196: Mental Health for Men with David Khalili

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking mental health for men with David Khalili. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 196: Mental Health for Men with David Khalili

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with David Khalili about mental health for men. David is a Sex and Relationship Therapist who is the Founder of Rouse Relational Wellness and Author of the “Mental Health Workbook for Men.” Hear why there’s so much shame and anxiety around sex for men, the feeling men have of being a burden for other people, why it’s important for men to feel compassion for themselves, what David’s sessions look like with individuals vs. couples, and his thoughts on toxic masculinity.

This episode covers everything from anxiety to masculinity. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • Why can there be so much shame and anxiety around sex for men?
  • What do men struggle with around sex?
  • How often does David have these conversations in individual therapy vs. couples therapy?
  • What is SAR?
  • How should you approach sex therapy as a therapist?
  • Who is David's workbook geared towards?
  • How do you reduce the anxiety and shame around sex?
  • What is David's take on toxic masculinity? 

For David’s live and on-demand workshops on sex and relationships, visit RouseAcademy.com

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


 Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

David Khalili 0:00
Some of the things that I see the most is this lack of comfort talking about sex. I think women and femme folk have more leeway to talk about sex for lots of reasons. Some and we can talk about sex, but it has to be in this either like jokey or aggressive way.

Shane Birkel 0:16
Welcome to episode number 196 of The Couples Therapists Couch.

Intro VO 0:19
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy, and now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:41
Hey everyone, welcome back to The Couples Therapists Couch. This is your host, Shane Birkel. And this is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you enjoy the episode and you want to be part of a community, then definitely join The Couples Therapist Couch Facebook group that's completely free. Obviously, you can always join the Couples Therapist Inner Circle, which is the paid basically an amazing supervision group where we talk about couples therapy, therapists ask questions. There's a ton of course material on working with affairs working with Emotionally Focused Therapy, doing relational life therapy, all kinds of different course material that you can get access to. And I'm really excited I'm I'm sort of revamping the whole inner circle, there's a new business option, which is about building your couples therapy practice which could be an add on to the clinical side of things, if that's something that's a good fit for you. So go over to the website and check it out. You can get a lot more details and information. I don't want to take too much time talking about it here on the podcast, but it's something you should definitely take a look at if it feels like that could be a good fit for you. Today I'm sharing an interview where I spoke with David Khalili, who is the founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, and the author of the Mental Health Workbook for Men. He and I talk all about men and anxiety men and sexuality, men and mental health. And I think that there is a specific way in which men and women are socialized in society that continue to create different challenges, different problems, different ways that mental health issues show up. Now, obviously it's not true 100% of the time, but generally speaking, there are some patterns and trends that David and I get into and talk about a little bit that are really important for therapists to be aware of. So without further introduction, here's the interview with David Khalili. Everyone welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is Shane Birkele. And today I'm speaking with David Khalili, Founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, sex and relationship therapist and author of the Mental Health Workbook for Men. Hey, David, welcome to the show.

David Khalili 3:04
Thank you. How are you? Great,

Shane Birkel 3:07
great. Well, I'm so excited to talk to you today about men and anxiety and sexuality. And your your workbook for sure. But before we get into everything, why don't you tell everyone a little bit more about yourself? Yeah,

David Khalili 3:21
thank you. Um, so I've been in sexual wellness, the world of sexual wellness for about 20 years and mental health for about 15 years. And about two years ago, I started Rouse Relational Wellness in San Francisco and California. And our whole focus is to help reduce shame and anxiety around sex and relationships. And we primarily work with queer, kinky, poly and bipoc folks, but we also work with all kinds of people. But a majority of our providers here are queer, kinky, poly and bipoc. So we're wanting to help our clients find the providers that work right for them, you know, and understand them understand where they're coming from, and help them be their whole full selves. I was born first generation American born and queer and growing up, I had a lot of experiences of not feeling like I was enough, like, not American enough, not Persian enough, or Middle Eastern enough, not gay enough, not straight enough, not this or that. And really wanting to provide a space for people to really understand their full selves, their true selves, and learn to love themselves. Yeah, we've been going on for two years. And it's been a lot of fun. And I really like doing multiple different things. And so we do therapy, but we also do workshops and groups and I like supervising and teaching and so I'm really glad to be here and talk about sex anxiety and men. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 4:47
that's great. And I have some ideas about this, but I'd love to hear you talk about this. The, some of the, you know, just to lay a foundation maybe of some of the reasons why. You know, there is so much shame in Anxiety about, you know, particularly for people who identify as queer or polyamorous or or, you know, non traditional, I don't know if that's how you as well, yeah,

