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Sara Briner Psychosexual Therapy Relationship Counselling in Exeter, Devon


Erection dysfunction (Telegraph.co.uk)

In it together: 4.3 million men in the UK experience erectile problems CREDIT: GETTY
30 NOVEMBER 2018 • 10:00AM
Many men wait years before doing anything about erectile dysfunction (ED), but with plenty of help out there there’s no need to hesitate

Let’s talk about ED – having difficulties getting or maintaining an erection. It’s one of the topics men least want to talk about, because it is one of their greatest fears. When you’re a man you expect your penis to work on cue, every time, and freak when it doesn’t. It’s not something you talk to your mates about. You fear you’ve somehow failed as a man if you can’t get an erection on demand. So the more the message gets out that penises can be unreliable and nearly every guy can have problems from time to time, the more confident men will feel.

Men are hugely misrepresented in popular culture: there’s a perception they’re always up for sex, supremely confident in bed and never have problems. The reality is very different. When men suffer from erection problems or premature ejaculation, they can be terrified of being ridiculed. Many feel traumatised by the experience. The ability to get and maintain an erection for sex is so important for their self-esteem and their relationships.

If you’re one of them and worried sick about what’s going on with your erections, this might make you feel instantly better about yourself: 4.3 million men in the UK experience erectile problems[1]. That’s a lot of men. The next time you’re in the pub, have a look around the room and you’ll be looking at men who are going through exactly what you are. The really ridiculous thing about ED is that, not only is it common, it’s often easy to fix. The main reason ED is a problem for men is because they don’t seek help for it.

The wall of silence

It starts with denial: you pretend it’s nothing. You drank too much, you’re tired. Then you realise something is actually wrong. Instead of doing what you’d do if something weird was happening to another part of your body – see a doctor immediately – you suffer in silence. Too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it, 44 per cent of men with ED aged 40 and over have not sought medical help, according to a new study[2]. Not only are you then on a difficult emotional journey, it’s one you’re doing solo, because lots of you don’t even tell your partner what’s going on.

This impacts terribly on relationships. Men with ED often stop instigating sex, worried they won’t be able to perform. They often stop any physical contact for fear it might lead to sex, leaving their partners feeling like they’re having an affair or not interested in them sexually any more. Women don’t talk about ED because they’re worried they’ll upset their partner, embarrass them – or that they might be the problem. They might feel they are not attractive or “sexy” enough, or their partner just doesn’t love them any more.

It’s high time we all started talking openly about ED, so let’s start by looking at the facts. What exactly is it, for starters? Put simply, erectile dysfunction is when you can’t get hard enough, or keep an erection long enough, to have penetrative sex. This might happen all the time, or just now and then.

Why is it happening?

Your penis can be affected by what you put into your body, so drinking too much, taking recreational drugs, some medications (anti-depressants can be the culprit), smoking and eating unhealthily can all affect your erection quality. The healthier you are generally, the better: diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease can all be causes of ED. These physical conditions can affect the blood flow into the penis, which in turn can affect the ability to get or maintain an erection.

Erections are also affected by emotions – if you’re stressed, having relationship issues, worried about work, exhausted, depressed or traumatised by something, this can all affect how your penis performs.

Five myths about erectile dysfunction

That it’s an old man’s disease: it does become more common as men age, but it can affect men of all ages.

That it shows a lack of masculinity: “real men” have erection wobbles, too.

That it shows you don’t feel like sex: desire and ED are not always causally linked. You could be more aroused than you’ve ever been and still not get an erection if you have an underlying physical condition.

That ED has nothing to do with any other health problems: not getting an erection could actually save your life because it can alert you to underlying medical conditions you may not have noticed such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Caught early, they can be treated more easily.

That it’s all in your head: sometimes ED’s causes are purely psychological. But if it’s caused by a physical problem, which it often is, learning not to worry about it isn’t going to fix it.


Cycles/patterns are very common in individuals, relationships and in families, it could be as simple as how you do something (at home in a certain order) to something that leads to anger.

In counselling we often look for patterns/cycles as this helps us to understand, explain what is happening and explore ways to break a cycle/pattern. People often know the consequences but do not recognise the triggers (things that push people’s buttons) or they may recognise the triggers but do not know how to break the cycle. Once you start to break down (it is like uncoiling a spring) and understand the pattern/ cycle you can start to put things in place to change the behaviour and break the pattern/cycle.

