Own your business, you are your own boss. You are your brand and you can’t let the anxiety of doing new things hold you back. You have to just jump in and Nike!
Jackie, She/Her, always knew she wanted to listen to people’s problems and help them with solutions. Why she got into therapy is because of her family and the differences between the two sides growing up. Jackie’s mom was a second mom to her seven brothers, her Babcia (grandma) and Dziadzio (grandpa) are Holocaust survivors, very Polish, with extremely traditional cultural practices and roles. Jackie’s dad is one of six kids, five sisters, his family came over on the Mayflower, her grandpa, a chef in the army, and shared egalitarian tasks of the household. There were lots of conversations about gender norms in her house growing up. She is one to challenge gender and sexual scripts and not abide by those rules!
With her unique upbringing, she was interested in Psychology, she obtained this undergraduate degree from St. Cloud State University. During undergrad, she was involved in leadership positions in student organizations. Rarely did she get intimidated by difficult conversations or meeting new people. Through her network, friends, and sorority sisters, everybody began to tell her, “Jackie you should be a sex therapist,” which she thought was a complete joke. She thought, there is no such thing as a sex therapist, y’all are playing with me! She would casually dialogue about sexuality, condom bingo on campus, more gender norms of course, and sometimes talk through sexts for her friends if they asked. Sex and gender are not taboo topics with her.
In her last year of undergrad, Jackie began an internship working with folks who had sex offense charges. She learned a lot from this experience, Jackie loved it so much that she completely stopped applying to grad schools. She thought I can make a career out of this with an undergraduate degree, PSYCH!! Jackie was mistaken, after that, she got into grad school by luck. Jackie started an application at St. Cloud State in January, unfinished. That summer in July, she had been asked to come for an interview because spots had opened in the program she partially applied for. A week or so later, she was welcomed into the program and super excited! Before starting school that summer, Jackie was up north sitting on the dock of her grandma’s cabin by the water. She had an epiphany moment while reflecting on what her friends had said all these years, and texted them one by one, were you serious about me being a sex therapist? Walla! Jackie got her answer, and everyone said if you do not go for it, you will regret it.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I previously have worked in an Outpatient Community Mental Health Clinic. I had been there for over two years, working with several different mental health diagnoses, supporting the LGBTQ+ population, and sex therapy clients. I remember completing my Sex Therapy Certificate in Coursework at the University of Wisconsin Stout and feeling so fulfilled. Throughout the last year, I reflected on what I want, what clients do I deserve to work with, and who do I work with best as a therapist. Not saying I did not love my caseload because I did, but it was not my goal to be a generalist therapist. I wanted to bring in what I learned from my education into the therapy room every day. I would rather be fantastic at a couple of niches than feel like I must know all these things to be a worthy clinician. I decided to take the leap and jump into private practice this January. Here I could focus on my niches, anxiety, self-esteem, sex therapy, and gender-affirming care. I connected with people in my network, searched countlessly for jobs on LinkedIn, did a handful of zoom interviews, and started as a contractor at the Centre for Sexual Wellness and Better Today Counseling and Wellness in Minnesota.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
At times, I am the parent in the therapeutic relationship. I feel like the cool, hip, therapist whose teaching folks generations older than me about sex and sexuality. I am explaining several sex topics and I love it! I think this is an interesting dynamic when I work with sex in late-life couples, they meet with me, and tell me I am breath of fresh air. Now, doctors, nurses, therapists, other providers, do not even ask about sex later in life and it is an important topic to discuss. I am honored to be entrusted with the conversations I get to have with my clients about pleasure and sexuality. I love being able to add my sense of humor and laughter during sessions to make it less taboo. I find it fascinating when clients will want to come to meet with me and giggle when they say the word sex, due to their uncomfortably. I say, sex should be shameless, meaning, no one should ever feel guilty for what is sexually pleasing to them. I use, let us “Name the Shame and Reframe,” to undo negative sexual scripts and create positive new ones. I work with clients to get from shameful to the shameless language of, “No Shame on My Game Honey!” This recurring theme has been the most interesting story throughout my work, sex is everywhere, and we still do not know how to talk about it. My hope is to continue the conversations about sex and break the stigma associated with it. My main takeaway from this story is to keep doing what you’re doing, you’re making a difference in the world and so many people are appreciative of you.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my biggest struggles moving into private practice has been navigating money conversations with clients. Being from Minnesota where we are culturally “nice,” we tend to avoid conflictual topics. I never realized that therapist’s rates were based on a business plan. In the beginning, I would have clients talk me down in price, negotiate rates and payment plans. You can only imagine how well that went for me. I was resentful of these dynamics. I would compare my rates with other providers in the area, which I have now learned you cannot do. I was constantly thinking about the line in Little Dicky’s music video Save that Money, “Why shouldn’t I get paid?” and became salty. I would question myself and wonder if this was worth it. That is when it dawned on me, the rate is truly incorporated around a business plan. I sat down with my finances. I looked at what I need to balance out my business and personal expenses. I created a plan to keep me on track. I raised my rates, notified clients, and had conversations with everyone about this. I was ready to let go of those who may not be the best fit, after all, sometimes that is about rates, and that is okay to accept. Understanding that rates are based on a business plan, the same as the owners of a spa or salon, has been exactly what has helped me overcome this challenge!