David Khalili 5:11
I'll kind of go in line the shame and anxiety around sex for men would, a lot of what plays in into that piece is this pressure for men in the states to kind of be this rugged individual you know to be to get shit done on their own to kind of get things right right away this especially around sex this pressure to just know how to have sex know how to give orgasms know how to be sexual without having to learn anything without having to talk with the people that they're engaging with. Without this kind of back and forth, it's this, you know, deal with it on your own and figure it out sort of thing. And while that can be helpful in lots of ways to you know, be self reliant and all that good stuff. It's not great when it comes to relationships as we as we both know. And then what ends up happening is if you have this expectation of yourself to just get things right the first time be this sexually skilled person without much input, if you make a mistake, or if you know, it doesn't go to your expectations, then it can really go into this anxiety loop of, well, now the rest of it's not gonna go well. Now, this is gonna be really frustrating experience or the shame spiral of, I'm a horrible man, I'm a bad lover, so on and so on, and so on. And so that's one big issue for men around shame, sex and anxiety. I think also for men. You know, this is definitely changing a lot these days, there's a lot more hope and vulnerability, there's a lot more men there can kind of expand their definition of sexuality and not feel like they have to act straight all the time, or pretend like they don't have same sex attractions, or even pretend like, they can recognize that another man is attractive. But some men because of bullying, because of harassment, discrimination, you know, they limit themselves in the type of sex acts or the sexual exploitation that they can have. Because certain body parts are seen as gay or certain acts are seen as gay, when really was like gay or straight. It's just that's your body. That's what you like, there's nerve endings there. Why don't you like it. So that kind of restriction will really cause cause an impact on some more restraint identified men. We're in poly folks, there's like the stigma that's involved, you know, I'm in the Bay Area. So it's like, I hear from monogamous people that they have a hard time finding other monogamous people to date in the Bay Area. So it's not the stigma here isn't that big of an issue. But it's certainly an issue in other other parts of the country, and being gay or queer is definitely a big issue, especially with all the legislative actions that are going into place. And so there's the aspect of harassment and discrimination from people in their life, but also this awareness of the stress of the harassment and discrimination that's coming on from above of the government legislation and things like that. And so that definitely adds shame and anxiety, you know, coming out or being see them and seeing themselves as full and whole rather than being seen as pathological because they're queer, or poly or kinky. Yeah, those would be some big ones. I would, there's amazing.

Shane Birkel 8:16
Yeah, I love what you're saying about this, the way that we're socialized, I think, as males, oftentimes, is this idea that, you know, we should have all the answers, right. And it really limits our ability to be in relationship with others. And to understand that, you know, there's to have the acceptance of what we want, or what we feel like would be pleasurable, versus having the ability to ask someone else, what do you want? And what do you think would be pleasurable? Right, working through those conversations, and doesn't necessarily mean that you're always going to be willing to do all the things that your partner wants to do, but at the same time, just being open to have those conversations and not feeling like there's a right and a wrong way of doing this. And I'm supposed to know exactly what to do.

David Khalili 9:05
Exactly. Yeah. It's very, it can be really limited. Yeah, just everything. Is

Shane Birkel 9:12
your workbook geared toward towards men in general, or is it for a particular who who would have been most helpful for would you say? Yeah, no, it's

David Khalili 9:21
something for men in general. It's it's trans, inclusive and non binary inclusive. So use AACT and positive psychology and mindfulness really to kind of blend in different modalities in this book. It's largely based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to the listeners, but I've also weaved in queer theory and critical race theory because before getting into the world of therapy, I got my master's in sexuality studies where queer theory and critical race theory were like drilled in my head and in lots of good ways, and really helps with kind of expanding my understanding of gender and race and identity. My mission for this book is to help men expand their definition of masculinity. To expand the definition of sex and intimacy, and go from a values based approach, like what is it that? What are your values? What do you want to do with your life? What do you what are your goals in life? And how can we help you identify and follow them? Because I find that that's a really good motivator, it's instead of me telling them what to do or how they should act. Obviously, that wouldn't be the right approach, but kind of guiding them to decide for themselves, what's my values? And how can I act on those values?

Shane Birkel 10:24
And what are some common things that you hear when you are working with men in particular, as far as what they're struggling with? Or how they're identifying the problem that they have? Or the things that they're dealing with?

David Khalili 10:40
Definitely, you know, it varies, but I think some of the things that I see the most is this lack of comfort, talking about sex. I think women and femme folk have more leeway to talk about sex for lots of reasons. So men, we can talk about sex, but it has to be in this either, like, jokey or aggressive way. But in but to talk about it in this vulnerable way of like, sometimes, my penis doesn't work, and it's upsetting. Or sometimes I like to be touched in these areas, and I don't know how to ask for it or whatnot. I think those are the conversations that can really benefit obviously a couple but can be a big challenge for some men out of just lack of practice and some embarrassment. And so they're, you know, their nervous system takes over and they go into fight flight or freeze and they get embarrassed, maybe or they just shut down. Yeah, that would be a big one, I would say it's like comfort talking about sex or expectations of what should happen.

