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What Is A Sex Therapist? Learn About Our Psychologists, Counselors, Therapists — And The Rest Of The Modern Intimacy Team

What is a sex therapist? How is the team at Modern Intimacy different from other relationship counseling services?

A Certified Sex Therapist has specialized training to help people navigate the intersections of sexuality and mental health. As such, through talking about sex and relationship issues, their focus is on helping people navigate concerns related to sexual issues, sexual functioning, and health sexual contact with others (for those who are sexually active).

It’s important to note that a Certified Sex Therapist never engages in sex or any form of physical or sexual touch with patients. Rather, sex therapy aims to help people struggling with sex, sexual trauma, sexual dysfunction, as well as with people who want to explore aspects of their sexuality in a new light.

An important aspect of training for a Certified Sex Therapist is participation in a professional membership and community, such as the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).

At Modern Intimacy, we understand everyone has a unique experience and relationship to sexuality. Our therapists operate from a sex positive mindset. This safe space allows people to explore their sexual orientation, preferences, questions, struggles, and anything getting in the way of living an authentic and fulfilled sexual life.

What level of training do your psychologists and therapists have?

Therapists at Modern Intimacy have various levels of training. Some are Licensed Psychologists, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, or Licensed Clinical Social Workers. In addition, Modern Intimacy may employ some clinicians who are pre-licensed and working towards their hours for licensure. They are supervised by a licensed therapist on a weekly basis, to ensure everyone receives the best quality of care.
Some clinicians have additional training and certifications, including:

Certified Sex Therapist (CST)
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT)
Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY)
Somatic Experiencing (SE)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
NeuroAffective Touch (NAT)
Post Induction Model (PIT)

We are happy to answer any questions you have. Common questions are “What is a sex therapist?” What is involved in relationship counseling?” Email [email protected] to schedule a 30-minute consultation to get answers to any questions you have about therapy techniques or our therapists’ education, training, level and areas of expertise.

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Everyone has the right to empowered, healthy, and thriving relationships. That includes you.

mental health | relationships | sexuality | healing + recovery

I like your vibe, but I’m not dealing with relationship or sex issues. What other therapy services do you offer? Can you help me with individual counseling?

If you’d like to work with us, but aren’t struggling with relationship or sex issues, we can still help! In addition to sex and relationship issues, we can treat a myraid of other mental health issues and conditions. These treatment areas include:

  • Trauma & PTSD
  • Addiction & Compulsive Behaviors
  • Relationship Issues
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Sex & Love Addiction
  • Eating Disorders & Body Image
  • EMDR Psychotherapy Treatment
  • LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapy
  • Individual Therapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Assessments & Psychological
  • Evaluations
  • Mood Disorders
  • Anger Management
  • Infidelity and Betrayal Trauma

Meet the Modern Intimacy Team

Clinical Associates at Modern Intimacy

Heather Mazzei | Associate Clinical Social Worker

Heather Mazzei earned her Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from California State University Long Beach (CSULB), focusing on integrated mental health and human sexuality. She is passionate about helping individuals transform into their most authentic and fulfilled selves through the therapeutic process. Heather believes relationships are the central aspect of a healthy, satisfying life and wants to help each client find meaning and peace. She is an advocate for sexual health, discovery and women’s empowerment, and believes all individuals can experience a healthy sex life and positive sexual expression.

Her training at CSULB emphasized Humanistic Psychology and the consideration of all pieces of an individual’s life when treating dysfunction. As an Associate Clinical Social Worker, Heather is committed to honoring the dignity and worth of all individuals and to offer individual and couples’ counseling services that respect each person’s unique differences.

Under the supervision of Dr. Kate Balestrieri, she is specializing in sex and intimacy issues with the goal of becoming a Certified Sex Therapist. Individuals looking for help related to dating challenges, sexual dysfunction, mismatched sexual desire, anxiety, addiction, or attempting to heal from betrayal are the clients she aligns well with. She is an individual and couple therapist, and will facilitate the discovery of the root of your problems and begin the journey of transformation. Therapy is not a quick fix, and Heather believes finding the right therapist is an integral part of your journey. She employs a wide-ranging approach to treatment and utilizes components from CBT, DBT, attachment theory, solution-focused therapy, and humanistic psychology.

Prior to beginning her journey as a psychotherapist, Heather worked for a non-profit organization that provided recovery support services to those with substance use disorders and also served as a community college counselor. She loves educating and wants to answer your questions about why you are the way you are and how you can become the person you wish to be. Having witnessed personally the benefits of psychotherapy, Heather firmly believes in the privilege and transforming power of the therapeutic relationship and wants you to obtain the utmost from the therapeutic experience.
Heather is supervised by Dr. Kate Balestrieri, Licensed Psychologist, in Los Angeles, CA.

Elena Behar, LMFT | Clinical Associate

Elena Behar, LMFT earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from National University (NU) with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). Elena is very passionate about working with individuals and couples who are looking to heal and grow, build a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives and reintegrate with their true selves.

