Practical Audacity, founded by Rena McDaniel, MEd, LCPC, CST, is a gender & sex therapy group practice and healing collective. We are queer-identified/aligned, trauma-informed professionals who work with folks feeling anxious and lost about a transition they’re experiencing in sex, gender identity, or relationships. We work to help you uncover more of who you are so you feel confident in your own skin. We provide you with the support you need to go from feeling broken and alone to whole and part of a community. We specialize in:
We understand that simply existing in a world that is unwelcoming of who you are is an act of resistance and courage and that all the yoga in the world won’t solve systemic injustice and oppression.
You have to figure out how to live a life that feels good for you despite this and sometimes that feels impossible.
WE ARE here to give you space to breathe.
We believe that pleasure is powerful and we am committed to helping you experience more of it. Audre Lorde said in The Uses of the Erotic, "Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.”
WE believe that pleasure is an act of resistance.
We are here to provide practical (and scientifically accurate!) info, tools, and resources to help you venture beyond the commonplace, the familiar, and the obvious and help expand your world to new, infinite possibilities for pleasure, authenticity, audacity, and connection.
We want to live in a world where you feel loved, accepted, and truly seen when you bring all of yourself (even the messy parts) to the table and we are committed to providing top-notch education to professionals in mental health, physical health, and business to help create the world we want to live in.
WE ARE here to create a community of people and professionals who see you. All of you.
HI! MY NAME IS RENA MCDANIEL, BUT MY FRIENDS CALL ME RAE.
I received my Masters in Counseling from DePaul University and completed my clinical internship with Heartland Alliance International-FACES, working primarily with Iraqi, Burmese, and Nepali refugees and torture survivors.
Fresh out of grad school, I joined IntraSpectrum Counseling, a group counseling practice focused on the LGBTQ population. Over my six years with the practice, I was able to help grow the business from five therapists to twenty-two therapists and establish ourselves as one of the leaders in LGBTQ mental health care in Chicago. I am proud to say that we were able to serve 300-400 clients a year that came to us specifically because they wanted a place to feel safe and affirmed when talking about mental health concerns.
My interest in professionally studying sex and sexuality happened very organically. Through my work with the LGBTQ population, as well as my personal experiences, I knew both how deeply painful concerns about sex and sexuality can be, as well as how powerful and affirming healthy sexuality and pleasure in our own bodies can feel. I was hungry for more information and training, so I completed the University of Michigan’s Sexual Health Certificate Program with specializations in Sex Therapy and Sexuality Education and learned that I could happily read boring research studies about sex and sexuality for hours. I went on to become a Certified Sexologist through the American College of Sexologists and kept hungrily devouring more and more information to build my knowledge and expertise about LGBTQ population, sex and sexuality, and trauma.
As the adopted child of a very conservative, religious family in the South, the message that you could be loved, accepted, and seen for all of who you are was often couched in the unsaid caveat of “as long as…” I grew up in a culture that said: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
This version of love never quite made sense to me.
The first exposure I had to the LGBTQ community was at church. I listened in as my parents and their friends spoke about how selfish the HIV+ brother of a congregation member was for “putting his sister through this.” “This” meaning AIDS. I was seven.
I wasn't happy with the box I was supposed to fit into and I found ways to express that even as a young teen: a closet full of Goodwill, band shirts (all black of course), studded belts, chucks, and a music collection that included lots of screaming, moshing, and fist pumps. A concert wasn’t good if I could hear at the end. #rocknrollbaby
I ended up at a tiny, conservative liberal arts college in the woods of East Texas for undergrad (mostly because it was close). One of my favorite college memories is quite an ordinary moment. I was sitting around with my best friends from undergrad, a gaggle of gay men from my beloved theater department, on a lazy, hot day watching movies after class. We put on The Little Mermaid and, all at once, with the rising crescendo of “...part of your worlllddddd..," my friends started singing. Loudly. The entire living room started singing louder and louder as I joined in. I remember the sense of family and joy like it was yesterday. As I watched my friends attempt to navigate their emerging sexuality and identity in an oppressive environment, I realized I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a therapist for the LGBTQ population.
During this time, I was also diagnosed with a pelvic pain disorder. As someone who had zero sex education outside of the books I snuck from the library, I had never felt more hopeless, alone, and broken than I did try to navigate and understand pelvic pain, especially with mental and physical health providers who also had a lack of education about these issues.
Spoiler alert: My challenges with pelvic pain, paired with growing up in an oppressive culture, became some of my biggest strengths and catalysts for doing the work I do now. (Subtext: Thinly veiled life-lesson.)
