Becoming a Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur
with Heather McPherson
Heather McPherson is living her dream career. A multi-passionate entrepreneur, she has incorporated all of her loves into her business and is having the time of her life! A licensed marriage and family therapist supervisor, a licensed professional counselor supervisor, an AASECT and SHA certified sex therapist, the CEO and Founder of SHA (Sexual Health Alliance), the CEO of Respark Therapy and Associates, and a podcast host of Practice Outside the Lines, Heather is doing it all! In a Smart Sex, Smart Love podcast, she talks about her career path with Dr. Joe Kort, how it all started and what she is doing today to help other sex therapists get the training they need and deserve. That is why she started the Sexual Health Alliance, which offers online certification trainings. The field is exploding, she finds, as a whole evolution in sexual mental health is emerging.
JOE KORT 0:05
Welcome to Smart sex smart love. We’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboo and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. Today, the podcast title is becoming a multi passionate entrepreneur with Heather McPherson.
My guest today is Heather McPherson, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist supervisor, a licensed professional counselor, supervisor, and a sec and SHA certified sex therapist and the CEO and founder of SHA the Sexual Health Alliance. She’s also the CEO of Reese Park therapy and Associates, a multi state group practice in Colorado and Texas that specializes in sexuality and relationship issues. Heather has been published in Playboy magazine, and Playboy online. She’s been featured on CNN and in Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, and the parent Herald. She has lectured at many prestigious universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University, CU Denver, the University of Utah and Governor State University in Chicago. And she still finds time to host her own podcast called practice outside the lines that talks about having a business in the field of sexuality. Wow. Welcome, Heather. Thanks so much for having me.
Heather McPherson 1:23
No, no, I’m people who, but it’s a lot, you know, you’re doing a lot of stuff. So this will be a great topic for people to hear. So if I could start with, you know, how did all this start? How did you start to do all these different things? Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, I went into grad school thinking I was going to be a career therapist, I really love talking about career and kind of your life’s work and contribution. And by the time I was done, I was specializing also a marriage couple and family therapy. And I realized that people were talking about sex to me, and I didn’t have the training.
I wanted to know what to say, I wanted to know how to better engage with them, how to communicate better about sexuality issues, and no, you know, how to respond to the concerns they had. And I looked around and there was no training in Texas, much less the states around me, there was absolutely nothing available. And I was frustrated. I was like, Why? Why are there no trainings? Why is there nothing even in my city of Austin, where I was living, which is a super progressive kind of town. And, and there was only one, one sec therapist, I think, in Austin at the time. This is back in the day.
Remember how long ago I was wondering? Um, this is 2008 2009. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so I was just kind of like, man, like, I want to, I want to bring this to taxes. So I opened up my own practice. And I was a solo practitioner at the time, I opened up my own practice, I started doing couples therapy, but I really wanted to get the training before I did sex therapy. And so I decided to bring, you know, and put on local conferences, we call them successional lectures, we launched sexual Sexual Health Alliance, we call them this exceptional lectures. And we did like, you know, day long conferences, sometimes half day, sometimes day long. And then pretty quickly, within like six months, moved into day to day long conferences. And in, you know, it was a lot of fun. And I realized that people were so hungry for the content, and so hungry for learning how to do it. And it was kind of an exploding field in a way within the mental health industry. And, you know, here we are 10 years later, and I still feel like it’s growing. And it’s not talked about.
