Sexuality and Relationship Therapist; Mississippi’s first Black AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists)-Certified Sex Therapist
Describing the Work
I am a sexuality and relationship therapist, and I work with individuals and those in all types of relationships toward their self-defined goals. I also provide therapy from a Christian perspective when it’s requested by my clients, but I work with people of varying types of spiritual backgrounds or no spiritual connection or acknowledgement.
The Journey to This Work
My journey has had a lot of twists and turns, but I’ve been doing sex therapy for about eleven years now. And what brought me to the field was a random conversation with a friend on campus when we were in undergrad as we were discussing our future plans. And at that time, I was just thinking that I wanted to work with people in relationships and then do it from a Christian perspective. And she said, “well I’m going to be a sex therapist.” And I said, “you’re going to be a what? What is that?” And so, we went to grad school together, and I took a human sexuality course where the teacher was a sex therapist, and is still a sex therapist, and learned a bit more about the field and went to a conference for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), and my mind was blown. I was like, “I don’t know because this is a lot.” I took some time and got my clinical license to be a licensed clinical social worker and then went back to the conference and was like, “okay, I think this is something that I want to do.” And I’ve been doing it ever since.
I think that the more that I’ve learned about the Bible, really within cultural contexts and doing more exegesis, it was like, Jesus didn’t say none of this stuff that people are purporting and saying that if you’re not living this way, then it’s not of God. But you know, a lot of it has to do with control, not necessarily about the freedom and the abundant life that is promised to us as believers.
On Obstacles and Barriers
A lot and in a lot of different ways too. So, I went to my first AASECT Conference in 2006, and at the time, the field felt very white. I did not see a lot of people who looked like me, so it didn’t feel as though this type of work was accessible to me. Although there were some friendly faces that were like “Oh, we’re happy to see you,” but outside of their happiness to see me there, wasn’t like a lot of support within the infrastructure to keep me there. So, I wonder, if some of the supports that are currently in place, if they were in place back then, if I would have been doing sex therapy even longer. So that was one thing.
The more that I’ve learned about the Bible, really within cultural contexts and doing more exegesis, it was like, Jesus didn’t say none of this stuff that people are purporting…a lot of it has to do with control, not necessarily about the freedom and the abundant life that is promised to us as believers.
And then also, certification is not easily accessible. It can be very expensive and time-consuming. So, it took me a long time to get certified, but it doesn’t have to. Also, because there’s only one person in St. Louis who provides supervision for those who are seeking sex therapy certification. You have to have 50 hours of supervision, up to half of it can be group supervision and the other half has to be individual. I did all of my group supervision with her and a couple of individual sessions. Now at the time I was working with her, she charged $150/hour but now she’s up to $200/hour [$200 x 50 hours=$10,000], and that’s a lot. As a social worker, I have to pay rent, so we may just be seeing her once a month, and then it got to the point that I wasn’t able to. And then I got connected to another supervisor who is not in Missouri but was able to still provide the sex therapy supervision virtually, and part of her personal mission is to help make the field more accessible, so she charged considerably less which made it accessible to me. So that was another barrier.
Also, just getting connected to like-minded folks in the field, specifically bringing in aspects of Christianity and sexuality, just because so many people have been hurt by aspects of the teachings of the church. And what I found was that there were a lot more resources for people who were former Christians than there were for Christians who wanted to keep a connection to the faith but still work to dismantle bad theology. And so, really working to find those resources and working to connect with other professionals in the field. There are plenty of sexologists and sex educators, therapists, and counselors who are Christian; however, not all of them incorporate Christianity and sexuality, which is perfectly fine, it just speaks to the need for it and also presenting it from a truly affirming stance, a truly sex-positive stance. There aren’t a lot of places for that. Which is I know why a lot of people seek me out, because I’m not just an accepting therapist, I’m affirming and I’m gonna bring therapy from a Christian perspective if it’s requested. And so, I’ll have folks who may not have a diagnosable sexual dysfunction, but they might identify along the spectrum of gender identity or sexuality and want to deconstruct some bad theology as it relates to anxiety, but they may not have a lot of safe spaces or qualified therapists to do that, so they come to me.
Cultivating and Creating a Space
Definitely connecting to like-minded individuals. So, I am a member of an organization called Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WoCSHN). And that organization, I want to say it was founded in 2009 or 2010, but the purpose is to support other women of color in the field of sexuality, inclusive of various professions, so that includes sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists, sex workers, sex coaches…but if you identify as a woman of color, you have access to this space. And through WoCSHN, I’ve been able to connect with some amazing women who are doing amazing things and like when I see them on tv, I’m like, “I know them. That’s my homie.” But not just knowing them but knowing that the support is there, and it’s real. I have one really good friend that I met through WoCSHN. She put up a message that she was moving to St. Louis, and I was like “Hey girl, I live in St. Louis,” and she lived here for five years and, she’s a sex therapist, we started our respective practices the same year and just have really supported each other.
And it’s really been this idea of collaboration over competition. We can all eat, and it’s enough people out here who need help; they need all of us. So, there isn’t a tearing down.
And it’s really been this idea of collaboration over competition. We can all eat, and it’s enough people out here who need help; they need all of us. So, there isn’t a tearing down. WoCHSN is a wonderful, supportive network. It’s beautiful to see us supporting each other, and sometimes you can tell who’s not connected because it’s that mentality of “I came up with this first.” Girl, we can all eat. What you doing? So being connected to WoCSHN has been supportive, and my homies have put me on. This book, An Intersectional Approach to Sex Therapy, so Mariotta Gary-Smith is one of the foundresses of WoCSHN, and she’s an editor of this book and kind of pushed me to write a chapter, and I did. At first, I was talking myself out of it, and she was like you can do this. And now, I’m a published author. Or another foundress of WoCSHN, someone had contacted her to write something, and she was like “I can’t do that, but my girl De-Andrea can” or just other opportunities to collaborate. Brittany Broadus-Smith is a Christian sexologist. So, she has a YouTube show, and there was one episode where it was me, Mandy [Dr. Amanda Nicholson], and her, and we were talking about sexuality and Christianity. And her platform is a lot bigger than mine, but she put me on, and we share each other’s stuff and promote each other. Like that has been, you know Black women can’t be beat anyway, but it’s not just Black women, it’s women of color overall that support each other. But just that network and that community has definitely been incredibly valuable for my success, I believe.
Advice For Those Hoping to Do This Work
For sure, networking, and then if you have not, attend a SAR. A SAR is a Sexual Attitude Reassessment, so if you’re interested in being certified through AASECT, everyone has to go through a SAR. And I think that it gives you just an idea of is this the area, the space, that I want to operate in? Because I remember my first SAR I went to. There were some people who were really jarred by it and were like, “maybe this ain’t for me.” And it’s like, if it shocks you like that, then maybe it’s not for you, and that’s okay. But in addition to connecting to others in the field, going to a SAR and really saying, is this what I want to do? Is this the space that I want to inhabit?
And then for Christians, I would say that it’s incredibly important to really evaluate your own beliefs and ideas about things as it relates to sexuality, looking to see where those ideas come from and if they will prohibit you or keep you from doing certain types of work or working with certain populations. Like, as a therapist, it’s different than an educator or coach or counselor, but just thinking about how there are some clients that I know would be a challenge for me to work with. I wouldn’t necessarily sit in a place of judgement, but like this isn’t my area of expertise, so let me connect you with someone who is more qualified to work with you. But I think sometimes when you haven’t done your own work, you’re not able to make that referral.