After undergrad, I put down roots in Chicago for graduate school, focused all my work on the LGBTQ population and trauma, and became a licensed therapist in the state of Illinois. Unsurprisingly, I also came out as queer pretty quickly after moving to Chicago. My family wasn't thrilled to say the least. First, Sodom and Gomorrah is a popular topic in my family (wamp, wamp). Second, while I believe that love and authentic relationships are based on all parties being able to bring all of themselves to the table, my family believes that keeping things peaceful and pleasant, even if it means hiding large parts of yourself, is best.
In the words of Jeanette Winterson, “I have no idea what happens next.”
Fresh out of graduate school, I got a job helping run and grow a group counseling practice focused on the LGBTQ population. Over my six years with the practice, I was able to help grow the business from five therapists in one office to twenty-two therapists in two different locations and establish ourselves as one of the leaders in LGBTQ mental health care in Chicago. I am proud to say that we were able to serve 300-400 clients a year that came to us specifically because they wanted a place to feel safe and affirmed when talking about mental health concerns.
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Despite my love of working with the LGBTQ population, I felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle. Through my work with the LGBTQ population, as well as my personal experiences, I knew both how deeply painful concerns about sex and sexuality can be, as well as how powerful and affirming healthy sexuality and pleasure in our own bodies can feel. I was hungry for more information and training, so I completed the University of Michigan’s Sexual Health Certificate Program with specializations in Sex Therapy and Sexuality Education and learned that I could happily read boring research studies about sex and sexuality for hours. I went on to become a Certified Sexologist through the American College of Sexologists and kept hungrily devouring more and more information to build my knowledge and expertise about LGBTQ population, sex and sexuality, and trauma. I had found the missing piece of my professional puzzle in sex therapy and education.
Where I am Today
Today, I have a chosen family that will cheer me on in my victories, and watch movies with me in onesies on bad days, and will dance about with me on all of the days in between to the sounds of Whitney Houston, Solange, and Beyonce.
A couple years into my time in Chicago, a friend from college visited me. As we sat in a quintessential Chicago dive bar sipping Goose Island beer, she looked at me and said, “Wow! I’ve never seen you so comfortable in your own skin.” I thought to myself, “You’re right.” And it just keeps getting better.
I get to do work I love with people that I think are the tops.
I feel like the luckiest duck to be able to spend my days doing sex therapy, coaching, consulting, teaching, speaking, and writing that helps you uncover more of who you are so you can also feel confident in your own skin and teaching other professionals to do the same.
I provide folks with the support they need to go from feeling broken and alone to whole and part of a community. Because I know what it feels like to not have that.
Join the movement or contact me for more details on how we can work together.
***Any information provided or interaction that we have does not replace you seeing a therapist, seeking necessary mental or physical health care, or constitutes a professional relationship with a therapist. If you feel like your life or another's life is in danger, please call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.***
There is no one "type" of person who goes to sex therapy and there are many reasons to see a sex therapist.
+ What is the difference between therapy and coaching?
Therapy and coaching are similar in a lot of ways. Both sex therapists and sex & relationship coaches ideally have extensive training in sexual health, dysfunction, anatomy, the science of sex and arousal, relationship dynamics, and gender and sexual diversity.
Both sex therapy and sex & relationship coaching address a lot of similar concerns related to sex, sexuality, gender, and relationships that include (but are certainly not limited to):
-Lower sexual desire or unequal interest in sex between partners
-Sexual arousal issues
-Concern over sexual inhibitions
-Inability or difficulty with orgasm
-Sexual pain disorders
-Sexual concerns related to trauma
-Unpacking sexual concerns related to the effect of shame on gender identity and/or sexual orientation
-Relational and sexual challenges for monogamous, polyamorous and/or kink-identified partners
-Difficulty communicating about sexual matters in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships
-Individuals or partners who want to add some “spark” to their sex life
There is no one "type" of person who goes to sex therapy or sex & relationship coaching and there are many more reasons to see a sex therapist than those listed above.
Sex therapy is a specialty in the field of psychotherapy that focuses on addressing specific sexual concerns.
The Differences Between Sex Therapy and Coaching:
Therapists are mandated to have at least a Master's degree and sometimes a doctorate in psychology and have supervised work for several years before they are licensed. Sex Therapists have extra clinical training in treating sexuality-related concerns. Many coaches also have extensive training and knowledge around these things, but the training and supervision is not mandated.
Therapy can often go a bit deeper into mental health issues and therapists are trained to deal with mental health crises and trauma. Coaching is usually aimed at discovering what is holding you back currently and how to help you reach your goals, though therapy can accomplish this goal as well.
Coaching can be done remotely and across state lines, while therapy can only be done with people who reside in the state the clinician is licensed in, in most cases.
Insurance will cover therapy, while coaching is only out of pocket.
If you have questions about whether therapy or coaching is right for you, contact us here.
+ WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SEX THERAPIST AND A REGULAR THERAPIST?