I shared office space early on with other colleagues. And, you know, as I was putting on these lectures, and these trainings, you know, one of the therapists would go to lecture
whispering about it, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, like, this is a therapist that these clients and, you know, we all know the harm that therapists could do when they have their own biases and their own shame involved, whenever they’re talking about sex and relationships. And so I was just like, wow, there’s such a need for this. And so we started doing more and more trainings. My group my practice grew into a group practice respect therapy and Associates. And, yeah, there’s like a whole evolution of that, but I think that I think that now, you know, coming back full circle, becoming a multi passionate sexuality, professional and kind of helping other people with their career helping people build their dream sexuality career. It’s kind of full circle for me because I really love talking about career with people and that’s where I started and then I just found really my love of
Talking about sacks and how fun it was and how much people needed to hear and needed to talk and needed to, you know, work some of those issues out. And so it’s a unique kind of blend of everything that I love. I think it’s great. You know, I saw something online and it said, you, if you’re a therapist, and you’re not talking about sex, then you’re giving the message to your clients don’t talk about sex. And I really believe that. And one thing you keep talking about, and it’s in your, you know, the stuff I’ve read about you, and you know, watch your programs, Sexual Health Alliance is fun. Like, I actually feel like I someday want to go on some of these trips you take you go to Amsterdam, with Iceland, I think you go
to Iceland, but yeah, I mean, you you even taught with us when we were in just trade a few years ago. And hearing so it’s fun, too. But yeah, we we just study abroad program for doing study abroad programs in Amsterdam. Yeah. Next year, the year after, we’re going to do expand that program and go to a couple more places. And then
go Yeah, and we went to Mexico for our SAR, sexual harassment.
And that was so much fun. And so such a different experience than being online, right, like we’ve been for the last two years.
JOE KORT 6:19
Yeah, no, no, right. And that’s what I mean. It’s like you’re, you’re, you’re excited and passionate about being an entrepreneur or multi passionate. entrepreneur, I want to talk about that. But then you live it. That’s what I meant. And I was kind of a little negative about Detroit. I mean, I live in Detroit, but I don’t want to try it. I want to go to these places. Because you’re you’re teaching and you’re making sex fun. You’re like, it’s not this horrible whispering thing. Let’s talk about it and have some fun.
Heather McPherson 6:43
Yeah. And I found that people who are, you know, wanting to specialize in sexuality, they want community, you know, they want to be able to talk about with other people that are open and not only open but excited about it, because it’s you know, therapy, in general can be very isolating, but add to it becoming a sex therapist, and it’s really isolating. And so I feel like I’m part community builder, too. I just want people to get together and make friends and have fun.
JOE KORT 7:12
Do that. I think that’s, that’s embedded in your in. So maybe you could talk about being a multi passionate entrepreneur, entrepreneur, and what does that mean to you?
Heather McPherson 7:20
Yeah, so, you know, I feel like a lot of people resonate with the multi passionate piece, you know, some people gravitate toward one thing, they go in all in, and it’s wonderful for them. But I think a lot of people have kind of these different passionate different interests over their lifespan. And it’s, for me, it’s kind of like, how do I incorporate all those things into my career. And I’ve been really lucky to have some of the pieces fall in place with the group practice. And now we’re in Colorado, and Texas, because I moved to Colorado as well, a few years ago. And so with that process, kind of the expansion, to changing the way we’re doing practice and group practice, and then I noticed a need for sex positive help with sexual abuse, sexual harm, and trauma. And so we created another arm. That’s called RE spark Foundation, which is a 501 C three nonprofit part of the roospark. And we provide low cost therapy to people who have experienced sexual harm, and slide to $25 an hour, and I feel like it was so important to me to give back. And then and then Sexual Health Alliance, you know, it’s kind of amazing to have all these different things that we’re able to do, like the study abroad, and like the experiential and immersive experiences that we’re able to do as well as the trainings and full certification programs.
JOE KORT 8:48
Right. And you have a new program, which I’m really excited for you about, which is the the what do you call it problematic sexual behavior?
Heather McPherson 8:54
Problem, sexual behavior? Yeah, we were really excited to launch that to be the first ever organization to launch a training program that is really focused on reframing and rethinking sex addiction in a way that no one else has done before, you know, Michael Vigorito, and Doug brown Harvey wrote this book called rethinking sex addiction. And in you know, we are taking, you know, that idea, but really expanding it to bring in all the other theories and all the other approaches to treating these issues. You know, I won’t get into like, why we want, why we shouldn’t call it sex addiction and all that stuff. But, you know, there’s such a huge need to have a different approach to these issues. And so, to be able to provide a program that trains people who are out there already, working with these clients in helping them see other approaches learn other approaches of how to work with clients in a way that’s less harmful, and also a little bit more gentle and ultimately more effective, is really meaningful.
