Sexual Surrogate Partner Therapy: Legal and Ethical Issues: This paper is a revised version of the talk delivered to the Tasmanian branch of ANZAPPL in Hobart on 7 September 2013.

S. C. Ian Freckelton

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Ben Lewin film The Sessions has drawn attention again to the potential role for sexual surrogate partners and sex workers in enabling persons with disabilities and impairments to give expression to their sexual needs and desires. However away from the big screen the ethics of registered health practitioners in themselves engaging in such therapies are highly problematic. Difficult too is the role of such practitioners in being 'the therapist' responsible for enabling or brokering sexual contact between their patients and those offering such services for financial reward. In some jurisdictions arrangements involving sexual surrogate therapy (especially where the therapist benefits from it financially) may not be lawful. Further in spite of many assertions one way and the other there are no data enabling evaluation of the success rates of the interventions of sexual surrogates or sex workers. Whether positive outcomes to such interactions are likely in most circumstances given that the provision of services is predicated upon idealised attachments is questionable. It is also unclear whether sexual surrogates' adherence to an ethical code effectively ameliorates the potential for counter-therapeutic consequences from the commodification of intimacy and it is far from straightforward to identify what steps should be taken by the referring health practitioner to select a suitable provider of sexual services to their patient or client and then to monitor whether the arrangement is achieving its objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-659
Number of pages17
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • attachments
  • boundaries transgression
  • countertransference
  • ethics
  • idealisation
  • prostitution
  • sex worker
  • sexual surrogate partner
  • tactile therapies
  • transference

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