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Member Spotlight: Linda Weiner

Member Spotlight: Linda Weiner

By Steph Auteri | From the May 2014 Issue

Linda Weiner, MSW, LCSW is an AASECT Certified Diplomate in Sex Therapy, a Certified Sex Therapy Supervisor and CE Provider. She has over 25 years of experience working with individuals and couples, and has also been an adjunct professor at the Brown School of Social Work for more than a decade. Of course, there's more but, most recently, co-authored an article with Dr. Constance Avery Clark on the clarification of the Masters & Johnson model. Here, she talks about her recent focus on the sensate focus model, and about her plans for the future.

1. Can you give me a quick rundown of what keeps you busiest these days?

Professionally, I am busy writing with Constance Avery-Clark about what Masters & Johnson didn't get out there... or get out there well. We've been writing about what they actually did in therapy at the Institute and why, and have been exploring how diverse practitioners currently use sensate focus techniques. 

I've also been supervising professionals interested in AASECT Certification as Sex Therapists; teaching at the Brown School at Washington University; training; and giving workshops and lectures. An additional project is the creation of a new SAR with Heather Raznick, to be held July 25. Oh, and I work with about 25 clients a week and usually two Couples Intensives a quarter. 

Then there’s my gardening "therapy," neighborhood volunteerism,  yoga, pets, and family. I love being busy. It makes me feel I'm living big!

2. What would you consider your special niche?

There are few people around who have had the experience of training and working with Masters & Johnson Institute staff for five of the last seven years of their viability. My expertise is in their evolved method of treating sexual dysfunctions, particularly the intensive model and the use of sensate focus as a diagnostic and treatment tool.

3. What has most informed your trajectory within this field? How did you get to where you are today?

I believe my name began the journey! The penis jokes must have helped desensitize me to sexual terminology. 

A second influence was my innate distain for the double standard and, about the time the Women’s Movement and the pill came of age, so did I. As luck would have it, I wound up at American University, where I took a Human Sexuality course with Dr. Barry McCarthy, a friend and mentor ever since. After that, I enrolled in a Master's degree program in social work at the University of Missouri, and interned in St. Louis. I fell in love with the architecture of Missouri, and with the cost of living, so I entered child welfare there to repay my stipend. I became fascinated with child sexual abuse, a phenomenon I did not quite "get" for awhile.

After working in foster care, I became a Staff Trainer in child welfare, and across my desk came a proposal from Masters & Johnson to begin a treatment program for incest and child sexual abuse families, including the perpetrators. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I sent them a letter of application for any position they might have in this new program. To my amazement, they accepted my offer and I  was hired. In exchange for another moderate stipend, I was offered the opportunity to enroll in their six-month training program in relationship and sex therapy in exchange for serving as Co-Director of the Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program. I was subsequently hired to wear several hats there, and spent the next five years as a Research and Clinical Associate, Director of the Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, and Director of Training and Seminars.

4. What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the field of sexology? What do you want to be known for?

I think my biggest contribution to the field is yet to come! I hope to clarify the richness of the Masters & Johnson model in treating sexual dysfunctions and paving the way to optimal sexual functioning. With my colleagues, I'd like to collect and distribute what others have learned from sexual interventions with diverse populations and sensate focus. I would very much like the field of sexology to see itself as having a theoretical underpinning and a specific set of strategies that makes us unique. I believe we are!

5. What obstacles have you faced over the years, and how did you overcome them? 

There is, of course, the difficulty that comes from paying off college and finding a way to fund my education and advanced training. I think the most difficult thing was to break into positions in which I could earn a living doing therapy, my first love. Before I sent that letter to Masters & Johnson, my wall was papered with rejection letters! How did I overcome the obstacles? What I have learned in life is that sometimes the right doors open when they are supposed to if you have perseverance.

6. What has been the most difficult or interesting or exciting project you've worked on, and why?

My most delightful story is about how my mother finally was able to tell people what I did for a living! When I was Director of the Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program at Masters & Johnson Institute, she told everyone in Jersey that I "worked with children."

Eventually, I was able to convince her that she could say "sex." I can't help but smile remembering how long it took her!

7.  What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you know now?

I wish I had known the importance of building the foundation for being a good sex therapist by first becoming good at diagnostics, the treatment of common mental health issues, and the special issues in working with couples. I'm afraid my lack of training in the DSM made me miss a lot at first.

8. What do you like the least about the field at this point? 

What I am disappointed in currently is the paucity of medical practitioners and allied health professionals working together with sexuality educators and therapists. While there are more physical therapists involved today, the training for physicians, particularly urologists and gynecologists, has diminished to the point of serious concern. Many of us are actively trying to influence a change in the other direction and encourage physicians to receive more educational focus on sexual concerns in their training.

9. Where do you see your career five years, or even 10 years, from now?

I will always love doing therapy, teaching, and supervising. But at this time in my life, I think writing and speaking are on the five-year horizon. 10 years? My financial advisor recently asked me when I planned to retire and I told him I was going to be like Shirley Sussman, the 90-something-year-old sex therapist who trained with Helen Kaplan and worked until she rested.

10. How has your relationship with AASECT affected your career?

AASECT has been my tribe. Besides the incredible source of inspiration, information, and support, the credentialing process really helps the public feel a greater sense of ease sharing the most personal aspects of their being.

AASECT has been my tribe.