JOE KORT 9:59
You I love that harm reduction. And just really, and so that’s what’s really important because I made my own dream career right out of I was doing abuse and trauma, sexuality, and I was a sex addiction therapist for so many years until I realized the model didn’t have. Oh, my God, well, just, I mean, I’m embarrassed now to even say it was only because there was no sexuality training. Right? You get somebody healed, and then they were like, Okay, so what’s my healthy sexuality? Or sexual health for me? And I didn’t know. So then I am a sex therapist, and it has been really helpful to have both. That’s what I like about you that you’ve done both? Yeah,
Heather McPherson 10:36
yeah, it’s, um, you know, I think that becoming a well rounded professional is really important. And having all of the different types of training, depending on who you’re working with is really important. You know, I, I see a lot of kind of therapists and budding sex therapists that don’t have any training, and they say, Well, I have sex. And so I’m qualified to talk about sex. Or I know, open and poly peoples and I’m friends with them. So I’m qualified to, to, to work with those types of clients. And, you know, it’s, it’s helpful, but it’s not the same as getting really high quality evidence based training.
JOE KORT 11:17
No, I’m gonna quote you. I love that what you just said, I have sex. So I’m qualified to talk about sex. Right? It’s crazy, right? That’s so not
Heather McPherson 11:26
true story. I’ve heard that many times. Oh, my gosh,
JOE KORT 11:29
I love it. Um, can you talk about, I was hoping to talk about, you know, being a female entrepreneur has its own unique issues. But being being a female sexual health entrepreneur, I would imagine has even more, you know, issues. So could you talk about that?
Heather McPherson 11:42
Absolutely. I think that there’s a lot of people in our world that want to ask for help about sex, but they don’t know how. And they ended up calling in and they’re saying things that are inappropriate, or, or maybe even a little jarring. And if we as professionals have to respond to that in a really gentle and helpful way. But also put up boundaries to where you know, this is an appropriate for the services that we provide, but maybe you want to check out some of these different services. But there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of different calls that will get in the group practice. And as a female responding to that can be a little bit more difficult. But you know, also, just being a female sex therapist, I think, in this industry, can be difficult, not only with other professionals, but maybe even other men in the field and other people in the field, you know, they assume things, you know, just like the general population can assume things. And so, I think that, you know, it goes back to how much of a need there is to provide education to provide really good therapy.
JOE KORT 12:52
Yeah, and just the idea that, you know, you wouldn’t be taken seriously even you know, that. I know that therapists in my office that are sex therapists, females, sometimes get that and we get some our own bizarre calls, you know, but we, we are able to get rid of them in some in ways that because people don’t understand or they do understand, but they don’t care. They want to use it as whatever.
Heather McPherson 13:11
Yeah, it’s really unfortunate. And, you know, there’s people like that in every community, every single one of them, right. And so I think that the earlier we can identify them and provide, you know, maybe a helpful redirect, or say, you know, that’s actually not what this field is about.
JOE KORT 13:28
Right. Now, also, I, I’ve heard this about you, but I don’t know, I don’t know, I’d like you to talk about it. Because I noticed that you’re so good at marketing in a really easy way. Like if I go to your website, and I want to sign up for anything on Sexual Health Alliance. Super easy, friendly. It’s actually fun. I’m gonna use that word again. Right. But it’s, but it’s also professional. And I heard you have a marketing background. Is that true?
