August 10, 2021
My name is Noémie and I am a Registered Psychotherapist, Registered Social Worker and Certified Sex Therapist. I started in the mental health field working with folks who were experiencing severe and persistent mental illness and, at times, co-occurring substance abuse issues. As an outreach worker, I was deeply involved in my clients' lives, in their homes, seeing them through their darkest moments and attending medical and other personal appointments with them. The expectation was to be a lifeline for the whole person and yet, sexual health and sexuality were relatively off the table, with the exception of one uncomfortably worded question on a standardized assessment form. Having worked in a forensic sexual behaviours clinic in a previous career path, I found the area both interesting and necessary.
At this time in my career, I had started pursuing a second Masters in counselling and psychotherapy, while also facilitating groups, which also gave me the opportunity to specialize in relationship counselling as well as take courses on sexuality. I started to offer a workshop at the mental health agency I worked at to support employees in starting dialogues with their clients about sexual health and sexuality. I also started to offer consultations for those who wanted more specific information or guidance.
After graduation I started my own private practice, NMK Psychotherapy, working with individuals and relationships. I continued on to pursue a certification in sex therapy in order to ensure best practice, accountability and community support.
I often get the question of how did you get into sexuality or why is this important? As illustrated by my aforementioned journey, I think it’s so important because people don’t talk about it authentically and yet it is everywhere in our society and culture. Sex is constantly exploited publicly in advertising, social media and entertainment, myths run rampant, - and where is authentic, educated discussion about the topic? - often behind closed doors, if at all.
Underlying many of the client concerns that come into my office lies the question – ‘am I normal?’ ‘is our relationship/sex life healthy?’. Popular media portrays sex in a very hetero-, mono- normative, phallic-centric, kink- absent (or pathologized) and spontaneous, all-consuming way. Rarely, do we see much variation from this, which leaves many people assuming that ‘this is how sex is supposed to look or feel and if the sex I’m having isn’t this – I must (or my partner must) be broken’.
The truth is sex looks different for everyone because different things FEEL differently for everyone. Our physical selves are unique and therefore the pleasure we experience is also unique. Compound that with the impact of first sexual experiences, relationships, trauma and meaning making and we find even more variations, creativity, beauty, pain and pleasure.
Furthermore, the impact sex has on our ourselves and our relationships is also different and unique to the individual. There is often this pressure to ‘have a healthy sex life’, which many people assume is an average of something like twice a week, with zero mention of sexual identity integration, pleasure or connection. Ironically, the complaint often centres on decline of quantity but rarely is a healthy sex life defined by quality. The healthiest sexual relationships I’ve encountered are those that focus on quality and being present while letting go of keeping track of quantity, pressures or expectations. A healthy sex life is one that is pleasurable, transcendent and fun, even if it only happens quarterly, if that is what feels best for those engaging in it!
The best way to nurture sexual relationships is to make it a priority. The world is a busy place and we constantly make calculated decisions about how we spend our time. However, when it comes to sexuality, as previously mentioned, people expect it to be this spontaneous thing that just happens because we are so infatuated with our partner and when it doesn’t, we feel undesired or that something is wrong. The reality is sex needs to be prioritized and the opportunity to be or feel sexual needs to be a calculated decision just like everything else in our busy day-to-day lives.
By starting to have authentic narratives about sex and sexuality and teaching people to be able to talk about it in a way that can feel comfortable often makes a world of difference. Regardless of the specific issue that brings people to my office, individuals and relationships that are struggling in the area of sexuality are often not communicating, or if they are, they aren’t speaking the same sexual language – and in a world where speaking of it is filled with innuendo, crass jokes or complete discomfort and shame, it’s at times impressive that people are able to understand each other at all!
My goal in starting a private practice in the area of sexual health and sexuality, coupled with an online platform for additional reach, was to create a safe space for research informed dialogue that normalizes sexuality itself, communication about sexuality, free of shame, judgement and stigma. I look forward to the day where sexuality, in all its various forms, is no longer shrouded in shame and darkness and has become a comfortable reality of our day to day lives.
Noémie M. Kyryluk, RP, RSW, M.A., M.C.A.
Registered Social Worker (OCSWSSW)
Registered Psychotherapist (CRPO)
Certified Sex Therapist (BESTCO)