Helpful Links

I started blogging in 2016. Now, two years later, I’ve amassed a pretty significant backlog of posts, each of which strives to provide something of value to therapists and individuals: useful tips about building fulfilling relationships, sorely-needed little-known facts about sexuality, answers to pressing questions from my subscribers and students.

When my course started at the beginning of this month, I received tons of questions from my new students–and realized that a good many of them related to topics I have written about here. I write about these topics because I want therapists to have access to thoughtful, high-quality information and advice about how to handle sex issues in therapy, and I want that information to be easy to access whether or not you take my course. For that reason, I thought I’d put together a guide to the topics I’ve covered before on my blog, so that you can easily find answers to your questions if I’ve addressed them before here.

As I wrote in the very first post on this blog, I’m on a mission to change the culture of therapy regarding sex, to create a world in which every therapist feels confident addressing sex issues, and every person struggling with a sex issue can access the help and healing they need. A big part of that mission is making sure that therapists and individuals have access to the information they need. This compilation is one small step in the direction of making that kind of information more readily available and easy to find for you and your colleagues.

Thanks so much for being part of that mission; I wish you much success!

Martha

 

Desire Discrepancy

One Question You Can’t Fail to Ask Your Clients

What Do You Do When There’s Love But No Lust?

All Levels of Desire Are Normal

Shifting an Unhelpful Dynamic in Desire Discrepancy

Why Desire Discrepancy is So Tough

Desire Discrepancy Lesson #1: Normalize Variation

Desire Discrepancy Lesson #2: Look for the Blocks

 

Consent

Modelling Consent in the Therapy Room

Nuances of Consent: The Therapist’s Side

When Consent Isn’t Simple

 

Managing Conflict in Relationships

How to Keep Fights From Damaging Your Relationship

10 Calming Strategies for Managing Conflict

7 Steps to Stay Steady in Tough Conversations

Don’t Let Strong Emotions Control You

Don’t Try to “Win” A Fight With Your Partner

The Case for Going “Slow and Steady” to Resolve Couple Conflict

The Key to Resolving Couple Conflict? Uncovering Internal Motivation to Change

Addressing the Issues Without Getting Swept Up in Emotion

Promoting Healthy Differences of Opinion Between Partners

 

Differentiation of Self

How to Build a Long-Term Relationship with Courage and Compassion

3 Ways to Handle New Relationship Bliss that Support a Long-Term Healthy Relationship

Sex and Differentiation of Self

The Discovery That Turned My Practice Around

Better Than “Better Half”

Sexual Intimacy and Vulnerability: Paths to Personal Growth

When Partners Encourage Each Other To Lie

Stop Negative Meaning-Making In Its Tracks

Helping Your Clients Find the Courage to Make a Vulnerable Disclosure

The Power of Checking Your Assumptions With Your Partner

Why Helping Your Clients Find the Joy is a Crucial Part of Couples Therapy

Differentiation of Self is the Key to Keeping Things Sexy in a Long-Term Relationship

Why I Hate the Concept of “Compromise”

What Kind of Partner Do You Aspire To Be?

 

Relationship Agreements

There’s No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All Relationship Agreement

Making Relationship Agreements that Support Growth

What If One Partner Wants an Open Relationship, and the Other Isn’t So Sure?

Rules for Poly Relationships? It’s Not That Simple.

 

Building A Flexible, Resilient Sexual Relationship

When Sex Doesn’t Go As Planned

Beyond Communication Skills: What DOES Improve Intimacy?

Postpartum Low Desire: Improving Intimacy and Strengthening Relationships

Postpartum Low Desire: Emotional Causes

Sexual Intimacy and Vulnerability: Paths to Personal Growth

Willingness is Enough

What To Do When You Don’t Have an Orgasm With Your Partner

What Makes Good Sex Good?

Getting What You Really Want Out of Sex

Good Sex Over a Lifetime

 

Pleasure

Are Vibrators Habit-Forming?

7 Tips For Getting Creative: A Sex Therapist’s Guide to Trying New Things

How (and Why) to Talk About Self-Pleasure in Therapy

 

How and Why To Talk About Sex In Therapy

What Terms Should I Use When Talking About Sex in Therapy?

3 Reasons Therapy Clients Need to Discuss Sex, Not Just Connection

I’m On A Mission–To Change the Culture of Therapy Regarding Sex

After Will Lily: How to Use What You Learn in Brief Assessment (Part 1)

After Will Lily: How to Use What You Learn in Brief Assessment (Part 2)

How Asking About Satisfaction Can Guide Your Treatment Plan

Putting Clients At Ease With Sensitive Topics 

 

Unscripting Sex

When Sex Doesn’t Go As Planned

Unscripting Sex for More Connection and Pleasure

Flexibility is the Key to a Satisfying Sex Life

Good Sex Over a Lifetime

 

Non-Normative Sexualities

Reader Question: What is Gender Fluidity? Part 1 and Part 2

Reader Question: Is Abstaining From Sex Healthy?

 

Polyamory

Rules for Poly Relationships? It’s Not That Simple.