Heather McPherson 13:50
I do. Yeah. I mean, when we ever we start, first of all, when I started in this field, whenever I started Sexual Health Alliance, and my goal was fun. So I love that that’s being asked by people who are going to the website and the whole experience, right, all the way through, like coming to an event. But yes, I do have a bachelor’s in business marketing. And you know, although the world has changed tremendously in the last decade, oh, gosh, that’s actually 15 years ago, or 15 years ago, oh my gosh. But although the world has changed a lot, some of those basic foundational pieces that I’ve learned in grad school, or in undergrad and undergrad, but getting my bachelor’s in marketing has been really helpful. And I continue to learn, you know, I continue to, to take classes and take business courses, not only because I really love it, which is also very different than a lot of people I think, you know, a lot of therapists don’t like business. And so I have this kind of unique combination where I really love marketing, and I really love learning about it. And so it’s easier for me, I think, and I’m just lucky in that way. Yeah,
JOE KORT 14:59
I I feel this Like you, I love marketing I love because to me, it’s like it’s my social worker part of me, which wants to educate people and let you know what exists, you know, and I want people to have access to resources and not be scared to reach out and know where to go.
Heather McPherson 15:13
Exactly. You want it to be easy. You want it to be friendly, user friendly, right? If we’re talking about a website, and so, yeah, it’s so important to the whole experience, not only when they come sit down the chair, if you’re a therapist, or come to a conference, but the whole experience from beginning to end.
JOE KORT 15:27
Yes, totally. Can you talk about and I was on your podcast practice outside the lines? It was a few years ago, actually.
Heather McPherson 15:34
Yeah, yeah, it was. So So practice outside the lines is a podcast that we started, well, that I started to focus on starting a business in the sexuality field or sexual health field. And I, you know, again, I like talking about business. I like talking about sex. So we just married, right. And we’ve had, I think, I’m definitely not as good as your Joe, in terms of your consistency and podcast episodes, I think we have, like 20 episodes right now are the more on the way. And, and I think that for me, I kind of do it. Whenever I find the time, whenever I have the energy, and I don’t have this strict, I don’t hold myself to the strict schedule that you probably need to and with podcast, podcasting, because I’m doing all these other things that I also really love. So whenever I find someone like yourself, who can talk about business and sex, I want to have those conversations and might as well be recording them.
JOE KORT 16:36
Totally. Right, because people want to know, maybe they are interested in marrying the two or they just want access to understanding where can I go to get help?
Heather McPherson 16:44
Well, yeah, I mean, I think that anyone who’s in this field, and specifically the sex therapy field, we often don’t get training on how to start a practice, if you want to do a practice. And so, you know, having that information available and easy for them to access, again, is my goal,
JOE KORT 17:03
right? It’s actually discouraged in social work. If you’re somebody that wants to make some money, and you’re somebody that wants to have a thriving practice, it’s, it’s frowned upon. It’s stupid, even in 2021, I’ve been in practice since 1985. Right? That was what was said back then it’s, I can’t believe 37 years later, that still
Heather McPherson 17:20
makes you want to be the altruistic provider, that’s not in it for the money. And while that’s, you know, can be like a lofty goal, I guess, it’s not really realistic, because you still have to put food on your table, you still have to make it sustainable, so that your energy level isn’t impacted and therefore isn’t impacting the clients that you have to and so it’s kind of like this piece that no one talks about, or maybe frown down upon it. But you have to think about it, you have to talk about it, otherwise, you’re gonna burn yourself out, and it’s not going to be worth your time.
JOE KORT 17:52
I know think about one of the professions says, okay, when you get out don’t don’t want to make it don’t make it about the money. So you know, you’re going into I don’t know, whatever business or, you know, I quit Quicken loan or whatever, I don’t want to make a lot of money. It just doesn’t make any sense. But I like what you do. And I do the same thing. I do sliding scale, we do sliding scale, you have that 501 Where people it’s affordable therapy. That makes sense. But we have to make a living and it’s a fun. It’s fun that we want to make some money to.
Heather McPherson 18:20
Yeah, I mean, I think that you’re providing a service in which you have tremendous amount of training for you went to three years of grad school, we have multiple certifications, which I feel like as a whole nother grad school on top of it. Yes, you have tremendous training and professional education. And you’re providing that service and it’s fair to be paid for it and you want to be paid for what you’re worth.
