FAQ

Private Consulting

Where is your office?

Everywhere! Seriously. I work virtually over Zoom, so we can work together no matter where you are located; we just need to coordinate time zones. With rare exceptions, I do NOT see clients in person.

What are your hours?
My days and hours vary depending on the time of the year, travel, and other obligations. I generally don’t see clients before 11 AM or after 8 PM ET, but since all my sessions are virtual and many of my clients are in different time zones, I can be flexible if necessary.
How long are your sessions?
Typically, all my sessions are 60 minutes long. Sometimes, I do 90-minute sessions with couples or larger units.
How much do you charge?

That depends on how you’d like to work with me.

For info on private consulting rates and packages, please check the Private Consulting page.

For info about the LoveSmarter™ Method and University, please check the LoveSmarter™ list.

For therapists looking for support and training with nontraditional sexualities, please check the Therapist Consulting page.

For talks, workshops, and training, please check the Talks/Workshops page.

Why are your private consulting rates higher than other therapists, counselors, and coaches?
Because I’m not a therapist, coach, or counselor. I don’t do what they do. I’m a relationship consultant, and in truth, nobody does what I do. I have a unique approach to solving relationship problems I’ve developed through my two decades of academic research, teaching, and private practice that helps me conduct a comprehensive needs and limitations assessment in record time, develop a customized strategy with specific steps, timelines, and milestones aligned with your goals, then offer regular progress reviews. Plus, one session with me is not just the time I put in during the 60 minutes that we’re on the call. I then take all my notes, think about them, evaluate them, summarize my advice, provide relevant resources, review your homework assignments, write your conversation scripts, design strategy, etc. All that takes additional time.
Do you take insurance?

Unfortunately, I don’t. But I often have sliding scale options available. Reach out through the form on the Consulting Page, and I’ll do my best to find a way to work together.

How do I set up an appointment?

Use this link to schedule your free 30-minute consultation, then fill out the short Intake Form you’ll receive after scheduling your call.

What is your cancellation policy?
The first missed appointment, for whatever reason, is a freebie. After that, there is no fee for cancellations made more than 24 hours before our session. For cancellations made less than 24 hours before our session, there’s a $100 cancellation fee.
What ages, genders, and other demographics do you work with?

I work with adults of all ages, genders, races, locations, relationship statuses and styles, sexual orientations, kink orientations, religious backgrounds, political ideologies, etc. The Love Smarter™ Method applies to all humans, regardless of our demographic differences.

That said, I am acutely aware of my own “social location” in the world as an Early Millennial, cisgender, pansexual, educated, white, middle-class, Eastern European, immigrant, able-bodied, healthy, highly sexually experienced woman, and how that affects the lens through which I see the world. If you feel like some conscious or unconscious bias has slipped through, I invite you to call me out on it. We all hold each other accountable on that one.

What do you actually do in sessions with clients?

It depends on which part of the process we’re working on. In Step 1, we determine the best relationship type for you and your partners by discussing your present, past, and desired future relationship needs and experiences. In Step 2, we decide the best way to get where you want to go by assessing and considering your unique life circumstances. In Step 3, we carefully implement the solutions while we simultaneously develop and/or strengthen the knowledge and skills you’ll need to implement your chosen solution well.

Some individuals or couples also need a Step 0, a period of deeper clean-up of some past messes that would otherwise sabotage the rest of the process, and we ideally do that work together with an individual and/or couples therapist.

Along the way, we incorporate a mix of homework assignments, writing and discussion exercises, personality quizzes, readings, viewings, excursions, retreats, and more. We later discuss these in session.

Different people come in at different points in their journey. I go through all these steps with some clients and only some steps with other clients. Each case is its own unique puzzle and requires a somewhat different trajectory to solve it. Either way, you’ll walk out with a clear plan of action and the conceptual knowledge and practical skill set you need to implement it well.

Think of the work I do as a Deloitte or McKinsey for your relationships.

How long is the typical consulting process?

We typically get through Steps 1 and 2 in about 1-3 months of more intense work, depending on the number of people involved, the complexity of the situation, and how quickly everyone moves through the process. After that, we continue with maintenance sessions (1-2/month) for several more months, as needed to implement Step 3.

Am I allowed to ask personal questions?

Absolutely! I’m a real person and am open to sharing things if you are curious. I’ll only share what I feel comfortable sharing, but don’t be afraid to ask!

What kind of a therapist are you?

I am a sexuality and relationships consultant. I’m not a therapist, counselor, or coach. These professions are often considered similar, and these terms are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While each of these professions seeks to improve people’s personal or professional lives, each role has a distinct focus and approach to how they support individuals (or organizations) in achieving their goals.

Therapists and counselors are licensed mental health professionals whose focus is to explore and resolve mental health concerns, trauma, emotional challenges, and deeply entrenched relationship conflicts using a variety of therapeutic approaches.

