Sexual intimacy plays an important role in our lives. The benefits of a healthy sex life have been linked to stress reduction, improved sleep, immune health, pain reduction, increased self-esteem, and increased closeness to a sexual partner; all-important aspects in living our happiest best lives! Sounds easy enough, have sex and be happy, right? Unfortunately for many, it is not that easy! Myths and misconceptions surrounding sexual intimacy have caused great personal and interpersonal suffering among us for hundreds of years; while stigma, shame, and socialization have created barriers to seeking professional guidance. This detrimental cycle can repeat itself causing conflict in relationships, increased stress, resentment, shame, mental health illness, and poor self-esteem in those who wish for sexual connection with others. Sex therapy can help.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 2, 2022 sensate focus, sex therapist, sex therapy, sexual chemistry, sexual wellness, sexuality0 comments
What is Sex Therapy and How Can It Help?
But what is sex therapy and how can it help? Sex therapy provides a compassionate safe space to explore and address medical, psychological, personal, interpersonal, and systemic factors impacting sexual satisfaction. It is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals and/or couples move past physical and psychological challenges and develop fulfilling and pleasurable sexual relationships. Sex therapy addresses your beliefs, experiences, feelings, and concerns using evidence-based techniques in collaboration with the client to help you reach your goals and decrease stress. Some of the sexual concerns addressed in sex therapy include erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, paraphilias, desire/interest/arousal concerns, and pelvic pain disorders. Sex and porn addiction are other concerns often addressed by sex therapists. Sexual preferences, kink, and poly communities and those with ‘non-traditional’ relationships can find a safe space to share with sex-positive, compassionate and accepting practitioners.
While disagreements about sex are common and normal phenomena, the following may indicate the need to seek professional help from a sex therapist:
- Escalating and recurring conflicts about sexual frequency or preferences.
- Feelings of not being a priority to your partner.
- Distress, or a decrease in the quality of your life and relationship due to your sexual concerns or dysfunction.
- If you are experiencing a lack of communication, arguments that seem to go in circles, and a loss of connection with your partner.
- Feelings of guilt and shame surrounding sexual preferences or activity.
- Performance anxiety.
Tips to decrease sexual anxiety:
- Make an appointment with your PCP to discuss possible physiological causes. Also, talk to your doctor about any medications you are currently taking and possible side effects that may impact sexual function.
- Be open with your partner. Having an open honest conversation with your partner can help decrease anxiety and increase support and connection.
- Learn to be intimate without sexual intercourse. Give and receive sensual massages, warm baths together, and cuddling without the expectation of intercourse can help reduce anxiety and build connection.
- Progressive muscle relaxation and mindful meditation can help relax the body and mind.
- A sex therapist can help you learn the differences between male and female sexual responses which can help greatly reduce anxiety.
- Most importantly, practice self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up! NO ONE has the sexual prowess being pushed by the media and in porn, and these expectations are unrealistic!
Interested in Sex Therapy?
If you are interested in Sex Therapy, please fill out the form below or call us at 412-322-2129.
Written by: Autumn Walsh (she/her), MSW
Center for Women’s Health. (2021). Center for Women’s Health. OHSU. https://www.ohsu.edu/womens-health/benefits-healthy-sex-life#:~:text=Better%20immune%20system,Decreased%20depression%20and%20anxiety
Hertlein, K. M., Gambescia, N., & Weeks, G. R. (2020). Systemic sex therapy. Routledge.
Holland, K. (2018, June 27). Sex therapy: Couples, techniques, and what does a sex therapist do? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/sex-therapy#how-to-know-if-youneed-it
Stritof, S. (2022). How important is sex in a relationship? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/why-should-you-have-sex-more-often-2300937#:~:text=Sex%20can%20have%20a%20variety,immunity%2C%20and%20better%20cardiac%20health.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 21, 2020 self care month, sex therapist, sexual wellness, Uncategorized0 comments
May is Self Care Month! In honor of that, let’s explore a form of self care that might not be the first thing you think of when you think about wellness. When the oxygen masks drop on the plane you always put on your own before helping someone else. This is self-care. The actions you take to keep all dimensions of your own health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental) as strong as possible so that you can continue performing at your peak, whether at home, at work, or in your personal life. The phrase ‘self-care’ has made its rounds in mainstream media and for many people may include a spa day, sleeping in, or saying ‘no’ to certain obligations. However, one activity, self-pleasure or masturbation, has not gotten the credit it deserves as the ultimate form of self-care. Sex therapist Lauren Aikin-Smith from Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh shares her expertise in masturbation as a form of self care.
To start, anyone can masturbate. It isn’t restricted by wealth, gender identity, body shape/size, ability, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. It’s easily adjustable based on your other life factors. For example, you can get it done in a few minutes while the kids are napping or leisurely take up an afternoon if you have the time. It can be done alone or with a partner(s). It’s cost effective and fits every budget. It can fit everyone’s personal style and isn’t limited to just involving the genitals, but may include a bubble bath, rubbing lotion on your body, or even involve other erogenous zones like the ears, scalp, and nipples.
Self-pleasure simultaneously has positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of health. The sensations, relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness that accompany masturbation promote the release of endorphins and oxytocin, even without achieving orgasm. Orgasm is accompanied by a surge of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward pathways. The endorphins and flow of blood throughout the body help release pent up energy, and promote stress and pain relief throughout the body by relieving stress, tension, headaches, and period cramps. Finally, there is a release of serotonin which is responsible for good mood and relaxation and can help promote sleep, another essential aspect of self-care.
Self-pleasure connects the mind and body, and can help you better understand what arouses and turns you on. It can help you recognize how your body responds to touch, sounds, and smells. Over time, you’re able to get a better sense of the sensations and movements that are pleasurable for you, which in turn also promotes body positivity.
Masturbation is empowering. You will never be in control of all aspects of your life, and many times you may feel like you aren’t in control of much at all, but, you can at least be in control of your own pleasure. You don’t need to rely on someone else for pleasure, it can be all your own.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, masturbation is the ultimate form of self-care because through all the craziness of life, it allows for a few moments that are focused solely on nothing other than your own personal gratification. The only way any of us are going to make it through life is by making time for ourselves, for our self-care, and for personal pleasure.
To discuss any sexual or intimate health concerns with one of our licensed counselors or sex therapists, call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment.Learn More