JOE KORT 18:42
I think it’s also important people know that you’re while these you have these businesses, they’re a sec approved. You have continuing education. And can you talk about what that means and what a sect is?
Heather McPherson 18:51
Yeah, so a sect is the American Association for sexuality educators, counselors and therapists and our organization, the Sexual Health Alliance is an a sec approved provider, meaning that we can provide a sexy ease continuing educational units to all of the students that come and get training from us. It’s a mouthful, it can be really confusing. Basically, it means that we can provide training C’s and certification programs so that you can go on after you graduate with sexual health lines go on and become certified with a sect.
JOE KORT 19:25
And then you also have said that Sexual Health Alliance has provocative dialogue and radical collaboration. Can you explain that?
Heather McPherson 19:32
So another kind of piece of the story of why I wanted to start sexual health lines was because I went to a conference and I saw people talking about sex work and body work and the issues they were having with an ace act of becoming certified or even providing those services and are in our field and it was a powerful and rich conversation. I’m pretty sure you were in the room master paralysis already. I’m currently, I mean, everyone was in that room and it was so meaningful. And I said, I really want to bring these conversations back home and have these conversations with our local communities. And whenever whenever I came back home, I said, you know, I want this organization to be inclusive of sex workers, body workers, sexual surrogates, educators, counselors, coaches, you know, everyone who’s talking about sex, I want them to be included and be able to be in the room and get the training that everyone else is getting.
JOE KORT 20:32
I love that. I thought so. I do remember that. And I, I thought you were also going to talk also in would you about the Fetish and kink arm of what you do, too. I think your of your program, I think I noticed of all of them that’s out there a little bit more like it’s more visible.
Heather McPherson 20:46
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I love talking about open Polly’s swinger kink fetish alternative sexuality. And I think that those areas are growing within our field, too. People are becoming more interested in of course, it’s 50 shades, but also, you know, different types of relationship structures are growing, it’s becoming more talked about. And so I think that professionals and therapists and coaches and counselors and all the professionals involved need to have adequate training around it. Again, as I said, before, there’s people that you know, I have friends that do that, so I’m qualified to do it. Well, we prefer you to have evidence based training, to be able to have those conversations to be able to be aware of maybe biases you didn’t know you had. So that you can provide therapy or whatever service that you’re providing in a really compassionate and meaningful and evidence based way if we can. So we have a highly, we were the first ones back in 2017. So knots, announced a highly specified Certification Training Program, we did that even before we launched our full certification programs. Because again, my goal was like, I want it to be fine. And this was fun to me. And so. So we launched the kink informed certification program and the consensual non monogamy certification alongside of the problem sexual behavior certification program recently. And the goal really is that it’s a 12 month program. We have monthly live webinars, and consultation and supervision to all different professionals all over the world, to be able to get trained and how to work with clients that are presenting with, with interest in those issues.
JOE KORT 22:32
I always say I love that you do that. And I always say that the world is getting more gay. Because as a gay man, sexuality, kinks, fetishes, open relationships have always been around since the beginning of gay time. Not all gay men are like that, but many are. And so sometimes I have to close my eyes. And if I do, I think to myself, it’s up. If I’m in front of a heterosexual couple who are talking about opening up the relationship for months after they get married. They sound like a gay male couple. Right. But they’re not. They’re straight. They’re young. And it’s a different world now.
Heather McPherson 23:02
Yeah, yeah, I think it’s, it’s come into the, to the social media, to general media, mass media. And it’s being talked about so much more. And I think that people are kind of realizing, Oh, actually, there is a different way to approach my relationship. Or maybe I do want to spice up my relationship, 30 years in a monogamous relationship, and I want to try a blindfold. Well, what does that mean about me? Right? Does that mean I’m a kingster? Does that mean, all these questions that come up with it, come up with that idea? And how do we talk about it? How do we really reduce shame and provide psychoeducation in a meaningful way?
