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Winter Institute Program


2018 AASECT Winter Institute

Religion and Sexual Health: Creating Deeper Understanding, Healing and Connection


Thursday, January 18, 2018

William Stayton, M.Div., Th.D., PhD

Sexuality Education's Challenge to Religions 

Do we teachers and therapists know how to guide our students or clients regarding deeply held religious beliefs that influence their inability to have a sex-positive attitude? How do we respond helpfully to challenging deeply held-beliefs and scriptural references? In this session, we will explore some of the reasons that religions may feel challenged by sexually-related phenomena. Clients and students often ask what is “normal” regarding sexual behaviors? Can we define what is “normal” in sexually-related behaviors? What is the basis for our own sexual values? This session will provide some healthful answers to these probing questions.

William Stayton, M.Div., Th.D., PhD is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches of the U.S.A.  He is also a licensed psychologist and AASECT certified sexuality educator and therapist. He is a retired Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.  

Formerly, Bill was the Executive Director of the Center for Sexuality and Religion, an organization dedicated to facilitating dialogue between the field of sexology and various medical and religious systems.  For 28 years, Bill was affiliated with the human sexuality program at the University of Pennsylvania.  In 1998, the program moved from the University of Pennsylvania to Widener University in Chester, PA where he was Professor and Director of the graduate programs in Human Sexuality.  During his ten years as Director, the program grew from a masters’ to a doctoral program in human sexuality.  He also initiated dual degree programs with both Psychology and Social Work.  He remains Professor Emeritus in the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University.  He served on the National Advisory Council under the leadership of David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th U.S. Surgeon General to advance the recommendations set forth in his “Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior” and then joined the former Surgeon General in the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.

Bill is a former President of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) as well as a former Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).  He was Board Chair of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA from 2004-2006.  He is on the Advisory Council of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School and also a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, chaired by Actress Jane Fonda. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on sexuality, religion, theology, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression.  He has been a frequent guest on radio and television programs and has been involved in several documentaries on sexuality.  


Friday, January 19, 2018 

Bat Sheva Marcus, LCSW, MPH, PhD, CSC, CST

Finding G-d in the Bedroom: Where Judaism and Sexuality Intersect

Judaism is not monolithic about anything, and certainly not about sex or sexuality. Despite what you might have heard Judaism is not “sex positive”, although certain strains of Judaism have been. Nor is Judaism “anti-sex” although certain strains have been. This workshop will attempt to explode some of the mythology practitioners might have about Judaism and Sexuality and provide a broader perspective and wider framework for understanding the various approaches to sex in the Jewish community.

On a practical level we will also explore the complex and esoteric rituals and rules regarding sexuality in some of the more religious groups within the Jewish community. We will look at the laws of family purity, the ritual bath, attitudes towards birth control, as well as premarital codes of behavior.  And we will discuss ramifications on how these rituals effect life-long sexuality.

Bat Sheva Marcus, LCSW, MPH, PhD, CSC, CST has been termed “The Orthodox Sex Guru” by a profile in the NY Times, and is one of the founders and the Clinical Director of Maze Women’s Sexual Health. One of the largest centers of its kind, the center is dedicated to helping women with a wide variety of sexual issues.  Bat Sheva earned her PhD in Human Sexuality at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, CA., She also holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University, a master’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Bat Sheva is the President of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, an international organization committed to furthering the role of women in the home, the synagogue and in their professional roles. She is an active member of her Orthodox synagogue and coordinates an ongoing prayer group.

Bat Sheva has lectured internationally on women’s issues and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows including CNBC, CBS News, Huffington Post Live. She has been written up many times in New York Times, Time Magazine and Westchester Magazine as well as a myriad of local publications. She is co-host of the popular podcast: The Joy of Text which has been cited numerous times as one of the top 10 Jewish Podcasts.


Friday Evening: Group Dinner with Presentation

Sally Valentine PhD, LCSW, CST, CSTS

Tantra: A Practice in Sacred Sexuality


Saturday, January 20, 2018 

Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, DipPST, CS

Cultural Literacy and Humility (CLH) in working with Muslim Clients and Communities

Cultural literacy and humility are amongst the strongest assets for counselors, educators and therapists. American society is a multicultural context consistent of individuals of diverse origins, belief systems and ways of living. Understanding the context of peoples’ way of life is of critical importance in shaping therapeutic alliance as well as clients’ compliance with the process. Cultural literacy and humility allow us to comprehend contextual clues, keep an open mind with genuine interest, which fuels our informed questions. Cultural literacy and humility allow us to comprehend contextual clues, keep an open mind with Genuine Interest (GI), which fuels our Informed Questions (IQ). These will then allow us to have Deep Respect (DR) and Practice Compassion (PC) for the responses our questions would elicit (GI-IQ-DR-PC). With such approach we will be helping our clients utilize what could be helpful and reflect on the impact of what might hinder their growth. The elements of CLH model will be elaborated on with tangible examples from real clients. 

Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, DipPST, CSC is a Social Psychologist and psychosexual therapist accredited by the College of Sex and Relationship therapists in England (COSRT). She is also a certified Sexuality Counselor and Approved Training Provider by the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). In addition to maintaining a local private practice in Palo Alto California, she is active globally in the field as a keynote speaker, trainer, facilitator, plenary speaker, research and clinical supervisor, media commentator and thought leader. Dr. Nasserzadeh has worked across 37 countries and has given more than 500 workshops, keynotes and lectures across various platforms. Dr. Nasserzadeh is a member of the Advisory Board of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) where she chairs the Middle East Sexual Health Committee. She served a term at the Board of Directors of AASECT. Dr. Nasserzadeh is a senior technical and cultural advisor for the UN agencies and has worked with various governmental organizations on issues concerning cultural sensitivity and inclusion of various socially excluded groups including young people, women, unaccompanied minors, teenage mothers, refugees and religious minorities.  “Dr. Sara” works intimately with the press and media to educate the public. Since 2007, she created and hosted a series for the BBC World Service called “the Whispers” that won the Innovation of the Year Award “for putting delicate matters in a sensitive manner”. She also has contributed to the filed of sexual health as a co-author of two books “Orgasm Answer Guide” and “Sexuality Education Wheel of Context” as well as several book chapters, white papers and peer reviewed articles. Dr. Nasserzadeh is the Chair of the World Sexual Health Day Committee in North America. An initiative by the World Association for Sexual Health that brings cutting edge information to the public on an annual basis.

Connect with her via, Twitter: @Dr_Sara_, Instagram: Dr.SaraNasserzadeh, Linked in: SaraNasserzadeh, PhD, Facebook: Dr. Sara Nasserzadeh

Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, PhD, LCSW, CST

Demystifying Hinduism for Sexologists: Underneath the Allure of Kama Sutra and Tantric Sex

Hinduism is a religion that has captivated the Western imagination through Kama Sutra, Yoga, and Tantric sex. The Hindu diaspora around the world is not monolithic in its beliefs or practices. The values and beliefs around sexuality vary vastly between communities. This workshop will illuminate the range of Hindu values around sexuality worldwide. It will also seek to demystify evolving Hindu practices and rites surrounding birth, puberty, marriage, contraception, abortion, and treatment of sexual minorities. This comprehensive overview will provide tools for clinicians seeking cultural competence with Hindu clients. 

Sabitha Pillai-Friedman, PhD, LCSW, CST is a licensed clinical social worker, AASECT certified sex therapist and AASECT approved supervisor. She is also an Associate Professor at the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University, Pennsylvania, where she teaches various courses on couple and sex therapy. Additionally, she teaches courses on sexuality in the DSW program at the Penn School of Social Work and Social Policy and the Drexel Medical School in Philadelphia.

She has been a psychotherapist for nearly 25 years and has a wealth of experience working with individuals and couples in all stages of the life cycle. She continues to maintain a clinical practice in Philadelphia and practices individual, relational and sex therapy and provides supervision to social workers and sex therapists. She has conducted grand rounds on sexuality related issues at various medical schools in and around Philadelphia.

Sabitha has been on the board of AASECT for two terms and is currently on the Board of Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC). She is also on the health advisory board of LBBC and Unite for Her, both organizations that provide services to breast cancer survivors. She has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has presented nationally and internationally on various topics related to sexuality. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018 

Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSTS

Has Western Religion Ever Been Sex-Positive? Or Has It Always Been a Petri Dish for Sexual Shame?

In 2003, having spent several years observing mounting sexual shame in the twentysomething students and clients who graced my practice, I asked myself why these people were becoming more crippled by sexual shame and ignorance, not less, over time. What was happening in society? Had western culture and religion ever gotten it right, or were they somehow contributing to problems of sexual shame and dysfunction across the population?

This workshop will explore those questions and more, drawing from my clinical practice and my research into religious sexual shame over the past 14 years. You’ll learn the first operational definition of sexual shame, which was delineated in research in 2017, along with narratives from Judeo-Christian sociopolitical history that uncover the patterns, stories, and culprits that have led to widespread religious sexual shame in the West. Most importantly, this workshop will introduce you to the emphatically sex-positive narratives of Hebrew tradition, and you’ll learn about the healing power of sexual pleasure as rooted in a fuller view of the Judeo-Christian understanding of God: an erotic God who delighted in creating sex and who has a relentless love for his creation.

Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD, LMFT, CST, CSTS has had a distinguished career for nearly three decades as an associate professor in the School of Psychology Family and Community at Seattle Pacific University, where she is a family therapist, medical family therapist, sex therapist, researcher, speaker, author, and thought leader. She also founded the Northwest Institute on Intimacy, whose mission is to provide training in sex therapy and spiritual intimacy for psychotherapists, and to provide a solid referral source for physicians, community leaders, and the public. Her relentless passion for couples and families to know sexual and spiritual abundance, health and healing have won her several awards and requests for radio, TV, and podcast interviews. Inspired by the Project,  check out the internationally acclaimed community built website, TGFS brings video stories of people who are healing from religious sexual shame.

In her acclaimed 2017 book, Sex, God and the Conservative Church – Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy, Dr. Sellers reveals how the western conservative church in collusion with consumer driven culture, politics and the economy has infiltrated our core ability to attach to our partners, and instruct our children to attach to theirs.  Sellers reveals the cost of the mind/body split, and resurrects for the reader, sex positive ancient mystic wisdom ignored in the founding and continuation of our spiritual heritage and cultural ethos. Herein lies a foundational truth confirming our human desire for connection and pleasure, while revealing the silent killer of intimacy that sexual shame has always been.


Please note - this is a preliminary program. Check back frequently as more sessions and presenters will be added soon!