Coaches are not licensed mental health professionals, and most don’t have any mental health training, although they may be trained in coaching methodologies, such as questioning and active listening. The role of a coach is to support clients in achieving personal or professional goals, providing guidance, accountability, and motivation.

Consultants are also not licensed mental health professionals. However, they have deep knowledge and expertise in their respective domains, and they often possess specialized skills and qualifications relevant to the industry they serve. The focus of consulting is typically problem-solving, strategic planning, and providing expert recommendations to enhance efficiency, optimize performance, or achieve specific goals.

While I am not a therapist, I will work with your therapists, counselors, and coaches (and any other people helping you become your best self), if they’re open to it, to ensure that we’re all working toward a common goal. That’s the quickest, safest, most effective way to get you to your ideal destination.

What’s your professional training and experience?

I have a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, where I studied how different aspects of sexuality are linked to health and well-being. I am currently an adjunct professor at New York University, where I have been teaching several Human Sexuality courses for the past ten years. I also have ten years of experience consulting individuals, couples, and polycules of all sizes on designing their ideal love lives and a lifetime of bold, unapologetic, unencumbered explorations into all corners of the sexuality and romance landscape. Most recently, my lifelong interest in optimizing our sex and love lives led me to create the LoveSmarter™ Method and Open Smarter course, which guides people to their ideal relationship type using science-based assessments of their unique personalities.

What therapeutic modalities do you use?

As a relationship consultant, I don’t use the standard therapeutic modalities. My work is guided by my proprietary LoveSmarter™ Method developed from my 15 years of academic research on relationships and well-being, ten years of consulting private clients on designing their ideal love lives, and a lifetime of personal explorations into all corners of the relationship landscape. That said, I am familiar with and frequently use some concepts and tools from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Internal Family Systems (IFS), and psychoanalysis to accomplish our goals.

Do you prescribe medications?

I do not. While I am familiar with most common medications prescribed for different mental health diagnoses, as a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, I do not have the medical training to prescribe medicines like a psychiatrist, MD, or psychiatric nurse practitioner. However, if you are interested in using medication to supplement our consulting sessions, I can help you find someone who does prescribe medications.

Do you take notes during sessions?

Yes. I take extensive notes during our sessions to go back to them, think more deeply about your situation, and devise strategic solutions. I also offer the option to audio record our sessions, which is the most accurate “notetaker” and frees my attention to focus entirely on what you’re saying. I don’t share these recordings with anyone except you if you’d like to have them.

What else does a client need to know to make the most out of working with you?

It often gets worse before it gets better.

I’m not saying this to discourage you but to properly prepare you for what lies ahead. I believe deeply in the human ability to grow and evolve. But it’s also true that when we embark on a journey of personal or relationship growth or lifestyle change, it’s common to encounter resistance from established habits, thought patterns, or external factors. This is especially true when we question some of the most entrenched societal beliefs about how we should love.

As we attempt to break free from these old patterns and establish new ones, there can be moments of discomfort, heightened emotions, uncertainty, more intense disagreements, and even regression. This initial struggle can make it feel like things are getting worse, but it’s often a sign that the process of adjustment and change is underway. I won’t give up on you; I hope you won’t give up on yourself.

Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

I've tried opening up before, and it didn’t go very well. How will this time be any different?

There are so many different ways to open up and so many ways to do it poorly that there’s an excellent chance to get at least some aspects of it wrong the first time around, especially if you’re “flying blind.” There will always be some element of “trial and error” to figure out what really works for you in practice. Still, truly uninformed guessing is rarely a healthy way to approach relationships, and the reason why initial attempts to open up a relationship so often end in harm and heartache.

That’s why the LoveSmarter™ framework and guidelines you’ll learn are foundational (and necessary) for anyone who wants to explore nonmonogamy in a way that minimizes the risk of things ending poorly. Unfortunately, it’s also this foundational learning that most folks will skip. So, this is your invitation to create the strong foundation and scaffolding needed to build and maintain healthy relationships right out of the gate – rather than repeating that “hit and hope” approach that likely hasn’t worked out so well in the past.

Isn't nonmonogamy kind of unethical?

It depends on which moral code you consult.

According to the humanistic value system, the moral code I subscribe to, nonmonogamy is only unethical when it’s done without the informed consent of everyone involved (when done in the context of infidelity or cheating). It is not considered unethical when it’s done with honesty, compassion, and open communication at its core. And while many of my students and clients (myself included) have gone down roads in the past that we are not proud of today, choosing the Love Smarter™ method is a commitment to the ethical exploration of future nonmonogamy.

Of course, the humanistic value system is not the only one. According to many popular value systems in our society (like those of many organized religions), all forms of nonmonogamy are inherently unethical, regardless of how they’re done. If you subscribe to one of these value systems and you’re happy with it, I won’t try to dissuade you from it. We all have the right to choose our personal values and beliefs. In that case, I’ll focus our work on making your monogamy the best it can possibly be.

