Imagine sitting at your computer and watching an attractive young woman get naked, paying her for the time and the service. You're watching pornography, or paying a stripper, right? Not so fast. You're paying for a Naked Therapy session, and the woman stripping down nude for you is counseling you on whatever issues you've been going through in your life.
It's the combination of one thing most men love, seeing naked women, with one thing most men hate, talking about their feelings. But does it work, and is it for real?
Sarah White is the founder of Naked Therapy, what she describes as "freedom through arousal." Her practice is the first of its kind, and it has generated more than its fair share of buzz and controversy.
In this interview, White talks about Naked Therapy, what it is, and how she got started with it. More importantly, she responds to much of the criticism directed at her and her service, and explains what it's really all about.
How and when did Naked Therapy begin, and what were your initial ideas about this? Where did it all come from?
I moved to New York City a couple years ago after studying psychology and biology in college, and I was doing some modeling and some web development to make ends meet, but my desire to use my education and do something I'm passionate about and truly believe in kept gnawing. Thus, the idea for Naked Therapy grew from an accumulation of my interests and professional ambitions. I thought, why not do therapy naked? Why not actually face the transference issues, the sexual issues, the real issues that men are dealing with on a daily basis. Why not face male sexuality where it's happening on the web.
Plus, I have personally found the traditional ways of many therapists boring and frustrating. I hope to offer something exciting and fresh to my patients, to challenge the puritanical basis of our society, and to have a positive effect on the acceptance of male and female sexuality. And after creating it I was blown away by the response. People want to do this!
If you had to describe Naked Therapy in one or two sentences - not just literally what it is but everything it stands for - what would you say?
It stands for bringing the sexual and the mental together in a way that accepts and improves both in order to arrive at a fuller and truer sense of self.
Every session would obviously be different, but what is the typical Naked Therapy session like?
The patient will express whatever issues, thoughts, and feelings he's having, and I ask questions and help guide or point out patterns. I usually begin the session dressed and remove my clothes over the course of the session. Ideally, this will be a powerful, intimate experience for the client that helps him arrive at insights and inspirations not otherwise possible in a clothed therapy session.
Some would say the concept of "naked therapy" has existed for thousands of years, with a strip club, or even a brothel. Would you agree with that, and why or why not?
The cases of a strip club or brothel are different than Naked Therapy because a man is going to those institutions with the expectation of a woman satisfying him unequivocally. She is there to serve his desire. The exchange is sex - or sexual stimulation - for money. In Naked Therapy the client is seeing a woman whose goal is to help him better understand his motivations and live his life to its fullest extent. She is not there to satisfy him unequivocally. While satisfaction of various sorts may occur, she is first and foremost a therapist; she challenges, questions, and helps him arrive at a deeper and truer sense of self.
Further, one thing that makes NT different from other ways nakedness has been used historically is the way it utilizes the Internet. The Internet is a contemporary phenomenon through which men are used to looking at naked women. Naked Therapy thus co-opts the platform and utilizes it to get men "where they're living."
What kind of clinical approach do you take with clients?
I am basically a classic psycho-therapeutic talk therapist. I ask questions, I make suggestions, I guide the conversation by recalling earlier comments, I give advice, I push, I listen, I encourage, I challenge. The exact details of this process depends on the client.
How many of your clients are over the internet, and how many come for personal sessions? For internet clients, how many participate in two-way video cam chats as opposed to one-way video camera chats?
The majority are over the internet - 95 percent at this point. I'd say approximately 75 percent do two-way and 25 percent do one-way.
With an honest answer - how many of your clients do you believe simply want to see you strip naked?
Honestly, zero. I know that might surprise people, but it's true. Certainly there are men out there who only want to see women strip and probably aren't interested in talking with a naked woman about anything meaningful, but there are also men out there who are interested in that. They're interested in exploring how their mind works differently under states of arousal. Those are the men who come to me.