Elena uses a non-pathologizing multidimensional approach in therapy employing techniques from different modalities tailored to your specific needs. Some of the therapeutic models that she uses include, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Internal Family Systems (IFS) and IMAGO Therapy.

Elena believes that people instinctively seek relationships for safety and comfort and follow patterns of relationship behavior learned in childhood. Throughout your work with her, she sheds light on how your early experiences in life impact how you interpret your emotional experiences and show up for yourself and for your relationships as adults. Relationships trigger old wounds and feelings of abandonment, neglect, and suppression may arise. When these issues are not addressed properly they can create disconnect and resentment that might bleed into other aspects of the relationship, including decreased sexual intimacy, infidelity, avoiding conflict or frequent conflict. In working with Elena you will learn to be more attuned and empathic towards your own needs and also your partner’s experience in addition to how to navigate conflict, improve your communication and deepen trust and intimacy.

Elena aims to provide an understanding of what drives your emotional responses and you can expect earnest conversations about the deeper meaning of emotions and how they are related to your thoughts and behaviors and how you can regulate them. She fosters a collaborative approach in which you are an active participant during the process of therapy.

In addition to her work with couples, Elena is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and has extensive experience working with individuals dealing with a history of trauma, addiction and mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Her clients describe her as calm, compassionate and insightful.

Raquel Vanloon, LPC, CADC |  Clinical Associate

Raquel VanLoon, LPC, CADC earned her Master’s degree in counseling psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP), with a specialization in treating addiction. Raquel is currently finishing the University of Michigan’s Sexual Health Program, to further specialize in sexual health and intimacy matters such as sexual identity formation, relationship complications, difficulty with orgasm, and other complex, yet completely normal, challenges. Raquel is in the process of becoming a Certified Sex Therapist (CST) through The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). In addition, Raquel works with people feeling overwhelmed with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, stress management, life transitions, trauma, substance use/abuse, building coping skills, body image, lifestyle balance, and much more.

Raquel uses an integrated, culturally sensitive approach in therapy employing techniques from different modalities that meets each client where they are in life. Some of the evidenced based therapeutic models that she uses include, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, Polyvagal Theory of Regulation, Positive Psychology, and Motivational Interviewing (MI). Raquel also conducts therapy using a harm reduction approach, which is used to help minimize harm and aims to reduce problematic effects of compulsive or addictive behaviors. Utilizing these approaches, the goal is to help support, collaborate, empower, and sustain positive changes in your life. Raquel creates an individualized plan for each client, based on their goals, needs, and identifying what works best for them.

Prior to working at Modern Intimacy, Raquel provided therapeutic care for the people struggling with dual diagnoses in an inpatient psychiatric hospital, a 28-day residential rehabilitation center, as well as a three-month halfway house program. Raquel understands that coming to therapy for the first time is hard, as is about trusting someone and being vulnerable. Her goal is to make you feel comfortable in discussing your current challenges and make you feel heard and understood.

Administrative Team at Modern Intimacy

Kayla Tricaso | Office Manager + Patient Intake Specialist

Kayla Tricaso is an Ohio native and graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelors in Marketing Communications and a concentration in Public Relations. She moved to Los Angeles in 2016 where she started a career in Public Relations. With a passion for communication and human connection, Kayla transitioned to administrative and patient intake work within the Mental Health space and has been happily situated in that field for 3 years. Kayla is an advocate for mental health awareness and destigmatizing any shame around mental health/illness and therapy.

Kayla is highly organized, optimistic, and compassionate. She enjoys spending her free time traveling, writing, reading, and learning how to cook.

Brooke Schwartzman | Volunteer Intern

Brooke Schwartzman is a Junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Psychological and Brain Sciences. She is eager to learn the clinical, empirical, and entrepreneurial facets of modern psychology.

Brooke’s previous experience includes interning at an internal medicine practice,
directing an emotional regulation workshop for kids, and coordinating patient care for a psychology group. She is currently a candidate for Psi Chi International Honors Society in Psychology and a research assistant at UCSB’s renowned META lab with a salient interest in dehumanization in intergroup conflict.

Jesse Ripes | Volunteer Intern

Jessie is a junior at the University of Miami (FL) who is thrilled to be an intern for the 2021 Psychotherapy Internship Program. Currently working towards a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Psychology, she hopes to become a clinical psychologist and a certified sex therapist. She is passionate about empowering women to speak up in a professional and a personal setting.

When she’s not working, she loves spending time with her family, friends, and her chocolate lab CJ. Being from the suburbs of Chicago, she loves exploring the city and trying new foods.

Zenza | Therapy Dog

Zenza is a Mini Goldendoodle, whose sweetness is only usurped by her hypoallergenic and no-nonsense hairstyle. Bringing a unique blend of snuggles and humor, Zenza knows just when to offer comfort and well-timed distraction in sessions and in general.

In her free time, Zenza can be found chasing balls at the park, carefully carrying her favorite toys on long walks around the block, dining out at local dog-friendly spots and stealing a few truffle fries when no one is looking.

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