JOE KORT 23:38
Yeah. How do we do is, in a way, that’s shame. I feel like every day, I’m a shame reduction. Right? Everyone comes in. And that’s the main thing, right? I want to put a blindfold on. And I want to have whatever experience is something wrong with me. Like we’re constantly educating No.
Heather McPherson 23:52
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think that as, as we kind of like, move into where we’re online, so And there’s so much written media out there about all the different things that you can do, you know, all the different experiences that you can have, that just serves to really normalize it for everyone.
JOE KORT 24:12
Now, what I also love, I don’t remember who’s created this, maybe you’ll know, I love this line. kink is not a diagnosis, right? Ah, yeah, I say it all the time. I know, I didn’t create it, someone else did. But the idea that therapists think, well, it’s not heteronormative, or it’s not traditional way of being sexual. It’s not normative or whatever we want to call it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s from a problem place.
Heather McPherson 24:33
Right? Well, and I think that that goes back to our really conservative of training and field of therapy and psychotherapy and psychology. You know, as a gay man, I’m sure you know, in the 70s, homosexuality was a diagnosis in the DSM. And, and you know, being kinky, they call it different things, was also talking Gnosis and the VT in the DSM. And so I think But as we learn more about all the different variations of sexuality of human sexuality, we see that those diagnoses are being dropped from our manuals. And I think that that’s an incredible thing. And I hope it keeps going.
JOE KORT 25:17
Yeah, me too. I do too. I love watching it just disappear. You know? Um, what else? Did I not ask you about that? You want to make sure we know about you SHA ri spark any of it?
Heather McPherson 25:27
Oh, gosh, I don’t know, I feel you covered it there. I mean, you know, I think that people getting into this field. Whenever I got into this field, I didn’t know where to look. And like I said, it was back in Austin, and there was only one sex therapists out there. And I didn’t know where to look, I didn’t know how to become certified. I didn’t know anything. And I couldn’t find anyone to give me that information. And so that’s really what I wanted to do. I wanted to help other people do that in a really easy, but also fun way. And I also selfishly wanted to create a community where I could go have fun, I could go study abroad, I can go to Mexico and Sarn. And I can meet other people who are like minded because that’s, you know, we know how powerful it is for our clients to find like minded community, it’s really powerful for professionals in this field as well.
JOE KORT 26:17
And I want to make sure people hear this that you don’t say community lightly, you mean it, you create community. And I do remember when you came here, did you try it? And you had like this big audience? Do you know how hard it is for me to do a talk and try to get all those therapists and all those people, I can’t do it, it’s so hard. You just hit a full crowd. I don’t even know how you did that.
Heather McPherson 26:35
I have to say we have an incredible team of people that help us. And I also feel like word of mouth is powerful, right? Everyone who comes to something, they tell their friends because they want their friends to join in on the fun with them. But our team and everyone who helps create those events and helps create this organization is so meaningful, and I couldn’t do it without any of them. And so I’m just really thankful and grateful for the people that are around me.
JOE KORT 27:02
That’s great. Thank you. Well, how can people find you on the internet and contact you?
Heather McPherson 27:07
Yeah, so Sexual Health Alliance and sexual health alliance.com. That’s the website, re spark and Associates. We’re in Colorado and Texas, we have 18 therapists, and that’s really spark ar e spark. ar e SP, ar k.co. Co. And then our 501 C three nonprofit is respect foundation.org and then practice outside blinds.com
JOE KORT 27:33
Heather’s been a pleasure having you on my show. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on here.
Heather McPherson 27:37
Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to catch up with you. Oh, yeah.
JOE KORT 27:41
I just want to tell my listeners you can hear more of my podcast at Smart sex smart love.com And you can follow me on Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook. My handle is at Dr. Joe CT. Dr. JL e k o r t. I just hit 542,000 people on Tik Tok. I’m freaking so excited about that. Half a million people are following me which is cool. So and you can find me on my website Joe court.com. See you next time.