Sensate focus is a therapeutic technique that focuses on touching and being touched – to help in focusing on sexual sensations. It is often used in couples’ sex therapy for couples to improve their communication, intimacy, and sexual experiences.
The technique involves focusing on the physical sensations of touch in a sequence and exploring each other’s bodies in a sensual manner, with the aim of increasing the level of awareness of pleasure, reducing the anxiety surrounding sexual intimacy and helping the couples let go of their expectations and judgements related to sexual intimacy. By using sensate focus, couples can learn to communicate more effectively, build trust, and create a more satisfying sensual and sexual experience.
In the first lesson of this handbook on Couple Sex Therapy, we’ll dive deeper into what sensate focus is, how it works, and how you can use it to improve your sexual experiences and deepen your intimacy with your partner.
Sensate Focus: What Is It?
The technique of sensate focus was developed by Dr. William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson in the 1960s and has since become a widely used sex therapy technique.
It was introduced with the intention of helping individuals and couples relax and be mindful of the physical sensations, reduce anxiety, improve on their communication, and enhance intimacy and sexual pleasure.
For this, a series of structured exercises in which couples engage in non-sexual touch was designed. These exercises were created to help couples focus on the physical sensations of touch and explore each other’s bodies in a mindful and intentional way.
How Can It Be Used To Treat Sexual Dysfunctions?
Sensate focus can be used to treat a variety of sexual problems, including low libido, erectile dysfunction, and orgasmic dysfunction. It is often used as part of a comprehensive Couples sex therapy program and may be tailored to the specific needs and goals of each individual or couple. Overall, it can help couples to communicate more effectively, build trust, and create a more satisfying sexual experience.
Types Of Sensate Focus Used In Sex Therapy
Sensate focus is a structured therapeutic technique that includes a sequential set of exercises. The types of sensate focus exercises used would vary depending on the goals and needs of the individual or couple. Here are some of the most common types of sensate focus exercises used at different stages of the therapeutic process.
Non-sexual touch: This involves simple, non-sexual touch without the intention of sexually arousing the partner such as holding hands, exploring the partners body, hugging, or cuddling. Goal – to reduce anxiety and tension and to establish a sense of comfort and safety between partners.
Body exploration: This involves exploring each other’s bodies with your hands, focusing on different areas such as the neck, back, arms, and legs. Goal – to increase awareness of physical sensations and to become more comfortable with each other’s bodies.
Sensual massage: This involves a more intimate touch, such as massage. Goal – to experience pleasure and relaxation without the expectation of reaching an orgasm.
Mutual touch: This involves partners taking turns exploring each other’s bodies. Goal – experiencing pleasure and relaxation rather than achieving sexual arousal or orgasm.
Genital exploration: This involves exploring each other’s genitals with your hands, focusing on the physical sensations of touch and pleasure. Goal – to become more comfortable with genital touch and to increase awareness of your own and your partner’s sexual responses.
Sexual touch: This involves incorporating sexual touch and intimacy into the sensate focus exercises. Goal – more focused on communication, intimacy, and pleasure rather than on performance or achieving specific sexual outcomes.
Who Conducts Sensate Focus Therapy?
Sensate-focus therapy is typically conducted by licensed sex therapists and mental health professionals who have received specialized training in sex therapy. This may include psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, or other licensed therapists who have received training in sex therapy.
Therapists who offer sensate focus therapy typically have a thorough understanding of human sexuality, sexual anatomy and physiology, and the various sexual concerns and challenges that individuals and couples may face. They also have experience working with couples to address a wide range of sexual issues, such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and orgasmic dysfunction.
In addition to their knowledge and expertise in sex therapy, therapists who offer sensate focus therapy should also have excellent communication skills and be able to create a safe and supportive environment for their clients. They should be able to work collaboratively with clients to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to their unique needs and goals.
It’s important to choose a therapist who is experienced and trained in sex therapy if you are considering sensate focus therapy or any other type of sexual counselling or therapy.
Does Sensate Focus Actually Work?
Yes, the sensate focus is an effective therapeutic technique for improving intimacy and sexual functioning in couples.
Research has shown that sensate focus can be an effective treatment for a range of sexual difficulties, including erectile dysfunction, and difficulty achieving orgasm. It has also been shown to be helpful for couples who have experienced a decline in their sexual desire or intimacy.
One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 72% of couples who received sensate focus therapy reported improvements in their sexual functioning and satisfaction. Another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that sensate focus therapy led to significant improvements in couples’ sexual desire, sexual arousal, and sexual satisfaction.
By focusing on developing awareness and sensitivity to each other’s bodies and needs, couples can experience significant improvements in their sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of sensate focus may vary depending on the individual or couple, and it’s always advisable to seek the guidance of a trained therapist when undergoing this type of therapy.
Sexual concerns can be complex and sensitive, it’s common for people to have a lot of questions regarding couples’ sex therapy and many couples may feel hesitant or embarrassed to seek help. If you have questions or concerns about couples’ sex therapy, it may be helpful to speak with a trained sex therapist who can provide more information and address any concerns you may have. You can also book a call with our sexual health experts at Allo Health to guide you through your queries and treatment.