It can be hard to break patterns/cycles they have been happening for a short time or a life time. Changes are possible you need to be consistent.

There is a lot information on the internet and in books about cycles and patterns. Introducing mindfullness and doing physical exercise can help as well as behavioural changes.

How mindfulness can re-invigorate your sex life
Harness the power of mindfulness to form deeper connections

By Jodie Bond www.happiful.com July 2021

We all know the benefits of mindfulness, but have you ever considered introducing aspects of mindful practice into your sex life? Many of us don’t associate calm and mindfulness with the passion we strive for in the bedroom, yet taking the time to think mindfully about sex is a great way to super- charge your love life.
Professor Lori Brotto is a psychologist and author from the University of British Columbia’s Sexual Health Laboratory. Considering the links she’s found in her research, Professor Brotto says: “A large body of scientific research shows that mindfulness significantly improves sexual desire, and several other facets of sexual function, mood, and sexual quality of life.”
Writing Jodie Bond Improving the way we tune-in to our bodies through mindfulness can improve the way we tune-in to our sexuality. These five steps will help you get started.

Passionate sex is mindful sex
Think back to your most powerful sexual experience. Do you remember what was running through your head? It’s likely that you don’t. When we’re immersed in the throes of passion, we are seized by the moment. We give our whole being to it. And that is exactly what mindfulness is. Passionate sex is mindful sex: we give all our energy to the heat of the experience, with no room for distraction.
In long-term relationships, we often find ourselves slipping into autopilot. We put ourselves through the motions of sex without being present. Do you ever find yourself thinking about work, or your never- ending to-do list? Our thoughts can be a barrier to intimacy.

Learn to switch off
Be in the moment during sex. Focus on your senses, and not on how you’re performing.
This will not only help both you and your partner to relax, but will make the experience more enjoyable. Focus on the parts
of your body that are alight with sensation. Notice your movements, the rise and fall of your breath, the warmth and coolness, the shiver of your skin. Talking to your partner about what you’re experiencing during sex will help you both gain a better understanding of how
to dial up the pleasure. Those whispers between the sheets can also be a huge turn on.

Meditation and sex
Meditation and sex might sound like contradictory activities. Meditation is practised alone, usually in stillness and silence; sex is often active, noisy, and frequently practised with a partner! But these two activities are more complementary than you might think.
Research suggests that meditating in our daily lives has a positive impact on our enjoyment of sex. Regular meditation reduces the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, that we produce. We all know that feeling stressed pushes sex down the priority list, and makes us more distracted when engaging with our partner. By lowering our stress levels through meditation, we can give our mind, and libido, the breathing space required to ignite our sense of desire.

Don’t put pressure on yourself
Often, we think of an orgasm as the primary goal when having sex, but placing climax on a pedestal can create unwanted pressure. According to a study published
in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, more than half of women struggle to climax through penetrative sex, and chasing
after an orgasm can distract from other sensual pleasures, and lead to frustration. Letting go of expectations, and simply enjoying the moment for what it is, will often yield astonishing results. When we are immersed in the throes of passion, we are seized by the moment.

Make a date
It is easy for sex to slip down the list of priorities in long-term relationships – it’s not often given the time it deserves. A survey published in the British Medical Journal revealed that we are having less sex than we used to. This is often attributed to the fast pace of our modern lives.
A lot of value is placed on our ability to be spontaneous with sex, but there is no shame in scheduling it in. If you take one thing from this, promise yourself that you’ll dedicate a few hours to engage mindfully with sex.
Mindfulness is about finding an anchor for your focus. Let the anchor be your own body. Learn to return to that anchor when you are distracted, and you will revolutionise your love life. That’s a promise.


Communication is so important in all aspects of our lives, whether it is with people you know well, colleagues at work, aquaintances or people you just acknowledge.
Communication can be verbal, a touch, a nod, a facial expression or through your body language.
Today communication has to compete with the computer, the ipad, head phones and phone, they all have their uses but are causing difficulties and coming between relationships/families. How many people sit at the table or on the sofa and look at their phone whilst with someone else. That other person may also be on another device. There is little or no communication.

Start to notice what is happening for you? How are you communicating and what type of communication are you using with different people you meet throughout your day.

With partners or significant others become aware of communication and how much time you use technology. Make time to sit and listen to each other and talk.

Sara Briner 19/05/2021

Making time

In sex therapy or relationship counselling it soon becomes apparent if time is an issue.
Often there is time for the family and sometimes time for the individual (but not always) but couple time is lacking.

