partner may be a step in the right direction, there are other ways to help overcome the barriers you face when it comes to sex and relationships. For example, you may want to consider reaching out to other high-level quads in online forums or offline support groups to learn how people in similar circumstances to yours have managed to get over their anxieties, appreciate their bodies and develop satisfying sexual relationships.

I hope this information helps you understand some of your options, and encourages you not to give up. I wish you good luck in the areas of relationships and sexual satisfaction.

Related info:

Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

Dr. Tepper directs sexual health education at SexualHealth.com. An AASECT-certified sexuality educator and counselor, his areas of expertise include sexual dysfunctions, sexuality following disability or illness, pleasure and orgasm, relationships, and military and veteran couples' counseling. Dr. Tepper was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

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