Sensual Discovery in Couple Sex Therapy

Sensate Focus (SF) or Sensual discovery is not a one-size treatment that can fix all cases - a therapist will modify the exercises involved in each stage basis your sexual dysfunction. SF is used to treat many intimacy-related problems such as couples who view sex as a task, so it is a "performance" but in reality, they are to give and receive pleasure. The fun element involved in sexual discovery disappears and pressure of performance and anxiety take the front seat.

Repeated attempts and failures during sexual intimacy reinforce the belief that there is something wrong with the body. This leads to avoidance of sexual intimacy. SF is a stepwise approach to help couples get over the performance anxiety and begin to enjoy intimacy without worrying about the outcome. 

Couples are commonly focused on sexual INTERCOURSE (I/C), and less focused or altogether ignore OUTERCOURSE (O/C) which is anything a couple would do intimately without clothes behind closed doors. In sexual dysfunction, intercourse and outercourse suffer - the latter usually becomes narrow. The I/C & O/C together are called the ‘Sexual Script’.

Sensate Focus exercises are introduced in a systematic stepwise manner which allows the couple to "pace" their intimacy gently/gradually. This allows for the alleviation of undue pressure on one or both of the partners.

Purpose of Sensate Focus

SF has several purposes, both for the couple and for the therapist, some of which are listed below:

- To improve upon the sexual script, i.e Outercourse, and Intercourse 
- Bring in a balance between the partners being a giver/receiver 
- To re-introduce the fun element into intimacy 
- To improve communication concerning preferences of likes/dislikes in intimacy 
- To foster constructive feedback among the couple while giving/receiving pleasure 
- To build a "one team" approach/mutually support each other
- For the therapist, SF exercises also serve the purpose of being diagnostic. By this we mean, it tells a lot about what is happening between them, what is unsaid. For example - if a couple comes back without doing any exercises, the therapist wonders what is the matter here - are the couple not communicating well, is one of them not keen, are they unable to plan, etc. 

SF is not a prescription as those don't allow for deviation - the SF is a framework within which the couple can make their own desired modifications.

Do’s And Don’ts: All Stages Of Sensate Focus

- Aim to do these exercises at least three times a week without clothes on.
- Try to do the exercises when you have some energy left and not as the last activity of the day when you're tired or after consuming a heavy meal, alcohol, etc.
- Ensure that there is enough privacy and that you and your partner will not be disturbed.
- Make sure you and your partner have minimal interruptions (i.e shut off phones, alarms, etc)
- Schedule or discuss with your partner and agree on a time to perform these exercises. 
- If you'd like to make it romantic/spice it up, play music in the background, lightly scented candles, or whatever you find pleasurable during sexual activity.
- We positively encourage talking and sharing ideas/thoughts/jokes/ during the exercises 
- You are allowed to use paraphernalia such as massage oils, feathers, or whatever you find pleasurable during sexual activity and is acceptable to your partner.

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