One of the questions I hear regularly is a sneering one asking why someone would book an escort rather than casually date. While we know that people have multiple reasons why they seek out a provider (some of which are gone into in depth in this article here), I also notice that there's a visualization of what that person is like; white, well-off, interested in penetrative sex of some sort, able-bodied, male. In my personal experience, that's certainly a "type," but my partners were far more diverse than anyone could have imagined!
Going to a therapist is stigmatised in our culture, and talking honestly about sexuality within that setting can be even harder. Working with TLC Trust in London, I found myself encountering a very different sort of client than the media-projected stereotype. I was a companion for an autistic man whose sister wanted to help him learn how to navigate flirting and dating with hands on experience. Just coming to my space was difficult for another person who had social anxiety. I had more than one female lover who sought me out for erotic massage so they could relearn how to be touched intimately and communicate triggers after sexual assault experiences. Sometimes the people I met wanted to snuggle and cry in my arms about the restrictions they felt about their faith, or their struggle with expectations of gender roles, or relationships they had lost. I hadn't fully realized how being a switchboard operator with psychology experience gave me training on how to be a better provider!
Just as there are many reasons for someone to seek out a provider for physical intimacy, there's a lot of reasons why I think we're sought out for this sort of emotional intimacy as well. As believed repositories of sexual and relationship knowledge, we're a one stop shop into the female psyche for many, able to be the sexual and emotional education many crave but are too shy to seek out. I'm not the only person to recognize the similarities; Psychology Today refused to run an article that addresses exactly that blurred line. One of the reasons I prefer the girlfriend experience is because there's a closeness there I really treasure. Other providers prefer to stick to a more physical exchange with their partners, so it's good to consider which will be better for where you're at right now.
Personally, I've really enjoyed listening to what's going on with the people I meet. I want to help them work on the things they're figuring out, whether that be learning how to flirt, how to behave impressively on a date, ways to work erotically with a physical disability, or even how to have sex for the first time with a woman. One of the things that I find particularly effective is when those I'm interacting with are open with me about what's going on for them emotionally. I can be a better partner when I know where my lover is at, after all!
When I know someone I'm playing with has emotional trigger points, we tend to come up with some safewords for conversation in case it strays from what they're seeking at that moment. I jokingly use what I call the "TMI Rule" often; we can giggle about it when it's used, but it stands in for a seriously useful communication tool. It's a way to acknowledge a boundary without opening a discussion about it. Also, having a little bit of dark chocolate around has been an effective pick-me-up for those who have had a sudden emotional experience with me. Part of the reason this helps is it can affect the amount of serotonin (the "happiness" hormone) in your brain. I find feeding someone chocolate while we snuggle helps us both feel present and calm.
If you've recently had something difficult happen in your life, or you think you might need a little more emotional care, I recommend adding an extra half an hour at the end of your play session, and let your partner know that you want that for wind-down time. Having the extra time set aside and discussed in advance makes sure that you don't end up discovering you're out of time and haven't had any aftercare. I much prefer having someone tell me in advance as much as they can about where they're at so I can be prepared and know how best to check in! It also allows me to make sure I give them the extra TLC they might want to have an enjoyable experience.
Certainly I've heard many times that going to a provider is better than therapy. If that's something you're hoping for, with some advance care and communication, it can be a deeply healing experience. Going into a session having discussed your desires also gives the provider the opportunity to let you know if they're the best connection for you, so that everyone can leave home feeling positive.