Advice to Future Sex Therapists (and Other Topics)

Advice to Future Sex Therapists (and Other Topics)

Thanks to sexpert Megan Andelloux from Rhode Island’s Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health for permission to reprint the following interview (slightly modified) from her site www.thecsph.org What do you do in the field of sexuality? I’m a New York City psychiatrist and psychotherapist specializing in sexuality and relationship issues. I also write a blog, “SexualityToday,” on my website and on PsychologyToday,  focused on new developments in sexuality, clinical sexuality, and sexual medicine. Where are you based? Central Park West in New York City — right across from Strawberry Fields. What is your focus? What do you do? I spend most of each day consulting with individuals and couples about sex and relationship problems. Not many sex therapists are MD’s, and not many psychiatrists still do much psychotherapy. So I’m somewhat of an anomaly on both counts. I also think about sexual issues and write about them. What are your particular goals and passions in the field? I like to see the look on a person’s face when they begin to feel more hopeful about themselves. I also enjoy working with patients whom no one else has been able to help or understand. Why did you choose to work in this field? Why would a person choose to do anything else? Where did you go for school/training? Psychiatry at the Payne Whitney Clinic, New York Hospital/Cornell; then sex therapy training with Raoul Schiavi and Patricia Schreiner-Engel and their group at the Program for Human Sexuality at Mt Sinai School of Medicine in NYC. Most of my clinical education since then has been through involvement in the Society for Sex Therapy and...
Sexual arousal for its own sake

Sexual arousal for its own sake

Photo credit:  pedrosimoes7 via Creative Commons   Simmering: A two minute technique for nourishing the erotic bond between partners. Useful for modern couples for whom the idea of leisure time is a quaint memory, but who’d like to stay in touch.   A Modern Dilemma Recently I had lunch with my colleague Eric Amaranth, and the conversation turned to the subject of polyamory — the practice of having more than one ongoing sexual relationship at a time. As you may know, there’s been an uptick of attention in the media about polyamory and other alternatives to conventional monogamy. Eric knows the polyamory community well, and I don’t — so I was curious to hear his thinking on the subject. “The main problem with polyamory,” he said, “is time. Not many people have the time to devote to multiple committed relationships.” Walking back to my office, I thought – “That’s the trouble with monogamy, too. How many people these days have time for even ONE committed relationship?”   Putting Arousal on the Schedule Traditionally, we sex therapists have preached that it’s necessary to reserve enough time for lovemaking. Masters and Johnson advocated taking long turns giving and receiving sensual pleasure. They called it “sensate focus.” In the 1960’s, couples would travel to St Louis for a week with Masters and Johnson. They’d meet with a sex therapist each morning, then spend each afternoon in their hotel room doing sensate focus. Many modern practitioners recommend a kind of meditative togetherness based on Indian Tantra, an ancient body of techniques for prolonging and deepening sex. And countless self-help books have been written on the subject, each containing...
Sexuality, Simmering, and the B Train Back from the Beach

Sexuality, Simmering, and the B Train Back from the Beach

Photo credit:  pedrosimoes7 via Creative Commons   A Train in Motion On the B train, one hot summer Sunday afternoon. I’m bringing my children and a few of their friends back to Manhattan, after a long day at the beach in Brooklyn. There’s a young couple standing near the exit door, sharing an ipod headset. Each with an earpiece in one ear — the two of them tethered together by the cords of the headset. She’s leaning against the wall, sweat-soaked in a T-shirt and shorts. He’s a few inches shorter, wearing sandals, beach clothes, and long hair. His hands are resting lightly on her hips. Her arms are draped over his shoulders. They seem entirely absorbed in the music, the motion of the subway car, and each other. Their eyes, half-shut, are out-of-focus, dreamy. They’re both wearing goofy, crooked smiles – as if sharing some silly secret. They look as if they might easily miss their stop. Amidst the noise of the children, and the rocking and bouncing of the subway car, it would be easy for this couple to pass unnoticed. But there is something about them that holds my attention. A certain aura. It’s sex, of course. Their goofy smiles, their dreamy manner. Definitely sex. They’re fully clothed, standing up and doing nothing obviously improper, but definitely enjoying a long moment of sexual arousal on the trip home from the beach. Turning away self-consciously, I realize I’m not the only one watching this couple. The young children are oblivious, of course. But all the adults in the car are clearly aware of what’s going on. Everyone is stealing...
Some Open Secrets About Sexual Arousal

Some Open Secrets About Sexual Arousal

The secrets of sexual arousal are hidden in plain sight. You just have to know what you’re looking for. Physical sexual arousal – the sexually aroused body – has been endlessly studied, most famously by Masters and Johnson in the 1960’s. And less rigorously but no less intensely by every sexual couple since the dawn of human self-awareness. Most couples study the male partner’s erections and the female partner’s state of lubrication carefully, for reassurance about their respective states of sexual arousal.  Urban legends rise and fall concerning other putative guides to one’s partner’s level of sexual arousal (see “nipple erection,” “pupil dilation”). But through all of this, we’re in the realm of the sexually aroused body. The sexually aroused mind has proved harder to study. Research on mental sexual arousal continues to await its Masters and Johnson. In the meantime, when patients ask me how to recognize arousal, I tell them to look for the following signs:      Attention When we’re aroused, sex grabs our attention.  We stop thinking about bills, worries, responsibilities — our entire portfolio of ordinary concerns.  Our time sense typically becomes impaired. (People tend to arrive late to meetings when they’re aroused). If someone gave us an IQ test during peak sexual arousal, we wouldn’t do very well on it. The tester might have a difficult time getting us to pay attention to the questions. Good sex makes us definitely dumber. And great sex can make us downright stupid.    Regression Arousal reduces us to an infantile level. We become, if all goes well, as naturally selfish as a small child. We don’t tolerate frustration...