It's hard to find a good therapist. Add to that the intimate topic of sex and the search for the right fit may prove to be a daunting one. Lucky for you, Santa Cruz' newest sex-positive, kink/poly/queer-friendly sex therapist, Michael Guichet, LMFT, is here with tips on how to make that search a little bit easier. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself. What is it that you do in the field of Human Sexuality?
I am a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in sex therapy. I am licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist or LMFT. Specializing in sex therapy means I work with; individuals, couples, partners, as well as family structures of monogamous and Poly. I also work with, LGBTQQIA, kink, and BDSM communities. I help individuals who are experiencing sexual disorders, having trouble communicating sexual desires, recovering from relationship issues like infidelity, and relationship counseling. Finally, as a therapist I am working with with a client’s mental health and safety as a primary concern. It is my goal to work to heal shame and facilitate communication around my client’s identity, relationship orientation, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and much more.
What drove you to pursue a career in Human Sexuality?
I have wanted to be a therapist since I was young. In college I took a human sexuality course and loved it. I started to do some sex ed and had a real knack for it. I worked with the Monterey Rape Crisis Center in a volunteer position and started to attend sex education and sexual science conferences. My sex ed mentor told me I should look into sex therapy and introduced me to a local sex therapist. Since that introduction, I have been passionately pursuing a career as a sex therapist in private practice and opened my private practice last year.
There are many reasons I pursued the career in human sexuality. As a therapist I work with people to find their happiness in what they love and as a sex therapist it is my goal to heal the shame of the negative messages that many people have about sex. It is my passion and it drives me to work hard every time for my clients so they may find healing around sex and are able to communicate their desires around sexuality.
Another big reason I pursued my sex therapy career is that so many other therapists have difficulty speaking about sex and I don’t believe that is helpful. I am not saying that “sex is everything”, but sex is a major part of the human experience and I believe it should not be ignored in therapy. I don’t believe sex and sexuality should be ignored in life. It is my mission to be part of the human sexuality community to help support people be their fullest sexual self: doing the consensual activities they desire, and in a community and relationship that respects them.
What would you say makes a good sex therapist?
I work to help individuals, partners, and couples to connect on the things that are not being talked about. Often people believe they are broken or their desires are shameful and I work to create change and facilitate communication. As part of sex therapy it is important for me to work with my clients to help them realize that they are not broken and their desires are normal. Part of my work is being a sex educator and an important part of sex therapy is sex ed.
The next major element of therapy is the importance of listening without judgement. A therapist is a person you can tell anything to without judgement in an effort to be heard, work through emotions and improve relationships, among other things. To that point I am a good listener and I make it a point for my sessions to always be improving communication skills of my clients. It is important to me that my clients not only work through issues, but also that they leave my office with some skills.
How can a potential client find the right therapist for their needs?
Finding the right therapist can be a difficult task and there are so many different ways a person can go to find one. Psychology Today is a great resources as they verify licensed therapists. Other websites are; Yelp, various “therapist finder” websites, and using google to find a therapist is always possible. One of the classic and most common ways to find a therapist is word of mouth. Ask your family, friends, co-workers, doctor, yoga instructor, hair stylist, or anyone in your life that you trust for their opinion for a therapist they trust. You may also have insurance and check with your provider if there are any therapist you can see. Your insurance provider will have a list of therapists they have available through them.
Once you find a therapist or have a few suggestions, you can still shop around. You can call a therapist and have a phone conversation for 15 minutes to see if they would be a good fit. Many therapists have free or low cost first sessions, also known as assessments, where you can visit with a therapist to see if you want to sign up for therapy with them. I, for instance have what I call a “worry free” assessment. If you think I am a good fit then you pay for the assessment and second session on your second visit. If you don’t think I am a good fit then you don’t have to pay for the assessment and I will give a few recommendations for other therapists. Finally, many therapists understand therapy is expensive and have a sliding scale for people who are experiencing any financial hardships, offering lower cost sessions.
As a sex therapist, what would you say are the top 3 sex-related questions/areas of concern that your clients come to you with?
1. Am I normal? I by far the hear this the most working in sex therapy.
2. I would like to do a certain activity.
3. Can we recover from infidelity? Be it intimate, emotional, financial, physical, or any other break in trust, can a relationship recover.
How do you help people in working with the questions/areas of concern from #3? What advice would you give?
1. Am I normal? Yes.
2. I would like to do a certain activity. This is seems really easy. Yet, it is often hard for people to ask for what they want from their partner. People don’t want to feel rejected and have probably experienced some level of shame in their history, which may inhibit them from asking for what they want. A question you may want to ask yourself is “how bad will I feel if I don’t ask for what I want sexually”? Then take some time to do some research around what you want from your partner. Read books, visit forums, talk with your community, attend a class, and get knowledge. Then it is time to take a breath to have a fully clothed conversation, with no distractions, and focus on “I statements”. “I would like to try something new”, “I have an idea for something new in the bedroom”, or “I would like you to do this thing to me”. Some people may need to actually have their first ever conversation about sex. It may be a simple question, but the “am I normal” and asking for what you want can take a lot of personal work to answer for yourself.
3. Recovering from infidelity takes hard work and the statistics show that between 30% and 40% of relationships that experience infidelity recover. I have seen that couples that work through infidelity frequently become stronger, because people start speaking the whole truth. The interesting thing is no one that experiences infidelity shares when they get better, we only hear from our friends when the relationship is breaking up. What people need to get through this break in trust is time, effort, and professional support. It is important to reach out for help when things are at their toughest. Breaks in trust are a normal part over the length of a relationship and it is in these instances is where relationship change and grow. I realize this is hard to believe, but I have witnessed this happen.
How can people find out more about you?
People can check out my website at http://michaelguichetsextherapy.com/, I have a growing list of resoureces and will keep on adding some blog posts. I can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and at my number is 831-221-0088.