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Ethics, Safe Practice & Community for Sexperts - an Interview with David Ley [Video]


Why care about ethics and safe practice?


As the media becomes more negative toward and censuring of the sexual wellness industry, the ethical standards for professionals working in the sexuality field are becoming more and more important to discuss.


Getting in the news because of avoidable mistakes and getting one's name, reputation and business ruined is only part of the damage that occurs when professionals are not fool-proof from an ethical and safe practice point of view. The bigger implications affect the whole industry - because we all get a bad reputation too. The collateral damage that our field certainly does not need.


As a company that develops educational products and services for this industry, we feel it is our responsibility to help promote ethical standards for professionals in the field and nudge for the awareness and sophisticated development of ethics and safe practice on the individual practitioner level. We want to help ensure that the sexual wellness industry remains safe for both - practitioners and clients.


Our interview with David Ley, PhD


So, we interviewed psychologist David Ley PhD to discuss safe practice, getting supervision, getting resources, and being supported in a community.

Dr. Ley has been treating sexuality issues throughout his career. He first began treating perpetrators and victims of sexual abuse, but expanded his approach to include the fostering and promotion of healthy sexuality, and awareness of the wide range of normative sexual behaviors. He has written extensively on sex addiction, the ethics of treatment, cuckolding and more - and is a successfully published and read author of articles, books, and research publications.





Connect with David Ley


You can connect with and contact David via:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrDavidLey

His Website: https://www.davidleyphd.com/




Interview with David Ley - Transcript


Leah:

00:00:08

Hello, dear sexperts. My name is Leah and I'm the founder of the Sexperts Business Community. I have got an amazing guest here, David Ley, who is a professional that I wouldn't even attempt to introduce to you, because one, you should know who he is. And two, I'm sure that he'll do a better job at listing his credentials and expertise. So in this tiny webinar or interview, whatever you wanna call it, we'll chat about ethics and safety in our field, and a lot of important things that no sexuality professional should ever be, you know, putting on the back burner. So without further ado, David, would you introduce yourself and also thank you for being here.


David:

00:00:58

Oh, thank you. I really appreciate it. Well, it's nice to be here. I'm David Ley. I'm a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, based in Albuquerque New Mexico. But at this point I kind of do work and training and media stuff around the world. Really just incredibly lucky to have the voice that I do and, and people like you, you know, let me come in and talk to your, talk to your audience. So, so thank you.


Leah:

00:01:27

Thank you. I want to mention that you posted something recently that I saw as a, a massive question that I've encountered around ethics in our practice as sexuality experts and professionals and coaches and so forth. And that was around a professional that basically coached a couple without disclosing to the wife, as I remember... Yeah. That she, the professional has had an intimate relationship with the husband in her role as a sex worker. And that is a massive ethical question there. And I wonder whether you'd like to expand a little bit on that case or....


David:

00:02:20

Sure. Yeah, it was a, it was a fascinating case. I encountered through a colleague. One of the things that I've been doing actually for at this point kind of decades is consulting on ethical issues, ethical issues, licensure issues, et cetera, for originally kind of psychologists and, and therapist, and now really expanded into and into supporting sex therapists and, and sex coaches and stuff around it. And so this was a case where, yeah, an individual, he, the, the husband had a history of, you know, sexual misbehaviors, sexual narcissism, entitlement, and impulsive, you know, very ego self-fulfilling kind of behaviors, including infidelity and going to sex workers and engaging in pretty unsafe sex. And that was disclosed. And then the wife, and he started working with a sex coach in order to try to help the couple, find ways to integrate his kink or his, his forms of sexuality into the relationship in a way that, you know, maybe would help the marriage to meet his needs, such that he wasn't constantly stepping out.


David:

00:03:46

Now, I think that sometimes that can be an effective strategy, but when there's, you know, history of deception and selfishness and, and entitlement, those are really critical issues to, to address. And, you know, here the wife was really kind of bending over backwards, trying to, trying to meet her husband where he was. And then come to find out that the, the woman who was their sex coach, trying to help them along this, this kind of journey had previously been a sex worker. And, and that is a journey that I'm actually seeing law out of sex workers kind of, and escorts do. They, they move from porn performers as well. They move from, you know, contact kind of kinda work in the industry to then coaching taking that kind of experience that they've got around sexuality to now a more kind of distant kind of engagement.