If you charged the same rate, did everything the same, and simply stopped calling yourself a naked therapist - just Sarah White's naked web sessions, for example - what would change, if anything, about what you do?
What I do is talk therapy. If you saw a transcript, you'd see the truth of that. My clients go through the same things as any therapy patient. So everything would change. I don't know why I'd get naked just for fun on the web. What I'm interested in is the therapeutic benefits of nakedness for men right now.
Do you think you'd be bringing in the same types of clients?
No. My clients are interested in therapy.
If you had to focus on getting naked and sexually arousing a client, potentially reaching a solution for them in that way, or talking to them to explore a problem they are having, which would you choose and why?
It very much depends on the client and I have taken both approaches. The value of the experience of sexual arousal during the session is it allows the patient to experience and talk about it freely while it's happening.
You now have a team with three females, including yourself, and one male. What is the male/female breakdown of your clients? How many clients do you have right now?
Most of our clients are male. While I'd love to have more female clients, I'm also proud of the fact that we are attracting so many men into therapy, because men aren't going to traditional therapy nearly as much as women.
How do you respond to criticism from the therapeutic community to your company and service? Some would go as far as to say that it discredits therapy, gives it a bad name, or is the opposite of what therapy actually is.
I'd say that they are thinking in an old-fashioned conservative way. Therapy needs to adapt to meet the times! And I'm helping men - many of whom don't feel comfortable in traditional therapy or don't believe it addresses their issues. Further, therapy in itself is not a restricted term, and nowhere do I call myself a licensed therapist. My take is that I am innovating a new field, not operating within the old, so a certain amount of "line-crossing" is bound to happen.
Do you get lots of "fan mail"? What about "hate mail"?
Yes. I get lots of "love mail" and also some "hate mail." I have a good share of licensed therapists supporting what I do and some who don't. Again, I think this is because it's a new field, and I'm in the stages of creating documentation as to the effectiveness of this treatment. Though I expect it to be a controversial topic for some time - due to the puritanical base of our society and the traditionalism of much of therapy. Also, many therapists have spent a lot of money to get licensed and some are furious I can charge comparable rates without also paying lots of money to an institution.
Would you ever pursue a career as a more traditional, licensed therapist? Why or why not?
I'm currently pursuing getting a master's degree in psychology. I hope - long term - to earn a PhD with my dissertation on NT. And yes, I hope that one day I can be licensed in NT. I don't see pursuing becoming a traditional therapist. There's too much undiscovered territory in the naked realm!
Do you think calling yourself a therapist is misleading at all, considering you're not licensed? You don't make that claim, however some might assume that is the case.
No, I don't believe so. There are many different kinds of therapy, and you don't have to be licensed to call yourself a therapist. I say directly on my site that I am not. Indeed, I could not be licensed as a psychotherapist given what I do. I hope that someday one will be able to licensed as a Naked Therapist.
Are there age restrictions for becoming a client? For internet clients, how can you be sure someone is of age?
Clients must be 18 years or older since there is often nudity involved. When someone signs up for a session they agree that they are 18 years or older.
What's the biggest misconception people have about you, and your business? If you had to say one thing to the naysayers about naked therapy, what would it be?
That it's sex "camming" or that I'm a terrible person. The one thing I'd say it this: what I practice is a new field of therapy. I believe that nakedness in therapy is essential for some people. Why has it been taboo for so long? While there are many potential answers to that, I believe that I am bringing nakedness into therapy in a very responsible, thoughtful, and timely way.
Again - I'm not saying this is for everyone. But I am saying that for many men this kind of therapy has helped them a great deal - and in ways that traditional therapy could not. If it's helping men, and it is, I think it's ethically and socially irresponsible to reject it as a field. I'm looking forward to my book coming out (hopefully happening next year) to really present my case to the public and the therapeutic community.
Jake Emen is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Md., with experience covering local news stories and events for a number of online publications. He is also the owner of the boxing news website, ProBoxing-Fans.com.