Nicole: Yeah. So how would you introduce yourself to the guest who has never heard you and what you're about?
Soleil Merroir: I tend to always need it kind of. I like having a daddy or somebody or a, a someone to structure me
Nicole: I'll be your daddy today.
Soleil Merroir: Structure me, Nicole. Yes. Well, thank you for having me here. I'm glad to be in this conversation.
Um, I am, uh, I'm currently going by Sole, that is the name. I'm, I feel aligned with formerly Angie. Uh, I've been a clinical social worker for 20 years. Um, sex therapist for 10. Been doing sex work for 15, been doing sex education facilitation, community engagement, community building activism in sex related spaces for about 10 years as well.
And overall, uh, sex weirdo in the sense that I grew up fundamentalist Christian and had, didn't have any access to my pleasure. And then spent most of the last 15 years trying to learn how to be a sexual being, how to be in my body, how to heal trauma. Yes. How to connect to my own expression and my own identity, which a lot of it happened through queer spaces, kink spaces, no monogamy, um, sex work, um, all fi all moving towards what it means to be a liberated being in a body that we deserve to have total autonomy over.
We deserve to have rights to access every part of our bodies in any way we might, we might see fit, whether that's for commerce or for pleasure, or for play, or for creativity or expression that it is our, our tool that we've been given to function in without choice and yet have to navigate how to do it.
And I, I, I tend to be folks who meet me now say that I'm maybe one of the most real and unfiltered humans they meet, cuz I don't have much like. I give very, very little fucks. My nihilism right now takes the form of, um, nihilistic optimism where I'm like being my fullest self and waiting the end of the world.
And it feels good to like be more, um, grounded and connected to being my best version of me and helping other people to like fight to be, to, to exist, to exist fully, especially as sexual beings in their current space. So I think interestingly, like we, we talked a little bit prior to this. I don't know where you're gonna edit the conversation, but what it would mean to talk a little bit about my clinical journey and like how I'm still even roughly tangentially connected to clinical spaces, even though I'm the most radical therapist people could ever work with.
Woo. I love that. And yeah, kind of how I got here and what I'm doing now. Does that feel like Yeah, yeah. Let's do it. I actually worked on this, this post that I. I'm really good at making content and never publishing it. So I, you know, I'm sure at some point somebody will see this content. Um, but I worked in this post about how I've been a sex worker since I was a child in that we are, when you were a fem identified person growing up in conservative Christian fundamentalist or like conservative families and communities.
Um, and this is probably would apply internationally. I just don't have as much like direct lived experience in that space. But, um, you are trained to be a service of service to everyone around you. And whether that's your body, your expression, your identity, your. Your image, your every single part of me was con, coerced and controlled from the minute I was born and put into these tiny boxes and exploited.
So whether I was, um, actually being trafficked if we're gonna use that language, or I was just, you know, a being, being dressed up and told what to do. I've been, um, engaging in, in sexual commerce since I was a child and, and used as a tool. And so I think in some ways, like, um, whether that was erotic labor or emotional labor, that's the work I've been trained to do since I was very young in my families and in, and then I was in a fundamental Christian space, um, where I was, it was very, very distinctly trained.
Yeah. This is how you will perform, how you will exist. Yeah. In that Christian space, I already was very, you know, easily adept to like, I am everyone's social worker and therapist. Mm. You know, that was already my identity. And then in the Christian space, they decided I was gonna be a social worker. In terms of my career, so that I could do mission work.
I was going on mission trips all over the world and they, they decided I would go to college to like do evangelism, proselytizing, and college spaces by getting a social work degree. So even though I was like making weird art and really loved art, I couldn't do these things I wanted, I was sort of like, Dictated to be on this path to do social work.
And then I was like, leading bible studies and being a, you know, luckily unluckily, my first social work job was a, um, uh, working in child welfare systems, doing child abuse protection and removing kids from their homes as like a 22 year old white girl in the Midwest who didn't have, have no anything about, oh, kids or families.
And mostly in like, communities of color, which was like so toxic and harmful and like really devastating to those communities. And I like have deep sadness about having played that role. But I did, I did that role like related to that role for 10 years. And in growing in that role, I mostly learned that everything was bullshit in the context of using systems to oppress and control and coerce people and using them to decide who is safe and who can have their children and what is right.
And that it was all conformity to white, white, white supremacy and conformity to classism and racism and, and sexism. And I was also doing that work in my own body and my own life, um, as I was in this cult still and ma and in a, in an arranged marriage while I'm working as a social worker. Whoa. So, Luckily on the personal level, I had these fucking great coworkers who were like, Hey girl, you're in an abusive relationship.
And like, while I'm like doing domestic violence work with clients, they're like, that's like your, and so my first time, like I had this beautiful coworker who like would like take me out. It's the first time ever like went out to a bar and like got dressed up and put on makeup. Like, like this, like person when I was 25 who like helped me be a person.
Yeah. So like in, in the transition from like both understanding how like the clinical systems were really fucked up from a very early age. Like it always felt like this was not an alignment with me. Like I'm a white girl in the Midwest who's really Christian yet I still felt like, hey, there's no truth when it comes to Jesus.
Like there's no right way to be and there's no truth when it comes to wellbeing in the world. Like one way of being. And so I was always like, I don't understand how people have decided there is one way to be and why we now are going to like force people using systems to create that. And, and, and I couldn't understand how social workers could actually do that work.
Mm. And like stay in that work. And like, I think this all the time actually about therapists now where I'm like, How do you tell people that they are crazy when they're responding to a really fucked up broken system that's coercing and controlling and harming them? So how do you perpetuate every day that this is your, this is your diagnosis and I'm gonna give you coping skills for the next five years for this diagnosis.
Like, how do you survive in that? Like how do you ethically, like I'm sure you have this experience though, in, in training.
Nicole: Well, that's why I tell them, I'm like, the system's messed up. You shouldn't have to be working three jobs and then having anxiety because you don't have any time for yourself because you can't afford your home.
Right. Like, right. Hold on. It's not you. That's the system there.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. How many therapists, like, don't do that. Yeah. I had this conversation with a therapist, actually, I was living in Idaho briefly, and it was fucking toxic and terrible. But I met this like dude therapist who had a big practice there doing, I don't know what he was doing, fucking CBT or some fucking shit.
And I asked him, like, I asked him like, what is, what is his relationship to managing oppression and like, um, you know, yeah. The rights, rights of, of marginalized identities in his, in his practice. And he was like, You know, I pretty much see the, like the, um, what was the term he used the well off? Well, or something.
He's like, I see, I see the people who are, you know, they're, they're, they're doing pretty well. They don't, it doesn't really, those are things don't really affect them and so they're not really my clients. I just see the people who are like struggling with, you know, some depression or some anxiety and I was like, you don't see it every single.
Yeah. But like the fact that, that a therapist could be working in this field and like not have an awareness that like the marginalization or identities are gonna impact every single client they encounter in some way. Even if they're the, maybe the cause of the oppression, it's still something impacting them.
Nicole: Yeah. Well I think there's a lot of people like that. I think that's just the reality is that a lot of people don't see what you and I are talking about and that's part of why I hope this podcast can do that. I hope these conversations can do that just to be expanding the awareness of the reality that yeah, we are fish living in the water of oppression.
Soleil Merroir: all of us. Yeah. And no and no, no one is free of that. Yeah.
Nicole: Yes, exactly right. And so being able to help people see that, because it's so tricky though, cuz to get insurance coverage for someone who can't afford, and this is with people who even can't afford insurance, right? Right. But to do that, you have to diagnose someone with something, you know?
Right. But like, I think that's where, at least I'm trying to challenge it, of like sitting with someone and saying, you know, like, what diagnosis feels comfortable to you? This is how we get access to services. Let's talk about it. This is not a definition, this does not define you. There are other reasons why this is occurring.
Whether it's society, whether it's your early family relationships, whether it's the current relationships you're in. It is not you. Right? It's not you. Right. Ugh.
Soleil Merroir: Well, and, and I think that the question I always ask therapists, you know, I'm doing supervision for therapists now primarily, and, and I ask this question like, when you are giving information to a client about their mental illness, about their experience, about their mm-hmm.
How to understand what's happening to them, how is it benefiting you to perpetuate that, that information? Mm-hmm. Like, how are you thinking about the way that we stay at an ethical practice? So think about like our being rooted and Bo and boundaried in our ethics and values. Nothing we should be saying to a client should be for our benefit to perpetuate our ego, our identification in the career, our identification with we're, we're doing something that's valuable, we're important, or we're useful.
Like, all the shit that like perpetuating the diagnostics, the, the systems that are harmful within mental health is, is about the therapist sense of self. Right. And so our ability to disconnect from that, to like disconnect from like this story we have about, I need to be doing a good job by following evidence-based practice, by giving them this diagnostic, by making them better.
