Dr. Ainslie Heasman, C.Psych.
Making the decision to seek out therapy can be a tough one. It can be especially difficult to talk to someone about your sexual interests and behaviour. You may seek therapy because you have decided that your behaviour or thoughts are just too inconsistent with your values or the future you want for yourself. Other times, therapy is sought at the insistence of someone important to you and/or as a result of significant consequences in your life. Regardless of the path you have taken to seeking out therapy, my goal is to create a safe, comfortable, and non-judgmental space for you to determine how best to move forward.
Understanding the nature or origins of your behaviour or thoughts is important and can help put context and explanation around where you have found yourself today. I believe that change comes from both insight—understanding yourself better—and focusing on specific and concrete strategies (relating to thoughts, feelings, and behaviours) that will help you to manage current difficulties, and to ensure you are as successful as possible in the short- and long-term. Having a clear sense of your values and goals will also assist you in moving forward with a life you are happy and proud of. Regardless of the reason that you see me for therapy, I find that most of my clients benefit strongly and achieve greater success from actively engaging in ‘homework’ type activities outside of session. We will work together to determine what is feasible for you within your specific life circumstances so that you can consolidate the information you learn in session and actively work towards managing your presenting issue in between sessions.
My practice focuses on assisting individuals who struggle with problematic sexual behaviour and/or thoughts. Specifically, I focus on helping people with two types of concerns, hypersexuality (also known as sexual addiction) and atypical sexual interests;
1) Hypersexuality (also known as Sex Addiction): Individuals with hypersexuality engage in frequent sexual behaviours that interfere with their functioning (i.e. school, work, relationships, hobbies etc.). The content and desires of their sexual behaviors may be of concern to them. Everyone has their own preferences for frequency and content of sexual activities – whether alone or partnered. When that frequency or content results in significant consequences or is done as a way to deal with life stressors or uncomfortable/unpleasant emotions, it may be considered problematic. I can support you to determine if you want to reduce or eliminate the sexual behaviour/thoughts of concern, and then help you by implementing a variety of strategies to achieve your goals.
2) Atypical sexual interests (also known as Paraphilias): Human beings express themselves sexually in a variety of ways. Many people have atypical sexual interests and engage in those behaviours solo or with consensual partners and typically do not seek out therapy or have a disorder. Someone with an atypical sexual interest may seek out treatment when they are uncomfortable with their interests, or are concerned about acting on them in a way that would be illegal, or have in fact acted on them in ways that is illegal and/or nonconsensual.
There are various atypical sexual behaviors or sexual thoughts that may prompt someone to seek out assessment and psychological treatment due to the risky or illegal nature of the activity to self and others, including: exhibitionism (exposing oneself to an unsuspecting person); voyeurism (watching an unsuspecting person undress, in the nude, or engaged in sexual activity for one’s own sexual gratification), pedophilia (arousal to pre-pubescent children), or hebephilia (arousal to pubescent children).
Other atypical sexual behavior and thoughts may prompt individuals to seek treatment due to the distress caused by the behavior to self or others. Examples of such behaviors include: sadism (arousal from inflicting pain or humiliation on another), masochism (arousal from having pain or humiliation inflicted on oneself), transvestic fetishism (arousal from cross-dressing), or fetishism (arousal from inanimate objects). In some instances, however, these behaviours are/can be incorporated into one’s sense of sexual identity and lifestyle without negative psychological distress nor impairment to relationships. I may refer clients to CFIR’s Sexuality, Gender and Relationship Diversity service when clients are seeking specifically to integrate gender diversity into their personal and social identities and lifestyle.
I also conduct psychological assessments to evaluate the risk for offending or engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviour, as well as sexological/diagnostic assessments to determine the presence of a sexual disorder or other mental health issue.
Risk assessments determine the likelihood of general, violent, and/or sexual reoffence. These are typically requested by the court, a lawyer, or the Children’s Aid Society. A risk assessment is an in depth analysis, using evidence based practices, of an individuals past and current behaviour and thoughts, coupled with a thorough review of all relevant documentation, (i.e. police, employment, school records etc.) and collateral interviews. Additionally one or more actuarial or structured professional judgment tools are used as part of the comprehensive risk assessment. A report is then provided detailing all the information gathered, as well as statements about risk for re-offence.
I have over 10 years of experience in the assessment and treatment of individuals involved with the criminal justice and/or mental health system. I completed my graduate training in the United States, allowing me the opportunity to work in a maximum security prison, conduct assessments for criminal responsibility and fitness, and work with men with a history of sexual offences who were civilly committed. I worked for seven years at the Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI), a therapeutic correctional facility for adult men. My work at OCI involved the development of the intensive program for men with sexual offences, as well as, assessments and individual and group therapy. Currently, I am on staff at the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH), and conduct assessments, group and individual therapy, and supervision of psychology trainees.
I am a registered member of the Ontario Psychological Association, Canadian Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers. I am also registered for autonomous practice with the College of Psychologists of Ontario.