Fern Arden, the founder of the clinic off Central Park West, employs an all-female staff of sex surrogates, officially known as “surrogate partners,” who give clients one-on-one coaching in caressing techniques, kissing, feeling relaxed with another person in the nude and, inevitably, the sex act itself.
“The focus is not sex, but familiarity and intimacy. We provide an environment, not for sexual pleasure, but for sexual learning,” Arden, who founded the Abel 2 Counseling Center 22 years ago, revealed to New York Post.
The licensed sexologist has never spoken about her practice to the media before, mainly because, she said, “I have famous clients.”
But she agreed to talk to The Post following Friday’s release of the independent movie “The Sessions,” which is already generating Oscar buzz.
It tells the real-life story of a sex substitute from California who takes on a profoundly disabled man needing to experience sex before he dies.
Arden hopes that the award-winning film about the late polio sufferer Mark O’Brien and his surrogate, Cheryl Cohen Greene, will illuminate a much-needed light on the profession.
“People tend to be ill-informed about what a surrogate partner does. They think of it pejoratively, the same as a sex worker, but it’s not,” she said.
“Just as you have legitimate massage therapists and people who run massage parlours, there is a huge difference between them. You would typically need a partner to resolve most sexual problems and for single men that is obviously an issue,” she explained
Arden charges clients between 3,000 dollars and 5,000 dollars for an average course of 12 to 15 separate sessions with herself and the surrogate.
The sessions take place in her offices, but Arden does not watch the interaction between the client and the surrogate. Instead, she receives a full report of the progress from the surrogate and follows up with the men afterward.
She revealed that most of the men who come to her center are sexually inexperienced, and that her surrogate program allows them to progress with their treatment.
She argues it would be “cruel” not to treat them and have them “remain dysfunctional” until they find a willing partner to accompany them to therapy.
Arden requires her clients and surrogates to be tested for STDs at least once every two months.