I first came across sex counseling in the sexual addictions literature, particularly Patrick Carnes' book "Out of the Shadows."
I remember reading lots of discussions about the field as Master's and Johnson's work gained acclaim, and as a young man, I suppose I was looking for that 'technique' that would make me a masterful lover.
Over the years, what I have learned is that performance and technique are not what is generally important to my wife.
Intimacy is, and that comes with attention and talk, for the most part far removed from the bedroom.
When I do connect in those ways, she feels like she is important to me, and cared for and sex can happen much more.
However, sex counseling is not my primary focus, so in working up this page, I took a look at the Mayo Clinic offers on its sex counseling pages, and I did look at Patrick Carnes's work.
This page will be more generic, taking a look at sex counseling from first a medical viewpoint, and then offer some basic guidelines from a counseling viewpoint.
Subsequent pages will deal with sexual addiction and approaches to healing.
Sex Counseling From the Mayo Clinic
Concerns about sex and intimacy are common. At some point, nearly a third of all men and a half of all women have a significant concern related to sexual function, sexual feelings or intimacy. Sex counseling can help. A type of talk therapy (counseling), sex therapy is done by a psychologist or a licensed counselor with special training in issues related to sex and relationships. Sex therapy is an effective tool for people of different ages, genders and sexual orientation. Sex therapy can be helpful whether you are single or in a relationship.
How is sex therapy done?
Your sex therapist will start off by talking to you about your concerns. Sexual issues can be complicated, and your therapist will want to get a clear idea of all the factors involved. Once you and your sex therapist talk about the issues you've raised, your therapist will discuss ways to resolve your concerns and help you learn skills and techniques to improve your communication and intimacy.
If you're in a relationship, it's usually most helpful to involve your partner in meetings with your sex therapist. Typically a sex therapist will have you and your partner do a series of homework exercises. These may include reading about sexual techniques, slowing down and focusing on what you're sensing during sexual encounters and changing the way you interact with your partner during sex. As sex therapy progresses, you will use your home experiences to further identify and refine what you'd like to work on.
Concerns about sex and intimacy are often linked to other underlying issues. These can include psychological issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. In some cases, sexual function is affected by chronic illness, side effects of medication or surgery. Depending on your concerns, seeing only a sex therapist may be enough. Or, your sex therapist may be part of a team that includes your doctor, psychologist or physical therapist. What kind of concerns do sex therapists address?
Sex therapy can help resolve a wide range of concerns about sexual function, feelings that affect your sex life, or the way you relate to your partner. Examples include:
* Concerns with sexual arousal or sexual interest * Compulsive sexual behavior * Concerns about sexual interests and sexual orientation * Erectile dysfunction * Ejaculating too quickly (premature ejaculation) * Trouble reaching orgasm * Painful intercourse * Problems with penetration
Isn't it embarrassing to talk about sex?
Talking about sex and intimacy can feel awkward. But don't worry — sex therapists are trained to make you feel comfortable and will understand your reservations. It can also be tough to communicate clearly with your partner about sex. A sex therapist can help you learn to express yourself clearly and better understand your partner's needs.
What comes up for me over and over in my domestic violence education program is the pain that results from infidelity. That pain and how clients cope with it, most often by walling off the grief and hurt, and acting as a "player", or someone who seeks out casual sexual encounters, are very impactful on intimacy, emotional, sexual, and otherwise. I work with men primarily, so I hear this more from men than women.
The emotional charge around sexuality and intimacy are extraordinary, and the lack of training about how to communicate about emotions, or emotional intelligence skills, really impact the end result of intimacy.
Listening is so important and so few people know how to listen non-judgementally, so talking to a sex counselor who can listen non-judgementally should be a good experience.
Sex counseling is going to touch on every area of the relationship, almost as if it is the tip of the iceberg, weaving through every area of a relationship, and those topics can have some heavy cultural baggage for both men and women.
Women Like Barbie and Men Like Adonis
Some of the cultural baggage I am referring to can be seen in the changes in how action figures for little boys and dolls for little girls are designed.
Not having ever played with Barbie, I am not so familiar with how women are depicted by her, except from the controversy surrounding how little girls are given the message that this is "the look" that they should strive for, almost subliminally.
I do know that GI Joes have become much more like the Hulk in terms of physiology and that men are given a subtle message that to be potent, they need to look like that.
And when those expectations are half formulated in the background of a relationship, there can be disappointments for the adults.
Sex counseling will have to deal with that, and since it is a newer field, there is not the research about dysfunction that there is in other counseling fields.
However Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has done some extraordinary work with in-love brains using fMRI, which begins to give us a picture of how neurons deal with relationship.
Professor Fisher is the Chief Scientific Officer of Chemistry.com now, and for a link to a commercial dating site which utilizes her work, please click below.
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