Let’s talk about it: integrative couples and sex therapy.

A Q&A about the benefits of an integrative couples and sex therapy approach.

Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be…

… Let’s talk about sex for now
To the people at home or in the crowd
It keeps coming up anyhow
Don’t be coy, avoid, or make void the topic
Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it
Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows
Many will know anything goes

… Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be
How it was, and of course, how it should be…

(Lyrics from Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s talk about sex”, album “Blacks’ Magic”, 1990)

Okay now that the Salt-N-Pepa classic is stuck in your head too (you’re welcome), let’s talk about sex. I recently completed training as a Certified Sex Therapy Informed Professional (CSTIP) with renowned sex therapist and author Dr. Tammy Nelson. I’d like to address some typical questions that come up around the subject.

Q. Why did you train as a CSTIP and does this replace your Gottman couples training?

I completed the training to strengthen my work with individuals and couples who are looking to improve or repair their relationships, are suffering from differences in sexual desire, address previous erotic trauma, or are experiencing problems with sexual dysfunction or the inability to experience erotic pleasure.

Famed psychotherapist and author Esther Perel has written extensively about relationships and intimacy. Perel believes that commitment is a choice that partners make to stay together and work through the challenges that arise in a relationship. It involves a sense of responsibility and dedication to the relationship, even when things get tough.

On the other hand, intimacy is the emotional connection that partners share with each other. It involves vulnerability, trust, and a willingness to be open and honest with each other. Perel argues that while commitment is important for relationships to exist, it is not enough on its own. Intimacy is also crucial for a relationship to thrive and for partners to feel fulfilled and connected to each other.

Traditional couples therapy approaches tend to focus mainly on commitment but either fail to address or take a light touch to the erotic side of the relationship house. I practice Gottman therapy for couples, which is founded on over 40 years of scientific research, and firmly believe in the effectiveness of these interventions for improving communication, conflict resolution, and commitment. This training does not replace the Gottman approach, but instead enhances my ability to directly address the erotic intimacy issues that many of my clients are facing.

Q. What exactly is sex therapy?

Sex therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on addressing sexual issues and improving sexual function and satisfaction. It is a form of talk therapy that is designed to help individuals and couples overcome problems such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, and difficulty achieving orgasm (pleasure disorders). It also addresses affair recovery.

During sessions, we may discuss clients’ sexual history, beliefs, and attitudes about sex that have been formed by past experiences, culture, religion, and generational influences. We also discuss current sexual experiences and concerns. The therapy helps to provide a safe space for these discussions devoid of embarrassment, judgment, or shame. We open communication on what is often a difficult subject for many and work on specific ways to enhance intimacy and connection.

Q. I love my partner and overall, we have a great relationship, but we rarely have sex now and live like roommates. Is that abnormal, do we need help?

First, there is no “normal”. What works for you and your partner within your relationship is up to you as a couple to define. If you are both on the same page about your expectations, needs, and desires for erotic intimacy within the relationship, the frequency of intercourse or other forms of physical touch may not be problematic. Problems arise when couples have differing views on this, and often have difficulties communicating their needs and desires for intimacy or understanding what might be getting in the way.

A “sexless marriage” is a term widely used to describe a marriage or committed relationship where the couple has little to no sexual activity. This can be a result of various factors such as medical conditions, stress, lack of communication, or simply a loss of interest in sex. A loss of attraction or interest in sex can happen over time as couples become more comfortable with each other or as they age. 

Lack of physical intimacy in a relationship can be a source of frustration and tension for both partners. It can lead to feelings of rejection, loneliness, and even infidelity. It is important for couples to address these issues and seek help if necessary to improve their relationship and restore intimacy. This is where integrative couples and sex therapy can really help. One technique I employ is Dr. Nelson’s “Six-week erotic recovery protocol” to help couples begin to reconnect intimately without pressure or expectations and emphasizes couples’ ability to experience pleasure together just for the sake of pleasure alone. 

Q. Do you work with people who are not in heterosexual or “traditional” monogamous relationships?

Absolutely! Issues with erotic intimacy, infidelity, and dysfunctions of course occur within LGBTQ relationships and in non-traditional relationship structures, such as within open marriages and polyamorous units. My goal is to provide a safe space for all to discuss erotic issues and help clients to better communicate and define their own relationship agreement that works for their unique situation to improve connection, intimacy, and erotic fulfillment.

If you think that an integrative couples and sex therapy approach could benefit your relationship but have questions, please contact me for a free 20-minute video call to discuss this further.