Who is Dr. Nan
Nan Wise is a licensed psychotherapist, cognitive neuroscientist, certified sex therapist, board certified clinical hypnotherapist, and certified relationship specialist with three decades of experience. Driven by an intense desire to understand how the brain operates to create moods and behaviors, she returned to academia in 2009 to purse a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at Rutgers-Newark where completed her dissertation project, “Genital stimulation, imagery, and orgasm in women: an fMRI analysis” in August of 2012. Her research has attempted to address gaps in the scientific literature regarding the neural basis of human sexuality, and has as a result, garnered international attention.
Nan’s interest in the biology of emotional well-being is both personal and professional. She was born into a family predisposed to anxiety and suffered her first panic attack at age 21 while working at a psychiatric hospital. Although she initially grappled with feelings of shame and embarrassment, she discovered that her willingness to be authentic about her own struggles proved to be a major breakthrough. By accepting her anxiety and embracing her personal quest to find ways to loosen and soften around it, she became a lifelong student and teacher of what she needed (and continues to need) to practice and learn.
After her training in clinical social work in 1984, Nan went on to study numerous therapeutic modalities including Yoga, mindfulness mediation, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), and Eriksonian Hypnotherapy—all tools which she uses to develop personalized therapeutic approaches in consultation with her clients whom she sees as fellow travellers. She offers her clients—individuals and couples—the opportunity to co-create their own therapy by focusing on the positive outcomes they desire, rather than the problems that brought them to treatment. Each client partners in the therapy process by participating in the selection of the specific approaches that best fit and developing a plan for actively implementing these tools and monitoring their progress. In her practice Nan enthusiastically embraces the notion that unwanted symptoms –that which brings the client or couple into therapy–are in fact an attempt at a solution, and that listening deeply into the underlying positive intention beneath what we experience as problematic often facilitates the process of developing healthy behaviors, attitudes, and strategies which empower.
Nan’s interest in the study of sex stems from her belief that many problems have a root in some form of shame. During three decades of her clinical practice, she has observed that clients are often challenged in the practice of self-acceptance and at odds with being comfortable in their own skin. Shame had roots in disowned parts of self—often manifesting in discomfort with fully embodied sexual expression—frequently complicated by histories of receiving negative sexual messages or having traumatic experiences. For others, even if the sexual self is not the source of shame, too much “mind” – in the form of a relentlessly critical or judgmental inner dialogue –hampers the individual’s ability to be present to his or her own experience. Recognizing that we live in a culture that is both obsessively preoccupied with pleasure as well as pleasure-phobic, the ability to feel comfortable and connected with our own bodies with permission to embrace pleasure and joy is necessary to forge healthy relationships with self and other.
Nan’s commitment to the scientific study of sex stems from her desire to help fill in the disconcerting gaps in the basic science regarding the neural correlates of sexuality. For example, one basic question regarding how the brain processes sensory input from the genitals was addressed in her work with mentor, Dr. Barry Komisaruk, when they published the first study to map the projections of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and nipple onto the somatosensory cortex. Understanding the basic wiring of the healthy brain is the first step in understanding what may go wrong in the case of sexual disorders and chronic pain syndromes that affect men and women. Aside from adding to the knowledge base of how the brain works, she believes it is equally important to validate studying sex just for sex’s sake.
“Sex is an important, wonderful part of being human. And sexual pleasure is a powerful life-affirming force for healing. And since the study of sex is key to understanding the neural basis of pleasure and reward, I am enthusiastic about the implications for learning how to harness the power of positive hedonism.”