Selecting an Appropriate Surrogate Partner
It is important to consider who will be most useful to the client’s learning and then to interview and select a professional surrogate partner with the necessary expertise for that specific case. Experience level, physical appearance and age vary among surrogates. Physical appearance and age are usually the least important criteria when selecting a surrogate partner. It is often desirable to avoid meeting the client’s “ideal” in order to provide optimal learning for the client about “real” relationships with “real” people. Adequate training and emotional maturity are essential to quality surrogate wok. A supervising therapist may contact IPSA’s referral service for assistance in finding a compassionate, well-trained, certified professional surrogate partner.
Certified Surrogate Partners
To assist the therapeutic community and consumers in evaluating the qualifications of individuals offering surrogate partner therapy, IPSA established a certification program. To qualify for IPSA certification, surrogate partners must demonstrate that they have had adequate training; understand the principles and practices of surrogate partner therapy; possess personal qualities commensurate with the large responsibilities of a surrogate partner; and commit to honoring the IPSA Code of Ethics.
Necessary Surrogate Qualities
Although there are no specific academic degrees required of a surrogate partner, there are certain personal qualities and life experiences that seem to provide valuable foundation for surrogate skill. These include: comfort with one’s own body and sexuality, warmth, compassion, empathy and intelligence. Non-judgmental attitudes, toward others’ choice of lifestyle, consensual sexual activities, and sexual orientation are also highly important.
Gender and Sexual Orientation
Surrogate partners work with clients of all sexual orientations and genders. Surrogate partner gender and sexual orientation are often a consideration when the client’s difficulties present at the intersection of intimacy and sexuality. Some clients with issues of inexperience or negative body image, or with histories of trauma, may choose to work with a same-sex surrogate who participates as a role model rather than as an intimate partner.