Shane Birkel 11:35
Yeah. And along those lines, you know, are they you feel like they're struggling in their relationship with their partner? And they're like, I don't know how to talk about these things. How are we going to, you know, create as a creating stress for them and their relationship at that point, you know, until they reach out to you to try to get some relief from that kind of stress. Yeah,

David Khalili 11:57
that's a solid point. I'm also looking at, you know, what's going on between the partners outside of sex? What's, how do they? How do they have arguments? How do they resolve arguments? How do they, you know, did you get household chores? What resentments are there, what expectations are there? And so I'm asking them, yep, just those questions, you know, what's going on in the background? And also trying to break down their like relational map, like, what are they expecting out of a relationship? And what are they expected of a relationship that's unspoken? And will that lead to resentments? Which then goes follows up to troubles? With sex?

Shane Birkel 12:33
Yeah, sometimes I tell couples, when I'm working with them that your problem is not sex. Your problem is your communication about sex, or the goal to define success, I think is not about having everything you want with sex. It's about your ability to talk about sex with each other, I think, you know,

David Khalili 12:54
absolutely, yeah. Yeah, no, and that's like, one of my big goals with individuals and couples, and especially with couples is to help them talk openly and comfortably about sex with each other. You know, I could jump in and do psycho Ed all day long, but giving them the practice and to dip into the vulnerability and make mistakes or with, you know, with talking to each other, or just kind of like checking in with each other, I think that's really good practice for them to have.

Shane Birkel 13:20
That's great. Can you talk a little bit more about, you know, what it means to reduce the anxiety or the shame around sex for people in general, or for clients you work

David Khalili 13:30
with? In my mind, there's a few things that go into play. I think a lot of therapists do this. But you know, we definitely look at the the here and now symptoms. And so we can use some kind of short term concrete approaches like a CBT, DBT, things like that, to help with how anxiety is like really impacting their nervous system and their physiology and things like that. And then we use depth oriented approaches, like existential work, or psychodynamic approach, or attachment work for sure. Or EFT to look at the underlying stuff that's underneath that's keeping this stuff going this anxiety and shame. And so it's like a two prong approach to working with, with our clients or couples. And then, you know, we're looking at what are some of the earlier experiences, trauma related experiences that are, you know, that internalized this anxious or shame filled experiences? Or what are the narratives? What are the thoughts, you know, expectations that they're connecting to, that are increasing the shame and anxiety, just trying to break it down for them, helping them kind of navigate, what sort of rules they've made for themselves, or what sort of rules they've internalized from others. You know, one of my exercises in this book is to take messages that you received from being a man while you're growing up, and laying them all out and then saying, okay, which ones do I want to keep and which ones do I want to do the best that I can to push away? And so it's kind of doing like a forensic audit of all the narratives that you've had and all the experience Since that you've had and saying, Okay, what's connected to what you're experiencing now? And what can we do with that? And how can we help you integrate all your parts? help you understand yourself and love yourself in a whole way?

Shane Birkel 15:12
Yeah, that's great. Do you find that people often have a hard time even identifying what some of the influencing factors were growing up?

David Khalili 15:21
Yeah, absolutely. You know, sometimes they can, when asked that question, they can seem a little lost, because they're, you know, maybe getting a little flooded, or they're going back. And they're just kind of not really sure where to start with thinking about that. And so I'll give different scenarios of different implicit or explicit messages that they've received from their dad or their uncles, or other kids in the school that would really, like influenced these these narratives that they have? Yeah, how would you work with that? To kind of get them to unpack it a bit more?

Shane Birkel 15:51
Well, I think it's interesting to look at, you know, part of the way in which people who identify as male are socialized in our society is really to avoid the emotions, avoid the emotional expression, or even to criticize the emotions to feel like there's something wrong with feeling emotions in the first place. Yeah, and so what happens, I think a lot of times, whether it's by emotional neglect, or if it's by overt criticism of the person for having emotions, either one, it's a very shaming process where, you know, little boys learn, you know, in order to be a good boy, I need to not feel these emotions. You know, I think that's part of the problem, when we're when we're working with someone in the present, and they're experiencing all kinds of stress and anxiety and struggle and shame, maybe not even realizing that they would not that they would use that language, but you know, that they have a hard time even think even remembering anything about their childhood or remembering, you know, feeling anything negative in their childhood or, or something like that, because it was just normal at the time. And when you have that kind of emotional neglect, it's also much harder to, you know, when we have emotional connections to our experiences as children, we're much more likely to remember them. Absolutely. Yeah. So that's been my experience, you know, particularly with people who identify as male who, who grew up as a male, you know, experiencing that kind of socialization.