Sex Therapists are a subset of a “regular” or generalist therapists. Most sex therapists are also licensed therapists who are also trained to see a variety of other concerns. Knowledge of and experience working with sexual concerns differentiates a sex therapist from other mental health professionals.
+ WHAT HAPPENS IN SEX THERAPY?
Sex therapy begins with a thorough assessment of your concerns. The therapist will ask questions about your personal, physical, and sexual history in order to gain a better understanding of your experience. From there, the therapist and client can begin to explore the heart of the matter. The therapist may suggest specific exercises or “experiments” to do at home to facilitate talk-therapy in session. Sex therapy does not involve any sexual relationship or touching between the therapist and client.
+ DO I NEED TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP TO BE IN SEX THERAPY?
No. Participating in sex therapy does not require being in a relationship. It only requires a willingness to be open and honest with yourself and your therapist. This is your personal choice to make, but it may be helpful for you to come with your partner, or partners, if they are willing. Sexuality concerns are often very relational in nature. You and your partner(s) can use this safe space to learn, support one another, and develop a deeper understanding of each other as sexual beings.
+ WHAT IS SEXUAL HEALTH?
Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease or dysfunction. Sexual health requires a positive, open, and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as having pleasurable, consensual, and safe sexual experiences. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.
+ MY PROBLEM IS PHYSICAL. HOW CAN SEX THERAPY OR SEX & RELATIONSHIP COACHING HELP ME?
Although sexual pain and dysfunction are often highly physical in nature, there is almost always an emotional component involved as well. Our society stigmatizes sex and sexuality and there are often negative messages about our bodies and sex that may get internalized as shame. This can create a lot of complexity around resolving sexual concerns. A sex therapist can help you unpack these internalized messages you have received and develop a healthier relationship with your body, your sexuality, and your partner(s). However, sex therapy is not a replacement for seeing your doctor and/or physical therapist and seeking medical advice. Your sex therapist will likely ask you to attend to any medical components to your sexual concern concurrently with therapy.
+ I’M TRANS*/GENDERQUEER. HOW CAN SEX THERAPY OR SEX & RELATIONSHIP COACHING HELP ME?
Many Trans* and/or Genderqueer individuals experience, or have experienced, a lack of connection to their bodies. This lack of connection can create difficulties in partnered and solo sex. A sex therapist can help you explore ways to affirm your identity while still creating room for sexual intimacy and connection.
The influence of heteronormativity related to sexuality (the idea that only cisgender, straight, penis-in-vagina sex is “normal” and acceptable) is very real and can sometimes cause individuals who identify outside of this narrow box to feel shame. A sex therapist can also help you unpack these societal messages that have been internalized and move towards creating a sexual life that feels authentic.
+ I’VE EXPERIENCED SEXUAL TRAUMA. HOW CAN SEX THERAPY OR SEX & RELATIONSHIP COACHING HELP ME?
Experiencing sexual trauma is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence for many individuals. These traumatic experiences can leave people with traumatic reminders and triggers related to sex that might get in the way of being able to fully experience pleasure. A sex therapist can help you unpack these triggers and reminders and develop healthy boundaries and coping skills to allow you to fully experience pleasure and connection to both your body and your partner(s).
+ WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS AND SPECIALTIES?
I have a Master's degree in Counseling and am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and Certified Sex Therapist (CST) in the state of IL. I focused my work in graduate school and beyond on the LGBTQ population, trauma, and identity. I also have a Certificate of Sexual Health with Concentrations in Sex Therapy and Education from the University of Michigan. My experience has included an internship working with Iraqi refugee survivors of torture and extensive work with the LGBTQ population in a private practice setting. I also have extensive experience working with kink and poly identities and am sex worker positive.
+ WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING WITH YOU?
My approach is relational, emotion-focused, strength-based, and trauma-focused. My work is also strongly influenced by Brene Brown’s Shame Resiliency Theory, shedding light on the way shame, vulnerability, and authenticity interact in people’s lives. My clinical style is warm and collaborative, helping clients locate and build upon the strengths and supports they already have in their lives in order to create meaningful change, while challenging behaviors and thoughts that are no longer working.
+ WHAT ARE YOUR SEXUAL VALUES?
I value openness, consent, authenticity, and communication. I believe that everyone has their own “yum/yuck” lists and, as long as things are safe, sane, and consensual, you should never “yuck someone else’s yum.”
+ ARE YOU COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT KINKY SEX?
+ ARE YOU COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT POLYAMORY?
+ ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH THE LGBTQ POPULATION?
+ DO YOU THINK MONOGAMOUS, HETEROSEXUAL, GENITALLY-ORIENTED SEX IS ULTIMATELY BETTER THAN OTHER CONSENSUAL ARRANGEMENTS?