When all medical causes have been ruled out, a therapist can help you and your partner identify any possible psychological factors that may be impacting your sexual relationship. One way to do this is through sensate focus therapy, which is a type of sex therapy that uses exercises to help couples reconnect physically and emotionally. If you’re struggling with low libido, pain during sex, or other issues that are affecting your sexual relationship, sensate focus therapy may be able to help. Here’s everything you need to know about this approach to sex therapy.
What Is Sensate Focus Therapy?
Sensate focus therapy is a type of sex therapy that is based on the idea that sexual problems can be resolved by focusing on physical sensations (2).
The goal of sensate focus therapy is to help couples learn to enjoy touching and being touched without the goal of intercourse. This type of therapy can help couples who have problems with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and pain during sex (5).
Sensate focus therapy was developed in the 1970s by Masters and Johnson, who are considered the pioneers of sex therapy. The technique is based on behaviorism, which is a type of therapy that focuses on changing behavior through conditioning (2).
How Does Sensate Focus Work?
Sensate focus therapy uses a system of graduated exercises to help couples learn how to touch each other in a way that is pleasurable and non-threatening (4). This type of therapy can help couples who have any level of sexual dysfunction, including those who have never experienced an orgasm.
The first step in sensate focus therapy is for each partner to spend time massaging the other’s body without focusing on any particular goal, such as arousal or orgasm. The aim is simply to become comfortable with touching and being touched.
Once both partners feel comfortable with this, they can move on to more specific touching exercises, such as manual stimulation of the genitals or oral sex. The important thing is to focus on the pleasure of the touch itself, rather than on any goal beyond that.
Sensate focus therapy can be done with a therapist present or on your own at home. If you opt to do it with a therapist, they will likely guide you through each step of the process and be there to answer any questions you may have.
If you choose to do sensate focus exercises at home, there are plenty of resources available online or in books that can help you get started.
Read More: Fear Of Sex: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment
Is Sensate Focus Effective?
Sensate focus combines two effective elements: mindfulness and exposure therapy. Both elements are proven effective for treating anxiety and improving relationships.
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It is a practice that can help you focus on your senses and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings.
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that involves exposing yourself to the things you fear in a safe and controlled environment. This allows you to learn to manage your anxiety and improve your coping skills.
Sensate focus combines these two effective therapies to help you reduce anxiety, improve communication, and increase intimacy in your relationship (3).
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Sensate Focus Exercises For Couples
Sensate focus exercises are designed to help you focus on your senses and increase intimacy in your relationship (1). These exercises can be done with or without clothes.
- Make eye contact: Look into your partner’s eyes for 30 seconds while they do the same.
- Hold hands: Sit facing each other and hold hands while you look into each other’s eyes.
- Give a massage: Take turns massaging each other’s back, neck, and shoulders.
- Touch: Take turns touching each other all over the body, starting with the hands and feet. Spend extra time on areas that feel good.
- Taste: Feed each other small bites of food, taking the time to savor the taste.
- Smell: Take turns smelling each other’s hair, skin, and clothing.
- Listen: Lie down and focus on the sound of your partner’s breath and heartbeat.
- Look: Spend time looking at your partner’s face, body, and eyes. Really see them.
The Bottom Line
Sensate focus exercises can help you reduce anxiety, improve communication, and increase intimacy in your relationship. If you have any concerns about these exercises, talk to a therapist or doctor who can help you tailor them to your needs.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- ABC of sexual health: Management of sexual problems (19998, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sensate focus: a critical literature review (2015, tandfonline.com)
- Sensate Focus: clarifying the Masters and Johnson’s model (2014, tandfonline.com)
- Sensate Focus (2019, health.cornell.edu)
- Sensate Focus for Sexual Concerns: an Updated, Critical Literature Review (2019, link.springer.com)