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I recently took a business school Bootcamp class with Kelly and Miranda through Zynnyme. I have to say, if it were not for their mentorship, feedback, and program, I would be lost in the business world of therapy. These women taught me several valuable lessons; I cannot just pick one! Take up space in this world. As therapists, we do not compete, we stand out. There are plenty of clients in the world needing services. They have also taught me to chill out, because I am a go-getter and always give 100%, all day, every day. When I worry about something that is not working in my plan, usually it is important for me to take a step back and breathe. It is okay to focus on small steps in your business plan towards big changes and nobody’s success is earned overnight.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Sexual wellness is a part of wellness, I am a sex therapist that works with clients on sexuality. Physical, medical, and spiritual components of wellness tie into sexual wellness. There’s an intersection between all of them. When working with clients on sexual wellness we will talk about consent, safety, routine STI & STD check-ups, pain associated with sex, sexual satisfaction, what a satisfying sex life means for them, and more! I am working on normalizing conversations about sex, it is everywhere and we don’t do a great job of talking about sex, even in 2021.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
Prioritize balance and pleasure! Wellness can be broken down into self-care, cooking meals, going to the gym, eating out for dinner, taking a day off for sex, drinking more water, blocking times on your work schedule for breaks, sleep, and more! I think better well-being depends on the person and which aspect of wellness they may feel like is out of balance. For example, if a person has a goal to spend time in nature, wants to meditate more, and has a spiritual connection to that, but never does it, that may be priority number one. It’s also about recreating the wellness schedule. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, why not stop and just sit in silence for five minutes or go outside your home and just listen to nature. Being mindful of good and bad habits is important and recognizing how you want to change them is definitely the next step to starting small tweaks. One of my favorite small tweaks for drinking more water is an hour or so before bed, I’ll make sure to have 1–3 cups. Right away when I wake up in the morning after brushing my teeth that’s exactly what I’ll do next. It may sound simple enough, and it’s become so automatic I don’t even have to think about doing it anymore!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A movement that sexual wellness is just as important as physical, medical, spiritual, mental, and all aspects of wellness. All of these tie in no doubt, especially in my line of work. The movement would open up the conversation of where I hope sexual education in schools is LGBTQ+ and gender-inclusive, moves away from an abstinence-only model, talks about consent and how sexuality can change, how our bodies develop and creating even more platforms in healthcare to recognize we need to start talking to our clients about this. This would be awesome and I would love every minute of it!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
When it comes to sex therapy and sexuality, one colleague did tell me, read as many books on sex therapy that you can, I didn’t listen. I sure as heck am catching up on my reading list!
- Within sex therapy, there is a niche within a niche. You may work with LGBTQ+, Gender Affirming Care, BDSM/Kink, Polyamory Relationships, and any Sexual Functioning Concerns. Literally, I felt like and sometimes still do feel I need to know all these aspects of sex therapy, which I don’t. Do what you like and focus on that!
- Start ASAP using social media to your benefit. Post about sex therapy, sexuality, mental health, and all aspects of wellness you enjoy. If that imposter syndrome comes up, who cares, you can always change things on your sites and you don’t need to compare.
- It’s okay to take up space. Where I’m located it feels like there is a handful of us sex therapists and it has felt hard to say I do this too! I’ve gotten over that fear of putting myself out there, cause you know what, if I don’t no one else is going to!
- Own your business, you are your own boss. You are your brand and you can’t let the anxiety of doing new things hold you back. You have to just jump in and Nike!
- No matter how challenging these conversations are, have them. Be that person for someone out there struggling with their sex life. Normalize it’s okay to play, talk about fetishes, use sexual innuendos, and just bring it to the table!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health absolutely! There has been a lot of conversations about mental health being normalized like physical health and going to the doctors. I wish I had that growing up to understand more about what mental health is. I hear the quote, “We’ve all got something,” from several folks, do you do something about it? Mental health-wise that is, if it was physical health you probably would act on that. We need to be better role models and advocates for talking about mental health for future generations to come. Older generations need to stop shaming messages about seeing a therapist, or “I don’t need therapy I’m fine,” or “therapy doesn’t work,” these types of messages put my career to shame and we need to recognize that and stop them now. I even thought sex therapy wasn’t a career for so long and this thought came from those kinds of messages. Challenge these folks, help a sis out over here!!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I recently launched my blog/website in June, shamelesstherapy.org go check it out! My professional Instagram Account: @sextherapistjackie — Friday Fun Facts about Sex are the most popular posts so far! I have done some Instagram Lives and my next one is coming up soon on Thursday, July 8th, at 12 pm CST.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success in your great work!