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Dec 5, 2022

What Therapists Should Know About Sexual Health, Monkey Pox, and the Echoes of the AIDS Epidemic: An Interview with Mallory Garrett, LMFT

Curt and Katie interview Mallory Garrett about sexual health as well as the current concerns related to Monkey Pox. We discuss what therapists usually get wrong when working with sexual health, what therapists need to know about STIs, as well as Monkey Pox. We talk about the relevant history of the HIV/AIDs epidemic and the community responses to Monkey Pox. We also look at how therapists can be most helpful to clients within our scope of practice. Resources to stay up to date with Monkey Pox and sexual health are also included in the show notes.  

Transcripts for this episode will be available at!

An Interview with Mallory Garrett, LMFT

Mallory Garrett is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California and New York. She graduated with a BA in Comparative Literature from UCLA and an MS in Counseling from CSU-Northridge. She began working in the social services sector as a Resident Services Intern with a low-income housing corporation for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions. She continued working in this field during her traineeship and internships as she worked towards licensure. She loves speaking to therapists about destigmatizing HIV/AIDS and STIs and has co-facilitated a workshop through Simple Practice Learning. When not working she enjoys going to the theater and traveling.

In this podcast episode, we talk about sexual health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

We talk about sexual health broadly as well as the recent concerns about Monkey Pox and the historical context of HIV/AIDs.  

What do therapists get wrong when working with sexual health?

“When you're working with someone who is in a mismatched libido relationship, oftentimes we look at it and say, well, the long-term relationship is not about sex, it shouldn't be about sex. It's about other things. It's about, you know, companionship, and friendship and mutual respect for your partner. And those are definitely important. And those are the cornerstones of our relationship. But sex is also a cornerstone of a relationship.” – Mallory Garrett, LMFT

  • Lack of education, or education that solely focuses on reproduction
  • Fear about scope of practice when addressing folks who are being treated medically
  • Lack of understanding and exploration of libido mismatches
  • Downplaying the importance of sex in our clients’ lives
  • The moralistic or puritanical nature of how many people approach sex

What do therapists need to know about sexual health, STIs, and Monkey Pox?

  • Monkey Pox is not technically a STI, but is primarily transmitted sexually in the US
  • The stigma and concerns of being ignored, especially from those who lived through the HIV/AIDS epidemic
  • Gay Rights and Sexual Liberation has relevance to these diseases
  • The extreme societal bias toward the gay community during that time, medical neglect
  • The emergence of Monkey Pox brought back the fears, stigma, and neglect

How can therapists help therapists have discussions related to Monkey Pox or STIs?

  • Approaching sexually transmitted infections with a harm reduction lens
  • Empowering clients to make decisions
  • Referring folks to their local public health department for information on vaccination

What is Monkey Pox?

  • Monkey Pox does not seem to be spread asymptomatically
  • The lesions are very painful and are the primary reason for hospitalization
  • Primarily being spread through close intimate contact by men who have sex with men
  • Monkey Pox is typically not fatal, but there are two different strains with different fatality rates

How do therapists support folks who have Monkey Pox?

  • Push back against judgment and shame, checking own bias
  • Meeting clients where they are
  • Decreasing isolation through virtual sessions
  • Understanding the pain related to the lesions, as well as the potential disfigurement

How can therapists stay up to date on sexual health issues, including Monkey Pox?

  • Follow CDC and WHO online
  • Follow AIDS activists who are following Monkey Pox
  • Scroll down for links from Mallory

Why is it important for therapists to step into advocacy for our patients?

“More than an expert, I would describe myself as an advocate, because it is one of those things where it's so hard sometimes to stay up to date with all the science and the details. And ultimately, like as therapists especially, we don't need to know the science and the details. We need to know the gist, but not the specifics. I don't need to know what viral strain, etc., to have empathy and understanding for my clients.” – Mallory Garrett, LMFT

  • Providing empathy and compassion regardless of our medical understanding
  • Doctors and other medical providers are not perfect, so it is important for clients to have good questions and feel empowered
  • Encouraging folks with lived experiences to sit at the table when policy decisions are being made

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
Mallory’s website:

Mallory’s twitter:

Mallory’s course on SimplePractice: HIV & AIDS Awareness for Mental Health Providers

Mallory’s recommendations for staying up to date on sexual health issues:

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Understanding Polyamory: An interview with Dana McNeil, LMFT

Sex and Shame: An interview with Eliza Boquin, LMFT

Let’s Talk About Sex: An interview with Liz Dube, LMFT

Managing Chronic Pain and Illness: An interview with Daniela Paolone, LMFT

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano