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Sensate Focus

Sensate focus is a therapeutic technique used in sex therapy to help individuals or couples experiencing sexual difficulties. The technique focuses on the physical sensations and pleasure of touch and intimate contact rather than sexual performance or orgasm.

During sensate focus, individuals or couples are asked to engage in exercises designed to increase their awareness of their own and their partner's bodies. These exercises typically begin with non-sexual touching, such as holding hands, hugging, or cuddling, and gradually progress to more intimate touching, such as caressing, kissing, and genital touching.

Sensate-focus therapy aims to help individuals or couples overcome sexual performance anxiety, increase intimacy and connection, and enhance sexual pleasure and satisfaction. It can be a helpful technique for individuals or couples dealing with sexual difficulties such as low desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or difficulty reaching orgasm.

Sensate Focus Exercise

Sensate Focus is a powerful exercise that can bring up deeper issues in the relationship.  If you feel concerned or issues arise, don't hesitate to contact a couples therapist. 


Some ground rules for the exercise


1.  Set aside time to do the exercise.  Agree with your partner on a time and day most suitable for both of you.  Stick to the agreed time and date and prioritize that commitment over other things.  


2.  Set up a time to do the exercises at least twice weekly. Start by spending 20 minutes on the exercises, increasing to 60 minutes per session over the next four weeks.

3.  Come prepared mentally and physically for the exercise.  Try not to rush in or rush out of the exercise.  Give yourself enough time to relax and tune into the moment.

4. Don't rush through the stages.  If you and your partner are enjoying a stage- stay in that stage till you feel ready.  This is not a race to the finish line, but enjoying the process is the goal of this exercise.

5. Avoid talking during the exercise unless your partner's touch is uncomfortable or painful, and you must let him or her know.  Do not have conversations about other, unrelated matters during the exercise, i.e. anything that isn't happening right now between you.  Conversations will distract you from your sensations.

Stage 1

This involves being naked and touching, but without touching the genitals or breasts or proceeding to intercourse.


Take turns in each session.  Attending to your emotions and physical sensations as your partner touches you is essential. Concentrate as much as you can on what you're experiencing. If your mind wanders, bring yourself and your awareness back into the room and onto your body. 

Continue these sessions for at least two weeks until you spend 60 minutes per session, or 30 minutes each, giving and receiving. You should feel relaxed with a growing sense of trust and familiarity at the end of that period. If you need more time at this level, stay with it as long as you need to.


If you feel there are barriers to moving on, consult a psychotherapist or psychosexual counsellor.


Once you both feel comfortable with this and agree to move on, you can include various touches, such as oils, powder, or different fabrics. Spend as much time as you need on this level until you feel relaxed and present.

Stage 2

Continue your exercises as before, but include genital touching. There are now no "forbidden" areas on the body. For touching the genitals of a woman, please make sure you are using some lubricant or oil if she wants it. Otherwise, touch may be experienced as uncomfortable. The same may be true for men.

Take as much time as you need to get comfortable and relax at this stage. For the giving partner, the aim must be 'exploration', not pleasing your partner. And remember to still mainly focus on the other's whole body, not just their genitals.

Once you are both comfortable and ready to move on again, concentrate more on the genitals. You can play with different types of touch, pressure and friction and explore different areas. The receiving partner will concentrate on the different sensations created through being touched. Spend as much time as you need on this level until you feel relaxed and present.

At the end of this stage, there is the option to go for mutual masturbation to orgasm. If you are both ready to do so, agree on this option before the start of your exercise.

Stage 3

The next stage involves entering the vagina without further movement.  This is an essential step for men with erectile problems or premature ejaculation. Take time with this step and stay with the no-movement, no-thrusting idea.   Do not proceed to complete intercourse. Spend as much time as you need on this level until you feel relaxed and present.

Finally, include some movement when the penis is in the vagina. You can include gentle thrusting and rotating movements.  You can include stronger movement as you get more comfortable at this stage.  This stage aims to enjoy each other's physical presence and touch.  Avoid getting fixated on achieving orgasms.  

Final points about Sensate Focus

Sexual intimacy can be a vulnerable space for partners, especially if past trauma, criticism or problems exist.  It is crucial to keep communication open, honest and full of love.  Avoid harsh and critical comments about your partner.  If you or your partner are finding that despite following all these stages, there is still pain, trauma responses or fear- do reach out to a couples counsellor to work through these deeper issues. 

Book your session now.

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