David Khalili 17:23
Yeah, have you found I found mindfulness can help sometimes are some somatic approaches? Have you found that to be helpful to just to begin the process of connecting with their emotions? Yeah,

Shane Birkel 17:34
absolutely. And I something you said before, too, which was about, you know, sort of giving them examples, you know, and for sometimes for people who have kids, it's easier for them? Because they can imagine like, Oh, of course, my, my kid feels scared and hurt and lonely sometimes. And it's like, yeah, don't you think you might have felt that when you were seven years old to like, you know, and trying to help them sort of resonate with other people's experiences, but, but absolutely, like, you know, using that mindfulness as well, to sort of just help, you know, really accentuate any tiny little sensation that they might be experiencing in the moment and trying to just sort of like, continue to build awareness around those those things.

David Khalili 18:27
That's great. Yeah, I remind me of like, the men's groups that I run, and just gorgeous men's groups in general, and kind of seeing that modeling for many different types of men in the group, have them accessing their emotions, or talking about their emotions, or enter. I did, we had one group session where one of the guys was saying that he was writing thank you cards to his girlfriends after doing a men's strip. And one of the other guys was like, I would never do that at all. Like, I just never even crossed my mind. And he just, and it was such a powerful moment for him. Because he was like, that seems so simple, but I just would never even think about that, because and we broke it down. And he was like, seems a little girly. It was what he said, You know, I don't think it is I like logically, no, it's not to write a letter, but based on, you know, my experiences growing up, like that does feel a little, like, not a manly thing to do. And so then we can kind of break that down more and more, and that having that challenge from the other guy in the group to, you know, see his perspective. And his experience was, was a good mirror or good perspective for him. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 19:27
and I think another interesting thing I'd love to hear you talk about is like, this idea that I hear from men so often about being a burden on other people. Like, I don't want to text I don't want to call my friend to talk for 10 minutes, because maybe he's busy, or maybe like, I don't want to be a burden on him or, you know, I don't want to write a letter because then he'll feel like he owes me something or, like, you know, this, this whole thing and sometimes I wonder, Is that like a cover up for vulnerability, or is it do you think it's a real thing to you know, at the same time And yeah, yeah, no, I think

David Khalili 20:01
it's yeah, probably a little bit of both. I've definitely seen that I've personally felt that, you know, I think there's lots of ways that I'm constantly pushing through the kind of internalized messages of masculinity or individualism. Yeah, I mean, I do a similar approach to what you just shared a few minutes ago, which was kind of that perspective taking them like, Okay, well, when your friend calls you, because they're having an issue with their XYZ? Are you like, fuck this guy again? Are you? Do you feel helpful to you know, that you're helping them out? And they honest answer really, you know, they answer honestly. And that can help us with kind of given them perspective again, the next time that they want to go through. And also I think, working against this all or nothing approach, or all or nothing thinking where, you know, they say, well, then we're going to have to, like keep up this weekly thing, or it's going to lead to this expectation or obligation. Like, no, no, just try this out, will you know, and I empathize with them, I'll share like I've been there, I've had those, those anxious moments before reaching out to a friend, I get it. But it can feel really good. Or you learn that maybe that's not the right friend to reach out to for these things that say, other thing I talked to is like knowing your audience, knowing the identifying the people in your life that you can trust that you can open up to a little bit that you can share a little bit of those shameful secrets to, and start to blossom a little bit more and build up that secure attachment style. Who those experiences, because I don't want to say just go to any friend randomly. I don't want to set them up for more humiliation or more shame. Right. So yeah, there's

Shane Birkel 21:36
something interesting, too, because I think there are people in the world who overshare or over expect too much from other people. That's their way of saying it, you know, in the relationship. And I think that's the fear, right, that they're going to become this person who is like a burden on another person. And sometimes I'll say to people, like they'll say, the fact that you actually feel like you're going to be a burden, that you are never going to be on that end of the spectrum.

David Khalili 22:08
Yeah. Yeah. Or like, from where you are right now, where you're really reserved, and you're really held held back, like, there's going to be a lot of steps between where you are right now and overshare, you know,

Shane Birkel 22:19
yeah, it'll let you know. We'll assess it as we go here.

David Khalili 22:23
Right. Yeah. And that's the nice thing about having a therapist is right, it's like, yeah, we'll we'll talk about it we this is your place to practice, this is your place to get that feedback. And that open discovery?