That like, if we can disconnect from that, then there's this fucking transformation that can happen as the therapist to say, Man, we're just fucking humans in the room with you and we're on this journey and let's like see where we go. Cuz like, I don't know. And you don't know. And like I somehow have a brain that can maybe help you with some things.
And I got some ideas. I often joke that my therapist technique is like, I'm Sam from Lord of the Rings and like the client is Frodo and like they got the ring, they got the plan, they got the, like, the goals. I'm just like along, I got, I got a map, I got some snacks, I got some ideas. But like we're just fucking in it together and like we're going to this like, Through the depths of mordar, like we're fucking in it.
And like Right. That's, that's where like we can be transformational for clients where we're not, we are not needing to reinforce our power in the room. Mm-hmm.
Nicole: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that's where I start to think about my work with psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and this concept of the inner healer and being able to sit back mm-hmm.
And support people in that work of bringing up what is coming up for them that they need to heal and holding that with them. Right. Totally. Like there's such a totally sitting back of that experience of instead of, let me talk to you and direct you for this entire session, sitting back and supporting them to go where they wanna go, and then holding that in a safe container.
But I, I think it's tricky too, because there are obviously like, Clients that can be supported through, you know, basic things. I mean, I don't practice from a C B T lens, but like, just basic thoughts of C B T that are helpful of like, let's challenge totally these thoughts. Totally. Uh, let's use mindfulness to like ground in this and be able to Right.
Connect back to the body and take a deep breath and like, but those skills totally could be shared in a book. Right? Totally. Like those skills can be totally shared in a workshop that can be on YouTube for everybody. Totally. Uh, my dream and hope is that we could have a future, and I think this is gonna be beyond, be way beyond our future, but a world where people don't need a therapist anymore because our community has healed enough to hold one another.
Soleil Merroir: Totally. Yeah. And then is your example and like, and like, why don't we give it away for free? Like give it all away. Like, here's, here's trying nothing. None of this is none. None of this is privileged knowledge, right? Like, here's a bunch of tools. Like there's CBT apps, every, like, there's all, all this shit is like ideas, strategies for managing and coping, but the actual transformational stuff is within you.
And Yeah, I always say like, the reason that therapists even exists is because we lost community. Like we stopped being, we stopped being with each other. And so we needed to create therapists to have, so we had people to talk to. Clinical work didn't exist in most of human history. There wasn't like this person that was identified to be this thing for you.
There were different versions of healers, but even those healers weren't sitting with you and listening to you vent about your problems all day. Like, I think about this a lot when one therapist will come to me as super as a supervisor, say, I've been seeing this client for like two years and we're just really stuck.
And I was like, why the fuck are you seeing a client for two years? There's a, there's a difference between you need someone to talk to, you need, you need, you need. Emotional support. You need community. You need belonging, you need reflection. You need, you need people that vibe with you. You don't need a therapist.
You don't need somebody in a power dynamic that you're paying to be that commo community and emotional support for you. And if you're not making progress after, you know, six months in clinical work with somebody, it's probably not the right fit and it's probably not helping. And you probably need other people in your life, but like people like this illusion, right?
That I can pay this person every week who's gonna be unbiased and give me the support that I need and I don't have to feel like I need to give them anything back. And I don't need to like have any weird relational dynamics. And it's like, We just need to get better at relationships. Mm-hmm. And better at having meaningful connections in community.
Sorry, that was a side tangent.
Nicole: No, it's fair. It's super fair. And I think I'm sitting with it because I'm someone who has been in therapy for the last five years and I still, and I, I would say I've made a ton of progress. I would like to think, yeah. So it hasn't been static, but it is something that I continue to do and enjoy as a, like special container, as a special place for someone who has held my story for the last five years in a way of them trying to support me to be the best that I can.
Yeah. Could I, and should I maybe be doing that in community? Yes. But do I also like the sanctity of a special container where I can just go and be held in that? But like, maybe you're right. Maybe it is that like. If I had like a deeper embedded community of being held and seen, I'd be building those relationships with other people and I wouldn't need that one person.
I think it's just, I like to, I like to unburden myself in the sanctity of that spiritual space. Totally. But I don't know.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah, it's certainly no judgment did I? I'm, I'm a kind of a bossy bitch, which makes me, you know, either a really good dom or a really terrible therapist, but, I mean, it's, it's a space where like we, we wanna figure out like what are, you know, I tell clients all the time, like, know exactly what you want from this experience and like, if you don't know what you want to, to like see change or see grow and, and shift.
Yeah. Like, we're not gonna do a good job in this space. You're not ready for this experience. And I think kinda maybe coming full circle to like my clinical road, you know, having been in really a toxic, like systems roles, you know, both as social worker, as managers, as a trainer, um, for foster parents, as a therapist, for foster kiddos, as somebody running a group practice running private practices, working in, I worked for online therapy companies, worked for all the therapy apps.
I worked for, um, you know, just recently left a job as a clinical director of a, um, adolescent treatment center. Um, you know, we're having worked really intensely informal systems. The, the constant experience I have is we are in order for the systems to survive, for the people in the systems to.
Financially, economically, in our current capitalist, patriarchal, oppressive structure, we have to cause harm to the people in those systems in order to perpetuate those, that survival. And that's at every level. There's very f there's very few therapy jobs where we're not, we're not, we're not engaging in exploitation.
And so then it's the, there's this like, core difficulty for me too, right? Cause therapists need to survive. We need to make money, we need to like, have income too. But how do we not engage in, in oppression in a way that is going to be perpetuating the thing that, the very thing that we are trying to, we, we, we, we idealize the idea that we, we are creating something different.
And we are being something different. And, and changing systems from within is a great, um, vision does not happen very often. Very, very, like 1% of the time can you actually make a difference from within a toxic system? If anything, it's like we all stop working in them. Like, I would love, I would love to see therapists, you know, Great example.
Stop working for the therapy apps, like they're super toxic. Uh, stop working for systems that aren't working for the humans that we're trying to serve. Figure out a better way that we can survive and support each other. Part of it goes back to like, we work at a, we we're in an industry where I think with this lot, actually with sex work, that any job that is, that is a caretaking role, whether it's therapy or nursing or teaching or sex work, is not paid well enough to survive.
Yeah. Because of the pa, because of the patriarchy. And yet, you know, if you are in marketing, if you're in accounting, if you're in law, you can have crazy billable rates and companies pay that and it's like no big deal. Yeah. There's a systemic shift, but it, but it's also like we have to separate ourselves from the.
Relationship that we get to being important in the work enough to like try to change the system, to not wanna keep reinforcing it so we feel important,
Nicole: right? Which I think part of that means not diagnosing people when it's a problem of the system or a problem of their relational dynamics and other sorts of things that perpetuate this sort of need base.
You need to come back to me because you have this problem and you got this diagnosis in this way. What I think is interesting, like as I'm trying to get out of the system, right? Like offering coaching services and get outside of that system, like wouldn't the dream be to like charge the people who can afford that and then provide sliding scale for the rest.
And then we don't have to do it in a system of therapy and we don't have to do it in a system of insurance and we don't have to do it in that sort of way. But then that's still charging $300 a session. But for the people who could afford it, this is very like socialist trying to rework it or offering group dynamics that are more affordable.
Like totally, I don't, I don't know what to do, but I wanna get out of this system.
Soleil Merroir: Totally. That's a, that's a model that a lot of people are using where they'll have sliding scale for, for folks who can, and then pay charging other clients more. The kind of work that we wanna be doing is not the kind of work that will pay us and the kinda work that nourishes us, that like feeds our soul to like, I wanna, I wanna sit with someone in deep sexual trauma and work through like how to find their fantasy expression that is gonna like, Use their trauma as a tool for integration.
Like that's my, my passion work is like, like kink through trauma work. But like the folks who, who want that, who need that work, who want to be on that journey with me, can't afford it usually. Right. And they can't, or, or they can't afford to have access to that. And so I'm trying to think of other strategies.
Like I'm trying to publish some, a bunch of free shit. I'm trying to do some streaming. I'm trying to find some other, other ways to like give the thing that is really needed to people in a way that is, um, as accessible as possible. Um, because none of this should be privileged knowledge. I know everyone should have access to it.
Nicole: Yes, I agree. I a hundred percent agree. And I do still think that we need relationships though. That's the tricky part, is like you could read all of the books in the world, which do form a sense of relationship, but you still need someone to look at you and be like, That was a good job that you did. Or maybe that's an area where we could push a little bit.
Because the reality is the book is not dynamic. Like we still need relationships. And so like totally. Even if we put out all this free content, the podcast free content, right? Like that can only get someone so far until it's applicable to their life. I don't know. I've been sitting in this and feeling shitty about it left and right and not knowing what to do because you do have to make money in this society to survive.
Right. But also seeing this so directly of how it is the relationships that shape our sense of self and how we feel, and I am just one piece of that. And the reality is someone needs a full community. That can hold them with that emotional wellbeing. Right. And that is what's going to transform them. So like even with the people that really wanna do the work, the reality is like, I am just one relationship.
