I’m imagining clicking on a sex therapy page you may be feeling curious, anxious, or possibly even embarrassed. If you are feeling anxious or embarrassed, you are not alone. Our culture tells us talking about sex is taboo, which leaves us with little options when we are struggling with an area of our sexuality or sexual relationship. It is often difficult for couples to talk with each other about sex much less a third party. Yet, having sexual struggles, of many different kinds, is NORMAL and something many couples are experiencing in silence and isolation.
I specialize is supporting married couples and couples long term committed relationships who are experiencing new sexual struggles or who have experienced ongoing sexual strain over the course of their relationship.
WHY COUPLES SEEK SEX THERAPY
It is normal for couples to experience strain, frustration, sexual and relationship distance when there are sexual concerns in their relationship. This can happen for couples early in their relationship, after they have shared a long life together, or over the course of a couple’s relationship. There are many different kinds of blocks and barriers to discussing sexual concerns as a couple. Instead of couples being able to team up and feel like partners, confronting their struggles together, they get caught in a cycles of frustration and distance, leading to more pain, isolation and sometimes even shame about the sexual struggle.
Partners often report feeling blamed, anxious, pressured, objectified, controlled, and/or manipulated when it comes to their sexual relationship. Couples can get caught in entrenched cycles such as sexual pursuer/ sexual distancer. Wherein one partner continually initiates sex and talking about sex in an effort to come close and talk about what is not working. While the other partner withdraws from sexual contact and conversation in an effort to avoid feelings of pressure and anxiety. Pressure and anxiety hit their sexual breaks. The second partner avoids even talking about sex to avoid the anticipated fight. In these fights one or both partners feel worse about themselves and the relationship. Partners begin to feel father apart after going around and around in blame and defensiveness.
Couples might also experience a withdraw/withdraw pattern where they have burned out from the previously mentioned pattern or both are highly conflict avoidant, unsure how to move forward and want to understandably avoid painful fights. These cycles of frustration, tension, and distance can also begin to rob the couple of any physical affection in their relationship. Previously, physical affection at times led to sex, physical affection then starts to be avoided to avoid the tension cycle leaving the couple farther apart.
WHAT IS SEX THERAPY? (AND WHAT IT IS NOT)
I view sex therapy as a natural extension of couples’ therapy. Sex, just like many other topics that couples face, can be an area of strength bringing couples closer or an area of tension and distance. In the later instances, it is important that the couples’ sexual relationship be a part of the couples’ therapy. Sex therapy is talking openly about your sexual relationship without judgment or blame. We discover what is working well, and what is strained, robing you both of pleasure and closeness.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP AS A WHOLE IS IMPORTANT
Many partners express fear that sex therapy will hyper focus on sex, sexual outcomes, and ignore other core relationship issues such as trust and connection. The fear being these other important relationship aspects would be over looked with only the goal of rekindling sexual desire. A sole focus on your sexual relationship without including the context of your relationship as a whole would be detrimental and likely unsuccessful.
I believe it is important to get to know you as individuals, as a couple and understand your relationship as a whole. Most often there are factors outside of a couple’s sexual relationship impacting their sexual experiences. Overlooking relational patterns which foster trust, safety and connection would undermine any focus on the sexual relationship. The couple’s feelings of trust, safety, and connection towards one another foster a relationship where sex can be a joyful expression of love. Couples are my guide in understanding the parts of their relationship, their lives and their sexual relationship they would like support with in couple’s sessions.
DO WE TALK SPECIFICS? YES!
I have found that without getting specific and clear when talking about sex we are all talking in code and it not quite clear if we are all on the same page. So yes, we discuss orgasms, masturbation, manual stimulation, penetrative sex, vulvas, penises, erections, and much more. If you are cringing reading this, again you are not alone. As you will read below, I too have had the cringe response to talking about all of the above out loud due to my own background. My hope is that we can all get through the awkwardness and discomfort together so you can have at least one safe place to talk openly and honestly about your sexual relationship in a way that is clear, safe, and comfortable.
GOALS FOR SEX THERAPY
My goal is for couples to have a comfortable place to discuss their sexual relationship safely without creating more tension and distance. In turn, helping couples move past physical and emotional challenges towards a satisfying relationship and pleasurable sex life. I’m interested in learning from couples what would make sex worth having, then we can create a plan together to work towards the couple’s goals.
COMMON SEXUAL CONCERNS
Low Sexual Desire
According to McCarthy and McCarthy 2020, low sexual desire is the number one problem facing American couples. There are many causes of low desire for both men and women. If you or your partner are experiencing low desire you are not alone. It is a common experience among couples.
Discrepancies in Sexual Desire
McCarthy and McCarthy 2020, report discrepancies in sexual desire, i.e. one partner desiring more frequent sex than their partner, is the second most common problem American couples experience. Discrepancy in sexual desire is probably the sexual concern most depicted in media however contrary to what media depicts, it is not always men who have higher desire and women who have lower. It can go either way.
Other topics commonly addressed in sex therapy:
Erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation, low confidence, lack of response to sexual stimulus, inability to reach orgasm, experiencing pain during penetration, and much more.
- Support couples in becoming a team, to face their sexual struggles together with support, love, and care for each other moving away from blame, frustration and isolation
- Begin to recognize and step out of negative cycles in sexual relationship (communication and behaviors) which pit partners against each other, creating more distance and distress and move towards positive cycles of interaction which promote safety, trust, and ease in the relationship
- Recognize and begin to step out of old performance based sexual scripts which are not working for one or both partners and together discover and create new intentions for sexual experiences which would be pleasurable for both
- Discover what is hitting the sexual breaks for one or both partners. We often focus solely on the “sexual accelerator” not realizing our “emergency break” is on. When we try to have sexual experiences with our “breaks” on it continues to lower our desire. “Breaks” include pressure, stress, anger, and much more.
~MY JOURNEY TO SEX THERAPY
I’ve been a couples’ therapist for over 10 years. Over the years I have noticed the topic of sex felt restricted. It’s normal for couples to feel uncomfortable talking about sex in therapy. Therefore, it is my role to create a safe place where couples can begin to talk openly about their sexual relationships. I understand, first hand the discomfort and awkwardness when talking about sex. I grew up in a conservative home with sheltered experiences of sex and sexuality. I received no education or discussion about relationships, sex, sexuality, my changing body or any other topics related to sex. I internalized the culture messages around sex being taboo and something we should not talk about. Which is why I am working hard to remove barriers to talking about sex, making is safer, more comfortable and a little less awkward.
In an effort to be a source of comfort, safety, education and provide a safe space to talk about sexuality and sexual relationships I am currently enrolled in a Sex Therapy Certification Program. I am engrossed in education and learning around sexuality as well as participating in individual and group supervision provided by sex therapist supervisors.