Most of my life, I thought of myself as an academic rather than a hands-on person. In college, I wanted to Save the Earth! through science. Later I wanted to Save the Earth! through philosophy.
But when I started needing to think more practically about paying bills after college, my direction seemed less clear.
Then I went on a long car trip, and that’s where I had my first big epiphany. I wanted to help others in a concrete way. I wanted to a job that would allow me to be more intimate with people, to really get real. Eureka! I could become a nurse!
The fact that I often nearly fainted at the sight of blood? No matter! I’d figure it out.
Fortunately, I did figure that (and a lot of other things) out, because becoming a nurse is on a short list of the best decisions I have ever made. Being a nurse and then a nurse practitioner gave me the confidence, the skills, and the knowledge to show up for people in their most difficult and overwhelming times.
Finding Sex Medicine
Fast-forward several years and I am experiencing a sense of confusion and uncertainty about my direction in a completely different—and more personal—way.
This is where sex comes in.
Like many other women, I did all of the usual things: I faked orgasms as a teen; then I began leaving orgasms out of partnered sex altogether. I would lose desire in long-term relationships and think that I was broken. In the end, I didn’t know what I really wanted sexually or how to communicate it authentically.
Finally, I started exploring, and I realized, “This isn’t just me! Other people are experiencing the same kind of thing!"
Along the way, I met women who had pain with sex. One woman vividly told me: “It feels like there are razor blades in my vagina when I have sex.” If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, I am not sure what will!
But I found that many medical professionals did not take these problems seriously or provide any real support. I thought about all the people who suffer in silence, and I wanted them all to know that they were not broken.
This isn’t just about the experience of cis-gendered women. Cis-gendered men may benefit from the patriarchy in many ways, but the same forces keep them locked in rigid sexual paradigms. Gender non-binary, non-heteronormative, kinky and queer - we all get stuck in our sexuality sometimes.... AND we are all hurt by a medical system that ignores real, embodied sexual health as an important aspect of the human experience.
And then it hit me. Maybe I have something to contribute to the conversation: this is what I have to do! I could use the skills I learned in my nursing career to help people have better, happier, pain-free sex lives.
Making It a Reality
As I started acting on this epiphany, I discovered Sexual Medicine, an entire discipline of people who likely had similar realizations as I had experienced and spent their careers supporting people of all genders to live better sexual lives.
I went on to add a certification in nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner and then a Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a focus on female sexuality and cancer. I also took the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health’s Fall Course and the NPWH Sexual Health Course and earned a certification as a menopause specialist through NAMS.
Honing the Vision
But, while I gained the knowledge and skills needed to offer “medical” support for sexual health problems, I also knew that people need more than just support for their physical body in order to manifest their authentic sexual selves. I needed to be able to offer counseling to my patients as well.
This is not the typical route. Most medical professionals provide medical support alone and send their clients to a therapist or counselor, but I believe that unifying medical support with counseling creates the best environment for life-changing transformations.
I wanted to combine medicine with counseling.
To become a counselor, I completed the University of Michigan’s Sexual Health Certificate program and worked with clients under the supervision of Dan Rosen, LCSW-R, CST, CSTS and Evelyn Resh, CNM, MPH, CSC to become certified.
Today, I am one of only a hundred or so certified sex counselors in the US.
After many trainings in attachment theory, polyvagal theory, internal family systems, trauma, developmental model of couples therapy, and more, my general interest is in somatics and mindfulness—moving into a gentle awareness of the body as a source of grounding, knowledge, intuition, power, and pleasure.
The Big Picture: Holistic, Mindful Approach Grounded in Nature
My approach is grounded in two major themes.
Mindfulness is the first. I am a long-time meditator and intermittent yogi. My mindfulness experience is primarily grounded in Zen, with great support from the Mountains and Rivers Order at Zen Mountain Monastery over the years.
I believe that mindfulness is an essential life skill for being human. Its importance to sexual experience can’t be overstated, but it is also relevant to every aspect of life. Awareness is the first step toward authenticity, allowing us to come home to ourselves in the present moment.
Nature is the second.
I believe that the effort to resolve sexual problems or to reach new sexual heights is often about coming home to ourselves, to our bodies, and to our partners. It is about becoming vulnerable, listening closely, and finding the voice to express what is felt. It is about integrating our intellect, our emotions, and our instincts. What we may discover when we make this integration is that we are flesh-and-bone creatures with a vast capacity for connection, intimacy, and pleasure.
