Monday, April 29, 2019

Sensate Focused Sex Therapy: How Does it Feel?

Sensate Focused Sex Therapy: How Does it Feel?

Jun 14, 2018

Written By Jennifer Kane, LCSW and EFT practitioner
You can contact Jennifer to schedule an appt at
Most couples that come into my office aren’t happy with their sex life. As an Emotionally-Focused (EFT) couples therapist, it makes sense: partners who don’t share a secure, healthy attachment bond often feel estranged in many ways, especially in vulnerable areas like sex. Couples get caught in negative cycles of behavior that block intimacy and connection. The EFT therapist helps partners understand these cycles, the emotions that drive them, and ultimately how to share and ask for their needs to be met by each other.
 Disconnection in sex can have many symptoms. Couples may have difficulty even discussing the subject, and rely on mind-reading or inaccurate cues to make assumptions. Some partners are afraid to risk rejection if they make a sexual advance that is turned down for any reason. Other partners are afraid they won’t “perform” well enough, or that they are inadequate and insufficient in pleasing their partners. Many couples wonder why they don’t feel the level of intense passion they felt at the beginning of their relationship, and assume there must be something wrong with them if they don’t. Even more common are “desire discrepancies,” where one partner feels distanced and lonely for a sexual relationship and the other just isn’t that into it. Guilt, pressure, obligation, resentments and misunderstandings can quickly take over. For many couples, it’s easier to ignore the subject altogether than to open the door to more hurt and distance. They may go months or years without sexual intimacy, adding insult and injury to an already strained relationship.
If the couple is brave enough to confront the issues that keep them apart, therapy can help. For an EFT therapist, it’s time to go deep into “attachment-land,” focusing on the neglected emotions and primary needs of each partner that can be disguised as critical attacks or angry withdrawals. The same protests and defenses that signal our need for emotional connection can be attributed to sexual problems as well. Either way, couples are left feeling insecure about their bond, unsure of their desirability, and hopeless about how to fix it. But as the emotions underlying each partner’s behaviors and attachment needs are expressed and shared, safety can start to creep back in. When couples feel “reconnected,” all areas of the relationship improve, including sex.   Couples can identify when they are out of step and experience new ways of coming back together. They can go from needing to “watch their backs” to feeling they “have each other’s backs.” What a huge difference!
 Some couples who have particularly negative patterns of interacting sexually can also benefit from “Sensate Focus Sex Therapy,” an effective tool in a couple therapist’s toolbox. This model helps couples restart their physical connection from scratch, beginning with the basic premise that sex is a natural function that can neither be forced nor denied. In a series of structured, specific exercises, couples learn to touch each other again in the most basic sense of the word, starting with a non-sexual touch, mindful only of the sensations of temperature, pressure and texture and intentionally avoiding distractions such as “Am I doing this right?” “Am I really in the mood?” “I hope this will satisfy him/her for the next few weeks. . .” and “What did I need from the grocery again?” 
In Sensate Focus Therapy, touch is reestablished as something that is sensory-oriented, not goal-oriented. When it is understood in terms of an emotion and experience instead of a performance or obligation, the anxieties that accompany sex can start to be identified and soothed. Couples can then build on these positive experiences and expand their touching sessions to include sexual touch, pleasurable touch, and mutually bonding interactions that can be treasured, not avoided. The important thing is that they move only as quickly as is comfortable for both parties. Many times, sex within a secure, loving relationship can be more playful and adventurous than ever imagined when couples feel safe enough to be themselves and let go.
 EFT therapy and Sensate Focused Sex Therapy can go hand-in-hand. Both focus on the negative cycles that prevent a vulnerable, secure connection.   Both look closely at the emotions underlying each partner’s protective or defensive behaviors. Both also examine a couple’s impact on each other, and gradually ease them into a safe place of asking to have their needs met in a secure, loving way.
Jennifer Kane, LCSW EFT practictioner is a contracted therapist with Insight Counseling Center. Her passion is to support couples in deepening their connection and healing together.  
You may schedule an appointment directly with her at or 303-517-2776.
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