In the previous lesson of the handbook, we covered that the sensate focus is a therapeutic technique used to improve sexual experiences and relationships. It involves focusing on physical sensations and pleasure during sexual activity instead of solely focusing on achieving orgasm or sexual performance. It is used as a treatment for sexual problems and emotional barriers to sexual intimacy. By engaging in sensate focus exercises, individuals can increase their comfort and confidence with their bodies and their partners, leading to more satisfying sexual experiences.
These exercises progress through different stages, and each of them is designed to increase intimacy and connection between partners. The first stage typically involves non-sexual touch, followed by genital touch in subsequent stages. The focus in each stage is on experiencing pleasure and increasing awareness of physical sensations, rather than on achieving orgasm or sexual performance. In this lesson, we will explore each of the different stages of sensate focus in more detail.
Different Phases Of Sensate Focus
Ideally, it is recommended that both the individuals have showered, undressed and free of any accessories. The first phase, the genital areas are “off limits/ banned areas”. It involves non-sexual touch, such as holding hands, hugging, caressing and exploring the partners body – the ‘erogenous zones’. The focus is on creating a safe and comfortable environment where partners can explore each other’s bodies without pressure or expectations of sexual activity. This phase can be particularly helpful for those who have difficulty with intimacy and connection.
Sexual Touch with Genital Contact
The second phase involves sexual touch with genital contact, such as kissing and exploring each other’s bodies. The focus is on increasing awareness of physical sensations and pleasure, rather than on achieving orgasm or sexual performance. Individuals are also allowed to engage in mutual masturbation – however, intercourse is not allowed.
The third phase involves genital touch with a focus on achieving orgasm. Partners may engage in sexual activity, but the focus is still on experiencing pleasure and increasing awareness of physical sensations rather than on performance. The purpose of this phase is to help individuals and couples become more comfortable with their bodies and sexual responses and to enhance their sexual experiences. This phase can be particularly helpful for those who struggle with sexual dysfunction or low libido.
Each phase is designed to increase intimacy and connection between partners. Overall, the purpose of sensate focus is to help individuals and couples build intimacy, trust, and comfort with physical touch and sexual experiences. By focusing on different phases of touch and pleasure, individuals and couples can gradually explore their sexual desires and improve their overall sexual health and well-being.
When Can You Engage In Penetrative Sex According To Sensate Focus?
Each individual and relationship is unique, and it’s up to the partners involved to decide when they feel ready and comfortable to engage in this form of sexual activity.
To answer the question, “Is there an ideal time to have penetrative sex if you are following sensate focus?”, No, there isn’t!
Sensate focus is a process-oriented therapy that prioritizes the exploration of sexual sensations and the development of communication and intimacy between partners. As such, there is no specific timeline or ideal time for engaging in penetrative sex within the context of sensate focus.
The emphasis of this approach is on mutual consent, open communication, and a focus on pleasurable sensations rather than any prescribed timeline or expectation.
Can Sensate Focus Exercises Be Practiced At Home?
Couples should keep in mind that practicing sensate focus exercises at home is not a substitute for therapy with a trained sex therapist. But yes, one can definitely practice sensate focus exercises at home! In fact, many sex therapists recommend that couples practice sensate focus exercises outside of therapy sessions in order to build their sexual communication and intimacy skills.
To practice sensate focus exercises at home, couples should create a comfortable and private environment that is conducive to relaxation and intimacy. They should set aside time to engage in the exercises and communicate openly throughout the process. It’s important to approach the exercises with a sense of curiosity and playfulness, rather than a goal-oriented mindset.
Sensate Focus At Home: Practicing Mutual Touching
Mutual touching is a common sensate focus exercise that involves partners taking turns exploring each other’s bodies with their hands.
To do this, find a comfortable and private environment where you and your partner won’t be interrupted. Once in a comfortable environment, take turns exploring each other’s bodies with your hands, focusing on non-genital areas at first. Use a variety of touches, such as light caresses, firm pressure, or kneading. Make sure to communicate throughout the process, letting each other know what feels pleasurable and what doesn’t. Gradually move to explore more sensitive areas, such as the breasts, genitals, or buttocks, as partners feel comfortable.
Sensate Focus At Home: Genital Touching
Once you and your partner are comfortable with mutual touching you can start with gentle touch around the genital area, such as the thighs and pubic region. Avoid touching the genitals directly at first, and communicate with your partner about what feels pleasurable and what doesn’t. As you and your partner become more comfortable, you can explore genital touch in more detail. This can include exploring each other’s genitals with your hands or engaging in mutual masturbation.
Remember to always approach genital touching with clear communication and mutual consent. If at any point either partner feels uncomfortable or wants to stop the exercise, it’s important to communicate that with your partner and respect their boundaries.
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.