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Is sensate right for your relationship?

A couple shares an affectionate embrace in bed, illuminated by natural light from the window.

As a therapist dedicated to holistic well-being, including sexuality, intimacy, and communication, I have many tools in my toolbox. One of my favorites is Sensate Focus Exercises. It is an approach to therapy that promotes enhanced communication, self-discovery, and profound intimacy. In this blog post, we’ll look at its history, benefits, and transformative potential.

Sensate Focus was pioneered by Masters and Johnson in the mid-20th century as a way of treating a wide variety of sexual dysfunctions including decreased libido in women and erectile dysfunctions in men. It also can be used for the intimacy issues that sometimes occur in long-term relationships. In addition to sexual concerns, Sensate Focus other benefits can include promoting mindfulness, enhancing communication, and fostering intimacy.

In therapy, Sensate Focus serves as a powerful tool for assessment and treatment. The therapist first assesses the clients’ comfort levels with touch and intimacy, leading the way for deeper exploration of their relational dynamics. From there, the therapist personalizes the treatment to address specific concerns such as sexual dysfunction, desire discrepancies, relationship issues, or body image concerns. Homework between sessions fosters a sense of agency and ownership over the healing process. In my experience, most couples report being surprised by how much they enjoy the homework.

The key to Sensate Focus work is that it de-emphasizes performance-oriented sexual activities and prioritizes sensory experiences. It involves structured exercises where partners begin by engaging in non-sexual touch and exploration of each other’s bodies in a safe and judgment-free space, with no pressure to get to “the next step.”

By embracing Sensate Focus principles of mindfulness, non-judgmental exploration, and mutual vulnerability, clients can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their partners. In my role as a sex therapist, I approach Sensate Focus with sensitivity, empathy, and a client-centered focus, ensuring that clients feel supported and respected throughout their journey of self-discovery and growth.

I invite you to reach out with issues about sex and intimacy and we can see if Sensate Focus exercises could be helpful for you.

by Debby Spertus, LSW

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