And through that work, at least through my own work with my therapist, I started to realize how my other relationships don't hold space for me like that, right? And so I slowly start to evolve and change and be like, okay, I'm gonna close these down because it doesn't feel like this one. But the reality is we should all be held in that.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. I mean, and personally, why, like a lot of my life, I'm mostly doing sex work right now because I feel, I feel better in the, in the, um, clear negotiation of my labor and sex work than I do in the exploitation of, of therapy. Because, and, and, and, and, and it's interesting like, cause therapists are so appalled by this distinction, but it's like, you know, I can go into a session with a client, I can say, this is a thing I can do.
This is what this is. And I can be my full of self. I can have all my thoughts, my feelings, my opinions. This is. I will give a caveat and I'm, I'm, I do sex work in a pretty privileged position where I'm not doing street-based work. I'm not, I'm not feeling the same kinda threat of violence as some do. I do have multiple stalkers at times.
I do have lots of online harassment at times, but there's, it's not the same kind of threat that others, but like, I can, I can clearly negotiate, this is what I'm willing to do, this is what I want, this is what it's gonna look like. Goodbye. Give me your, this is this, this is the right, and it's, and it's a, I know that I'm offering a valuable service and a commodity to this, to this person that is really like, meaningful and connected.
Whereas in therapy, there's oftentimes where you're like, I hear this from supervisees all the time. They walk away from a, from a session like, was that helpful? Did I do, or the right thing? And then they spend, you know, and then a client has a negative reaction and comes back. And then they spend all this time in this kind of like, machinations around, you know, am I fucking this up?
And it's like, we're, you're not fucking it up. It's, it's, this is really hard work and you're trying to fill the role of a community. You're trying to be all of those things for people that we can't, we cannot be. And, and I think that that speaks to like therapists, that existing, existing in the vacuum that we need the connection with community organizers and mutual aid organizations and groups that are doing the like, How do we help people be in communities and learn to feel supported and cared for?
But also, I see that I have some optimism that like in the, uh, U G C, the user generated content world, that there's space for like moving into owning our own, own, owning all of our own content and, um, distributing in it in a way that is equitable and fair. Moving out of a space where like we need to continue to feed a system that isn't serving us.
And so I'm looking into like a lot of like. I'm working on some like web three, some cryptocurrency, like blockchain projects that will actually work on like user ownership of content and, and, and user ownership of our own voices, our own experiences, um, where we can create our own communities outside of that structure.
That's just one strategy that, that is a potential. A lot of the money being made in the world right now is on user-generated content. Cause most big companies are moving to influencer car Con like us making their marketing for them. Mm. And so if we were actually being paid well for all of that content and using it to improve relationships and wellbeing of the people that are consuming it and like having it be content that's actually like, really rooted in like what humans are needing to connect and to grow.
My dream is always like, I wanna help everybody get better at sex and dating. Yeah. Everybody better at relationships, better at communication, better at boundaries, better at consent and, and like using all those spaces to facilitate that like, We're not gonna eliminate the need for therapy, but we're, we are gonna create more of a, we already see this in like the TikTok space, right?
Like how many 12 year olds are giving relationship advice to each other and supporting each other. It's neat to see, like this, a lot of people moving towards collective experience as the anchor for information and knowledge sharing versus any kind of like expert space,
Nicole: which I'm all for the, the power of lived experience, right?
And what that can teach you compared to what you learn in a textbook or what's, or what you learn in a system. You know, getting a doctorate under something, right?
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. And I think I'm, I'm wondering, I'm curious like, Would you wanna share? What motivated you to first wanna be in a helping role? Like was there something that kind of like, oh yeah.
Cause it's something for me. My path was chosen for me, but I and I, and I'm happy to be in it, but it was very much like a, like, here's the thing. Yeah, yeah,
Nicole: yeah. So I was the first person in my family to go to college, so that was, I think, very murky. I didn't know what that was gonna look like, but I wanted to do something helping people.
I just felt like that felt good. I didn't know what, originally I wanted to be a doctor of medicine, and I think that was part of the prestige of like, oh, I'm gonna be the first one to go to college and I'm gonna become a doctor and I'm gonna. Do the thing, you know? So then that's when I started working, um, in a hospital and doing some research work and really getting to see what it's like to be a doctor.
And the 15 minutes that you get with a human in, out, here's your lab results, here's some medication, goodbye. And, uh, at the same time, I was also volunteering as a sexual assault counselor. So I would go to the ER and do one-on-one crisis counseling for individuals who would come to the ER to get services afterwards.
And just like felt such a radical shift between the ability to be with someone in that space compared to what you would do, giving someone a lab value. And then after that, I just switched to psychology and was like, this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna sit with people, I'm gonna help people. And I think it's a part of why I'm so passionate like you, right?
Of like, how do we help people on that whole spectrum of healing from, you know, the sexual trauma, whether that be with your, whether that be through a act of violence or the societal. Act violence that we all experience. I was someone who went through purity culture and fundamental Christianity as well.
So I would call that a trauma. Um, totally. And so, whatever that is, I'm very passionate about helping people go from that to sexual pleasure and being in full liberation of that. And that's what I wanna do. It sounds like what you wanna do. And so that's where I really resonate. And how do we help people do that?
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. Well, and it's interesting, as you said that cause like this all ties back to this capitalism and like this, this work related conversation. Cause people don't realize that, that one of the things that's keeping us from sexual pleasure is our relationship to work. Mm-hmm. And it's our relationship to like, to like production and to like, yeah.
Con consumption and like feeding the system of like, we are so exhausted by just trying to be every day and like, and like survive. And like, you know, then this is true in so many cities right now where like people can't afford to live. I was doing this again, I, I got laid off from this, or fire from this job for this toxic reason, which we could talk about.
But I wouldn't like job hunting again. Um, if I was ever gonna go back to clinical work and like a therapist. Clinical director, supervisor, master's level, 10 years, experience, therapist jobs. Not even a hundred grand, like consistently, like 80, 90 thou, like, not even. And it's like, what is the hope then in this field that if like you can go, like there's always this, like I hear this, some dudes actually male expert clients of mine who are like CEOs will often be like, well you just gotta, you just gotta work hard and it'll get better.
And I'm like, that is not real. Like, like the belief that men, men actually like, and I'll use men as a, you know, I don't like gender and terminology, um, beings and power will have to reinforce this language, right? That like, if you just work harder, it will get better and you can hustle and like pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.
And I'm like, not that is world work. Yeah. And I give that example, I'm like, I'm a, I'm a brilliant human being who's worked really hard and has been at the highest level of my career and I still can't survive without lots of other kinds of work. And the most money I ever make in like survival is sex work is is never actual.
Clinical work is never. The like. And when businesses succeed, I think of this a lot actually. Like, cause one of the solutions that therapists will say, this is not turned into a business consulting podcast about it. One of the things the, the therapists like, well you gotta like start your own business and you gotta just like, you gotta hustle and create content and have all these, like other income sources who has time to do therapy, write a book, do supervision.
There's some people out there that are fucking miracle workers, but like, When you're doing all those things, are you doing the kind of quality work and the alignment that you actually wanna be doing? And even then you are selling something that may not be the actual thing you want to be engaging in.
Mm-hmm. It's like you're trying to find this strategy to hustle a system that isn't actually the clinical work we're trying to do. And I didn't go into this work to be a business person hustling a system to try to like create clickbait content that's gonna get like 50 view, 50,000 views. So, so some of it's useful, but a lot of it's not useful.
A lot of it's like more harmful than good just because we need to survive. And it's like we shouldn't have to play that game too when we're trying to like really work out dismantling the system.
Nicole: Mm. Yeah. And when you do start that private practice, you know, what are you, you're making money off of the other clinicians, right.
That you are taking part of that pay from and that's how you're being able to get out of that system. Right. And I think part of it, it just always drives me wild that like, so I was certified as a yoga instructor, right. And to teach a private yoga session, you could get upwards of $150 an hour and Right.
That is also about what. Therapists are paid. And I'm just like, hold on a second. You're telling me five years of a doctorate and hours of clinical training gets the same as a 200 hour yoga teacher training. Right? And the same thing with personal trainers, other sorts of th this whole system of what gets paid what for what?
My dream is that everyone could have access to therapy for what is helpful, right? But like also, how do you get paid appropriately for the amount of emotional labor and the amount of emotional turmoil that you go through being that container for people. Because this job is not easy. It is not easy to hear everyone's pains and to sit with that and to go through, like get emotional, to go through, like hearing so many sexual assault traumas, and then you're just like, oh, I'm just gonna go about like, my day is normal.
Now after all of that, you know, like, what are you supposed to do?
Soleil Merroir: I see you. I feel you. It's really hard. And like, I, I, I say this in the therapist, especially new ones in this field, like you cannot see more than five clients a day and stay alive. You should not be seeing clients more than three days a week.