Shane Birkel 22:35
Yeah, that's great. One of the other things I was thinking of when you're talking about your men's groups, is the idea that oftentimes for men, they'll have a hard time moving into compassion for themselves. So they can, they'll talk about, you know, maybe going through abusive situations when they were a child, and just sort of feeling like, well, it wasn't that big of a deal. That was just normal, blah, blah, blah, but then, you know, they'll hear the experiences of someone else who had the exact same or similar experience. And they'll, they'll have a huge amount of compassion for that person, and, you know, feel like oh my gosh, like, the sad and they'll actually connect to the sadness of what it's like to go through something like that, which is why I think the groups can be so helpful, because, you know, hearing other people's situations can really resonate, and help people connect to their own reality.

David Khalili 23:28
Absolutely. Yeah. It also right, that helps them name what they've been experiencing, but haven't been able to name and also helps them with perspectives. On the other end of the coin, you know, when we're talking about relationship issues, whether romantic or family or friends, sometimes a guy in the group will present an issue that came up between his partner and him. And, you know, maybe he's the more anxious one and his partner's, the more avoidant one. And then someone in the group will chime in and say, Yeah, I actually identify with your partner a lot. And I let me can I share with you what my experience has been in those situations, and it can be a really good kind of balance for, again, this with a trauma response or a threat response, or an anxious response is often to go into all or nothing. And that type of like concrete thinking, and so having that perspective, can really help to slow things down and think things through a bit differently.

Shane Birkel 24:21
Yeah, that's great. And how much of the time do you feel like you have these conversations with people in individual therapy versus couples therapy? Or what do you see as you know, being valuable about each are different?

David Khalili 24:35
I think with couples therapy, I tried to use it as like a experiential process like a lot of couples, therapists who are, you know, having them talk to each other. They're, they're facing each other lots of times. There's some contact sometimes. And so they're practicing these communication skills, but also going a little bit deeper in this container of our work like I do three hour intensives with some couples and that's in good for all couples, but we do a screening process. And that three hours really helps them dive in and out of different nervous system responses and reactions and help you get get flooded and then grounded again. And so there's time to kind of reflect on what's going on and connect with each other. During those three hours. With individual sessions, it's it's a reflective process of going over their different experiences that are happening recently and connecting them to the past. And doing some self compassion work. You know, a lot of the men I work with have a very harsh inner critic. And so we do we do some hearts work, or some Acceptance and Commitment Therapy work to help them slow down and interact with those critical parts of themselves a little bit differently, turned on help them turn down the volume on those critical parts of it.

Shane Birkel 25:51
Yeah, that's great. And would you do you describe that as in the category of like shaming, as far as the way that they're treating themselves? Or part of the shame? Like, the way they see themselves? That's part of the shame? Is that how you actually characterize it? Yeah,

David Khalili 26:08
you know, I'll talk to him about that the, you know, the times that I noticed them shaming themselves, I'll bring it to their attention and ask if they're noticing it too, or what I'm bringing make it a conversation, really. But I'll often talk about how shaming is the way of causing us to hide or retreat, or making it difficult to change or develop, you know, when you're shaming yourself, you're just like, I'm horrible. It's just like this flat, all person ascription sort of thing. But when we can break it down into the behavior or the specific thing, then we can kind of help them work through it a bit differently. But yeah, I can see that the inner critic being very, very shameful, or shaming,

Shane Birkel 26:51
you know, part part of, I think the discord in society, you know, is very much about preserving the patriarchy, if that makes sense. As far as like, you know, if anybody says something like, oh, toxic masculinity, there's like, a big sort of, like, rush back to that about like, no, like, these aspects of men are good, and, you know, shouldn't get it, you know, whatever. Someone would say, I'm not thinking of anything great to say, but it's like, you know, you said it at the beginning, like, those are strengths. You know, those can be strengths, those sorts of specs that are considered male qualities, historically. But can you speak a little bit to the idea of, you know, how, because the way you're talking about this very valuing of men, you know, and it's all about helping them to not go into the shame. But at the same time, I imagine you see yourself as someone who's battling toxic masculinity, so to speak. Yeah,