I believe that “fixing” our sex lives can fundamentally shift how we relate to ourselves, our bodies, our partners, and to the greater world around us. Perhaps people who have great sex are the people we need to make the world a better place.
So maybe I have just come full circle after all. Maybe we can Save the Earth! one awesome sexual experience at a time!
Pleasure is a biological guide to what is good for us: clean air, fresh water, rest, movement, touch, play. - Betty Martin
Recognition of Privilege
I am aware that I am white, cis-gendered heterosexual woman in a monogamous relationship doing this work. There are reasons beyond my beliefs and my accomplishments that have given me the opportunity to do my work that make it hard for someone outside of these dominant groups to do the same work. I acknowledge that, and I hope this reality continues to change.
I am committed to a continuous learning process around how to embody anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices. It is my mission to join with like-minded folks in eradicating oppression through self-education, acknowledgement, and activism.
My practice is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Ithaca, New York state, and the United States of America. I acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ people, past and present, to these lands and waters. I appreciate Cornell University's efforts to have this statement approved by the traditional Gayogo̱hó:nǫɁ leadership.
What to Expect
Working with me starts with booking a free consult where we’ll talk about the challenges you are facing and get to know each other.
If you are considering working with me, go ahead and book a free online consult! It’s quick! It’s easy! And it’s the best way to learn more about working with me.
What happens during this free consult? My goal is for us to learn a bit more about each other and to determine if we are a good fit. You will also have a chance to ask me questions and decide if you would like to make an appointment.
Our first full appointment is an opportunity for you to be heard, maybe for the first time, by a compassionate, skilled, and sex-positive practitioner. It is also an opportunity for you to slow down and tune into your own felt experience.
My goal is to meet you where you are. For some folks, this means paying a lot of attention to how the physical body is functioning to determine how you can be supported for optimal sexual functioning. In these cases, we might explore whether a medication or chronic health condition is disrupting your sex life or whether work stress, disrupted sleep, poor eating habits, or feeling overwhelmed could be contributors.
For others, we might spend more time focusing on how thoughts, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, and past experiences are impacting sexuality. Through sex education and counseling, we can explore together how you can overcome what is keeping you from the sex life you desire.
For most patients, our work together will be a mixture of the two.
Because each person’s situation is unique, each appointment is a little different. Some in-person appointments require a physical exam, especially if pain with sex is a problem. I appreciate that the vulvovaginal exam is a time of special vulnerability, and I make every effort to ensure your comfort. My goal is to approach any needed medical exam with a trauma-informed perspective by focusing on your sense of safety and autonomy. All stages of the physical exams are at your discretion.
Some clients may need labs or other testing; others may need prescription medications. As a licensed nurse practitioner in New York, Florida, and Vermont, I can provide this care directly to clients from these states. For all other clients, I can provide guidance and support on how to obtain appropriate testing or recommend how to discuss possible prescription medications with licensed health care professionals in your state.
What is sex counseling? Is it different that sex therapy?
Sex counseling and sex therapy are two different styles of working with sexuality, generally based on the background, training, and interests of the practitioner. Sex counselors are practitioners licensed in a helping profession (I am a nurse practitioner), who have gone on to complete the extensive training needed to be certified to offer greater support for sexuality. Sex therapists are specifically licensed mental health professionals who have done similar training to specialize in sexuality. Working with a sex counselor certified by American Association or Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) ensures that your provider has the training needed to support sexuality. Either a sex counselor or sex therapist might be right for you. The best way to find out is to talk to the practitioner directly.
Will there be touched involved? Will we be getting naked?
Sex counseling does not involve me touching you or either of us getting naked as part of the counseling. As a nurse practitioner, I can provide a physical exam if needed based on your specific sexual concern (most often if you have pain with sex). Somatic-based practitioners that focus on touch or providing sexual surrogacy can be an important healing modality for some clients. I encourage you to seek out those services if they are right for you and are legal in your state.
Do you take insurance?
I do not participate with insurance. Insurance companies do not offer adequate coverage for sexual health concerns, beyond basic STI and pregnancy prevention. My goal is to be available to you, to offer the time you need to address what is keeping you feeling stuck sexually. Not participating with insurance is the best way for me to realize this goal with you. I understand that this is a barrier to accessing care for some people and therefore do have a sliding scale, which can be provided upon request.
Do you have a sliding scale?
Yes I do, and it is available upon request.