My approach to sex therapy is unusual, and counter intuitive to our culture’s usual assumptions about sexuality. I don’t start with the assumption that there’s something ‘not working’ with your body or your capacity for intimacy.
My starting assumption, and the basis for all my work, is that our bodies are intrinsically pleasurable. We all – or almost all – come into the world with that capacity. However, most of us don’t experience our bodies in that way. Why?
First, because many of us have experienced unwelcome or uninvited touch, touch we don’t like, touch that we’ve not asked for, touch that might be shocking to us, and so on. In consequence, our body becomes tense and vigilant, always anticipating what might happen next. Because of this, we are unable to relax into the present moment.
Second, we have lots of ideas lying on top of this capacity for pleasure, like a lump of concrete, hiding and repressing it. Ideas about what sex should be like, what we should be feeling, how we should relate and suchlike. All these ideas are very tied in to the wider idea of sex as performance, so we are always assessing what we’re feeling against what we imagine we should be feeling. Except, if you focus on what isn’t there and why it isn’t there, present focused relaxed awareness is impossible.
And what makes all this even worse is the dominant idea of sex as arousal, going from neutral, turned off, to turned on, the body like a machine with an on/off button, rather than understanding that arousal arises out of pleasurable, present focused relaxation, connection and receptivity.
Because of all this, we require to rediscover this capacity for pleasure. How?
We rediscover our capacity for pleasure not by fixing ourselves, like you would repair a machine so it works again, but by rediscovering and expressing our innate feelingness and wholeness. I help you to do this in three ways: Communication, Embodiment and Expansion, and I work with you in three modes: in person, online or by telephone.
Communication is essential, but for most of us, problematic. So the first aspect of my work is how you learn to say what you want, what you don’t want, and to be clear in any moment of engagement with another who this is for. We need to learn to know what we want, how to ask for it, how to authentically give, how to allow, all from a wholehearted position of consent which is focused in the here and now, not given once and then forgotten.
Next, embodiment. When we think of embodiment in the context of sexuality, people are likely to think of tantric massage, of genital massage, of high states of arousal and so on. But for me, that’s the wrong way round. The issue is how we can release our bodies from all the tension and self consciousness and vigilance which is habitually carried. And given that quite a lot of that tension might have been created by unwelcome or inept sexual touch in the past, intimate touch is almost never the place to start. My focus isn’t so much the where of the touch, but the how. That is, how can I work with you so that the touch is agreed and has clear boundaries, follows your curiosity and interest, is an expression of your pleasurable sovereignty and self determination, and results in you feeling more?
A large part of my embodiment work doesn’t involve my touching you at all. In my telephone sessions, for example, I focus on establishing a sense of deep relaxation and connectivity, and from there moving to explore a deepening experiential sense of your body. Many people just have a picture – frequently negative – of what their body looks like, but don’t have a very developed sense of what their body feels like. I find that through a combination of breathwork, self touch, visualisation and guidance, people can develop a much more profound and deeper sense of themselves and their bodies. This in turn leads to a change in how sexuality is viewed from being something that you do – the idea of sex as performance – to part of your essence, who you are. So your sexual activity, with yourself or with others, isn’t seen primarily as performance but as self expression and authentic connection.
Other people might have fallen into quite a limited and repetitive pattern of self pleasure, and want help to broaden that. Others are terribly lacking in confidence, and just need information and guidance.
Building on embodiment and communication, the third leg of my work is expansion. We have a very limited, functional, performance and orgasm focused way of looking at sex. There are many areas of sexuality, which give rise to very varied experience. Often, people are locked into quite a limited and repetitive sexuality, and so part of my work is opening that out. For example, there may be a very functional or orgasm-as-goal perspective, which leaves one or both partners feeling emotionally dissatisfied, and which would really benefit from a more emotional or spiritual input. Or there might be an anxious focus on performance, in which case engaging with Play is really beneficial. Or there might be a lack of self confidence, the idea that you can’t take the lead because you don’t know anything, in which case I can teach you skills, such as how to touch another intimately.
When I work with you, I will work with these three frames of reference, but the how of what we do in a session is very flexible. Some people are very focused on experiencing through the body. Other people appreciate ideas for expansive exercises they can do at home, for themselves, or with their partner. Some people want to talk. Some people find the best way to connect with their body is through visualisation and related practices, rather than touch. Some people want to explore connection. Some people want all of these things. That’s all fantastic. No two sessions will look the same, and my work is uniquely tailored to respond to each person’s needs. No one gets the same recipe, because the recipe is co-created: we get a sense of where you are and where you want to go, I give you options, we discuss what we do, and you choose, and we keep doing that, so the work is relational rather than remedial.
Obviously, some people just want to be ‘fixed’, and if that’s so, then my work probably isn’t for them.
If my perspective chimes with you, I invite you to get in touch for a chat and see if you’d like us to work together. I describe myself as a sex therapist, because I feel that’s the most accurate way of describing what I do, but my work could be equally well described as sex counselling or sexual education.
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