David:

00:04:46

And the sex coach had been a previous sex worker and had had the husband as a client. And, you know, didn't disclose that to the wife, which in, you know, for a licensed therapist, that's clear a dual relationship and creates, you know, inherent kind of power differential within the therapy or the coaching kind of relationship and creates triangles that unfortunately his wife doesn't even know were there. And then of course, the wife finally figured that out through comments, the coach made or something like that, and, you know, shit hit the fan when it did. And you can imagine just how betrayed she felt. And again, I will say, you know, it's really, again, just evidence of the degree to which the husband operates just instinctively from a pretty narcissistic and kind of deceptive ego driven position.


David:

00:05:52

But it's also a lesson because, you know, I, and I've written about this. I have a, I have a blog on Psychology Today that's quite popular. Actually, I've been writing there for years. And I wrote a piece a few years ago that went viral about, about coaches in mental health. And I actually believe that they are valuable. I think that coaches are a useful, and I think important part of the system that we shouldn't be battling because there's a need for them. And I work with peer support workers, paraprofessionals of various types within the behavioral health field. And I think that we need those folks to widen the base of the pyramid for people to access kind of services. I don't think every mental health or behavioral health or the sex therapy, or, you know, sexuality coach, you know, support work, needs to be done by a PhD or even a master's level or a licensed kind of clinician.


David:

00:06:53

There's a lot of stuff that can be, can and should be done by folks with, with all other levels of experience so long as they have support. And that's the one thing that, that I do get concerned about is that there are a lot of folks that are working as coaches that are independent. They don't have support, they don't have supervisors that are helping them stay within boundaries. They may not be certified coaches and they're, they may or may not be ethics codes that they are aspiring to. There's no, if you know, a sex coach, you know, violates your boundaries or engages unethically. You know, as, as this, as this woman, did... Who do you complain to? Really, there's almost nobody to complain to. And that's unfortunate. And then, you know, God helped me because I, you know, as you and I were talking about before, a lot of folks that are doing sex coaching, cause remember a lot of 'em are coming from, you know, a background doing, you know, extra legal kind of work, sex work and stuff like that, working as dominatrixes or, or, or whatever.


David:

00:08:11

Oftentimes they're not using their real names because they're trying to protect their identity. And that also creates a challenge for the person who is accessing their support and services. If it doesn't go well, or even if it leads to, you know, potential, you know, harmful behaviour, your options may be limited.


Leah:

00:08:37

Yeah. As I was saying one of my experiences with professionals not using real, their real names was around someone that was actually dangerous and had a colleague of mine, a professional call the police on him. And the police were like, well, we don't, we don't know how to act on that because the name that you're giving us doesn't work. And I'm thinking like, what about those very much? I don't know how to even it's one of the things is we have such a struggle to advertise our services. And when people find us, oftentimes they're desperate. And if you marry this with the scarcity mindset of a lot of professionals who are like, yes, just get me, clients, get me clients, anyone, even when they don't have the expertise that the client requires, even when the client is not probably aware of boundaries, et cetera. And they don't know how to set their own boundaries, the client, and a professional, then it's, it's a mix that is dangerous and will explode at some point. And this is why it's so important to talk about ethical side of things. And I'm grateful.


David:

01:10:02

Yeah.


Leah:

01:10:03

I'm grateful you say about the isolation in which a lot of professionals work in. It's absolutely dangerous. And, and that's why I keep saying, get yourself a community of professionals around you. Yeah.


David:

01:10:16

And, and it's even gotten, it's gotten better and worse in some interesting ways with, you know, with this global pandemic. I mean, and with the ways that it has shifted so much of our work to online platforms and to remote kind of work. And at the same time that opens us up to engage with people so much more quickly and easily and in real time across the world. But at the same time, it isolates us because we may not have people close to us that can give us support. One of the things that, that I've been talking about now, just for a few weeks, we've - a number of sex therapists and coaches that I work with mostly in the United States we've been seeing this, but with folks contacting them, requesting a, you know, a free video consult, you know, to see if this, you know, therapy or coaching is gonna be a good fit.


