- Sensate focus is a sex therapy technique developed in the 1960s by Virginia Johnson and William Masters.
- The method can help couples with a variety of sexual concerns, such as performance anxiety, low libido, and erectile dysfunction (ED).
- Some men develop ED as a result of psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression.
- For best results, sensate focus should be used under the guidance of a sex therapist.
- The main idea behind sensate focus exercises is touching for one’s own interest instead of focusing on your partner’s pleasure.
- Men with psychological ED can benefit from a combination of medication, such as Viagra or Cialis, and therapy approaches.
What is Sensate Focus?
Sensate focus was developed in the 1960s by Virginia Johnson and William Masters. You may have heard about these pioneer sex researchers in the TV series “Masters of Sex.” Their revolutionary approach was to encourage patients to stop focusing on goal-oriented sex. Instead, they asked couples to practice mindful touching.
Touch is the best tool to create or rebuild intimacy. It is one of our most significant senses. Research has shown that touch is necessary for the healthy development of babies. In addition, touch plays an important role in social bonding. Sensate focus uses the power of touch to improve people’s sex lives.
The giver and the receiver follow their own interests instead of trying to please the partner. Communication is an important part of the exercises. The technique has evolved since its inception, but it continues to be used by therapists worldwide.
How Can Sensate Focus Help?
According to Linda Weiner and Constance Avery-Clark, authors of the manual “Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy,” the goal of this method “is and always has been to help sexually distressed individuals resolve their concerns by grounding them in touch sensations in the moment.”
Sensate focus is recommended for couples with a variety of sexual concerns, including:
- Performance anxiety
- Sexless relationship
- Low libido
- Difficulties in intimate communication
- Erectile dysfunction
The aim of these exercises is to help couples reduce the pressure and expectations connected with sexual activity. As a result, their erotic sessions are more spontaneous and natural. The communication skills gained during sex therapy sessions lead to more bedroom satisfaction.
Sensate Focus for ED
For most men, erectile dysfunction has physical causes – circulation problems, diabetes, or prescription medicine. There is, however, another type of ED that’s more psychological in nature. It affects men who suffer from depression, anxiety, and persistent stress. But even without mental health problems, men can develop difficulties with erections.
Young men, for example, can develop ED by comparing themselves to porn stars. The inability to meet unrealistic expectations causes a lot of pressure. The more they try to get super hard and make love for hours, the more difficult it becomes to perform in bed.
Performance anxiety is often part of a cycle leading to ED in men of all ages. Here’s how it usually works: After one or two failed attempts to “get it up,” your stress levels before the next date go through the roof. When the time comes to have intercourse, your body refuses to cooperate. Soon, you may be dealing with a full-blown case of ED.
Sensate focus may help you reverse psychological ED by eliminating the pressure to have full intercourse. For this method to work, the couple must abstain from penetrative contacts for some time. The exercises teach you to stop overthinking and focus on feeling different sensations.
How to Get Started With Sensate Focus
Sensate focus is a method of treatment. For best results, it should be done with the guidance of a sex therapist. The practitioner can assess whether these exercises can help you solve your intimate problems. He or she will give you instructions and follow up with you to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly.
You may, of course, try these techniques on your own, but treat them as an enrichment, not a remedy. For best results, you need professional guidance.
- Getting Started
To begin practicing sensate focus, you need to make time for it. Make sure you have at least 15 to 30 minutes of undisturbed time together. You can either schedule this in your calendars or allow it to happen spontaneously. Just make sure the sessions take place at least every two to three days.
Keep the room warm and wear something comfortable. As you get used to this practice, you can move to wearing underwear or nothing at all.
The main rule of these sessions, at the initial stage, is to only use hands and fingers for touching. No kissing, hugging, or genital contact. Choose the position that works for both, like lying on the bed together or one person kneeling next to the other.
- Practicing Mindful Touch
The exercise itself is very simple. You take turns touching one another. Only one of you is touching at any given time. The trick here is to move away from the traditional giver-receiver dynamic. In sensate focus, the giver focuses on the sensations they get from the act of touching.
Your task is not to think about how to please your partner. Focus on how you feel instead – the texture, temperature, pressure. Take it all in. And take your time. Aim for at least five minutes of touching per person.
And what is the role of the receiving partner? He or she also tries to feel the sensations. Of course, if something doesn’t feel right, they should move away or use another non-verbal gesture to signal it to the giver.
What to Do After the Session?
For sensate focus to work, you need to process what happened and talk about it. Avoid having a discussion right after the session. Use this time to bond in silence.
Therapists recommend taking some notes within a few hours. This way you won’t forget how you felt and will be able to discuss it with your lover and with a practitioner.
Pay special attention to distractions. What thoughts came up and how did you deal with them? Did you manage to get back to touching just for the sake of the experience, or were you flooded by anxiety and expectations? These are great talking points for later.
Once you both feel you are able to focus on your own sensations during the sessions, you can allow breast and genital touch – still as a way of exploring for yourself and not pleasuring the other. It is possible that the receiver will experience orgasm this way, but this is not the goal of this practice.
Getting professional help
Sensate focus can be a great way to understand how you and your partner function in bed. But in order for this method to work for sexual concerns, such as erectile dysfunction, I recommend getting support from a sex therapist.
Many men with psychological ED benefit from a combination of therapy and medical treatment. You can continue working with a sex therapist to address the deeper, underlying factors that led to your problems in the first place. At the same time, your doctor can prescribe erection pills, such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, or you can take advantage of our free medical consultation, for a quick boost in confidence.
Be sure to order your ED medication from a secure source. Visit eDrugstore.com, a reliable online pharmacy. We will fill your prescription and ship your order discreetly to your home at no cost to you.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.