Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz: Focused on a single subject

One way to establish a practice is to zero in like a laser on a specific topic. That’s the approach of AASECTcertified sexuality counselors Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz of suburban Washington, D.C.

Until Ralph Alterowitz was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the couple didn’t dwell on sexuality. The disease changed their personal and professional lives. “The tough question for me [at the time] was ‘Am I still a man? Will my wife still love me?’” he says.

Those questions sent the couple on a search for answers. They found ways to be sexual together and Ralph cofounded the National Prostate Cancer Coalition.

One day, the group needed someone to speak about sexuality. When Ralph Alterowitz suggested the asyet- unnamed-speaker title the address “The Lovin’ Ain’t Over,” the group suggested he do it. So he did. Thus began a career focusing on sexuality and cancer. In 2004, the couple authored “Intimacy With Impotence: The Couple’s Guide to Better Sex After Cancer.” Two years later, they opened The Center for Intimacy After Cancer Treatment. Their newest book revives Ralph Alterowitz’ original upbeat take on the topic: “The Lovin’ Ain’t Over for Women With Cancer.

Asked how much the books have helped market the couple’s practice, Ralph Alterowitz says, “The books have established us as the go-to people on sexuality and cancer.”

Ralph and Barbara Alterowitz are also tireless speakers. They’ve appeared before nearly every prostate cancer, breast cancer and gynecological cancer support group in the Washington, D.C. area. And since new people join support groups every two or three years, they go back. “They get to know us and they get to know our books,” Ralph Alterowitz says.

The pair also speak at national conferences. Some of those appearances have led to customers outside their geographic area. In fact, about 60 percent of the couple’s clients receive counseling advice via telephone or Skype.

The Center for Intimacy After Cancer Treatment has benefited from Ralph Alterowitz’ business acumen. “If you’re setting up a practice, you’re setting up a small business.Whether it’s a big business or a small business, it’s still a business.”

(This article appeared in the July 2011 online publication Contemporary Sexuality, an international resource for educators, researchers and therapists, published by the American Associaion of Sexuality Educators, Counselrs and Therapists)


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