Should Polyamorous Couples Share Everything?

What If One Partner Wants an Open Relationship, and the Other Isn’t So Sure?

What Polyamory Can Teach Us About ALL Relationships

Poly 101: Working With Jealousy

Discussing Poly in the Aftermath of an Affair Part 1 and Part 2

Working With Secondary Partners

A Common Dynamic that Causes Problems in Primary/Secondary Poly Relationships

 

Health and Physiology

Orgasm and Heart Conditions

How To Set Loving Goals for Lifestyle Change

Body Positivity and Health Consciousness

Life After STIs: The Therapist’s Role

How to Talk About STIs With Your Clients

Postpartum Low Desire: Physical Causes

Mindfulness: A “Magic Bullet” for Building a Healthy Sex Life

Having a Satisfying Sex Life on Antidepressants

Why I Teach Anatomy to My Clients

Facts About Anatomy that Your Clients Need

Facts About Anatomy that Your Clients Need, Part 2

 

Body Positivity

How To Set Loving Goals for Lifestyle Change

Body Positivity and Health Consciousness

Resolution: Start Loving Your Body, Today

How You Can Help a Client With Negative Body Image

One question you can’t fail to ask your clients

I know from experience as a therapist how difficult working with desire discrepancy can be. Some of the most distressed, frustrated, angry, hurt couples I’ve worked with have been struggling with all the difficult feelings that come with mismatched desire.

There is just so much to be upset about. We invent a lot of stories about why one partner might want sex more often than the other, usually judgmental or dire things about ourselves, our partner, or our relationship. We feel trapped, frightened, depressed, and things start to feel complicated and tangled very quickly. The clients feel hopeless. After a few months of therapy, the therapist often begins to feel hopeless too. But I’ve worked hard to figure out how to be more effective with these couples, and I’ve developed some tools that make dealing with desire discrepancy much, much easier.

I want to show you how well these tools can work by walking you through a story from my therapy room. This is the true story of a couple that had almost given up hope of fixing their desire discrepancy, and how I was able to restore their hope within just the first ten minutes of my time with them.

When the couple walked into my office, they didn’t believe I would be able to help them.

I couldn’t blame them for that. Their relationship had been floundering for years as they bounced from one therapist to another. Their therapists, they told me, always wanted to talk about improving communication. This wasn’t unhelpful, exactly—they had learned to communicate better—but it failed to address the root of their distress. Even a sex therapist hadn’t been able to shift the problem. Over time, they had come to fear that their relationship was unfixable.

The wife was weeping in my office, blaming herself for not wanting sex. Why dont I want sex? What is wrong with me?  she wondered. Her husband wanted to be supportive, but he was afraid that his wife wasn’t attracted to him anymore, or that he was bad lover. I could feel their despair, and I wondered how painful it must be for them to live with these feelings, day‐in and day‐out.

But after I heard their story, I was able to determine within five minutes a very likely root cause of the desire discrepancy, a root cause which no other practitioner had brought up with the couple. With a few more minutes of discussion, I had explained my theory and made an appropriate referral. I was able to see hope begin to bloom between them, and they left my office so much happier than they had arrived.

How was I able to do this? By asking the right questions. Using the assessment tool I run through with all my clients, and which I share in my free video workshop, I was able to identify the root of the problem as unresolved sex pain.

Imagine what it must be like to have pain be a regular feature of the most intimate moments between two partners. Imagine the harm that can do to a relationship and an intimate connection. Imagine the strength of the love between partners butting up against the body’s wise and very adaptive drive to protect itself. How could desire possibly bloom?

The really sad aspect of this to me is that none of the therapists they had seen before had known to ask about sex pain! In my further questioning, the couple told me they had even consulted an ob/gyn and STILL they experienced unresolved sex pain. Of course, it is helpful to know how to work with sex pain, but that’s not rocket science. There are a handful of very common causes and there are specialists who work very effectively with most of those. There are also specialists whose job is to identify and treat unusual or difficult-to-treat causes.

But in this couple’s case, I was the first to ask about sex pain, form a theory based on the description of symptoms, and inquire whether they had consulted a pelvic floor physical therapist. When they did, the pain began to improve. Over the course of several months of steady improvement, their relationship recovered, buoyed by hope and positive results. Therapy with me simply supported this progress. The couple and the physical therapist did all the work.

Are you thinking “Sure, but she’s a specialist, I know nothing about sex pain and could never do that?” Not true!! I have explained to thousands of therapists, including generalists, specialists, and students, how to use my brief assessment tool and what to do with the findings. I am 100% confident that each and every one of them would have come to the same conclusion I did, and made the same referral.

You can too. If you haven’t already, sign up for my video workshop. It will help you get a strong head start dealing with any sex issue. And if you’re ready to go deeper, to begin helping clients ease distress in this extremely vulnerable area, consider giving my online course a try. It’s a full toolkit for assessing and treating sex issues, packed with robust, flexible interventions that you can put into practice right away. No matter your level of experience, it will help you stretch your limits, increase your potential, and grow as a therapist.