David Khalili 27:58
yeah, I think the battles that I see myself in, there's when, when there's these like, just hard and fast rules of what should happen, which should be based on the man or their partner, regardless of gender, but if they're straight, or they they date women, then there's this expectation of, you know, women should be this way, and men should be this way. And there's this, like polarity that should be happening that will, and I don't buy into it, I don't, it can be a challenge where, you know, I don't want to get into political debates with my clients. But I do want to kind of help them challenge their own notions that are restricting them. And so I will maybe highlight the ways that it's restricting them, and highlight the ways that it's building up on them and strengthening them and all that good stuff. But letting them open the doors to acknowledging what parts of this is impacting them like, Yeah, well, you know, I do get lonely sometimes. I mean, that that would actually be a big jump for them to say that, but something to that effect, where what you know, once they open up the door, then I'm rushing in, and helping helping them with kind of exploring the not so helpful aspects, but I've heard guys were like, one guy told me this was at a dog park, it wasn't a client, but he said, I just had a job interview, and they asked me what my weaknesses are. And I was so offended that they would even ask me that question, because like, they would just assume that I have weaknesses. You know, he was just, you know, puffed up chest. And I tried to kind of share with him a different perspective, but he wasn't hearing it. And my heart goes out to him because he was sold a bill of goods where he shouldn't have weaknesses. And so now he's like, battling himself and all these other people, because of this misbelief that he, as a human can have flaws.

Shane Birkel 29:40
Well, yeah, and I think that's one of the biggest problems in the way of seeing the world that you know, and again, it can happen to whether you're male or female or non binary, but the idea that it's not okay to make mistakes. You know, so as soon as I feel stressed, or as soon as I, like, there's an idea that I might have made a mistake. I'm either shaming myself and coming down on myself, or I'm looking for who else to blame? Who did something wrong? Right? So part of what you're talking about is the flexibility to be understanding and have compassion about. Everybody makes mistakes, and that's okay. And it's not about figuring out who to punish for it or something like that. Right,

David Khalili 30:31
and to never have mistakes ever again, and never be in trouble again, or Yeah, I don't a lot of training with Martha Kauppi. And she's a sex and relationship therapist. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, yeah, I did her year long study program. That was fantastic. And I really liked her approach to a lot of these, you know, where it's, she talks about the linear model of sex versus the circular model of sex and how the linear model of sex is like the basis where you get from one step to the next. And in order for you to get to the next step, the first step has to work. And there can be a really restrictive expectations of what work means. And so, you know, if it feels fumbly during making out, you may feel like, okay, screw it, nevermind. Or, you know, if you have a hard time with an erection, you may say, Screw it, nevermind, and not even trying again. But it's that process of learning process of even just treating our bodies not as mistakes, like losing an erection is not a mistake. It's a part of your physiology. And you would benefit from learning more about how you you work in that way, you know, how your erections work, how your arousal system works, but I really appreciate her approach to D shaming and adding more compassion to this.

Shane Birkel 31:41
Yeah, and as you were saying that I was just thinking of the mindfulness, you know, how are the non judgement? Maybe of, you know, How amazing would it be if someone lost an erection? And wish it was just able to be sort of curious about it? And not, you know, there's no shame, no judgment, just sort of like, Oh, that's interesting. It's not what I was hoping for, at this moment. Not bringing this whole level of anxiety and stress. Yeah, moment, you know,

David Khalili 32:09
everything's screwed. We're done. Yeah, just like hopelessness. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 32:13
Well, and I'm wondering, so a lot of the, the listeners are therapists. For those who don't have a lot of training in doing sex therapy. I'm wondering what are some, if you have any words of wisdom, for how, you know, couples, therapists can sort of bring more of that into the conversation or be more, you know, open or accepting with the client to make them feel more comfortable to bring stuff up with them and things like that.

David Khalili 32:40
I think working on your own comfort with talking about sex would be a big one. I hear a lot from clients and in from therapists themselves that I do a lot of trainings on talking about sex and introducing sex to integers and the topic of sex declines. And that's a big thing is like, I'm just I'm uncomfortable. I'm worried that if I bring up sex talking as a therapist, that I'm going to get nervous, I'm going to blush they're going to read it on me. And then the whole session goes go south, finding ways to get more comfortable talking about sex. There are programs called SARS, there's a sexual attitude reassigned rate reassessment, or readjustments, it's through a sect. And essentially, it's it's a long like an eight hour process of going through different erotic materials and reflecting on what what's coming up for you. And it's a really good way it's like a bias training of sorts. And that can be a deep dive in too much for some, but for others, it can be a really good way of addressing your biases and your comfort level. So whatever they may be, or having a consultant or going through your own sex therapy training, Martha Kauppi, like I just recommended or as a shameless plug, we have rouse academy.com where we have a bunch of our CTE courses on sex therapy, but really like, again, reaching out and getting support so that you're not just trying to figure it out on your own. Some good starter books would be come as you are by Emily Nagoski. These are all ones that people have heard of. She comes first by Ian Kerner, poly secure or poly wise by Jessica fern. You know, sex, you know, common sex by Cory Silverberg was written for teens. It's like a graphic novel. But I think it's great. I think it's great for all adults. And so I also do some kind of I give a lot of resources. I've recommended your podcasts in the past to couples, I've recommended other podcasts or videos or books, anything to match the person's learning style, to help them really educate themselves and get more comfortable talking about it. And then asking themselves Why Why am I uncomfortable talking about sex, kind of those sorts of self reflective questions and training.