Like we, we can't, we have to balance, like you need days for rest. You need days for other kind of work. You need days for creativity. You need space, you need space between sessions. Like we, if you're, you're seeing seven si seven clients a day for seven days, five days a week. Like we will hurt ourselves.
And, and we don't. And we don't do a good job. We don't show up with the clients cuz this shit is really hard. We are, we are being, we are the social net for everyone. Every other system like clients can't get into doctors, they can't get into the healers. They can sometimes get a therapy session cuz insurance will sometimes cover it.
So we become that net for all of the, all of the like needs they have. And we can't be it, we cannot be that. And like, you can't be that, right? Like, it doesn't mean that the client doesn't need that care. It just means that like we we're not responsible for holding the weight of the whole system. And if anything, it's like.
We can have compassion with that client for the grief that we are, we are the person they're engaging with in that moment. And then like, how do we help them get more, like, my first strategy actually with Survivor clients, do you want this kinda
Nicole: Yeah. Go for it. I'm here. I'm here for it.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. My first strategy is, um, we're gonna work on building other community for you.
Like that's our first strategy before we're doing any of the trauma work. We're not diving in deeply into of it. I love that you're not telling me your story. We're not holding anything until you have other people because you leave here, you're here once, one hour a week. Right. That doesn't, that doesn't even scratch the surface of when Totally.
We need to like hold the, the depth of this work you're doing. And there's some, sometimes people can't wait and they just need to like, yeah. There, there's activated. Yeah. But then we don't, we don't go through the story. So this is, this is, this is not turned into a trauma podcast. I, I'm gonna tell folks who are new to the field, don't we do not do trauma work and don't dive into the story.
We do, we do titration of symptoms. Yes. Um, initially, yes. And so what you're doing is just, how do you help with that, that that activation moving through the polyvagal response stuff? Yes. Moving through. How do we helping them. Decrease the intensity of that activation before you're doing any storytelling.
Cuz they can't. They can't. And that's where like your ability to hold that container is less about you need to hold the whole story. Right. And more that like you can, you get to pace them effectively. Yes. So that they're not causing themselves more harm or harming you either.
Nicole: Yes. That's what I've been learning is how to do pacing and like the importance of that before you, because some people do just want to go there and you're just like, hold on, let's, do you have grounding skills?
Are you gonna walk out of this room feeling so dysregulated that you don't come back? Totally. Sort of basic stuff. But I, I love even taking it back and to a whole different level of do you have community? Where is your community, where is your support? Where are you going after this? Do you have enough people to talk about this besides me?
Right. But it, it's so crazy as someone who's in the system, like I was just interviewing for training spots next year and I decided to stay at the place I'm at because they're at a very different system than what. The other places. One of the other places, 14 clients a week for two days on site, which means seven on seven back to back clients, and that's for someone who's in school.
So you're not only just doing that, you're also balancing all of the demands of trying to get your schooling and hours and your dissertation and blah, blah, blah, blah.
Soleil Merroir: Which is like common, like that. That's not uncommon. That's like, I mean, there's a, there's a place in, in, in, in the city that I lived in that you had 90 clients starting out as an, as an, as an intern.
You started out with, you had 90 clients in a pub, in a, in a public, mostly Medicaid Medicare clients. And, and, and you had to fill every billable hour, like if you, so you, you got, if you missed an hour, you were hustling to get, get a client in that slot. It was like, this is wild. And it was, and, and being paid like, you know, 30 bucks an hour.
Nicole: And that's exactly the piece. Getting paid that amount for the amount of pain that you're sitting with and, and holding
Soleil Merroir: Insane. Yes. Yeah. It's insane. One comment I wanted to make based on what you just shared too, is that the pacing is really important and learning the titration of like, when do we go into ion?
Um, but also there's a, there's a piece of this that I think people really struggle with. Your ther, your therapist experience, um, has to be rooted in your own presence with the client. And so like the minute that like we therapists work really hard to hold the, like I'm put on my therapist hat today and this is, I'm a professional and I'm supposed to be these things.
And, and when we don't notice our own activation, yeah. When we aren't able to like stay and connect to our own bodies, like the minute that I, I, I have a like, ugh feeling in session. I'm hitting pause, I'm hitting pause in the conversation, I'm hitting pause on myself, I'm hitting pause and say like, what's happening for me?
Even if it's just like a, Hey, can I have a second to a client? But the more integrated and grounded you are doing your own personal work around being connected, the better work you're gonna do. Because when you move past that, when you're, when you're just sort of like, when you're in the fit therapy factory, client after client for client, you're disregulated, you're disconnected.
What the fuck are we even doing then? Why? What are, why are we even there? Like, what's, then we're just like, they should just be using a therapy app then. Like, if, if the solution, if the solution is that, that we need to be that disconnected to survive, then this isn't the work that we wanna be doing. And, and there's this opportunity to like, have it be better just by slowing down enough to say, even if you're having a hard day, like there's gonna be days where you're not fucking there.
And I just, we can be honest with the client. Like, I think a lot about what do we tell a client about our experience? Mm-hmm. In, in, in an ethical way that doesn't make it about us. Yeah. So we can be honest with our experience without making it, they're not holding space for you. You're just being real with like, how are we both coming to this space and every other relationship?
I think it was a lot with therapist, right? Every other relationship in your life. We tell people to do that, we teach people to do that, but somehow in the therapy context, we, we become this robotic like performative. Cuz there's so much fear around like, what does being a professional mean? And it's. We will show up better for clients when we're real and authentic in our experience than we would ever be by being a disconnected therapist machine feeding C B T tools to them.
Nicole: Yes. This is why I love relational cultural theory. Yeah. So it talks so much about the importance of being connected in session and watching those moments when you do feel disconnected as either. Yeah. Something's coming up for me about maybe my own traumas, my own bias or something has happened with the client and our sort of connection and being able to monitor that as the the key piece Totally.
Of what growth is. So I love that you're saying this cuz that's where I'm trying to come from too. And I think what's really great about that orientation is trying to take off the power dynamics. So presuming that I know where this person needs to go or what's wrong with them, it's a collaborative thing.
And take, and being able to just be authentic, that is a crucial part of the therapy. Right. And authenticity within the frame of what's always best for the client. Right? So like you said, like you can say like, this is where I'm showing up today. And it's not that the person is caretaking for you, it doesn't go to the opposite direction.
Where now it's like, can we talk about this me in my pain? It's like, no, I'm just gonna state that's where I'm at today, and we can honor that and continue forward as an authentic relationship with one another. And that's actually how you do the therapy. Totally.
Soleil Merroir: And, and that, that speaks to like, there's not many modalities that kind of gives space for that.
And it's like moving out of the, we need to stick to this. We need, we need a format and more about like, what are we actually trying to do here? And like most of the people, most people's difficulties that they come to therapy before are relational. Like something about their relationships with each other, with family, with their, yeah, with themselves, with their relationships.
Like there's, and so our ability to like model what it's like to be in healthy relationship dynamics and like, We often are their first healthier attachment relationship they might be experiencing. Yep. And, um, which might speak to your earlier conversation about why you're still in therapy for five years.
Nicole: Hit me with, with my psychodynamic,
Soleil Merroir: like we have this relational that we, like we have, we build this attachment, we build this safety, like this, the therapist becomes our first person. We're, that's reflecting that back to us. And then we're like, oh. What does it mean to like, have, repair, have, have breaks, have a bad day?
Totally have a, some of my, my most transformative client sessions I ever had were clients when they were like, Hey, you're on some function. Like, Hey, you missed this. Like, hey, this, like, and then that's what we fucking need when like we're in, we're in exchange. There's, it's like that. Um, and we think about this in kink a lot where like there's a dynamic energy feeding this system.
There's this tension of, of, of energy, whether you're whatever role you're, or dominance or submissive, like you're, you're, you're putting in energy to feed the system and then it's being received and fed back to you. Right? Feedback loop and therapy also has to be a feedback loop. So if we're, if clients are just dumping on us, and I hear crazy stories of what therapists do sometimes from other clients that come to me, and like sometimes I'm astounded, but I've heard stories from clients and therapists who say nothing for an entire session besides like mm-hmm.
Okay, well, I'll see you next week. That was great. Like, no other words. No other words or, or therapists who will only do C B T who, like, well, let's which, which? C B T, um, which thought dysfunction is that fall under? Okay. Now let's do the thought restructuring. Like they, they won't do any other model besides like this.
It's like, what are we even.
Nicole: Which is where I ask like, what's that person like? What's the therapist level of comfortability with being in a relationship and being a human? Right. Right. That I think that if you are uncomfortable with that and this sort of, yeah, communication, presence, authenticity. Do you know how much easier it is to be like, well, we're gonna do a C B T uh, worksheet today and just lay it out right here and do that.
But the reality is that only gets you so far that might stop those, those anxious thoughts that might stop this and get you in some sort of movement. But the long-term relational attachment, my five years of therapy stuff of like learning how to push back with my therapist and go through ruptures and repairs and still be held in that.
Yeah. That is not on a worksheet. That is
not on a worksheet.
