January 26, 2014
Santa Cruz Sentinel
by Karen Kefauver
CAPITOLA -- When you introduce yourself as a sex therapist, people can have all kinds of reactions, says Melissa Fritchle, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Santa Cruz County.
"The most common reaction around here is, 'I have some questions for you,'" said Fritchle, 42. "Some people get a little scared of me and ask, 'What does that mean?' I make it clear that I am a psychotherapist and all is above board."
"It's a specialty and I love it," added Fritchle, who launched a private practice in Capitola five years ago. "It is such a gift to be able to talk to be people about vital and intimate parts of their lives."
Fritchle address all kinds of sexual issues including low desire, low satisfaction, sexual trauma, sexual orientation and couples wanting to try something different.
"I am very open-minded but also very grounded. I don't have an agenda for how someone's sexuality should look like."
Fritchle's early experience included working as an intern at Women's Crisis Support/Defensa De Mujeres where she helped women deal with the trauma of rape or molestation. A graduate of UC Irvine, she notes that her training in holistic psychology expands her toolbox as a sex therapist.
"We can work with body responses and use expressive arts. We also talk about spirituality, which is so intertwined with sexuality, for better or worse."
For two weeks in February, Fritchle will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to provide sex education training to 15 priests and nuns, who, in turn, will counsel other priests and nuns.
"I'm really excited about getting to be part of a new discussion in the Catholic community," said Fritchle. "This group has come from all over Africa to do an eight-month training at the Psycho-Spiritual Institute. She'll focus on managing celibacy and how to better handle sexual abuse cases in the church.
"One topic is how to find a less shameful, repressive, negative take on celibacy and instead, make it empowering and also accepting that humans are still sexual beings. ... It's a delicate, difficult and fascinating topic and I am honored to be brought in."
Fritchle is excited to return to Africa for two weeks -- she visited Uganda in 2010 to work with counselors. "Travel is a passion. I love being exposed to different ways of living. It makes me more open-minded and aware and really invites me to ask myself important questions."
GETTING TO KNOW
Family: Husband Allen, a computer programmer, and two cats she adores, Gibby and Lucy
Background: 'I grew up in Mountain View -- before it was hip. I came to Santa Cruz because of my husband and the fact that this is an amazing place to live.'
Hobbies: 'I love playing with my cats. It makes me really happy. I do Haitian dance. It's really fun, feels amazing and the drummers are mind-blowing.'
Three adjectives she uses to describe herself: Curious, open-minded, grounded
What friends say about her: 'That I am easy to talk to.'
Professional specialties: Sex therapy, couples therapy, body image issues, sexual desire, infidelity, monogamy and non-monogamy, kink, sexual trauma, global mental health, erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, GLBT issues, transgender and transsexual
Teaching: Fritchle is an active educator for therapists and the public, working as adjunct faculty for two graduate programs in Northern California (Sofia University and John F. Kennedy University) and presenting at conferences internationally.
Awards: Fritchle received the 2011 Sexual Intelligence Award for her work promoting positive sexuality and sexual health in Uganda.
Blog: Track Fritchle's travels on her blog, 'Conscious Sexual Self -- Connection Requires Consciousness' at www.mf-therapy.com/blog
Favorite quote: 'When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then is becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.' -- Audre Lorde