Shane Birkel 34:51
Yeah, that's great. Yeah. And, you know, for those who may not have been listening to this podcast for a long time, I have had interviews with Martha Kauppi and Emily Nagoski and Ian Kerner, and there's another really good one, Tammy Nelson. Yeah, sure. But I went to a training with her, and it was like a full day training and it was sort of like that get comfortable with like, like, sexual material kind of thing. And it was really helpful. I mean, I was like a roomful of therapists. So it's kind of embarrassing, but it's like, you know, part of that process of just sort of like, increasing your comfort level with experiencing that kind of thing. Talking about that kind of thing with strangers. It was a, it was great. So I definitely recommend, you know, people check out your stuff at route. What's your website? Yeah, yeah

David Khalili 35:46

Shane Birkel 35:48
Yeah, cuz I think that's really helpful. I think, you know, I don't know if you can say what you think as well. But I feel like, even if you do feel uncomfortable with it, even if you do feel like you're blushing, even if you, you know, whatever, like I think, you know, the, the human beings who we're working with are pretty forgiving about that kind of thing. And they'll feel a sense of relief, just that you're bringing up the topic, and you're bringing it into the conversation. Yeah,

David Khalili 36:15
absolutely. And I have it in my No, that's a really good compassionate point. And I have it in my intake forms. And I ask it the first session, how's your sex life? And if they say, Yeah, that's fine. Nothing to worry about. I'll say, Okay, well, just so you know, we can always talk about it. That's on the table. But me asking it in the intake in the first session, is helping them know that this is a topic that is up for grabs. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 36:40
that's great. And if someone if a client were to tell if a couple, let's say were to tell you like, oh, yeah, no, everything's fine with that. I mean, do you just take that at face value? In

David Khalili 36:53
the first session? I do, depending on what we're working with. But then after the next session, then I'll dig in a bit more and bring it up again. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 37:01
I mean, that could be true for, for some percentage of people that maybe that's not really what's gonna be most helpful about going to couples therapy, they need other things. And at the same time, I imagine there's another percentage of people where they're just not going to bring it up. And it might take a little bit more encouragement to Yeah, in the conversation.

David Khalili 37:23
That's why Yeah, I tried to do like, the knocks on the door, although I am very gentle in my approaches, and I'm learned over the years that I can be a little less gentle and can be a little more pokey. So yeah,

Shane Birkel 37:36
I feel like that's happened to me as well. It's interesting, you know, and sometimes I feel guilty about, you know, either telling people to directly the truth that I see in front of me or something or poking a little bit or, but at the same time, like, I've had so many situations where it just leads to something so important. Absolutely. You know, I think we can try to be as respectful as possible, while at the same time bringing a little bit of that energy into it as well.

David Khalili 38:05
Yeah. Again, it's like the delivery and like, what they're reading from you and the relationship that they have with you already.

Shane Birkel 38:14
That's a good point, right? I think, when I've done that, it's been with people who, who know that I care about them and want what's best for them. And we've had time to build some rapport, you know,

David Khalili 38:25
right. Yeah. Yeah, you can get that side. I have like, really? Is that really?

Shane Birkel 38:31
That's important. Yeah, that's good. Anything else that would be important for us to talk about with all these topics?

David Khalili 38:39
Yeah, I was just giving a talk on Saturday about anxious attachments in polyamorous relationships. And so I think, you know, looking and understanding your own protest behaviors, which is the things that show up, I forget that this is mostly therapists that are listening to but, you know, for therapists that are listening, I think, understanding how protest behaviors show up and poly relationships. And I think there's some, some therapists that work with poly folks that they are so considerate to not pathologize their poly clients that they may go into the other end of the spectrum, which is like they're not really examining too much. I don't see that happening too often. But looking at purchase behaviors and poly relationships, understanding that attachment styles can show up differently in different different partnerships within the polyamorous relationship, and then just building up more comfortable comfort, talking about sex, you know, practicing talking about sex with your friends, definitely with your partner, and with your consultants or with your colleagues, I think that can be a really good move for your practice.

Shane Birkel 39:47
That's great. And what do you mean by protests behaviors? Are you talking about? Yeah,

David Khalili 39:52
protest behaviors in terms of like anxious attachment styles, where it's these indirect ways of maintaining connection? And the way I see it in polyamorous relationships, let's say even though you have an agreement that you to each have partners and you go out and weekly dates, and purchase behavior could be when your partner is going out on their date, the, you know, for the three hours before their date, you're really causing a big argument. And, you know, all of a sudden, there's a big issue about the dishes, and you're really pulling their attention and their focus, or another protest behavior in poly relationships is making like snide remarks about the Metamora, or your partner's partner, never really saying anything too directly negative, but kind of stuffing at them or, you know, nagging them a little bit. And then another one would be, you know, which is typical and all anxious attachment styles and just like that constant seeking reassurance, you know, maybe texting them while they're on their date with their partner or texting them while they're at work and asking for reassurance about the poly lifestyle or their poly agreements. There's lots of things underneath it. And above it, of course, there's more nuanced than what I just shared. But those would be kind of the starting points that I would look at.