Soleil Merroir: Totally. And then the related stuff, like the how many therapists there are clients I here talk about therapists that will be like, Directly like shaming or pathologizing of like them because it, because it like impacts like their, again, like their view of themselves.
And I mean, I come to this in the sex therapy all the time where clients come to me because I'm the most radical they could find on the internet and will validate, you know, any way that they're expressing themselves, generally speaking. Um, but they'll come to me and say like, that, you know, therapists that have encouraged them.
Like, I can't tell you how many times I hear of therapists who will encourage involuntary celibacy. Like one partner is like, I don't wanna, I don't wanna have sex anymore. And the therapist's like, well, you need to stay with your partner and preserve the relationship no matter what. It happens all the fucking time.
Therapists like don't value sexual expression therapists that don't value it's their own ideology. They need to preserve the vision of what a family is, what belonging is, what marriage is, what what, yeah. Yes. What like connection is and safety is. And it's like until like the therapist, until we're willing to deconstruct all of our sense of what normative and right is we can't do good work with anybody.
Like we're gonna, we're, we're continuously like fucking this up. And. I mean, really popular at therapist conferences. Just like, I'm not telling everyone, we don't need to say that, like everything that Gottman says is bullshit. But like there is some space to say like, what would it mean to like eliminate normativity?
Like whether that's gender or neuro divergency or relational D relational diversity. Like there is no normativity, normativity, normativity. There is healthy, there is meaningful, there is, there is connection, there's safety, there is, you know, pleasure. Mm-hmm. And the way that those things can look can fall into a million different configurations and connections and belonging and have historically in our, in our, in our, in human history.
And yet we've somehow forgot about that in the last hundred years because of white supremacy in the patriarchy.
Nicole: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Because it is exactly what you said of what the therapist views to be normal is what they're gonna come in and be like, well, At first off, I don't think a therapist should be telling you, you should be doing this.
Let's, let's get really clear on that. Right? But like no matter what, yeah. Even if you're not blatantly be like, you should stay in that relationship. It comes through in the bias of the questions that you ask totally in the gentle direction that you're trying to lead them. And that is just a reality. And this is also where I'm like, damn.
Like I wanna know what's my therapist's perspective on the world? What sort of relationships do you think are healthy? Totally. What sort of sex do you think is healthy? Are you kink shaming? And I don't even know it. Do you know what I mean? And like it's coming through in these small little questions and the way you frame, like, I want your full bio.
Otherwise I don't feel safe to sit down with you personally.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah, totally. Again, you're not a cog in the machine like you're a human being that had, that's having, so even if you try to be distant, it's, it's interesting therapists that try to be distancing and like very professional, but then suddenly that goes out the window when it comes to sex and relationships and then suddenly they have, there's all this personal bias that they're like, oh, now I have an opinion about you and your identity.
But like I didn't a minute ago when you were like struggling with systemic oppression. Like then I was just like, oh, that's really hard. Let's talk about a C B T strategy. Right? But the minute it's relational, it's like, well, let's talk about why you shouldn't preserve your relationship at way. Right.
Nicole: Absolutely. And I think part of that is related to the reality that we just don't talk about sex in our culture, at least as someone currently in training, I will say there has been no conversation about sexuality. There is no class on sex and relationships. There is no any of that. And so, to be quite frank, there are many people who have gone through trainings and there are people in my classes who have never even heard of kink or non-monogamy.
And so when they sit down with a client who comes from that, Everything is gonna flood out. Oh, you have a rape fantasy. Oh my God. Something is going on there. Right? Like so all of that just floods out cause we don't talk about it.
Soleil Merroir: Totally. I would give, give every, anybody this test. Your a therapist, your a therapist, clinical person in any regard.
Look at your, look back at your curriculum. 99% of courses in clinical work have nothing sex and gender related. They've, they've just started to add some like queer, like L G B T stuff, just even a, even like maybe one semester, one class, but almost nothing sex and gender related. So it's like, how do you, how do you like ignore this entire swath of like, identities totally human beings and then expect people to do a good job holding space for any of them in that, in that context.
And then people don't wanna get the help and training in it. One of the projects I wanna just plug that I'm working on is a certification straining therapist, how to treat sex workers as clients. And it's a 12 week certification that we are gonna be exhaustively going through. You're gonna be getting.
You're gonna be getting sex work clients that we're gonna be supervising you and facilitating and checking in with the clients. Are you doing a good job? We're gonna be giving, um, exams, we're gonna be doing a full assessment of you at the end. Like, we're gonna help you be a better fucking therapist so that you don't harm sex workers in your communities.
I want every therapist organization to start requiring their therap, their therapist to attend these kinds of programming. We, we will come to your actual, I will come to the APA and do sex work trainings. Um, everybody needs access to, um, sex workers, specifically our marginalized identity that's completely, uh, completely eliminated from most conversations.
So there's a little bit of queerness happening, a little bit around race happening, but almost nothing happening around sex work. And it is an identity trait. It is not just a, um, a wor a choice of work that somebody had because once someone's a sex worker, it is identity trait that stays with them forever.
And impacts every single part of their being in the same way that sexual race does. Mm-hmm.
Nicole: And I think the reality is it's more common these days, right? Yeah. Especially with the tools like the internet to be able to share your content. Totally. I am so happy that you have the certification are doing this.
And I get so pessimistic when I'm going through my training and I realize that in the APA requirements for a psychologist, even a trauma class is not required. And like my school is one of only like four schools that has that as part of their curriculum. So I'm over here like we need to have, I know I'm over here, like we need to have a class on sex.
And I'm like, oh, like fuck. Like we don't even have a class on trauma, so maybe I need to lower my standards. It's kind of where I've been feeling
Soleil Merroir: like, what are they even teaching? Like what are we even like,
Nicole: I spent a month on the Rorschach. Okay. I spent a month and a half on the Rorschach and how to interpret someone based on what they say and an ink blood.
Soleil Merroir: Oh god. Like how much that time could have been used to like, yeah. Learn something more useful about like. Humans and experiences and like, so I would ask the question like, when, when you're going through that, what do you, what is it reinforcing to you that they're trying to prove? Like what are they needing to validate about themselves as psychologists that they're needing to like, create this academic system that validates this sense of importance or, yeah.
What, what, what do you take away from that?
Nicole: Yeah. That, that test was created by white men and tested on white men. Yeah. And then used for a whole different patient population and used to pathologize people and to look at your certain ink plot and say, well, well that's because you have this sort of tendency.
And I'm just like, what the,
Soleil Merroir: yeah. Are you kidding me? It's about the, it's about like the needing to like, I'm, I'm, I'm important. And, and I'm saying this thing that is valid and and meaningful to you. And it's like, I also, like, I love the fun fact that Freud did a lot of psychedelics. Yeah.
Nicole: Let's talk about that.
Soleil Merroir: Right? Like, so we're gonna talk about like psychology. Like they were not fucking, they weren't doing a lot of, there was a lot of opium, there was a lot of dau, there was a lot of psychedelics. There was a lot of like cocaine. Like there was a lot of like, they're tripping and being like, oh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna give you my opinions about the world and because I have power and money in class and access my opinions somehow become a book and become valid.
Mm-hmm. And it's like, like how often do we think about like, the person who gets to write the book is the one that like, is teaching this thing when it's like we're just, we're just trying to be fucking humans and trying to be in our experience. And like I said this, like this tech event this week that was like, I'm trying to do some like networking for this, um, web three project I'm trying to build.
And this, this tech bro was like, had this, went in this rant about how our cities are just designed, designed around car manufacturers and cars are really the reason why our cities are the way they are. And I was like, Did you ever think about there being more systemic issues be beyond like car manufacturers?
Like, like the idea that the American Dream was sold to us as a marketing scheme to like suppress and control us and like isolate us out of communities and out of belonging and out of, um, women achieving more power. And, but it was like people get so narrowly focused on like, this one thing is going is, is, is a truth.
And it's usually around like their own experience versus like, here's someone else's fucking story. Here's someone else's, like experiences and words and like, and therapy is a great place to, like, of all the fields that we're gonna liberate from patriarchal capitalist systems, why not fucking clinical systems like it, like we're, we're literally, our values are aligned with equity, justice, care for all identity.
Like, let's fucking do that.
Nicole: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And that's why I think I come back to that question of how, right? Like how, how, how do we do that? And I. Again, it's something that I don't have the answer for, and I think, you know, people like us will continue to push and to think about that and try and rework the systems, and also trying to have some sort of grounding for the reality that it's not gonna change overnight as much as we dream of this world of it not being like this.
And like, yeah, like how do we take care of ourselves? What is it they're saying? Like, fighting within the system and against at the same time. And like, how do you do that in a way that allows you, you know, as, as a warrior in that space to take care of yourself and do good work? I mean, oof. Yeah, it's hard.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. This is an unpopular answer, but I mean, part of it is we, we stop doing it in the way that we're doing it and we, and we, we change it. You know, we, we don't feed insurance companies. We don't feed corporate mental health. You know, we don't participate in mental health that's oppressive. Like we don't feed.
