Title: Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual
Author: Linda Weiner and Constance Avery-Clark
Year Published: 2017
Main Topics Covered: Sexuality, ability, sexual dysfunction, sex therapy, sensate touch, intimacy
Written for: Therapists, counsellors, psychologists, anyone looking for an intermediate level education in sensate focus
Recommended for: Therapists/counsellors
Perspectives taken: Objective observer/researcher
Type of Resource: Education
APA Citation: Weiner, L., & Avery-Clark, C. (2017). Sensate focus in Sex therapy: The illustrated manual. Routledge.
Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual By Linda Weiner and Constance Avery-Clark provides a deep dive into Masters and Johnson's technique: Sensate Focus. The authors utilize detailed drawings and descriptive text to illustrate this technique for mental health and medical practitioners to provide an introductory understanding of Sensate Focus and how to incorporate it into their work with clients. They discuss modifications for LGBTQ2IA+ clients, the elderly, people with disabilities, trauma survivors, and those with challenges such as autism, anxiety, and depression, creating a much more inclusive resource than previous works on sensate focus. Additionally, the authors give suggestions for dealing with common issues clients often present with, such as avoidance, confusion, shame, and goal-oriented attitudes. The manual provides much more than just information on Sensate Focus, it gives intermediate level information on sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction and premature and delayed ejaculation. This manual is descriptive and clear and excellent for beginners who do not have training in sex therapy or Sensate Focus.
The book begins by providing an introduction to sex therapy and Sensate Focus, including the purpose of the manual and how to read it best. The chapters walk the reader through the history of Sensate Focus, noting the inconsistency with the notion of natural functions in Masters and Johnson's original Sensate Focus. They also include a chapter that discusses the misconceptions surrounding Sensate Focus because words are crucial when doing this type of work. Therapists discussing these exercises with their clients must therefore be aware that their words convey attitudes that can make the client feel pressured. For example, they advise that counsellors avoid phrases such as "make yourself sexually aroused" when providing instruction for Sensate Focus exercises, as this language can create a feeling of "demand" for the client. The authors emphasize that Sensate Focus should only involve a "non-demanding" pleasuring of ones partner. Chapter 4 provides an introductory understanding of sexual dysfunctions containing basic issues, assessment procedures and treatment planning. This is for the purpose of educating the reader on the psychological and cultural nature of sexual dysfunction and the importance of working with the client as a whole, and not "falling victim to either/or thinking" (p.20). In chapter 5, the authors begin to integrate detailed illustrations of Sensate Focus touch to provide a conceptual understanding of how this might look for clients starting out. This begins with individual self-discovery and touch and moves to partnered touch. This allows clients to practice managing their anxiety symptoms as they begin exploring these anxiety-provoking experiences. The goal is for clients to desensitize themselves to these anxieties so they may move to partner touch. The illustrations used throughout the manual are inclusive of age, sexuality, and ability. The following chapter dives into processing Sensate Focus with clients and provides the reader with further detail on how to provide instructions for their clients. The authors took great care in creating a detailed manual for beginners, providing readers with clear steps and areas of consideration.
The remaining chapters discuss modifications and considerations for therapists that choose to incorporate Sensate Focus as an intervention with their clients. This includes modifications for diverse populations and common issues that may arise during Sensate Focus work and how to manage them. The manual concludes by discussing the difference between Sensate Focus 1 and Sensate Focus 2. Sensate Focus 2 is beyond mindful self-focus and moves to "developing an authentic relationship with one's own sensuality" (p.120). Where Sensate Focus 1 is focused on the individual client, Sensate Focus 2 highlights the interaction between partners, This work allows individuals to master new basic skills that assist in unlearning their problematic habits.
Overall Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual provides an alternative to the medicalized solutions used to address struggles in the field of sexuality, emphasizing that Sensate Focus is a simple yet powerful technique that can reduce a client's anxieties around sexuality. The authors fill the gaps left by Masters and Johnson's work by providing the foundational techniques of Sensate Focus in an accessible and inclusive way. Weiner and Avery-Clark were able to shine a spotlight on the whole field of sexual healing, including not just physicians but psychologists, therapists, and sex educators as well.