Sex Therapy Online: the benefits
How can we work with sexual issues remotely? Surely it’s essential to at least have the option of working with the body?
I certainly thought this, and had steadfastly set myself against working online or by phone until shortly before the present health emergency. By pure coincidence, a potential client [let’s call her Robin] approached me through my website in late January 2020. Although she lived locally, she explained that coming to see me straight away was just too big an ask for her, and would I be willing to have a couple of sessions on Zoom, which she hoped would establish enough connection and safety for her to then move to in person sessions?
I wasn’t keen. When I left the therapy world, and embraced working with sexuality, I thought of myself primarily as a bodyworker, working mainly through touch rather than words. That touch needed to be agreed, boundaried and safe of course, but touch was, I thought, my metier.
As time went on, and as I accumulated invaluable experience with actual clients, I gradually modified this view.
I discovered that what was essential to make positive change happen wasn’t what was done in a session, but what the client felt and specifically, how the client felt different. And particularly, that it was an absolute prerequisite for meaningful change that the client felt safe, listened to and in warm compassionate connection. For almost all clients, this was the foundation for any bodywork, and often it would take a number of sessions to get there. Of course, some clients didn’t want bodywork. They just wanted the chance to talk, to communicate. Others wanted guidance on how to broaden their sexual range, or to feel more confident in asking for what they want, which didn’t need to involve touch at all.
Anyway, returning to Robin, I agreed to work in the way she asked, as the first step. Lockdown followed several weeks afterwards, which compelled us to keep working online. To my surprise, it was surprisingly beneficial working in this way, and so I adapted my work for Zoom, working out ways of working with both individuals and couples.
The sessions are shorter: one hour instead of two, and more frequent, usually weekly, so there is a clearer continuity between sessions.
So, what sort of issues can be addressed in this way? Well, if you have a look at my questionnaire, which you can access on the website via Contact John > links and resources > EBL questionnaire, you’ll find it asks quite a lot of distinct questions, and you might speculate how we could work online with these. I’ll break this down to individuals and couples.
Working with Individuals
Talking and Communication. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of this. We need to talk, to be heard, and to be constructively engaged with. Sometimes, when people talk to me about sexual issues, they haven’t talked to anyone about them before.
Embodiment through somatic visualisation. One of the things I love doing is to work with a client to get them into a relaxed receptive state, then getting them to experience their body in a much more pleasurable, deeper way, using imagery, memory and association, as well as somatic and breath awareness, which changes both how they feel about themselves and how they can relate to others. This works best with the cameras switched off.
Changing our Patterns. A lot of people feel stuck. So, for example, they might have quite monotonous and repetitive ways to pleasure themselves, but have no idea how to change. And likewise, with their partners and lovers. That’s exactly the kind of thing I can help with. I can help with masturbation coaching, and I can also significantly widen a client’s repertoire, both physical and emotional, so they can get off the treadmill of unsatisfying sexual engagement.
Learning New Ways of Relating. I have extensive experience of working with people so they can become able to ask for what they want, not endure what they don’t want, and become much clearer in their thinking about consent, so they can ask and answer “Who is this for?”
Learning New Perspectives on Sexuality. I work with multiple ways of approaching and thinking about sexuality which is a brilliant way to think freshly about and explore the whole varied terrain, to give you some ideas about what you might like to experiment with. So, for example, exploring tantric ideas of sexuality, exploring role play and fantasy, working with trance like states, and so on.
Learning new skills. A lot of people are very lacking in confidence about their sexual techniques or relating with a partner. I can help with that.
Sometimes people ask if they will have to do awkward or embarrassing things on screen. You don’t. If I give exercises, I will give instructions, and you do them in your own time, privately.
Working with Couples
My online work with couples combines two things: the belief that there are distinct and equally legitimate modes of human sexuality, and what I’ve come to call The Compass of Sexuality, which is my fancy term for categorising all the multifarious ways we view sex.
I meet with the couple online for an initial chat to see if we might be a good fit, and if they want to go ahead, and if I think I can help.
If they want to go ahead, I ask them both to fill in a detailed questionnaire, and then I speak to each of them separately, to get a sense of where the imbalances and issues in the relationship might be, and how these might be progressively resolved.
I then give them a couple of exercises to do in their own time, and meet with them a week later [20 minutes individually, and 20 together] to find out how they got on, correct any misunderstandings, attend to any mishaps, vary the exercises as appropriate, and give them further exercises.
I’ve found this works very well. Things which they might not have thought of before, or thought too risky, become much easier when they are done as part of an ongoing, open enquiry. Because I’m prescribing the exercises, there’s much less chance of shame or judgement. Any hiccups can be blamed on me, and they don’t stop the couple moving forward.
People often find online work easier. You don’t leave your home. You retain control. It’s more convenient. It’s patently safe. You can be anywhere: all you need is a computer and the English language.
If you’d like to chat with me to see if any of these ways of working are for you, please get in touch.
[You can read more about my approach to working with couples here