David:

01:11:20

And the guy it's almost invariably, a guy gives a fake name, fake email, and they do the, they do the session. And then the, the individual uses it as an opportunity to, you know, to expose themself, you, you know, nude or masturbating to engage in, you know, sexually inappropriate behavior violating the professional's boundaries. And unfortunately, really taking advantage because a lot of the, a lot of the clinicians or professionals, they, you know, they're trying to build their caseload. They're trying to, trying to keep up their revenues and practice. And they're kind of sometimes desperate to take anybody. And they sometimes don't do the screening that they should. And then these guys are taking advantage of that Goodwill. And the thing that just frankly pisses me off is that these guys could go to, to a cam girl and they could pay money for a cam girl to consensually, you know, watch them - but they don't want to, they, they they're either too cheap. They want it for free, or they like the non-consensual deceptive development of it and tricking and surprising. And I, it, you know, I just, yesterday I was counselling a sex coach where this happened on Sunday. And she was distraught and she felt violated and she was blaming herself worried that she had not done enough.


David:

01:12:46

And, and, and she was questioning whether she wanted to stay, stay in that work, because it was just such a challenging experience for her. Wow. And, you know, and the lack of some of the lack of boundaries, lack of structure around a lot of the remote work that has come up so quickly in the past two years is I think letting that stuff in. So, you know, I'm encouraging professionals to do some things is like: before doing a consult with somebody, ask them for a picture of their driver's license or their passport, their identification of some kind; ask them to make a nominal payment, you know, 20, 40, $50 via, you know, PayPal or, or Venmo or something like that. So that you have some, you know, legitimate identification, you know, that, that we can track back. And then you can apply that, you know, nominal fee to the, to the cost of their first real session. But, you know, things like this are just gonna, they're gonna screen out some of those people who are being deceptive. And then it also, if God, God forbid something goes south and it does end up being a, you know, an assaulted kind of situation then to go back to what you just said, the police can maybe track this person back because you've got some identifying information.


Leah:

01:14:12

Yeah. And one of the things that I would, I would say here, a lot of people would not agree to give their details to your professional, like driving license passport, et cetera. Gosh, I was trying to hire a cleaner for the house. And I said, I need a proof of ID. And they were like, I'm not giving you my ID. I was like, well, I'm not letting you in my house.


David:

01:14:35

Right.


Leah:

01:14:37

No way. But the, the suggestion, the second suggestion, I think, is really smart to ask for a holding fee. If, if you're not charging, because I offer free 30 minute introductory calls as I call them to just assess what I'm the right professional. Cause I might not be for, for this person for this couple, et cetera. And I'm more than happy to refer them to other people in my business community, to people that I know and trust would be more suitable and work better with these people. So, I think that if people say, okay, this is a free introductory call or discovery call, but you need to pay a holding fee. If you show up and you choose not to work with me, you get it refunded. If not, it's gonna be for your first session or for your first package. And if you don't show up, well, I have not held this half an hour or an hour as, as long as people, you know, give for you who didn't show up and it cost me money cuz I'm blocking my calendar for you. So this is a really good way to go about it. Actually, this, this is such a great advice. Thank you for that.


Leah:

01:15:50

We, we also talked about the clients that call and they're like, can I be anonymous? I don't wanna give you my ID. I don't wanna like fill out your contract also. I don't know how many professionals actually, we should send out a poll, but I don't know how many professionals in our community use a contract or agreement in which they layout out in terms and conditions, cancellation policies like refunds, anything. And I think this....


David:

01:16:19

Such a and layout, you know, what, what their work is. Yes. You know, I, again, the, you know, the coach I was talking to just yesterday, she's gone back to her agreement and she's put in, you know, some explicit line language that, you know, the coaching I provide does not involve nudity. I'm not going to watch you engage in sexual behaviour. You're not gonna watch me engage in sexual behaviour. There's not gonna be any intimate contact between us. And, and I know there are some coaches that will do things like, you know, watch a couple, have sex and then all for them, you know, kind of advice. And, and, you know, I can sort of wrap my head around that. It's nothing I, as a licensed, you know, clinician could ever do. I can sort of see some of the legitimacy around it.


David:

01:17:09

I, you know, I've certainly had of people contact me and want to do, you know, therapy or coaching, you know, kind of in the nude. And they're like, well, I'm a nudist. And, and that's how I feel more comfortable. Yeah. Okay. That might be true. But you know, it's still not something I'm gonna do because if I had to explain that to the license board, the license board is gonna say: Well, show me the evidence that this is in your scope of practice. Show me the evidence that that is an effective intervention. And I can't. And, is it a potential for exploitation? Is it a potential for boundary problems? Absolutely. But I know that there are some, I, you know, I wrote a piece a while back called the naked therapist and, and it was, it was a battle lady.


