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Meet Dr. Shannon Chavez of SHAPE Center

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Shannon Chavez.

Dr. Chavez, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
People are always curious to know how I decided to become a sex therapist. It always felt like a natural fit. I loved working with people and was encouraged by mentors to pursue my passion for sexual health. I started out with a dream of going to medical school and spent every semester in college working and being a full-time student. By the time I graduated from college, I was working in two research labs, moonlighting in a hospital as an EMT, and a part-time office assistant to a local sex and relationship counselor. It was through work experience that I found my career path as a therapist. I moved to California and worked in public health at UCLA Medical School before applying to a graduate program in psychology.

During grad school, I was surprised to find only one course on human sexuality in my marriage and family therapy program. I needed more training and took every course and seminar I could find on human sexuality. I received a certification in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders and became a certified clinical sexologist while completing my doctorate program. I completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at a sexual health center in Beverly Hills where I provided individual and group therapy and intensive outpatient programs for compulsive sexual behavior.

I accepted a position as a clinical psychologist at a women’s sexual health clinic in Arizona where I worked beside a gynecologist in a unique integrated practice for women’s sexual health. After getting married, I moved back to California and started my private practice in Beverly Hills, the SHAPE (Sexual Health and Pleasure Enhancement) Center. I offer individual and couples therapy, sex therapy and coaching, and sex education. I also travel around the world speaking at conferences, lectures, and workshops as a sexual health expert.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My most significant transition was moving to California and changing career paths. I was in a new city and didn’t know anyone. It pushed me to be vulnerable and put myself out there. I started meeting new friends and building a community which helped make California feel like home. When I started my doctorate program, I was working a full-time job and going to school at night. I’ve always associated success with hard work because it hasn’t been easy. I took a lot of risks and remained determined. Everything in my career has required hard work and patience.

Starting my private practice was a tough transition because it happened simultaneously with getting married, buying a house, and moving back to California. I had to learn the balance between running a business, being there for my clients, and balancing home life. Part of being a psychologist and sex therapist is continuing education and training. I’m grateful that I love my job and learning about sexuality. It is never a dull day in the office, and there is always something new to learn. I can’t think of a better job than talking about sex all day and helping people find pleasure in their intimate lives.

Please tell us about SHAPE Center.
I have a private practice in Beverly Hills focusing on sexual health and wellness for adults. I offer individual and couples therapy and online therapy and coaching for out-of-area clients. I’m a licensed clinical psychologist in California and Arizona. When I started my private practice, I wanted it to be more than a traditional therapy practice. I developed a mind-body approach that looks at the whole person and how sexual issues impact overall health and well-being. Therapy can be an intimidating process for many people. I would hear stories from clients about how they were too embarrassed to talk about sex with their doctors or previous therapists.

I wanted to create a safe and comfortable space for people to not only talk about these issues but to get the resources they need to improve their sexual health. My approach uses different modalities including mindfulness training, cognitive-behavioral therapy, sex coaching, and psychodynamic psychotherapy. My practice also offers products for sexual wellness including books, devices, and lubricants to improve sexual health. Every client has a personalized treatment plan that is collaborative and proactive. I use secure technology and software for clients to access home assignments, reading material, resources, and session notes.

Sex therapy is more solution-focused and short-term than traditional psychotherapy. Not all sexual problems require intensive therapy. Much of my work is providing education to help people better understand their sexuality and overcome shame, embarrassment, and negative stigmas around sex. My specialty areas include working with conservative cultures and religious groups around sexual issues, sexual abuse and trauma, and working with out-of-control sexual behaviors.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I used to think I was a shy kid but I was more of an outgoing observer. I liked to people watch but would strike up a conversation with anyone. Growing up in a small mountain town in Colorado made me appreciate the outdoors and spending time in nature hiking, camping, and skiing.

I was a creative kid that loved art, music, dressing up, and going on adventures. I was also a curious kid that asked a lot of questions and was fearless. I would try anything and wanted to know everything. I grew up with young parents that enforced strong values in independence, responsibility, and hard work which contribute to the values I practice today.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jude Lizama

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