President's Letter - December 2018
Happy Holidays, Colleagues,
I hope you will be with those you love during your holidays. Before we all get totally into the flow of holiday schedules, however, I want to take a moment to share some of what AASECT board members have been working on since July 1, when we assumed our new leadership roles. We had our first in-person board training and meeting November 2 and 3, and I want to share some of these highlights.
I am touching base with you with this information in the hopes of providing a way to help us all be more present on the same page in our awareness of AASECT business. While, of course, as a group, AASECT members have a variety of different views of our organization's goals, activities and futures, having access to common understandings of what we are planning and doing, can help us more readily turn to each other in dialogue to move our organization's work forward.
Since starting this email, we have had a wide discussion on “special circumstances.” It looks like my reasons for writing were prescient. Our ongoing discussion on “special circumstances” suggests many of us are eager for involvement in AASECT decision making—a sign of organizational vitality. I want to thank everyone who has commented and given advice. You helped the Board realize we had not allowed enough time for people to finish “special circumstances” applications before the retirement of those criteria and that membership wanted to know about issues under consideration before learning about actions taken.
I like what Senator Cory Booker implies about success when he points out that while we have a Declaration of Independence, "our history, our advancements, our global strength all point to an American declaration of interdependence.” When leadership and membership engage in dialogue, it becomes easier for us to transform our varying interests and perspectives into visioning how the organization can stay relevant in ways we agree upon.
Themes that kept coming up during the November weekend board training and meeting concerned needs (1) to increase our membership through more enthusiastic welcoming of diverse members and activities, (2) to facilitate fair accessibility to certification, (3) to increase member benefits, and (4) to continuously work on the ethics of our AASECT culture so we may more purposefully model the sexual culture of consent we know is so critical to US society.
Board members spent an entire day in clarifying these needs and in working on initial steps in starting to develop a 3 year strategic plan. This work was great preparation for our board meeting, which took place the next day.
Meanwhile, the Strategic Planning Committee is re-evaluating board priorities, the current board structure and distribution of work to ensure equity amongst the positions, for the long-term sustainability of the volunteer board.
Although our founder Pat Schiller called AASECT into being as AASEC—educators and counselors, with no therapists, at first—fifty years later, we find ourselves short on educators, as well as counselors.
Sex therapists have done a fantastic, revolutionary job of institutionalizing and professionalizing sex therapy in the US, despite the meteoric rise of prescription drugs that promise to enhance erection without face to face work with a mental health therapist.
Since the 1980s, however, sexuality educators have been facing an environment so hostile to sex positivity that numbers of practitioners have dropped. Sex negativity has resulted partly as a reaction to the 60s-70s sex revolution; to fears of HIV-Aids in the 1980s and onward; to ambitious proselytizing by religious fundamentalists organizing to make abstinence an expected norm for young people's sexual expression in this country, and to federal spending of $2 billion to fund Abstinence Education since 1982.
AASECT, admittedly, has not yet prioritized outreach for health professionals outside of mental health professions. Occupational therapists, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, and others could profitably make AASECT a professional home for themselves. Eric M. Garrison, MAEd, MSc, DLSHTM, CSC, CSE, ACS, has recently been appointed Chair of the Counselor Certification Committee and hopes to work alongside AASECT’s Membership Services Steering Committee and Outreach Steering Committee to increase numbers of counselors applying for certification.
Eighty percent (900/1119) of our certified membership now consists of therapists. The board discussed strengths of AASECT’s three-group membership constitution as a way the organization creates synergy among various approaches to sexual health and determined to build action steps into its Strategic Plan to attract more educators and counselors.
Increasing membership overall has been a task of our Outreach Steering Committee, chaired by Tameca Harris-Jackson, PhD, MSW, LICSW, CSE, as well as our Vice President of Membership, Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD, CST, CSES. Tameca has recently appointed, with board approval, Janet Brito, PhD, PSY, LCSW, CST as the new Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and Rosara Torrisi, LCSW, MEd, PhD, CST as Chair of the Mentoring Committee. Tameca and her fellow committee members have started offering Virtual Happy Hours as a way to introduce interested professionals to AASECT and to mentor current members. The committee has a number of other initiatives in planning stages.
Today we have a record-breaking number of members. To put our growth in context, in 2015 we had 2091 members; in 2016, we had 2187 members; in 2017, we had 2526; and now, without our December numbers, we have 2744 members—that is 653 new members in three years. Thanks to everyone who has invited colleagues, students, and friends to join AASECT!
Earlier this year, the board created a new membership category to make membership in AASECT more affordable for recent university and college graduates. Our Membership Services Steering Committee created an Early Career Professional membership with lowered AASECT membership dues for those in their first three years of work after undergraduate or graduate school.
Further, the AASECT Board voted to offer eight scholarships to members to attend the SAR that will be offered before our conference in Philadelphia, June 2019. These scholarships, with awardees to be chosen by AASECT’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, will enhance accessibility to certification for those seeking it. Funds for these scholarships derive from a recent board decision to earmark 10% of income raised last year in excess of amounts needed for expenditures plus contributions to a financial security fund, as a fund to be spent on efforts to create greater equity in opportunities for members of diverse groups.
The board also voted to offer SAR small group discussion leaders honoraria for their facilitation services at AASECT presented SARS. The board approved a ratio of 1:8 small group facilitators: SAR participants, with payment of $250 to each facilitator.
These actions are part of the board’s commitment to expressing warmer and more appreciative support for diverse members of AASECT. Treasurer, Todd Malloy, LMFT, CST, CSE, ably balances AASECT’s dual commitments to equity and to financial stability.
