Q: I was taught, and have frequently heard, the truism that if you clear up a couple’s emotional connection in therapy, their sexual connection will heal all by itself. In light of all that I have been learning in your course, I am beginning to think this might be wrong. What do you think?
A: This very common belief is a grave disservice to both therapists and clients! It is certainly true that for most people, satisfying sex both fosters connection and requires connection. However, in most cases, strengthening communication and emotional connection is not nearly enough to improve sexual intimacy.
Here are three important reasons why:
- Accurate information is not readily available, and misinformation is plentiful. There is nothing more satisfying than offering up a few pieces of carefully timed psychoeducation and watching entrenched gridlock between partners dissolve, leading to a dramatically faster and more effective therapy.
- Limiting yet culturally normative views about what sex is, what constitutes healthy sexuality, and what a “good” sexual interaction looks like are usually a huge part of the problem. Discussing this directly is crucial; we don’t know we’re trapped by a myth until someone shows us another way.
- Sex is a taboo topic. Many couples who become able to skillfully communicate about other topics are much less effective when it comes to this vulnerable material. These are the clients who come into my office complaining that they have seen many therapists, yet their primary issue remains unchanged because I am the first one who has talked directly about sex with them.
Until every therapist has accurate information about sex, the ability to conceptualize cases beyond culturally limiting constructs, and effective strategies for doing so with skill, many clients will not get the help they need.
I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. Did you learn that focusing on connection cures everything? Do you find that a frank, direct discussion makes a difference in your effectiveness? How do your clients respond? Please head over to my Facebook page and tell me about it!