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The birth and evolution of AASECT, the leading professional association for sex educators, counselors, and therapists, is a fascinating tale closely intertwined with the visionary leadership of Patricia Schiller and other key figures. In the nascent stages of this burgeoning field, as the need for structure and guidance grew more apparent, Patricia Schiller emerged as the perfect candidate to take charge. With a rich background in social activism, specialized expertise, and a proven track record of creative and effective leadership, she fearlessly took on the challenge of shaping the future of sex education and counseling, and the rest is history.
Celebrating AASECT's Visionary Founder Patricia Schiller
"Sexuality is at the core of human personality. It's not what you do, but who you are."
In September 1967, Patricia became the unpaid Found-Executive Director of the American Association of Sex Educators and Counselors (AASEC), eventually becoming the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). With the full support of her husband, she devoted three rooms in their house to office space for the fledging organization and loaned $1,000 from their personal funds to make it operational. A gift of $500 from Philip Stern, a Washington philanthropist, paid for a mailing announcing the first annual meeting in April 1968.
Closely associated with her from the days of the Washington Project in the District of Columbia, was Rosalie Blasky, her good friend who came with AASEC on a part-time basis at its inception, and who remained as her part-time aide until April 1980. Two additional factors helped launch the new organization. One was a strong Board of Directors, with Warren Johnson, Ed.D., as its first president. Other members included Jed Pearson, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist; Berkely Hathorne, ThD, pastoral counselor; Susan Roth, MSW; Nancy Berliner, BA, researcher and writer for Planned Parenthood; John Chandler, MA, Executive Vice President of the National Association of Independent Schools; Elizabeth Nichols, BA; Majorie Shumacher, MS, Executive Directors of Planned Parenthood; and Florence Yohalem, MA, social scientist. Morton Yohalem served as legal counsel from the beginning until his death in October 1979. Thus, was born an interdisciplinary group dedicated to a worthy cause.
In retrospect, the guiding principles upon which AASECT was founded seem to have been inevitable. But by their enunciation, they have worked a powerful influence on the sex education, counseling and therapy movement in this country, helping to establish it as a separate profession, distinct from marriage and family counseling, psychiatry, social work, nursing, etc., giving it an indispensable foundation on which to grow and develop.
A Legacy of Vision, Advocacy, and Progress
The work continues today! AASECT's mission and values, a product of Pat's original vision, have led us here today and it's with the support of our members and volunteers that we are able to advocate for our community and promote the highest standards in sex education, counseling, therapy, and beyond.
Read Pat's Work
Creative Approach to Sex Education and Counseling (1973)
The Sex Profession: What Sex Therapy Can Do (1981)
Sex Questions Kids Ask and How To Answer (2009)
Sowing the Seeds for AASECT and Certification of Sex Educators (Contemporary Sexuality, 1985)
Patricia Schiller, lawyer, teacher, sexuality educator, sex therapist, and founder and first ED of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, passed away June 29, 2018, in Palm Beach. She was 104. As you will see in the Washington Post ’s obituary, Patricia Schiller was an inspired and collaborative leader who has left the world a better place. Working as a Legal Aid Society attorney who saw how sexual stigma and ignorance accounted for far too many divorces, she switched careers to try to remedy what she saw as a needless gap in people’s educations and understandings. She became a sexuality educator at a high school and then at a medical school. To increase her impact, in 1967 she created an organization that would train and certify thousands of sexuality educators and clinicians for years to come - AASECT.
Patricia Schiller saw sexuality as a human capacity that enriches, even transforms, human lives; that need not be taken too seriously, but requires adequate education to understand and practice with complete respect for partners and self. Her empathy, especially for young women with limited knowledge of how to control their fertility, led to her founding the organization now known for its rigorous standards leading to certification of sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists. AASECT today has over 2500 members. More than 1100 of these have earned certificates of proficiency in sexuality education, counseling and therapy. Ms. Schiller initiated AASECT’s certification program in 1972, with the help of top sexual health professionals, including Albert Ellis, William Masters, and Virginia Johnson.
We thank Patricia Schiller for her fearless protection of human rights to sexual knowledge and pleasure and pledge to follow her example in ways most relevant to today’s exigencies.
Patricia Schiller Obituaries - Washington Post, New York Times, West Palm Beach Post.
AASECT Past Presidents
Thanks to these trailblazers
1967 – 1968 Warren Johnson, EdD
1969 – 1970 Jed A. Pearson, MD
1971 – 1972 Dorothy Harrison, PhD
1973 – 1974 Earnest A. Hopkins
1975 – 1978 Carl Schultz, MD
1978 Michael A. Carrera, EdD, CSE
1978 – 1980 William A. Granzig, PhD, CSTS
1981 – 1982 Shirley Zussman, EdD, CST, CSE, CSTS
1982 – 1983 Carol Cassell, PhD
1983 – 1984 Thomas E. Gertz, EdD, DHS, DACS
1984 – 1985 Sallie Schumacher, PhD
1985 – 1987 Theresa Crenshaw, MD
1987 – 1989 James W. Maddock, PhD
1989 – 1990 David E. Scharff, MD
1990 – 1991 Jerome M. Sherman, PhD
1991 – 1994 Sandra S. Cole, PhD, CSE, CSC
1994 – 1996 Judith A. Seifer, PhD, RN
1996 – 1998 William Stayton, MDiv, ThD, PhD, DST, CSE, CSTS
1998 – 2000 Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, FAAN, CSC, CSE
2000 – 2002 Dennis P. Sugrue, PhD, DST
2002 – 2004 Jean D. Koehler, PhD, LMFT, DST, CSE, CSTS
2004 – 2006 Barnaby B. Barratt, PhD, DHS, DST
2006 – 2008 Patti Britton, PhD, MPH, CSE, CSES, ABS, ACS, FAACS, MSC
2008 – 2010 Helen “Ginger” Bush, LCSW, LMFT, DST
2010 – 2012 William W. Finger, PhD, DST
2012 – 2014 P. Michele Sugg, MSW, LCSW, CST
2014 – 2016 Konstance McCaffree, PhD, CFLE, CSE, CSES
2016 – 2018 Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH, CSE
2018 – 2020 Susan Stiritz, PhD, MSW, MBA, CSE, CSES