Our Communications Steering Committee Chair, Eli Green, PhD, CSE, CSES, reported that planning was continuing for a new, more accessible and useful website for AASECT. Our website is a critical tool for recruitment of new members and for serving current members effectively, and AASECT is determined to improve performance of our online services and social media, Eli reported. We are expecting the completion of the new website in 2020.
The board expressed fervent appreciation to our listserve moderators, who, supervised by Eli, work, sometimes thanklessly, to keep a safe space for members to discuss our work, issues, and resources.
AASECT advocacy has been active in the last few months, as the board adopted two new position statements, bringing our total to 7. One new one addresses the Dignity and Rights of Transgender, Gender Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming Individuals, and another protests FOSTA-SESTA and its Impact on Consensual Sex Work and the Chilling of Sexual Speech. Margie Nichols, PhD, CST, CSES, chairing the Public Relations, Media, and Advocacy Steering Committee, called on experts among our membership, in areas these statements address, to collaborate on statements in line with board priorities and AASECT values and previous positions.
The board has created an Ethical Representation and Practice Task Force, with Chris Fariello, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSE, CSES, as chair. This committee aims to clarify professional members’ scope of practice, proper marketing messages, and identification and disclosures of certifications and licensures important for client consent to service. Seals are being developed to differentiate and honor the statuses of our certified members. More information to come in 2019.
Dan Watter, PhD, CST, became the new Ethics Advisory Committee Chair, in October. Dan has published articles on professional ethics in the sexual health field, is past president of SSTAR, and reports he is eager to help our organization know the powers and limitations we have to enforce expectations that members conduct themselves according to AASECT’s Code of Ethics.
Neil Cannon, PhD, CST, CSES, has been appointed Chair of AASECT’s Bylaws Committee and is currently reviewing and revising all Bylaws, Policies and Procedures with the Committee. Bylaws are posted on AASECT’s website.
AASECT currently has 1119 certified members, reports Sally Valentine, MSW, LCSW, PhD, CST, CSTS, Chair of the Certification Steering Committee. Sally asks that folks submitting applications for certification be kind, compassionate and patient with volunteers reviewing applications. It is an enormous job and enormous contribution to AASECT. This year, the committee reviewed 130 submitted applications.
Changes to Certification requirements, approved by AASECT’s board in November include the following:
- Discontinuation of the certification category of special circumstances for educators, counselors, therapists and supervisors. The category of certification under special circumstances will be eliminated as of March 1, 2019. Beginning on March 1, 2019, there will be a singular set of requirements and application process for all categories of certification. To ensure all applicants meet AASECT standards and best practices, all those applying for AASECT Certification must meet the required combination of sexuality education, sexuality training, and supervision. Please note: Applications for Sexuality Educator Supervisor Certification under Special Circumstances will be accepted until June 30th, 2019.
- Policy Change on Supervision for Sexuality Educators: Supervision requirement change for sexuality educators: Of the 25 hours total of Supervision required for Educators: 5 hours of supervision must be individual (1:1) supervision and up to 20 hours can be group supervision (2:8). Effective January 1, 2019.
- Policy Change on Cross Discipline Supervision: Applicants seeking certification in any discipline (Educator, Counselor or Therapist) can contract for up to 5 hours with supervisors of other disciplines (Educator, Counselor, or Therapist). For those applicants seeking dual certification, these hours cannot be ‘double-dipped.’ Note that all supervisors may now offer 5 hours of supervision to members across all three categories. In other words, Sexuality Educator Supervisors may offer those pursuing Sex Therapy Certification 5 hours of supervision, etc. Contracts between supervisors and supervisees for these hours are necessary. Effective January 1, 2019.
- Policy Change on Electronic Signatures: Electronic signatures will be permitted. The signature must appear as an actual signature and not as typed font. Electronic images such as jpeg, gif or pdf of an actual signature will be considered acceptable. Contracts with supervisees for these hours are necessary.
- Policy Change Regarding Lapsed Certification: For Certification lapses of more than 1 year, renewal cases will be brought to the Certification Steering Committee for review and discussion. Additional hours of supervision and/or reapplication may be required.
- Deletion of Character Reference for all Certification Applications: The character reference will be replaced with another professional reference in all Certification applications. Both professional references should come from a professional colleague that knows your work experience. No dual relationship letters will be accepted. (ex: one’s own therapist or one’s own client).
PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION STEERING COMMITTEE
SAR guidelines are currently being reviewed and revised and should be ready for board approval by our June board meeting. Suggestions for change will be sought from AASECT Providers and members.
Roz Dischiavo, EdD, MA, CSES, chairs the PESC and is currently planning great new topics and locations for our Institutes for the next two years. If you would like particular topics, let Roz know. We anticipate the next Institute will be in fall, 2019. Sadly, there will not be a Winter Institute in January 2019, but volunteers needed a short break to nurture their creativity.
AASECT’s 2019 Conference promises to be another sell out. Already 60% of our rooms in Philadelphia have been reserved, and registration has not even opened. We will work with the hotel to try to get more rooms if needed, and registration should open in January.
I have received responses from over 75 people who are interested in creating an AASECT series of sexual health and education with Routledge, which I wrote about in an EBLAST in October. If you are one of these, I will be in touch soon. AASECT staff and I are trying to come up with a low-cost structure that we could recommend and that we could manage without unduly burdening anyone. If any of you have suggestions, please share them with me.
Thank you for your loyal attention, if you have read this far! Please let board members know your concerns, questions, and suggestions. Their names and contact information are on AASECT’s website.
Best wishes for a happy, holiday season and a consensual, pleasurable New Year with new opportunities for experiences of equity, respect, and affection!
Susan E. Stiritz, MBA, PhD, MSW, CSE, CSES
Associate Professor of Practice
Chair, Specialization in Sexual Health and Education
The Brown School
Washington University in St. Louis
I use She/Her/Hers as pronouns. Please tell me yours.