Does past infidelity mean the relationship is doomed?

Not at all. Infidelity is often a harrowing experience, a major betrayal of trust that can and often does spell the end of many relationships. But an infidelity does not necessarily need to end an otherwise good relationship. Many couples can and do work through infidelity and use that experience to grow and strengthen their relationship.

Many (if not most) cases of infidelity stem from our inability to suppress our needs for sexual and romantic exploration and the lack of some of our basic sexual and romantic needs satisfaction in our existing relationships. In many of these cases, the existing relationship is a good one worth preserving, even if it doesn’t meet all of the partners’ needs.

Infidelity can be used as a way to diagnose which needs have been going unmet and to inspire creative solutions for how to get them better met in the future, whether by changing aspects of the existing relationship or by “outsourcing” some needs to other sexual and/or romantic partners.

I want to do this, but it’s such a scary decision, and I don’t even know if my partner will be on board. Will I have to make any significant changes right away?

I hear you. Even talking about changing your relationship structure from the default of strict monogamy can be scary, especially when there are real people, real relationships, and real lives at stake. And I don’t take the anxiety around this decision lightly.

But here’s the thing. These desires, needs, and inner conflicts can only be kept behind closed doors for so long. Eventually, the healthiest thing for both you and your partner is to start the conversation. That said, there is no pressure to act on anything immediately. There is no one right pace for everyone – you and your partner will go at the pace that’s right for you. Some couples talk about opening up for years or even decades before actually opening up. (The conversations and fantasies themselves can be quite fun and fulfilling to many people!)

What if I realize that monogamy is right for me after all?

Amazing! Then, we’ll ensure you have the best monogamy you and your partner can possibly have!

Whether you discover you’re simply built for monogamy or choose to be monogamous due to factors other than your core relationship orientation, monogamy is a completely valid and beautiful relationship structure that comes with a lot of benefits (and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise!).

Suppose monogamy is the right choice for you. In that case, you can use the Open Smarter course or our private sessions to clarify the kind of monogamy you ideally want, then work on creating the expectations and agreements with you and your partner about how to best implement your ideal choice and develop the skills you’ll need to do it well.

I really don't know if my partner or I could handle the jealousy. Are you sure that’s something we can work on and still be happy opening up?

100%. I know jealousy can be a scary emotion, and some struggle with it more than others, but please trust me when I tell you that jealousy can be managed, reduced, and even used constructively to strengthen a relationship. I’m not saying it will be easy (although, for many people, it’s far easier than they feared). But provided you and your partner are willing to do the internal work I’ll be guiding you through via the LoveSmarter™ University or our private sessions, jealousy does not have to be a barrier between you and success with whatever relationship type you desire. And the best part about working on managing jealousy? The more you apply the different strategies to your experiences of jealousy, the more you lessen its impact in the moment and train yourself to feel it less and less in the future.

Some parts of nonmonogamy make me uncomfortable. Do I need to be into kink/BDSM, play parties, group play, or casual hookups to open up my relationship?
Absolutely not. There’s plenty of room for all of the above in nonmonogamy. But there’s just as much room for more “vanilla” desires and lifestyles, too. Being nonmonogamous doesn’t have to mean extreme in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t have to include any type of kink. And there’s certainly never pressure to explore aspects of nonmonogamy that you’re not comfortable with.

Personal

What’s your ideal and current relationship type?
Open Monogamy is my ideal when I’m partnered. I also love Singledom when not partnered. Those are my two happy places. I’m currently happily single and not looking for a committed relationship (though I’m thoroughly enjoying a few casual but consistent loverships).
What do you do for fun?
When I’m not writing, teaching, or consulting, you can find me taking long walks, doing yoga, traveling, reading, seeing theater and art shows, snowboarding, surfing, playing with my lovers, attending play parties, or one of my favorites – dancing at underground electronic music festivals.
Are you on social media? Can I follow you? Will you follow me?

I am on social media (all @drzhana) and encourage you to follow me. Unless you’re creating some really amazing content, I will most likely not follow you – don’t take it personally.

Have you ever been to therapy?
Absolutely. To be honest, it took me a while to get around to it since I’ve always been so high-functioning and thought I didn’t really need a therapist. But I now have a therapist I see weekly, and I hope to have one for the rest of my life. We all have stuff to work on, even those who think they don’t.
Dogs or cats?
Both and Neither. I love both equally, but I’ve never had and will never have either one as a pet (yep, that’s a deal breaker). Don’t get me wrong – I love playing with them; they’re SO adorable, cuddly, and fun. I just don’t want them in my home and taking care of them. Pets severely limit your freedom and take up a significant amount of time, and I like my freedom and my time way too much. Not to mention all the hair, smell, destroyed furniture, and cost.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
This might sound blasphemous to some of you, but I love both.
Have any other questions?

Email us at info@drzhana.com.