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Sara Briner Psychosexual Therapy Relationship Counselling in Exeter & Chudleigh, Devon


What is sex therapy?

Sexual difficulties can be put into two categories (although saying that the two can work together) medical and psychological. You notice you have a difficulty and you go to your GP, they will talk to you and may run some tests or carry out a medical examination to rule out any medical issues. These can rule out things such as diabetes, heart disease, testosterone deficiency and check hormone levels. You may be given medication or the tests will come back ok, then your difficulties maybe psychological. Other things can cause sexual difficulties such as stress, anxiety, death of a partner, a new relationship, performance anxiety, pain, hormone changes, unable to have intercourse vaginusmus, new baby, divorce, sexual abuse, loss, lack of communication and many more things.

What to expect at sex therapy:

You can attend on your own or as a couple. At the first assessment you will be asked lots of questions about your difficulty and you may be invited for separate sessions after this to gather more history. A programme is then put together to help you achieve your goals.

What may be in the programme?

The programme is designed to help you with your specific difficulties to reach your goals. In the sessions there will be information giving, further exploration of the difficulty, talking therapy and work is set with you for you to do at home. This can be together and separately, then at each session you give feedback.


Sometimes a lack of sex can be a symptom of the relationship not being good. This would be discussed at the time of the assessment and you maybe offered some relationship counselling first. Sometimes this is enough to enable couple to restart their sex life at other times you will be offered sex therapy.

What you need to think about?

Sex therapy needs time. You will attend therapy weekly or fortnightly and then make time to do the work at home. You both need to be invested in the programme.
Sara Briner May 2022.

Article from:
theguardian.com access 19.03.2024
Written by Michael Craig published on 16.02.2024 at 14.00GMT

True romance: how to keep the love alive when money is tight:

You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun with someone you adore – especially if you stop measuring yourself against other couples
or the three years my partner and I have been engaged, we have tiptoed around the financial elephant in the room: how much should we spend on our wedding? We’re both freelance and our finances fluctuate, so for a long time we did what any tension-averse introverts do and didn’t talk about it.
Eventually – a few months ago – we had The Chat, decided we didn’t need anything flashy to show how in love we are and settled on a small register office affair followed by a party upstairs in a pub. The point is, rule one of keeping a long-term relationship alive when financial burdens hit is good communication.

“The most important thing is transparency,” confirms relationship psychotherapist Vasia Toxavidi. “There needs to be open communication and support and understanding.” Pent-up financial worries, Toxavidi says, can create “anxiety, stress and then depression, which can become almost like a loop” that is difficult to escape from.

Societal pressures and the catalogue of manufactured dreams that is Instagram also play their part, leading to distorted expectations of what your relationship should be like, an illusion brought into sharper focus by money troubles.
“People see certain things happening on social media and they go home and say: ‘Why aren’t you providing for me?’” says Michelle Bassam, a psychological therapist at Harley Therapy in London. “It helps not to have any expectations of each other apart from our basic self-care and being open and truthful. Then why, in moments of financial difficulty, do your expectations of your partner have to change?”
There are also practical ways of lightening the financial burden. “In terms of saving specifically, one of the first things you can look at is where you’re spending the most money,” says Vicky Parry, content editor at moneysaving website Money Magpie. “For a lot of people, aside from rent or mortgage, that would be food. Look for ways in which you can get food cheap – go to Lidl, get a £1.50 veg box, freeze food, use the food-saving apps, create meal plans together.”
If you’re staying in more, the urge might be to load up on even more streaming platforms, but Parry suggests using the LittleBirdie app that “goes through all your subscriptions and finds out which ones you’re using the most. My partner and I cut down £100 a month using the spreadsheet. She also recommends the channel Talking Pictures TV, which specialises in classic films, for a romantic night in. “Or, if you want a day out, there are so many good things you can do for free – go to museums, go to the parks. Just be a bit creative.”
In fact, creativity is key when living on a budget. “We don’t need to go out to have fun,” says Bassam. “Being together should always be enough. Have times with no telephones, no television, just each other. Have an indoor picnic, enjoy a shower together, run your partner a bath.” These small acts of kindness can be a great way of showing that you’re in it together.
Another way of cementing that togetherness is to open a joint account. While there are risks involved – both parties are equally responsible for any withdrawals, which could cause problems if one person has a different attitude towards spending, and credit ratings can also be affected – it’s a way of putting that all-important transparency into action.
“Joint accounts work very well because you’ve both got visuals on what’s going on,” says Stephen Page, a chartered financial life planner with Serenity Financial Planning. Joint accounts used as a way of saving, even in small increments, mean you can still have something to look forward to when financial hopes for the future take a knock.

