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Healing Sexual Trauma through Sensate Focus

One of the most difficult things for me to deal with as a therapist is the aftermath of sexual trauma. And I know that the trouble I have with this is only a tiny fraction of the difficulty my client has as he or she faces his/her past. I share with you a correspondence I’ve had with a 36-year-old man from Boston named Trent.

Dr. Dick,
When I was 10 years my parish priest molested me. It went on for over a year. Mostly, I’ve been able to put this behind me. I’ve been married over a year to this really great gal. She’s been very understanding and supportive, and we love each other very much. A couple of weeks ago when we were having sex, my wife started to massage my bottom. This was the first time someone touched me there since I was 10. At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out. I started to cry. My poor wife was devastated at the thought of triggering this painful memory. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but we haven’t had sex since. I’m worried, but I don’t know what to do.

Working through a sexual trauma, like the one Trent experienced as a kid, is difficult. But it is essential for regaining a healthy sense of the sexual self. I told Trent—and this applies to any anyone else who has had regrettable early sexual experiences in their past—that I strongly suggested that he and his wife engage a sex-positive therapist to help them get back on track.

Many people have dealt with some kind of sexually related trauma in their lives.  However, some trauma is more severe than others. Emotional scar tissue and painful memories may linger, but you can learn to insulate yourself from the disruptive effects of the past in the present. Thanks to the indomitable human spirit, most of us live through our difficulties and go on to develop healthy, integrated sex lives.

Sensate focus is a process that helps individuals move through painful sexual memories and heal the rift between the affected parts of the body and the pleasure they can produce. I thought this technique would be of particular value for Trent because of something he’d said: “At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out.” This tells me that he was able to enjoy the sensations before the association with the molestation kicked in and ruined everything. Sensate focus offers a way to short-circuit this disruptive connection and rewire it for pleasure instead of pain.

What follows are structured therapeutic touching exercises for couples. They are not a prelude to sex. You need to be clear on that. Your genitals will be involved. There will be pleasure and arousal, for sure. But the object of this process is to desensitize the trigger (in Trent’s case, his butt), then re-sensitize it for pleasure. These exercises take about an hour one day a week over the course of a month. If you embark on this course, make sure that you dedicate that kind of time commitment. Please, don’t short-change yourselves; this is an investment in your sexual health and wellbeing.

You and your partner will take turns being the one touched and the one doing the touching. Both of you will have 30 minutes to touch and 30 minutes to be touched: 15 minutes lying on your front; 15 minutes on your back.

Week 1—Breaking the Ice
Structured touching will be unfamiliar to you at first. I want you to use this first session to connect with each other in a sensual and playful way. I want each of you to explore every inch of your partner’s body from head to toe, first the back of the body then the front. This first week, however, avoid one another’s genitals.

This isn’t massage, where touch is directed toward pleasuring your partner. Sensate focus exercises are about gleaning information. Focus on how it feels to touch different parts of your partner’s body in a non-seductive way. Be aware of the different textures contours and temperatures. Use different pressures—heavy and light; different strokes—long and short. Use fingertips, palms, the back of your hands and forearms.

When you’ve finished the first 30 minutes, swap places. This will work best if the one being touched relinquishes control as much as possible. Keep verbal communication at a minimum. Once the hour is over, thank one another for the experience and get on with the rest of your day. Don’t try to process things right then and there, just sit with the sensations. Or better still; write your feelings in a journal that you might want to share later.

Week 2—Making Things More Interesting
Building on what you learned in the first week; this time, kick it up a notch by expanding the structured touching to include anal and genital areas. These are sexually charged zones, but the touch must remain non-seductive. Begin the exercise with some full-body touching before moving on to the new areas. Again, the emphasis is on obtaining information and awareness of physical sensations.

This is where things got a bit challenging for Trent. When his wife touched his butt, I told him I wanted him to want stay in the moment and focus on who was touching him and why. Trent’s wife was not touching him in a sexual manner; she was gathering information.

Staying in the present helps take the edge off. If anxiety builds, deep breathing can help you to relax. Your partner will probably be very nervous too, so breathing together can be helpful.

A guided touch technique can also be useful. Place one of your hands on top of your partner’s and guide it over your trigger area. Try using more or less pressure as you see fit. Remember your trigger spot is just like every other part of your body. Even though an early trauma has sensitized this area to be off bounds, sensate focus exercises will re-sensitize and reintegrate it with the rest of your body. You’ll have to trust me on this.

Week 3—Mutual Touching
This week, we move on to mutual touching. However, it must remain structured and non-seductive, both in the giving and receiving. Mutual touch will provide a more natural form of physical interaction than the previous weeks. You’ll also be shifting attention from how it feels to touch to being aware of how your partner is receiving your touch. Keep verbal communication to a minimum. Let your body tell your partner how you are enjoying the touch. If you must talk, assign a number code to the touch you are receiving: 5 being, ho-hum, 1 being Yowsa!

Remember, no matter how sexually aroused you become, this is not a prelude to sex. If you need to release your sexual tension, feel free to masturbate afterward. No partnered sex during the exercises. Okay?

Week 4—Bringin’ It Home
This last week of exercises continues the mutual touching, with a focus on overcoming any final reservations you have about your trigger zone and the pleasure you derive from it. More of your partner’s touch should focus on that area. For Trent, I advised that his wife include a nice lotion or personal lube for this investigation. (Touching with a wet hand is different from touching with a dry hand.) While concentrating on his butt with one hand, I suggested she fondle his genitals with the other. By playing with the energy around Trent’s sphincter, his wife was able to redirect it and help him reconnect his ass to the rest of his body.