Systems and models and tools and um, and academia even, you know, like we, we, there's so many, so many aspects of the clinical systems that are oppressive and, and perpetuate the same harms, you know, that, um, that we're trying to then say that we're, we're trying to shift and, and being honest with our clients, being really direct about what we have to do and why we have to do it.
I mean, super basic, I mean, not mandated or not doing mandatory reporting anymore, like mandatory reporting is harmful and, and harms families and harms people. So there's so many other strategies to protect children and protect survivors and, and, and prevent harm that is not mandatory reporting. So, you know, like there's really basic shit we can do differently as a field and we can work together on coming up with new strategies that are actually community-based responses that are actually like, rooted in what's good for people.
When I have a therapist, I often hear this response of like, well, this is what I'm supposed to be supposed to do. I'm terrified of losing my license. I'm terrified of liability. Have we really designed a career and a, a career on helping people based entirely around liability management? Like, we're not in a, we're not in risk averse of like insurance systems.
We're not a, we're not lawyers, we're not police. Which one A big problem run into a sex work monitoring people like think they need to report their clients for doing sex work. I'm like, you're not what member? Yeah. I've heard some therapists that they're supposed to like, well, if your client's doing something illegal, like what are you supposed to do?
Nicole: That is not at all what's within the ethic code at all. Not even close.
Soleil Merroir: Totally. But therapists are often afraid that if they know their clients are doing something illegal, that they should report it. And it's like, you are not a fucking, like, not been deputized Yeah. By the like, local problematic police force to like report your, like marginalized client for something.
Totally. Because you have a little, like, you have a little ick about it. Like that's your shit to move through. Yes. So it's interesting like, like therapists changing our reference point to like, If we're every day we're afraid of liability management and that's, that's how we like perform this job. Like we're not doing it well and we're not serving our clients well.
Nicole: Well, totally. As someone who's been making this podcast, the amount of things I've said on this podcast that I've been like, oh shit, what happens if I lose? Like, and my supervisor's like, maybe don't get your license. Maybe you don't do it because of that. Because apparently totally. Even through, even if you let your license fault, um, and you no longer act like keep it activated with all of the education requirements, you can still be held liable as someone who has a license.
So I was like, oh shit, maybe I don't wanna get my license because I can't just like, recommend things to people because of the framework. Like, especially it comes a lot with psychedelic stuff and like what I know to be truth with these things and within the system that we have. And I'm just like, I can't speak the truth.
I can't speak the truth.
Soleil Merroir: Right. I, I, I, I keep my license that I can do, um, supervision for people. That's likely like the only strategy that I'm keeping, but I'm definitely of the, like, I'm at some point I'm going to have it. Revoked by someone for some reason. So this fucking job that, this recent job that fired me, um, they're, they're, they're, they were threatening to report my license to the board another, like nail in the coffin of this bullshit from this company.
And it was like, the reason why they are, they're coming after me in like all the ways they are is because I was pushing back on their bullshit. I was challenging racist, transphobic, sexist things in the company. And like when you challenge the patriarchy, they react more strongly because they're threatened to lose their power and they, they, they, and they push back.
And like, I'm happy to be out of that sys system, but I'm also like deeply saddened that it is harming children in the, in the process.
Nicole: Yeah. If you're comfortable for the listener, could you just like include them in on what that was?
Soleil Merroir: Yeah, yeah. I was a clinical director for a, um, adolescent residential treatment center.
I've worked in residential before and it's residential is a entirely toxic system, but I also needed to navigate capitalism and I was like, I'm gonna make a difference. I'm gonna be, I'm gonna bring in section gender work, I'm gonna talk about. Liberation work. I'm gonna create a system where they feel safe and connected.
I'm gonna do trauma based work in residential. Um, and this is in California. Um, in a private company pretty quickly from like day one, they, they were reacting to, you know, they knew who I was and what I did. They were reacting to, um, me facilitating groups that were section gender related. So they told me I couldn't do groups anymore.
Um, they told me that I was turning the kids trans, um, and the parents were going to be mad that the conservative families weren't ready for that kind of change. Um, they wouldn't allow the, the buildings themselves to be, um, gender, um, shifted. So they, they required kids to be living in facilities based on what their assigned gender at birth was.
So they weren't able to be like living in homes with other kids. They were aligned with. So this constant pushback, um, but I just kept trying to like, figure out my strategies. All, all the trauma-based approaches that I created were destroyed or not allowed to be enacted cuz they didn't fall within their systems.
Um, so, I mean, I was just doing the best I could with one-on-one work. And, um, I had a private therapy session with a client where we, um, Where she'd been sexually assaulted many times. And we were talking about like, how do you manage that and how do you manage arousal and desire? And, and, and in a, in our conversation, it came down to like, she didn't understand her own body.
She didn't understand what she liked. She didn't know how to have pleasure in her sexual experiences. So ple so sex was about attention. It was about belonging. It was about I'm being wanted. Yeah. She didn't actually like or feel good in any of the experiences. So I was like, I'm gonna, let's do some really basic sex ed.
Cause I brought in my vva puppet puppet. I'm gonna show this for your Yeah, totally. I brought in. Ava puppet. That's a really beautiful, like different absolutely side, and it gives you like structures and you can talk about it. And I did like a five minute, like little basic sex said, this is how your body works.
This is what your body needs. When your body's giving you this cue. This might be what it means. This is how you set a boundary. When somebody's pushing you, this is what you, um, this is how to ask for. You might like how this is how you might explore what you might like. Super basic sex ed. I would give to a 10 year old, probably, you know, as young as a, a child as young as 10.
Um, she told someone else in the facility, um, just as like a, like a nice thing. She was like, oh, I got to have this thing with, with Angie. Like, you know, that she was excited about it. And some other staff reported me. And the next day I had like mob squad style. These guys in my office. Took my laptop, took my phone, deleted all my content, all the work I had created, escorted me out.
No goodbye to the clients. No transition to the community, no goodbye to my staff. I was leading, facilitating supervision for three other staff. Escorted me out of the building. Um, wrote, wrote me a letter, um, saying that I was, um, in violation of my ethics because I was teaching children to pleasure themselves and then, um, and said they're gonna file a board complaint against me in California.
I don't have any words, and I'm a certified sex therapist with like, years of experience. Like, this is my actual expertise. If I basic sex ed in a private therapy session with a teenager who's being sexually assaulted, like, what other answer would I have had for this kid? I keep thinking about that actually.
It's like, ugh. Um, what, what else could I have said to this person, right? Like, oh, maybe in a year you can get some sex ed when you leave the facility. Like, there's no other ethical answer I could have given her besides healthy, supportive sex ed that would teach her how to have control over her body and autonomy and access to her own pleasure.
And like, the most devastating thing for me about the situation is she's gonna go away thinking that what she said was bad, what she did was bad. She's gonna be reinforced that she can't talk about sex, she can't talk about her experiences. She can't get help because it led to somebody, somebody being terminated because she talked about it again.
And like she was terrified to share with me in the first place. And it was like me saying, this is a safe space for you. This is a place you get to be. This is a place you get to work through and we can help you, you can go back to your life and have healthy relationships and sex someday actually is not true when you're in the mental health system as a teenager.
Yeah. Devastating. And I didn't get to be, just even be like, it's not your fault. You're doing your best. Like I, I wanted to get, and I'm sure my colleagues, I hope my colleagues did that on my behalf because I feel like, yeah, like I didn't have any like legal recourse to like have any conversation with them.
I couldn't like, oh, even just say goodbye. I like couldn't, the company wasn't going to let me. So it, yeah, it was really sad. Devastating.
Nicole: It's horrendous is what it is.
Soleil Merroir: And that's just like basic, that's like basic mental health, but reinforce like why we don't wanna work in the systems and why the systems are toxic and bad.
Nicole: Right? Right. Because I think they're like, oh, it's a child. You can't talk about that stuff. But the reality is this child has been sexually assaulted. This is a part of the conversation.
Soleil Merroir: And they're coming to me with it. It wasn't like I volunteered it, it was like this kid being like, what do I do with all this arousal and desire and like difficulty I'm having?
And like, what do I like, what is this about? And like, this is your actual job.
Nicole: Like, right. I Right Not to say, sorry you're too young for this conversation and just leave them. What, and on top of that, all of the, we know even through this conversation, what we've talked about, the attachment that occurs and for them to completely shut you off with no termination from the rest of your clients that is causing harm.
Like I, I straight up feel the unethical of even that.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. It was so harmful. It was so sad. I like think about those clients all the time and just like wishing I could have just, you know, said goodbye. Said like, you're important, you're doing your best. You're like, we are on this journey together. And I didn't get to like, yeah, so, so unethical.
But it's like private mental health is that way because they see it as a company versus a clinical experience. You know, they, they're not, the company doesn't abide by therapy ethics. The company is not, isn't, isn't rooted in ethics. The company is. On some fuck shit about money and like the week before this happened, they had just been bought out by a capital investment by, by an equity firm from the East coast.