Shane Birkel 41:07
Yeah, thank you for mentioning that. And it makes sense to me what you're saying, right, that, you know, if I, if I want to be a therapist, who's really supportive of polyamorous relationships, and you know, lets my clients feel valued by being in the room, you know, then I might be less likely to sort of, like, take on those issues and name it for what I see. Because I don't want them to get the sense that I'm like, you know, pushing against their decisions about that, or whatever, something. Sure.

David Khalili 41:40
Yeah. Right. But when, I guess to your point of like, the there's the relationship is built, they know that we care about them, we know that, you know, we're on their side, we can push on that a bit and show that I'm not just trying to put down your whole relationship. I'm trying to look at these different aspects.

Shane Birkel 41:58
Definitely. Right. And it's for the sake of you having even better relationships, you know? Yeah.

David Khalili 42:05
Right. wants you to be happier. Yeah. You're more connected to yourself and others. Great.

Shane Birkel 42:12
Yeah. Thank you. That's a good. That's a good point. Yeah. Appreciate that. So can you mention anything, you know, your website, or again, and anything else you'd like people to? Where you'd like to direct people to?

David Khalili 42:28
Yeah, for sure. So, Rouse Relational Wellness is the name of my practice, we see people in person in San Francisco and online in California, it's RouseTherapy.com. And then our educational platform is RouseAcademy.com, where we have a bunch of different courses, like sex and intimacy for survivors, or novel navigating polyamory with queer male clients, different C courses to help with expanding your sex therapy skills. And then my workbook Mental Health Workbook for men is everywhere where books are sold, Target, or that one small company that Jeff Bezos owns, or Barnes and Noble, hence,

Shane Birkel 43:09
he who must not be named Yeah.

David Khalili 43:14
bookshop.org Yeah. The independent one.

Shane Birkel 43:18
Yeah, great. Great. And I'll put links in the show notes so that people can find those really easily. But um, thank you so much. Yeah, I think everybody should go check out the your website, your training for therapists. That sounds really good.

David Khalili 43:30
Thank you. Yeah. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 43:32
I really appreciate you coming on here.

David Khalili 43:34
Yeah, thank you for having me. I've, like I told you the beginning of listening to this podcast for a while. So it's, it's nice to be on it. All right. Thank

Shane Birkel 43:41
you so much, David. I'm really grateful for you what a great conversation we were able to have there. I know, I learned a lot. I'm sure everybody else learned a lot. And thank you to all you listeners out there, definitely go get a copy of the Mental Health Workbook for Men, you can also check out RouseTherapy.com and RouseAcademy.com. And I'd really appreciate if you are enjoying the episodes on the podcast, please leave a rating or a review, wherever it is that you listen to the podcast, iTunes, Spotify, all of those types of things. And if you haven't checked it out already, definitely go to YouTube. And check out the videos that are being uploaded there if you want to watch the video recording. Also, if you're interested. This episode is sponsored by the couples therapist inner circle, which is the membership site that I created about working with couples. And you know, at this point, there's hundreds of hours of content to help you become a better couples therapist. If you're just starting out. It's a really great way to get going. If you are a very experienced therapist, it's a great way to get education on working with affairs working with high conflict couples, working with Emotionally Focused Therapy, relational life therapy, all kinds of different things. And there's a really cool new way that I'm setting it up, which is that you can do an add on bonus to your Inner Circle, which is about the business of couples therapy. And it's all about building a profitable couples therapy practice. And I'm really excited. I've been working with a bunch of people on building their practice starting a podcast, being on social media more, all kinds of different goals that people have for themselves, how to use marketing. So I'm excited about that. If that's something that appeals to you definitely click on it in the show notes. And if you're just interested in the clinical side, then you can get that option. If you want to get the business side then you can get the clinical plus the business so there's something for everyone there. And also the you know, please join the free Couples Therapists Couch Facebook group, if that's where you're at in your career. You just want to join the free group. That's another great resource to take advantage of and I'm always grateful for ratings and reviews on wherever you listen to podcasts. Really appreciate that. This is Shane Birkel, and this is The Couples Therapists Couch. The podcast is all about the practice of couples therapy. I look forward to see you next time. Thanks, everybody!


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