Try receiving your wire’s touch in different positions. Being proactive will facilitate the healing. While she is touching your trigger area, move your butt toward her to meet the caress. You’ll immediately see how being in control will help you move beyond any remaining anxiety. You are not just being passive recipient anymore; you are actively involved with inviting the pleasure. If there are still reservations, take it slow until they too, melt away.

Once he’d freed up his ass for pleasure, I told Trent be sure to incorporate butt play into his future lovemaking repertoire, but I also reminded him to take as much time as he needed to resolve the issue. There is no quick fix. I assured him, though, with diligence and care, sensate focus would remove the fear and shame of the molestation, and replace it with a sense of wholeness, joy and pleasure.

Good luck

More of The Erotic Mind of Lucy Felthouse — Podcast #274 — 04/18/11

Hey sex fans, welcome back!

The marvelous British author, Lucy Felthouse is back with us today to finish the conversation we began last week. And, of course, she’s here as part of The Erotic Mind series.

But wait; you didn’t miss last week’s show, did you? Well, don’t worry if ya did, because Part 1 of our chat is archived right here on my site. Simply use the search function in the header. Type in Podcast #273 and PRESTO! But hey, don’t forget to use the #sign when you search.

Lucy and I discuss:

  • Her creative process;
  • Erotica inspired by real life;
  • Her erotica is fiction, not a diary;
  • Feeding her imagination;
  • Differences and similarities between erotica and romance;
  • Writing for a particular audience;
  • Writing rituals;
  • Erotica and porn;
  • Encouraging others to write erotica;
  • The people who inspire her.

Lucy also reads another selection from the fruit of her Erotic Mind. This week it’s from the anthology, Uniform Behavior.

For more of Lucy, be sure to visit her on her site HERE! She also invites you to check out the erotica supersite she founded HERE! And look for her on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE!

(click on the thumbnails to get more information about these volumes)

 

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Review.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode

The Erotic Mind of Lucy Felthouse — Podcast #273 — 04/11/11

Hey sex fans, welcome back!

We’re back with more of The Erotic Mind series, but today we return to our roots, the world of words. After several weeks of chats with noted erotic visual artists we resume our conversation with an erotic literary artist of note. Today we travel to a county in the East Midlands of England, Derbyshire to be exact, to check in with the marvelous up and coming author, Lucy Felthouse.

Lucy and I discuss:

  • A list of her publications;
  • Being her own publisher;
  • The inspiration of the Peak District in the UK;
  • The evolution of the role of women in erotica;
  • Her erotica clearinghouse site, Eroticaforall.co.uk;
  • Writing under her real name;
  • When the erotic element began to appear in her work;
  • Advice for the novice erotica writer;
  • The challenge of choosing just the right genital euphemism.

Lucy is quite the outdoorswoman and so when I prevail upon her to share a selection of the fruit of her Erotic Mind, she graciously agrees to read a delectable morsel from her short story, Fun In The Forest.

For more of Lucy, be sure to visit her on her site HERE! She also invites you to check out the erotica supersite she founded HERE! And look for her on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE!

(click on the thumbnails below to get more information about these volumes)


BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.

drdickvod.jpg

More Sex EDGE-U-cation With Cooper Beckett & Ginger – Podcast #272 – 04/06/11

Hey sex fans, welcome back!

I’m so glad it’s finally Wednesday, because the founder of Life On The Swingset, Cooper Beckett, and his podcast co-host Ginger are here with more of their signature Sex EDGE-U-cation. I’ve been salivating for their return since Part 1 of this show appeared here last Wednesday.

But wait; you didn’t miss last week’s show, did you? Well, don’t worry if ya did, because Part 1 of our chat is archived right here on my site. Simply use the site’s search function in the header. Type in Podcast #270 and PRESTO! But hey, don’t forget to use the #sign when you search.

Ginger, Cooper and I discuss:

  • The sex toy review section of their site;
  • Promoting anal toys and pegging;
  • Similarities and differences between swinging and polyamory;
  • What’s consensual non-monogamy;
  • Swinging remains edgy for lots of people;
  • The CBS series, Swingtown, and other cultural references;
  • Debunking the swinger myths;
  • Communication, the backbone of all alternative lifestyles;
  • Working to close the bisexual double standard — W/W and M/M;
  • Embracing sexual diversity.

Be sure to visit Coop & Ginger on their site HERE! Find him on Facebook HERE! Read her blog HERE! And follow them both on Twitter HERE & HERE!

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Review.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode

More of The Erotic Mind of Jezza Smilez — Podcast #271 — 04/04/11

Hey sex fans,

I have the pleasure of welcoming back that marvelous artist illustrator, Jezza Smilez for another helping of his charming and insightful take on the creative process. This is Part 2 of his appearance for The Erotic Mind series, don’t cha know.

You did hear last week’s show, right? But if ya didn’t that’s ok, because Part 1 of our chat is archived right here on my site. Simply use my site’s search function in the header. Type in Podcast #269 and voilà! But hey, don’t forget to use the #sign when you search.

Jezza and I discuss:

  • The ethnic diversity of his characters;
  • Going against the grain of what is popular in the world of comics;
  • Comic-con and Bent-con; http://www.facebook.com/BENTCON
  • Collaborating with and supporting other comic makers;
  • Being compelled to create;
  • His chosen media — words and images;
  • What he looks for in the erotic art of others;
  • His inspirations.

Be sure to check out Jezza and his delicious artwork on his site HERE! He’s on Facebook too. Find him HERE!

(Click on the thumbnails below to see another slideshow of Jezza’s artwork.)

[nggallery id=97]

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Fleshlight & FleshJack.