David:

01:18:00

I don't think she's doing it anymore, but she was a sex coach. And she actually was interested in being a therapist, but she didn't want to, you know, pursue that. And she would do kind of coaching sessions where during the session she would slowly disrobe. And oftentimes the man that she was coaching would also, you know, would also be masturbating. But I, you know, I interviewed her and she talked about the fact that in fact, a lot of times that engagement allowed guys to kind of disclose things or be vulnerable, open about some things that she didn't think they could bring out otherwise. And so, you know, again, I'm human and I, and I know I don't know everything. And is there some potential there probably, I mean, back in the seventies, you know, therapist used to do lots of naked kind of encounter therapy groups and stuff like that.


David:

01:18:56

We don't do that now. The fear though that I have is that, you know, in these, in these areas, you know, you're, you're playing in the gray zone, you're playing with fire. And if you wanna in the gray zone, and if you wanna juggle matches, you gotta know what you're doing, and you've gotta be very, very thoughtful. And sometimes I oftentimes, I think people that are jumping in those areas are doing so out of good intent, but without much ethical training, without much knowledge of how easy it is for boundaries to get crossed and people to get hurt, you know, first, you know, do no harm. The hippocratic principle is what we should be acting on. And if there's a potential for harm here, we need to slow way down.


Leah:

01:19:49

Hmm. Yes. And I cannot agree more with that. I think that the challenges that we are faced in our communities, in our field where they're not little, there are many, and I think that we need to be talking about the problems, the solutions, the way to guide through our practice in a safe manner, one of the things that you mentioned, supervision and not doing it alone and having sounding boards, I am surrounded by professionals with whom I communicate about everything, about the business of it, the difficulties of it, the challenge that I face and honestly, community is everything. But how do we get to actually continuously engage in that? Because one of the things that I have witnessed is shame, even in the professionals that they're doing, that kind of work, and therefore them using alias names, et cetera, to prevent family or other work, et cetera, to find out that they're coaches in the sexuality field. Right. And that means that they're even more isolated because they don't have the support network. Like all of my, my people around me, my family, they know who I am, what I do. Like, even things that are personal, my family knows. And I know that if need be, I can share even more and I'll be supported, not judged supported, but when they don't have that, when they're using alias names, when they're being even more isolated... - danger zone.


David:

02:21:45

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, that sounding board and community, it, it also is protective for us when we kind of go off the rails and we don't notice. And, you know, I've written, I've written several books around, you know, sexuality kind of issues and therapy issues. And I'm contemplating writing another book and specifically around professional sexual misconduct and around the narratives, the human motivations, mistakes and issues that lead professionals, therapists, lawyers, doctors, judges, to, you know, to frankly have sex with people that they're not supposed to. And, but there is so much shame for those people when they have crossed those boundaries and been punished for it. Been caught that I, I have difficulty finding people that will interview with me even anonymously to talk about these experiences. But I think the more, the more we can acknowledge that, you know, we're human, we can make mistakes.


David:

02:22:56

We can get in over our heads and we need a community around us that, you know, can also be the group that says: - ''Whoa, you know, David, what are you doing here? Cause I'm not, not sure that this is, I'm not, I'm not sure this is a good idea.'' - And I need that. We all need that because, you know, one of the things that is really, really common with these issues is, you know, the professional is dealing with their own personal life struggles, divorce, financial problems, social problems, even sexual problems. And as they're dealing with those problems, they lose, you know, some perspective. And that very often is when we struggle to make good decisions, a person that I supervise, you know, started doing therapy a couple months ago with a guy who came in desperate to start therapy.


David:

02:24:03

And in the first session he disclosed the, that he was a licensed therapist and oh yeah, by the way, he's having an affair with one of his patients and his wife has found out about it. And now he's trying to navigate, could he have an open relationship with his wife and the patient? And, just, I mean, you know, this thing went off the rails pretty darn quick. And the interesting thing, I mean the therapist here is a licensed therapist, and then she was wrestling with the question. Well, do I report him to his licensure authority except that, you know, because there's not a person at imminent, harm, not a child at risk. If she did report, it'd be violating confidentiality. And it was, it was a fascinating situation of competing ethics because as a licensed professional, we're supposed to try and hold other professionals to ethical standards and report them to the board if they're not. But in this situation doing so would, would involve a violation of another more primary and overriding ethic confidentiality. And so she had to keep that confidential and work with the guy to hopefully get him to the position, to self-report, to the board and start making better decisions. Those are the situations that I am just really, really intrigued with, because again, it's the gray zone and it is trying to navigate making the best decisions possible in really challenging situations.


