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The Short Version: Intimacy is often an underlying problem in relationships — and may even be a barrier to forming new, stable ones. Psychotherapist Chamin Ajjan focuses on the role intimacy plays in dating, relationships, and sex. Based in New York City, Chamin counsels men and women of all ages, races, and sexual orientations to help them overcome the stigmas, situations, or internal conflicts that keep them from sharing themselves. She frequently holds workshops for couples and has authored a popular book, “Seeking Soulmate,” to help a wider audience deal with intimacy issues at home.
If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you may have experienced the fading of intimacy. What begins as a hot-and-steamy love affair can cool significantly as time passes. That scenario is common in relationships, and it can often signal the beginning of difficult challenges.
When the stresses of day jobs and household chores creep into the bedroom, intimacy suffers, and neither partner ends up being satisfied.
A 2017 study quantified the sexual afterglow in couples over time. Psychologists surveyed two groups of newlyweds who reported their daily sexual activity and satisfaction for 14 days and then participated in a follow-up survey again six months later.
The study found the feeling people get from having sex with someone they love can last up to 48 hours, and the spouses who reported high levels of afterglow over the long run also reported higher marital satisfaction. Those insights can also apply to couples who aren’t married — and even singles who enjoy healthy and balanced sex lives.
Psychotherapist Chamin Ajjan, MS, LCSW, ACT, whose New York City practice focuses on intimacy issues, has heard all the reasons why the afterglow has dulled — and she’s committed to getting the flame burning again.
“Sex has to do with almost everything that comes in the door. If you’re depressed or anxious, that’s impacting your sex life. If you come into therapy as a single person, we talk about sex. If you’re coming in as a couple, we talk about sex,” Chamin said. “It’s a much-needed therapy service that people aren’t receiving. People aren’t getting this type of counseling with the therapist they have. I enjoy meeting wonderful people who are opening up in a much different way. It’s a lot of fun to help people enjoy sex again.”
Sex is a topic that not everyone is comfortable talking about, but Chamin has always had a natural ability to make people feel comfortable.
“I recognized that people, generally, feel comfortable with me. It’s one of my superpowers,” she said. “I easily connect with people and help them feel comfortable sharing with me. It felt like the right fit to use my natural ability to connect with people and help them facilitate change in their lives.”
Early in her career as a psychotherapist, Chamin worked for a labor union that offered a free mental health program for municipal employees in New York City. Those workers are the people who run the city, mostly behind the scenes, in the hospitals, schools, and police stations.
She helped a diverse range of clients and honed her skills before she opened her private practice in 2004. Soon after establishing her practice, she realized that most of her clients were women dealing with sexual abuse issues, dating concerns, and sex in general. Chamin had found her calling.
Today, Chamin’s clientele is a bit more diverse. Many are working professionals, nearly 65% are women, and the average age is in the 30s, she said.
“That age group seems to be at a place where they are ready for a change in their lives,” Chamin said. “It is a very diverse practice. I see all kinds of people across the board with careers, relationship status, ethnicity, race, and sexual orientation. New York City is unique in that it’s a very diverse place, but also the best lab in the entire world because you get to see a little bit of everything.”
Other licensed therapists on staff include Kate Klein, LMHC, and Amy Mazur, LMS. Both are trained and certified therapists who focus on relationships.
According to Chamin, Kate is a skilled and inventive sex therapist who helps the team expand its experience with new ideas and research. Amy, meanwhile, offers a compassionate — yet straightforward — style when helping couples overcome the obstacles they face.
Therapy, Chamin said, is not an interview. She and her team use a conversational style to get patients comfortable and talking so they can learn more about issues clients face both in and outside the bedroom.
“It’s important for me, as a therapist, to know not just who you are right now, but also get a little bit of a history of who you’ve been, your experience, your family life, medical history, relationship history, and your education. I want to understand what helped shape who you are as a person,” Chamin said.
“I am a cognitive behavior therapist by training, and it’s important to know what you are getting out of your session. We will start working on that plan in that first session. I tailor that session to you: your learning style, what you need, and how I think you’ll react to a homework assignment.” — Chamin Ajjan, MS, LCSW, ACT
Once Chamin and her team get a complete picture of the underlying issues — both past and present — they come up with a personalized plan to help the client succeed moving forward.
“I am a cognitive behavior therapist by training, and it’s important to know what you are getting out of your session. We will start working on that plan in that first session. I tailor that session to you: your learning style, what you need, and how I think you’ll react to a homework assignment. We start working on the problem as soon as you’re out of that session,” Chamin said.
Not everyone who works with Chamin needs a one-on-one visit in her office. Many attend one of her frequent “Mindful Dating” workshops, intensive half-day events that help participants address whatever sex, dating, or relationship issues they’re facing. A dating coach is often present as part of the workshop, as are make-up artists, nutritionists, or personal stylists to provide a more holistic approach to the situation.
“Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, having awareness, and doing it in a non-judgmental way. We take that treatment model and philosophy and apply it to dating,” Chamin said. “We get to know what has and hasn’t been working for you, discover some of the problems you’ve been having, and come up with new solutions for you. It’s not just how to find someone but also understanding what you bring to the table and what experiences you have with dating that might be impacting your success.”
Chamin has also authored a popular new book called “Seeking Soulmate,” which has been featured in Glamour magazine, the ModernLove Radio podcast, and other national media outlets. It will likely become the basis for a new retreat, which Chamin said is in the works.
“My book has allowed me to meet more people and attract an even bigger audience,” she said. “I would like to spend more time getting the message of the book out to people, and retreats are a wonderful way to get out of your environment and focus on where you want to make a change.”