Speaking of sex

Speaking of sex

Certified Sex Therapist

Jennifer Wiessner, 45

HOPE Counseling Services

20 Labrador Lane, Cumberland

Sex therapist Jennifer Wiessner grew up in New Jersey, attended Rutgers University and began her career in her home state. But after the birth of their first son, she and her husband decided to move to Maine and “enjoy its amazing gifts and a lifestyle better suited to our needs as a family.” Wiessner said her family loves the outdoors and find “so much satisfaction in the daily life here, as compared with the traffic and fast pace of New Jersey.”

Once settled in, the couple had a second son and Wiessner started her journey to become a sex therapist. The community-oriented life in Maine prompted Wiessner to consider how her work could be used to benefit more people.

“My ‘Raising Sexually Healthy Children’ workshops were born from those contemplations. Now one of my great passions is educating and empowering parents to impart to their children healthy, developmentally appropriate sex education, distinct from and more personalized than what children may learn in school,” said Wiessner, who runs a monthly group for parents of children up to 14 years.

For Wiessner, finding balance in her roles as wife, mother, and professional is important. She takes time to rejuvenate through meditation, solitary cross-country skiing, and singing.

“Other people in my life help feed my energy, so I make loads of time for my sons, as well as time with other powerful women whom I know on a personal and professional level and help me create and re-create myself as a therapist and a mother. And my life is made more rich by intentional quality time with my husband. We make time for each other to enjoy all the reasons we fell in love in the first place nearly 20 years ago.”

Maine Women talked with Wiessner about why she became a sex therapist and why sexual health is so important.

Q: What inspired you to become a sex therapist?

A: Is it cliche? to say that I had an epiphany? My vocation has been in clinical social work and psychotherapy. But six years ago at a training seminar in Maine I encountered the renowned sex therapist Gina Ogden, not knowing who she was. In listening to Dr. Ogden discuss her life’s work in the intricate connections between sexuality and spirituality, I had a visceral, intense reaction that moved me in ways I had never felt before in my profession. I just knew I had to do the work that she was pioneering. By coincidence, there was another well-known therapist attending the seminar who noticed. He was at the time the only certified sex therapist in Maine. He introduced himself, noticing my enthusiasm, and in our conversation I could barely speak coherently, there was so much inspiration bubbling up inside my thoughts. He asked if I were interested in pursuing sex therapy, and I blurted out a hasty yes. That man, Dr. Ron Feintech, pointed out that he was approaching retirement and wanted someone to carry on his work in Maine, so that his knowledge and experience would not retire with him. He talked to me about getting certified with the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), saying, “How about you take all this on from me?” and I knew I had found my calling. Within an hour I had phoned my husband and my brother, and practically in tears I told them about this new path. I have been fascinated and inspired ever since, and Dr. Feintech as well as Gina Ogden continue to be my mentors. It was one of the greatest days of my professional life. I would not be true to myself if I didn’t say that I feel a deep sense of pride for pursuing my AASECT certification and becoming Maine’s first female sex therapist. I believe the universe spoke to me that day at the training and I responded and followed my dream!

Q: How has the marriage/dating scene changed over the last 10 years with regard to what you see in your practice?

A: I’ve been working with couples and individuals for about a decade and observe many interesting shifts in what people are willing to tolerate and forgive in a relationship. Couples are looking for much more than just getting along and raising the kids. Those who come in for counseling are seeking to deepen their intimacy and bring their best selves to the relationship. They are not looking to fix as much as they are looking to grow, individually and together. One of the strongest and most powerful commitments in my work is to help couples see their relationships as expandable and limitless, and that any relationship worth counseling has the opportunity to breathe new life into it, even if it means shining some light on the shadow side of self and partner. What’s more, I see that infidelity, which I think historically was regarded as a relationship deal breaker, can be dealt with more positively and sensitively by seeing it as part of larger relational issues that may have hope of resolution and perhaps even bring around a reinvention of the partnership.

Q: Do you have any relationship advice for women?

A: Have more sex, right? Seems like the right thing to say, but from my perspective, the quantity of sex is only a small part of the whole. Women must tap their own wellsprings and inner wisdom to be sexually healthy. A woman has an emotional space deep within that stores desire, our preferences, our sexuality, sensuality and parts we choose not to look at. By connecting with them, aspects of ourselves can inform us and challenge us to look at where we are stuck. We may “want to want” sex, but is the intimacy and sex we are having worth wanting? Women I counsel often know exactly what their obstacles are, but are unsure how to shift them and are uncertain of their power to do so. Our female history is filled with fairy tales and early messages that we are not enough on our own, and particularly not enough until we find a partner who fulfills us. This faulty equation leads to disappointment and neglects the truth: We are capable of filling ourselves.

Many young women are not encouraged, and are at times ashamed, to tap into their inner flame, and certainly are not taught to cultivate their sensual and sexual selves. As we mature, that sustaining habit becomes ever more elusive. I meet with many women who question their strength and their connection to passion because they did not have role models to show them how to live boldly and passionately. That fire is often what attracts their ideal mate, but women do not always exhibit their peak potential as a sexual being.

But how? Where do we learn this? Like any new behavior, we need to do it often to strengthen it. I say that self-care is very important, the internal and nurturing self-care that encompasses daily self-reflection and acceptance. Meditation, communing with other women who inspire and challenge us, and recognizing that connecting to your inner voice makes you a more grounded partner, are all forms of this. When we know what we want and what truly feels good to our souls, we are more attuned to energy coming at us. We become more discerning and able to weed out relationships that can’t meet us on solid ground. So, consider: What am I doing in my life that is supporting my relationship with myself? How am I investing in me, my most valuable asset? Is what I am doing supporting my ability to share my bright inner light with the world so I can attract quality situations and partners? Here’s my advice: Source your inner luminescence, and nourish it.

On the CoverJennifer Wiessner, certified sex therapist with HOPE Counseling Services in Cumberland, has been providing therapy for couples and individuals for 10 years. Courtesy photo

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