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Why Sensate Focus is One of the Most Popular Sex Therapy Techniques


partners participate in sensate focus, one of the most popular sex therapy techniques.

Sexual problems can stem from an array of sources, both physical and psychological. Couples attempting to navigate these issues together might feel like they’ve tried plenty of different outlets to find answers. Though health conditions, stress, trauma, and a myriad of other causes should be addressed, what happens when other therapies and treatments aren’t producing the results couples want? In some situations, the solution might be closer than couples think. Sometimes simple exercises can make a world of difference in the ways couples experience sex. Sensate Focus is one of these sex therapy techniques, and if you’ve not yet heard about it, read on to learn more.


This article will explain what Sensate Focus is, the steps involved, the conditions it can be effective in treating, and what makes the technique popular.


What is Sensate Focus?


Sensate Focus is a sex therapy technique that emphasizes both touching and being touched. It serves as a way to improve the quality of communication surrounding sex, increase intimacy between partners, and reduce the occurrence of thoughts that lead to anxiety around sexual performance.


This type of therapy involves a series of exercises that focus on touch, which encourages both individuals and couples to appreciate the sensations they’re experiencing. The concept of touching without any expectations attached or preconceptions accompanying participants is a key part of what makes it effective.


According to the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), Sensate Focus is best described as an exercise centered around mindful touching.


What Are the Steps Involved?


As with many types of sex therapy, the steps that participants follow during Sensate Focus exercises can vary somewhat. However, this sex therapy technique was originally developed with five basic steps. Each step is designed to slowly build upon the one before it and encourage couples to appreciate simple touch as it applies to both sexual and non-sexual contact.


Step 1


Step 1 focuses on non-genital touching. During this step, participants sit naked together and one person starts as the one giving touch while the other receives it. The participants switch roles halfway through this step. One person lays in a comfortable position while the other touches them anywhere aside from the breast or genital region. This step is aimed at sensuality rather than sexual arousal.


During this step, the receiver should avoid commenting on the other’s routine unless something feels uncomfortable.


Step 2


This step is similar to the first step, but during Step 2, the toucher is allowed to touch the breast and genital regions. The goal should still be exploration rather than intentional sexual arousal, but it’s okay if sexual desire increases.


During this step, the receiver can place his or her hand over the toucher’s hand and provide nonverbal guidance. Once again, participants switch roles halfway through the step.


Step 3


This step is an extension of the first two steps, but during Step 3, the participants make use of oil, lotion, or lubricant while touching. For the best effect, the substance being applied should be warm and soothing.


During this part of the exercise, it can become especially easy to focus on smells and temperatures as well as the sensation of touch.


Step 4


During this step, both participants are allowed to touch one another simultaneously. Again, the goal is still exploration and focusing on the sensations each person experiences. This step can also include using lips or tongues for touching, but should not include kissing or mouth-to-genital contact.


Step 5


This step is also called the “sensual intercourse” step because though this step involves sexual elements, it still focuses on sensuality and sensory awareness. This step can lead to sexual activities, but participants are encouraged to avoid falling into habitual, mechanical behaviors that come with sexual intercourse.


This step can proceed however the participants wish. The main goal of this step is to remain mindful of the sensations each participant experiences, which heightens arousal, improves intimacy, and can lead to more fulfilling sexual encounters.


Sensate Focus Applications


Certified sex therapists often recommend Sensate Focus to couples who struggle with a number of sexual dysfunctions. For example, Sensate Focus might be effective in resolving body image issues, working through relationship issues centered around sex, increasing desire and arousal, and even combatting erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.


This technique can also encourage couples to dedicate more time to foreplay by having them pay closer attention to the sensations that come with touching.


Sex therapists understand that human sexuality is a complicated topic. An array of physical or mental health issues can contribute to trouble performing sexually, so many professionals will encourage clients to rule out other underlying health concerns before (or in conjunction with) sex therapy techniques.


The Popularity of Sensate Focus


This type of therapy can be effective for people who struggle with performance issues, decreased arousal, or pain during intercourse. It’s a natural, healthy way to address sexual dysfunction and examine the underlying causes of issues that couples experience.


When sex therapists recommend Sensate Focus and provide clients with thorough instructions, touch-focused therapy can help couples experience a more fulfilling sex life. It’s a safe, gentle process that can be combined with other types of sex therapy as well as sexual education. As such, it works to reduce anxiety, decrease stress levels, and allow sexual activity to occur based on what feels best.


Furthermore, this technique is one of the most popular exercises recommended by sex therapists because it can be done at home without many additional supplies (other than those used in Step 3). It’s inclusive for individuals with different abilities and limitations, and the steps can be adjusted according to the needs of the participants.


If you want to learn more about sex therapy techniques, or you’d like to begin couples therapy, contact Modern Intimacy. Our sex therapists are experienced in addressing a wide variety of sexual health concerns, relationship issues, and much more. Book a session to take advantage of expert advice in a judgment-free setting. We’d love to meet you and provide guidance that enables you to live your best life.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist (CA, FL, IL + NY), Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT III trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on TikTok and IG @drkatebalestrieri and the Modern Intimacy team on IG @themodernintimacy.



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