The role of sexuality in the symptoms of patients/clients is far greater than dysfunction, abuse and addiction. We live in a highly sexual culture as evidenced by the media and especially the entertainment industry. It is ironic that at the same time, open, intimate and real conversation about sexuality is frequently overlooked in therapeutic settings. Real conversations about sex sometimes elicit embarrassment and shame. Therapists are frequently reluctant to ask probing questions about sexuality because of the fear of embarrassing their client or because of their own unresolved issues related to sexuality.
Many therapists do not recognize the subtle indications that a client needs to address sexual shame. Many therapists have not addressed their own sexual shame and fear becoming uncomfortable when openly listening to sexual information. In addition, clients are rarely able to say that their sexual issues need to be addressed. It is more difficult to ask for help for sexual problems than relationship problems or parent-child issues. Clients need to know that the therapist can handle talking about their sexual problems and can work effectively with them until they are resolved.
Sexual issues are usually addressed by therapist in three areas: sexual abuse history, sexual addiction and sex therapy. A person trained and competent in one of these areas does not necessarily understand and treat the other two areas. Sexual addiction training does not always pay attention to the importance that childhood sexual abuse may have on the addiction. The trauma therapist may effectively treat the abuse while not moving on to explore the client’s current ability to have a shame free and healthy sexual relationship now.
Well trained and qualified therapists understand all three areas and can see the connection between them. They are able to work with the client as he/she moves within the pathway of healing. They understand that healthy sexuality is important in committed relationships. They are comfortable guiding the client through the healing process to healthy, non-shame based sexual attitudes and behaviors.
At Personal Growth Counseling, we see many couples that know something is missing but are unable to define what is wrong. Neither understands the reasons for the conflicts and frequently blames their partner for the problems. Some prematurely terminate their relationship because while they say they still love a person, they do not feel that they are any longer, “in love” with their partner.
Some of them claim sexual addiction or childhood abuse to avoid sexual shame. Books and magazine articles don’t help much because they may make suggestions about “normal frequency” or new positions or techniques without addressing any of the underlying issues. They foster one or more of the myths that there is a right way or that married couples want to have sex. Neither of these actually addresses what is really going on. This tends to make people even unhappy because these superficial things do not work in most cases.
An important part of healing for most couples is learning to be open and honest with each other about their sexual preferences and needs. Many couples have great difficulty doing this because of feelings of shame or guilt. An experienced therapist will recognize this and encourage the couple to openly discuss their needs as they would any other issue in their relationship.
The goal of effective treatment for sexual healing in a relationship is that the couple is fully capable of intimacy and love in every aspect of their relationship. Reaching this goal is sometimes a long process that requires decreasing sexual shame and overcoming relationship obstacles. A well-functioning relationship is needed to obtain deeply intimate sex.
Our culture holds many stereotypes about lust, sexual needs, sexual roles, and definitions of “having sex.” Today, many couples act on sexual desire alone and do not wait for true intimacy to develop. In the “if it feels good, do it world” true sexual satisfaction is rarely a lead in to true intimacy and long term relationships. The most sexually healthy couple will first feel intimate and sexual desire will emerge. This becomes the foundation for long term and deeply satisfying relationships. If this is an issue for you and your partner, help is available. Do not hesitate to seek help for this. Do not allow shame or embarrassment to rob you of a truly satisfying sexual relationship with your partner.
Personal Growth Counseling
509 N. Cedar Avenue