So I'm sure somebody had like, probably deep Googled me and decided I was too edgy for them and they wanted a strategy to fire me. That's, that's my like sneaking suspicion that there was some other reason that they like, didn't I, cause I was out about doing sex work to them. They knew, they knew that I had some sex work experience.
I wasn't doing it as like at the time.
Nicole: But I mean, it, it wouldn't surprise me for something like that, for them to try and push you out because of these things.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. Anybody who listens to this, I would love to like maybe write something. I'm just not that super great at the, like I'm much better verbal communicator, so, but I, I, I'm, I'm, but I'd love to like do a little like.
Further deep diving into like, can children get any help with sexuality in men in mental health spaces? And like, I know as I know in schools they can't talk about it. Like teachers and like guidance counselors are very much like they can't have basic sex ed conversations. Um, you know, clinicians are, if they're in an organization, they're not allowed to talk about it.
Like where do kids get the help? Then Internet has some great resources, but also some bad ones. And so like what do we do to, like, hopefully the kids on TikTok are giving each other good information cuz I don't know where else they're gonna get it.
Nicole: Right. And the reality that you still, even with that, you need a relationship to be able for that kid to, to say what they feel about that or, or any sort, any sort of given back and take and being able to have that safe space to talk about that one of our basic bodily autonomy's pleasure and especially with children who have been sexually assaulted.
Soleil Merroir: It's insane. There's a ton of like good, like sex ed content out there, but like, it's all being shadowed, but shadow banned. So like, it's really hard for like, the educators that I know are doing amazing work and yet they can't get promotions. They, they're getting banned. They're getting blocked. They're getting, you know, there's currently like a global effort to like try to ban sex on the internet and like a mostly funded by the reli, by the religious right.
Um, I'm writing a post about that or doing a post about that. But like the organizations that are funding, um, anti-trans bills are the same ones that are funding anti-abortion stuff for the same ones that are funding anti-porn and anti-sex content. And, and the anti porn, the anti-sex work content on the internet is the same content that's anti-sex ed.
And so it, it is the same people that are pushing it. And so it's, it's in some ways like support for sex work online is also support for all sexuality education and resourcing online that it, our, our interests are really well aligned. And so I think a lot about like, how do we. Work together as educators and sex workers to get access to spaces to teach and to give content in like open, expressive ways that people would desperately need cuz they're not getting it anywhere else.
Nicole: Yes. And if only those people could relax, the people that are fighting could relax a little bit to open up and ask themselves with curiosity, why does this make me so uncomfortable? Why do I have to scream and try and fight and control other people? Especially in a country that's founded on liberation, which we obviously to be very clear.
No, it is not. But like the people who are spouting that information are always about liberation. Liberation. Freedom. Freedom, freedom. We know it's not, but the reality is. What the fuck? You're over here being like, control. And I'm just like, you don't add up, you don't add up at all.
Soleil Merroir: And according, and like researchers, I've found that those same people are the ones that are most often clo, closeted, homophobic, homophobic by closeted, gay closeted, trans closeted, secret fetishes.
Like they're, they're always the ones that are like the most like shame based, that are the ones that are the most virulently, like angry. And it's like, just like, deal their shit and find a way to express it. And like, let's like give you a pathway to your weird fetish. Like, cool, let's, I'll work on that with you.
If you're a religious right person listening to this and you're afraid like, DM me, we'll, we'll we'll have a session. I'll help you get access to that shit cuz it's, it's like, work through it. Don't, like, don't hurt anybody else in the process of your own bullshit or they are, um, definitely afraid of this.
Like, it's going to change the structure of my family or my life or my, my, my meaning or belonging. This came up a lot during the like anti, um, Roe versus Wade stuff that was happening, um, more recently. And I heard this conversation with a conservative, um, person, like a voter, and she was like, my whole church decided this is what we're gonna vote for and I can't lose them.
She said she sent this on npr and I was like, I was like, this is, this is what it is. Right? You were, you would lose belonging. If you and your and belonging is so deeply important. And I, and then ingroup belonging has been tied now to this like political platforms that are about autonomy, which is another tool, the patriarchy to like course and control, to make a political platform about, uh, like moral or bodily autonomy issue, um, about contr.
It's about control. It's another strategy to control, not actually, they don't give a shit about babies or about my body or about trans kids. Like they don't care. No. So it's about control and power and coercion. Mm-hmm.
Nicole: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And it's a great tool to get people enraged and to have a point for them to come around together and do exactly that, where this is what I need to vote for, this is the politician that I need to support because it is this really tender issue totally.
That I can build a whole platform around. The people who are running this at the top know exactly what they're doing. There was that, um, documentary, I think it was called Defending Roe. I've mentioned this before on the podcast that like talked about how the first places to give abortion, um, in America were Catholic churches.
And I, I was so dumbfounded to find that out. I was like, when when when did this become
Soleil Merroir: No, that seems like. Yes. It only seems like the eighties, like it's not that long ago that like the, like, like, like Reagan was with the first who said like, we should make the, we should make the abortion issue the polarity.
Like they just, it was, it was a political decision. It was very, there was abortion rights activists on both sides of the, of the, of the aisle previously. So it was de deliberate. Like let's, yeah. Speaks, speaks to the sexual related stuff is like the people who are um, very anti like sex and access to sex on the internet.
Access education on the internet, yeah. Are also the ones that are not giving any sex into their children and those children are being sexually assaulted. And so there's, I think if anything, we could get motivation in the fact that. You are not talking about it with your kid. They're being sexually assaulted in schools.
They're being sexually assaulted by their neighbors, by their teachers, by their whoever, because they're not getting basic help to how their body works. How, I mean, everyone benefits from information about how to keep yourself safe, how to understand what you want and what you need. Anti-sexual assault works starts with a sex education and starts with like providing everyone with tools to understand that sex is about pleasure, that sex is about connection, the sex is about belonging.
And it's not about the ways that like it is being used as coercion and power. Like going back to my first statement in this podcast. Yeah. Like being commodified as a child was not okay, especially in a church that like would say I needed to dress pretty. Like my fundamentalist church was like, you need to look, you need to look pretty, you need to look good for the Lord.
Um, but you can't be too revealing. And they like, it was a very like, strict dress code, but it, but then I was like complimented and like touched and like appreciated by all the men in the church for like having, for meeting that like very specific like pure. Pretty niche for them, but then they could like, like, please sing for us and dance for us, and like perform a little show to prove that we're doing that we're, that you're like, you're pleasing to God, which how this happens a lot in the Mormon church.
Like be the most pretty to get the most planets. Um, you know, be please the universe by being this thing, but then don't use your sexuality for your own pleasure or your own good, or your own expression.
Nicole: Right, right. And I call that trauma.
Soleil Merroir: Mm-hmm. Totally. That's deep.
Nicole: Yeah, and it, it was interesting, it came up in one of my group classes, like that idea of like, what do you do when you have a client who's in it?
You know, you have a, a client who's, um, who's queer, who's in the Mormon church, who wants to come out but knows it's not safe, but wants to stay in the church and like, how do you support that person? I don't know. I think I have a really hard time with that one because I see it as a reenactment of patriarchal structures that have taught, and I call it abusive.
When you come to a space where your authentic self, your identity that you were born with. Is sinful and wrong and unacceptable. If this was any other dynamic where it was a relationship and then someone was telling me, oh, you know, my partner says that I am unacceptable for who I am, I would say that's sounds a little abusive.
Uh, how do you feel about that? You know what I mean? And so it's just so interesting and to me that within the society of like religious, um, religion and all these other pieces we're so soft about the reality that these are abusive structures for people who are queer, for people who are trans, for anybody that deserves pleasure in their body, especially the Mormon church, which says that you can't masturbate by yourself without that being a sin.
Oh my God.
Soleil Merroir: Right. That is not okay. Totally. But I think it goes back to the, the statement we made a few minutes ago, which is like, that is true and is abusive. It's trauma, but like it is threatening belonging. And so like yeah, the, the, the, I know having lived, I haven't lived in Idaho briefly. Like I talked to a lot of Mormon folks and I saw some clients there where it was like, The risk of like losing, they're really enmeshed supportive communities.
Like Totally. I know. Outlets and houses and like Totally. And like they take good care of each other. Yes. And I experienced that in the cult. The most closest I've ever had in the community was in the cult, was like, I felt somebody showed up for me all the time. Like there was this belonging. And so the, the fear of like, I'm not gonna belong anywhere else.
Like what if we created more spaces for belonging in our world, more ways that people felt deeply enmeshed, like community and belonging where they don't need those spaces. That's not the only option they have for that. Yeah. Um, because it's, it's such a, they can't imagine a life without their family, their communities, their Yes.