One way to have fun with your partner, for free, at home, is of course to have sex. But as lovely as that can be, financial stresses can quash libidos and dampen sexual appetite. For Bassam, it’s about focusing on intimacy rather than sex. “Intimacy is important because we feel loved and respected and needed at a time of difficulty,” she says. “It’s about enjoying each other’s company and each other’s bodies. It doesn’t have to be sex because stress can cause problems on both sides. It’s about being present: if you are with your partner, it’s not being half on your phone and half with them. It’s remembering the things you used to laugh about and things you want to share in the future.”
Keeping a relationship healthy when money is tight is about recalibrating expectations, being creative, focusing on what’s important and finding fun together. But honesty is the key to unlocking all of the above. “There are three taboos – death, sex and money – and if you’re open and face that conversation about money with your partner then it leads to a deeper and more rewarding relationship,” says Page. “It takes another fear off the table.”
If you’re worried about all the budget chat, the spreadsheets and the cashback apps being the antitheses of romance, then Page has a question for you: “Why wouldn’t being financially secure be sexy?”


Are you expecting a baby?

When clients are expecting a baby they often think about the practical things but do not discuss how this may change the relationship and intimacy.
Some clients come for therapy never thinking about any changes that life will continue as it has been doing and then find themselves having difficulties.

When you know you are expecting think about all areas. For some couples they do not want sexual intercourse, talk to the professionals midwife etc and get advice. Think about other ways to be intimate touch, baths showers etc and try and connect.

Sort out practical issues but also think about how the relationship may change. A baby is going to need more attention, body changes, there will be sleepless nights. How are you going to connect as a couple?

It is important to try and make some time when you can. This could be sitting close, having a cuddle, talking, a massage or a bath/shower.
Talk about ideas maybe make a list of three things each would want to do, think about other things you can do and then make up a list. Take off things either of you would not like to do.

Remember it may take time to restart a physical sexual relationship. If there has been a difficult birth it can take time for the physical side to return. The father can be traumatised by seeing a birth and a few sessions of EMDR can help with birth trauma.

If this does return then seek support.

Written by Sara Briner 3rd February 2024.

How does EMDR work:

When a person is involved in a traumatic event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to fully process what is going on. The memory of the event seems to become “stuck” so that it remains very intense and vivid. The person can re-experience what they saw, heard and smelt and the full force of the distress they felt whenever the memory comes to mind.

EMDR aims to help the brain “unstick” and reprocess the memory properly so that it is no longer so intense. It also helps to desensitise the person to the emotional impact of the memory, so that they can think about the event without experiencing such strong feelings.

It does this by asking the person to recall the traumatic event while they also move their eyes from side-to-side, hear a sound in each ear alternately, or feel a tap on each hand alternately. These side-to-side sensations seem to effectively stimulate the “stuck” processing system in the brain so that it can reprocess the information more like an ordinary memory, reducing its intensity.

The effect may be similar to what occurs naturally during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when your eyes move rapidly from side to side as the brain processes the events of the day. Some research suggests that EMDR is effective because concentrating on another task whilst processing a distressing memory gives the brain more work to do*. When the brain is not giving its full attention to processing the memory, it starts to become less vivid. This allows the person to distance themselves from it and begin to remember the event in a more helpful and manageable way.

EMDR is a complex therapeutic process that should always be delivered by properly trained therapists.

* e.g. Gunter & Bodner, 2008. Taken from: emdrassociation.org.uk on 29.01.2024

What happens during sex therapy?

Sex therapy is a form of counselling intended to help individuals and couples resolve sexual difficulties, such as performance anxiety or relationship problems.

Clients generally meet in the therapist’s office. Some choose to attend sessions alone; others bring their partner with them. Session frequency and length usually depend on the client and the type of problem being addressed.

It’s normal for clients to feel anxious when seeing a sex therapist, especially for the first time. Many people have trouble talking about sex at all, so discussing it with a stranger may feel awkward. However, most sex therapists recognise this and try to make their clients feel comfortable. Often, they start with questions about the client’s health and sexual background, sex education, beliefs about sex, and the client’s specific sexual concerns.

It’s important to know that sex therapy sessions do not involve any physical contact or sexual activity among clients and therapists. Clients who feel uncomfortable with any aspect of therapy should speak up or stop seeing that particular therapist.

Sex therapists usually assign “homework”—practical activities that clients are expected to complete in the privacy of their own home.

Such homework might include the following:

• Experimentation. Couples who feel they’re in a sexual rut may try different activities, such as role playing or using sex toys, to increase their desire. Other couples may need to adjust their sexual routine or positions, especially if one partner has a health condition that requires such changes.

• Sensate focus. This technique for couples is designed to build trust and intimacy while reducing anxiety. Couples progress through three stages, starting with nonsexual touching, progressing to genital touching, and, usually, ending with penetration.

• Education. Sometimes, clients do not receive adequate sex education while they are growing up. As a result, they may not be aware of anatomy and how the body functions during sexual activity. Therapists might assign books or web content to read or videos to watch. They might also suggest that clients use a mirror to learn more about their body.

• Communication strategies. Clients may practice asking for what they want or need sexually or emotionally in a relationship.

Success with sex therapy often depends on how committed clients are to the process. If clients are willing to put in the effort, either alone or with a partner, they may reach their sexual goals.

Accessed on 27.02.2023 from www.issm.info what happens during sex therapy, written 04.07.2016

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