Facts About Anatomy That Your Clients Need

Last week, I shared my case for why it’s important to talk about sexual anatomy with your clients. I was delighted to find that the post resonated with many of my readers.

This week, I’m building on last week’s post by sharing some facts and psychoeducation about anatomy. Not enough people know this information, and I’m willing to bet you have at least one client who could benefit from learning it.

  • Fewer than 30% of people with vaginas reach orgasm from penetration alone. If you have a client who is experiencing distress because they or their partner cannot reach orgasm solely from penetration, they should know that is completely normal and to be expected. They are in a solid majority.
  • People with a clitoris take on average 25-30 minutes of direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. Many people have a mistaken idea that clitoral stimulation is not necessary, or that just a few minutes should be sufficient. Again, if this mistaken idea is causing distress to your client, they should know that the way their body functions is perfectly normal and to be expected.
  • Most people with a penis can reach orgasm without being fully hard. A certain degree of hardness is necessary for penetration, but not usually for orgasm.
  • Everyone’s sex parts and bodies are different. Sexual function, preference, desire, and every other aspect of sexuality is individual to the point that comparison is meaningless. All different, all normal.

Too many people are ashamed of their sexual anatomy, the way their bodies look or function, and the ways they experience pleasure. By sharing some simple (but weirdly hard-to-find) facts, you can take away that shame, and ultimately make a huge difference in your clients’ lives and relationships. I’m going to be sharing part two of this post next week, so check back then for more anatomy-related facts.

This topic is near and dear to my heart. One of the biggest motivations for designing my online course, Assessing and Treating Sex Issues in Psychotherapy, was to make sure that therapists have access not only to the techniques and interventions they need to work effectively with sex issues, but also a solid grounding in anatomy, physiology, and sexual health.  This makes it possible to identify pressing issues, normalize human diversity, and be true advocates for clients’ health. I love to help therapists learn how to sort out the physical and emotional aspects of simple and complicated combinations of sex and relational issues. If you’re interested in learning more about the course, which opens for enrollment this February, click here.

Why I Teach Anatomy to My Clients

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I think discussing sex in therapy is crucial. Sex issues have emotional ramifications, and I hope I’ve convinced you that the ability to communicate openly and honestly about sexual desires, preferences, and boundaries is an important relationship skill, and that therapists have a role to play in helping clients develop that skill.

In addition to working with the emotional aspects of sex issues, I also very often spend time in the therapy room educating my clients on topics like sexual health and anatomy. Sex is a stigmatized subject, and many people don’t have access to trusted, reliable, and accurate information on sexuality. Many people have had only abstinence-focused sex-ed in school, or no sex-ed at all. Many people have gotten most of their information about sex from porn and peers.

Lack of access to information about sexuality can end up having all kinds of negative effects on mental health and relationships. For instance, many people feel embarrassed by the appearance of their sexual anatomy. This is the result of a lack of accurate and non-judgemental information about sex, and it can do a lot of harm to self-esteem. Sharing accurate information about anatomy can do a world of good. Even something as simple as asserting that  everyone’s body is different, and wide variation is completely normal, can make a huge different in people’s lives.

There are also cases of sexual problems that can be resolved with just a little bit of anatomical info. For instance, many people don’t realize that it takes a person with a clitoris an average of twenty-five minutes of direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm. Lots of people think there’s something wrong with them or their partner if they can’t orgasm just from penetration, or if they can’t orgasm in just a few minutes. In a situation like that, you can provide a lot of relief by supplying a few facts about orgasm and anatomy.

I believe in the importance of providing accurate, non-judgemental information about topics your clients struggle with. I’m always surprised at how many people express astonishment and relief when I provide simple psychoeducation about anatomy, and debunk a myth or two. As I see it, alleviating distress in this way falls well within the bounds of a therapist’s role.

Does this leave you wondering where you can get accurate information about anatomy, and learn how to share it with your clients skillfully? You might want to consider joining my 2019 course, Assessing and Treating Sex Issues in Psychotherapy. Sign up for the waiting list now, and you’ll be the first to know when sign-ups open this February!

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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!