Leah:

02:25:41

Hmm. And, and that's a great opportunity to share here, then a call to action. If we have sexuality professionals who are watching, if they themselves, a colleague of theirs that they know of has a story that they will be willing to share even anonymously, they can get in touch with you cause you need these stories


David:

02:26:01

I love it.


Leah:

02:26:01

Yeah.


David:

02:26:02

Yeah. If you, you know, if, if you are, are one of the people that, that has struggled in this situ and crossed, you know, sexual boundaries that, you know, were important in your profession, I'd love to talk to you and we can do it anonymously, and I'm not gonna be mean or nasty to you. I wanna understand you. And I wanna, I wanna paint your story as a human so that other humans can understand and see these issues. One of my, you know, it probably has come out, it's come through today. But I, I believe really that as we train around ethics, we need to train people to understand that it is really, really easy to unthinkingly, cross some boundaries. And it's not because you're a bad person or a bad professional, but because all of us have lacunae, all of us have these, these little, these little gaps, whereas things can sneak through and everybody has different ones and we need to identify those in advance so we can make better decisions in hard situations. That's what I want is I want to, is I want to tell narratives so that, so that people can say, oh, you know, it's not that this happened because that's just an evil person. It happened for human reasons. And if I find myself in those hard situations, maybe I can be compassionate and empathic with myself and reach out for help.


Leah:

02:27:32

Yeah. And I think that's an absolutely great note to you end on today because I really value your time. And I, I want to give you a little bit of an opportunity as well, to share more of, of what you're doing, that supports professionals that people need to know of - so that we can send a message to all of the people in our community, and they can be in touch for everything that you've got going on. Would you mind sharing.


David:

02:28:03

Absolutely.


David:

02:28:05

You know, you can find, find me on Twitter @DrDavidLay. Last name is L E Y. I know it sounds like getting laid, but that's one of the better ways to follow me and find what I'm doing. I'm I have a website, DavidLayPhD.com, you know, in a couple of weeks, end of this month, I'm doing a two-day workshop sounds funny, but about the psychology of group sex and the psychology of chucking - wife sharing and something fun, really kind of exploring stuff, but, but getting into the psychology and the sociology of these things. Probably this summer, I'm gonna be doing training for folks who want to become sex experts. You know, if you specifically how to engage effectively with the media, I, I just kind of fell into all this. And, you know, I'm very, very lucky.


David:

02:28:54

I mean, I've been on CNN and in Washington Post and New York Times, Playboy, Hustler... I get all kinds of crazy media, but I've learned a lot of lessons about what not to do for the love of God. And I want to share those lessons with, with other folks that wanna be out in that space, talking in the media and publicly about sexuality and healthy ways to educate the public and to use the media for that. And I got some tips and tricks to do that well, we'll, we'll probably be announcing that, you know, here in here in a few months.


Leah:

02:29:29

That's awesome. And that's exactly the type of things that we need in the Sexperts Business Community. So we would definitely be sharing this with our professionals. This interview should come out sometime next week. And I hope that people just come along, follow you and get all of your insights and knowledge, cuz I follow you on Twitter. And I get plenty from you in my feed, which is great. Kind of like stalking you a little bit of, of like things that you post about, cuz they're so valuable. And I definitely recommend our fellow professionals to hop on and follow your work closely because you've got so much value to give and it will be a damn shame if people don't get hands on and advantage, they don't take advantage of all the work that you do.


David:

03:30:30

Oh, well thank you. And you know, we're all in this together. You know, when I started down this road, you know, 10 or 15 years ago, I was really kind of by myself and you know, now I've got a community of professionals like yourself that are also on this, on the same path. It feels really nice. It feels really, it feels really healthy and safe to be part of a community. All of us trying to move things in positive, healthy directions. So I'm just, I'm just happy to be part of the team.


Leah:

03:31:01

Thank you. Thank you so much, David.


David:

03:31:02

Thank you, see you.


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