This thing that they do deeply want. And like, if your identities are in conflict with the belonging that you deeply value, it's like you're willing to sacrifice anything. I, I think about in abusive relationships I've been in where I'll completely disavow all these parts of myself to maintain belonging with a person who's created a dynamic of abuse, um, who requires that of me.
And it's, it's. It speaks to the same pattern, right? That we, we deeply want, we'll put the collective before ourselves when it feels life-threatening. And with trauma, it always feels life-threatening to threaten, belong. Yeah.
Nicole: Yep, yep. And then this is why you see a lot of cases. One of my supervisors had worked in Utah and just saw like wild cases of very, like, immobile children who couldn't even move their bodies from the, the Mormon church and things.
Just when you think about the level of shame and restriction and all of that, yeah. We see that come out in various, you know, totally physical disorders. And so it's just, it's, it's wild to me. I, I, I personally can't stay silent about this. This is a huge piece of what I'm passionate about talking about.
Totally. It sounds like what you're passionate about talking about because I think as people who have lived it, been in it, see it, my family's still in it. Totally. Yeah. I'm not gonna stay silent, and I also just wanna take a moment to call out the reality that you getting fired there. That is such an act of activism and I am so happy to hold this space for you, for what you did for that person and the amount of people who have gone through centuries before, who have been put in jail, who have been banned for all of the things that we look back and think.
We needed that at that time. Totally. That's the work that you're doing. And it might not feel like that when we get those fires, but like you're doing that work.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah, totally. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. And, and I think it's, I mean, anyone who knows me in my real life, like, knows that I'm not very good at being silent about anything good.
So like, the minute I like something's uncomfortable or something isn't good, like I'm gonna be like, I'm gonna be really clear by not. And, but I wasn't always that way, right? Like, I was a silent demure, you know? I was a perfect princess in, in the cult perfect, straight a's perfect performance. Like missionary, like I did, I was the perfect housewife.
I was the perfect everything for this cult. This cult. The, the masking at its like highest level. And what it, what it did was tell me that I didn't have value. So being perfect, being perfect meant that like I didn't get to exist. I didn't get to be myself. I didn't get to have a word. I didn't get to have feelings.
I didn't get to have art. I didn't get to have play. I didn't get to have pleasure. And it was like, I still feel guilt and shame, receiving pleasure. And it's been, you know, yeah. Almost 20 years. And I still feel this like I am bad to be receiving. If someone's like just going down on me and I'm like, laying splayed open.
There's like this, like, I should be doing something. What am I supposed, am I doing a good job like that? Like that inner narrative is so intense still. Even when I'm like, even if it's a sub that I'm dominating and I'm like, do this fucking thing for me. But I'm still like, is it okay? Like, yeah. It's like so deeply embedded in like my body that I don't get to have, if I'm expressing myself, I don't get to belong and I'm clearly fucking it up.
Ugh. Yes. Yeah. Yes. And I'm, and I'm working through it. I'm actively fucking doing it every day at a practice like receiving. And lately what I've been doing is I'm dating, when I meet people on dating apps, I just make them miss me and then, then I have them leave. So I just, I just receive and I don't do any, do anything back.
And I'm like, Yes, we can play. Yes you can. I'll teach you to fist me. I'm giving you a skill. Yes. And then you can go about your way and just see you later. Great. And that's healing.
Nicole: The more times you do that, the more times we can just receive and, and change that, that narrative and make new neuronal patterns.
But yeah, the reality is that is deep and I just, I see you in that and the feelings with that and that experience and how deep that can be. And that's, man, that is a huge part of why I run this podcast. That is a huge part.
Soleil Merroir: Well, maybe we have a whole nother episode on culture that would make me kind of fun.
Yeah, yeah. Totally. Totally. I'm, I've been working on some content and things, but yeah, you're, you seem better at getting shit done than I am, so maybe we can,
Nicole: my goal is to run some purity culture recovery groups.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah, I would definitely like be into that too.
Nicole: Well, I wanna hold a little bit of space as we come towards the end of our conversation in case there was anything lingering.
I know we hit. So many good things. Yeah. And I feel so seen in this conversation with where I'm at. I've been having some real strong frustration with the system, especially the training that I'm getting and all of this. Right? And so it felt really nice to be met in this moment when half the time I'm in class is going, what the fuck am I learning?
Yeah. Why is it this?
Soleil Merroir: Totally. Yeah. If I can get, maybe my last reflection is just on that. Like, so if you're, you know, if you're listening to this and you're a therapist student, you're a, you're a new therapist, you're somebody navigating that, like I think know that you're seen, know that you're not, your reactions to the systems are real and the people that have to teach those programs and people that have to, like, the people that benefit from those systems perpetuating, like are sometimes good people but just are, are not able to do the kind of dismantling work that we can start doing as a field.
Um, and know that like your truth is real. Like your authentic, authentic experience of something being wrong or bad is real. And like, listen to that and own that and like, Speak that into the spaces like, you know, I went through a, um, a, a supervisory training program with the AM M F T, um, and the teacher of the course was racist, like, kept saying racist things in the A M F T, like teacher of the supervisory training.
And we called him out on it. We, I wrote letters to this, to the board. We've addressed it. He still teaches it every, every session. He's still, and it's like, there's an example of like the systemic oppression in the, in the organizations themselves. He's really toxic and bad. And the more that we, as the new therapists coming in are like, we're not gonna do this anymore.
Mm-hmm. We don't wanna be a part of your organizations. We don't wanna be, we don't wanna support this. We, or we want to like, change them. We're going to actually shift, um, the gatekeeping systems. We're gonna shift the systems of oppression and the teaching. We're gonna shift the content of these systems.
We're not gonna take courses that are, that are not aligned. Like we have a lot of power and we have a lot of ability to, um, shift the ways that we are engaging and shift the ways you show up with clients. Like you have, you, you alone in your client session. You can be grounded and, and based in ethics.
It's not about you, it's about the client wellbeing. Um, you're watching your own responses. You're careful what you're sharing, but show up with that fucking person no matter what kind of system you're in. And when you can't, don't do it. Take, take the day off and don't push yourself beyond. Listen to your own internal, I mean, you know, you know this from doing a psychedelic work.
Like you have to stay aligned with your internal voice and your internal what, what the information the universe is giving you, wherever that information's coming from. Because the more you move outta alignment of that, the more harm you do to yourself and other people. And that's when. Anytime therapists have done something sketchy to a client, whenever there's sexual assault in therapy, it's because the therapist is not grounded and connected, not getting expression, not in their own relationships, not getting their needs met.
It's because therapists aren't doing their fucking work and therapists need to do better. It is not just sexual transference is a problem. Sexual transference happens every fucking day. Clients will always have arousal and an, and attraction and desire because you're a safe person. They're connecting with how do you talk directly about it and how do you manage your own shit so you're getting your needs met and your client isn't the only person that's reflecting back to you positive regard that week.
Nicole: Yes. Can I just drop the mic like Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
It has been a pleasure. I still have one question to ask you that I ask every person on the podcast, and it is, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?
Soleil Merroir: Well, I would argue that normal doesn't exist. So a, a normative word.
Nicole: I feel like this has become a secret test for every anarchist on the show.
The amount of people who come back and push on you passed. You passed. I'm just kidding.
Soleil Merroir: Um, no, I mean, I think it's, I would say that like, uh, in the sex, in the sex therapy realm like that your sexual desires, what you want as a sexual being can be an anchor to your life. You can, you can choose your relationships, your living space, your whole life can be anchored around what you want sexually and, and, and that, that being a driving force and a justifiable reason to choose partnerships that are primarily sexually driven partnerships and lives that are sexually oriented like, And that being a valid, important part of expression just as much as work or familial relationships or other parts like it, having just as much weight and power as other parts of identity.
And what would it mean? What would need to shift in your life to give it that kind of power and weight and expression in space? Yes.
Nicole: We're working on it, the spirituality of that too. I'm getting there, right? Like holding space for the power of what sex is and what it can be for us in our lives. And I don't even have words to follow that up.
I really don't. That was beautiful.
Soleil Merroir: Yeah. Well thanks for chatting with me. And yeah, if, if you wanna ever have like a supervision session too, I'm always available for people. So Yeah, if folks are looking for me, um, cyborg Dreams with a Z at the end is my, um, social media. I can find all my links on, um, both Instagram and TikTok under Cyborg Dreams.
So yeah, I'm taking supervisory clients. I'm teaching some workshops. I'll post some things on there, doing some content. Go to Equitable Care certification for information on the sex worker therapist certification. And if you have any therapist organizations that you work with, um, a group practice, any therapist bodies in your school, in your communities, you're working at the apa, um, and you want us to come and teach for you, we will come and teach you, teach the full 12 course series.
Um, or we are having recordings, we'll have available. We have cohorts. You can send all of your, all of your team to a cohort and do the trainings with us. We want to get as many folks as possible trained and we're also doing some train the trainers if folks want to learn to do the trainings for us so we can expand too many more therapists.
So thank you all.
Nicole: You're doing such powerful work. Thank you so much.
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