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How much do we really learn about intimacy, affection, sensual touching and sex while growing up?

A lot of our references for intimacy come from what we see in our families, movies, and for sex, a lot of the time porn. What we are individually exposed to will possibly become what we think is the norm, which can then possibly skew our views towards intimacy with a partner. For instance, if a woman watches porn for a sex reference she may think her vulva has to look a certain way or that she needs to attain an orgasm with penetration or to be intimate with her partner she has to have sex, when that’s not really the case.

There are more ways to have intimacy or explore pleasure with a partner aside from just penetration. This is especially important for a lot of the patients we see that either have pain with intercourse or don’t have the ability to tolerate any penetration. One technique helps bring awareness to touch you enjoy with your partner without distractions. For instance, touching to receive a response from your partner is considered a distraction. Can you be mindful and learn what touch and sensations are enjoyable for yourself? This can help you find pleasures that are not sexual and don’t involve the genitals. Research has also shown some success with the use of sensate focus with a multifaceted approach for vaginismus.

What is Sensate Focus?

Sensate Focus is a sex therapy technique that was created by the Masters & Johnson team in the 60’s, that has evolved over the years to accommodate for a variety of sexual concerns and more diverse populations. Although more controlled trials are needed with various populations, there have been positive results reported so far. This technique consists of a series of behavioral exercises that couples can do together to explore the sensual side of touching. There are multiple steps to this technique and can be better explained by a certified sex therapist, but we will go through some basics so you can have a better understanding of what the technique intails.

During the exercises you and your partner are trying to overcome distraction and really focusing on “touching for your own interest” versus to try to make something happen. This can be very challenging, but that’s why it’s called an exercise, and it will improve over time. It is recommended that you do the exercises when both you and your partner are relaxed and in a comfortable setting, especially during a time you cannot be disturbed. The goal is to overcome distraction, so it’s best to not have anything around that can possibly distract you like music, the TV, phones, or even talking (unless the receiver needs to communicate a boundary or express in a sensitive, positive way that they don’t like how they are being touched).

You and your partner will take turns on being the explorer while the other will be the receiver. You can decide this before and schedule a good time for the both of you. The goal of the explorer is to touch mindfully without focusing on achieving a response from their partner or filling your head with other distractions. Your main focus is on your own sensations. The receiver’s job is to just relax and enjoy the ride. You are also just focusing on what types and what body parts you enjoyed being touched. After 10 minutes of being the explorer or receiver you then switch. As it becomes easier, time is added to the sessions, but of course it is recommended to go at your own pace. If you are interested in practicing sensate focus there are certified sex therapists that can assist you further with the technique.

Having pelvic pain can really affect someone's intimate life, and it is so important that we support our patients and find ways/resources to help them overcome these barriers they may face. Our physical therapists specialize in pelvic health and make sure to provide resources for our patients so that they can have an optimal outcome. If you are someone experiencing pelvic pain give us a call today and make an appointment!

References:

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor.

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by S.B.

As someone who suffered the debilitating physical and emotional effects of vaginismus (as well as a complicated history of back injuries) for more than 15 years, I thought a "normal" life was just a fantasy. Then I found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by S.B.

Testimonial by M.N., age 28

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

Read more: Testimonial by M.N., age 28

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

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