Couple time is important, it is the time you can talk about things, you can have some fun and intimacy. Remember back to when you first met, there would have been time for the couple, you would have made time.

Relationships go through different stages:
The time you met - you both make an effort, communication is ok and you have some fun.
you both have interests and hobbies.

When you decided to move in together - this can be an exciting time and a time when you find out what it is like to live together. Making time for the couple may still be ok and you make time for hobbies, interests and friendships You continue your individual activities and you communicate. You continue to have fun.

As life becomes more mundane or children come along this is when things change, and the couple either adapts or cracks appear. Excitement can go, you stop making an effort, you are constantly tired, you no longer have the full attention of your partner and communication and fun stop. Even making time to talk about day to day issues disappear. This does not apply to all couples and some manage this change together and grow.

Children leaving home or another life change retiring can also be another stage. All those things you have wanted to do together you can now do and embrace. It may also be a time when you realise you have nothing in common any more or you feel lost.

Think about your relationship and the stages, what do you notice?

How do you switch off from work and home? If you are used to a 30minute drive and are now working from home how do you switch off?

What is fun?
How can you get pockets of time?

Now schools are back some couples are going for a walk or having a coffee break together.
Can your children go to bed a little earlier or can one put the children to bed whilst the other prepares a meal, or runs a bath or prepares a movie night.
If the week is full on can you make time on a weekend for each other.

If you feel things are not right sit and talk together about what you can do to change things.
How can you introduce some fun and make things different.

Written by Sara Briner 15.03.2021

Date time.

Many couples I see in my practice for counselling or sex therapy never make time for the couple so this affects communication and intimacy.

Each month or week set aside a time that is yours, it may need to be juggled maybe one person puts the children to bed whilst the other person prepares the evening. Explore with each other how a date time can happen and put it in a diary.

A date time does not have to cost a lot and can be done at home. Decide who is going to prepare the first date time (remember this is a chance for you both to spend some time together, communicate and have some fun and the other person will then prepare the next date time. It is also about give and take.

A date time could be a meal, board game, video, a walk, looking at older photos of when you met, sitting in the garden, meeting for a coffee (when you can) you may decide to dress as though you are going out, put the effort in. It is a time just for the two of you to spend some time together.

If there are difficulties between you talk about boundaries so you know at the beginning of the date time what is and is not allowed. Intimacy can be a touch, holding hands, a kiss/snog. Date time does not have to lead to love making.

It is a time just to start to make time for you the couple and have some fun.

Sara Briner 2nd February 2021

Gifts from the heart.

It’s tempting to think the way to your partner’s heart is through finding the perfect gift with an expensive price tag. However, you can bring them joy with simple gestures that will truly show how much you care. Also, the best part is that they don’t have to cost you a dime.

Give to your Emotional Bank Account
Rather than putting a strain on your financial bank account, make a deposit into your Emotional Bank Account. Each time a couple turns toward each other, they fund their Emotional Bank Account. This creates a cushion for when times of increased stress or conflict.

Ask them how their day was and listen to their answer. Find out what’s causing them stress lately, and don’t immediately try to problem-solve. Be affectionate and playful, and join them in a flight of fancy.

Give wonder
As an adult, it can be easy to lose sight of the wonder when you’re the one creating it. What if you seized those opportunities to be childlike and playful? Here are some practical ideas:

Build a snowperson
Take a tour of the lights in your neighborhood
Decorate your home
Share your favorite movie from your childhood
Hide something for your partner to find on a “treasure hunt”
Give a kiss
Do you have six seconds to spare? The Gottmans call the six-second kiss a “kiss with potential.” It can help warm you up, especially when you feel like romantic embers have cooled over time. Instead of the old peck on the lips out of habit, let at least one of your hello/goodbye kisses linger.

Give a hug
What is your partner’s favorite way to be hugged? What is yours? Take some time to think about what feels best for you. Maybe it’s a side hug as a greeting, a “heart hug,” or a hug that lasts a long time.

Opening up a dialogue about your preferences and what feels good to each of you is a key component in enjoying physical intimacy. So, give your partner the gift of affection on their terms.

Give the acceptance of your partner’s influence
We all know conflict is inevitable, but you have a choice in how you react to keep a disagreement from blowing up into a war. One way is to give your partner the gift of accepting their influence. Next time you find yourself at odds with each other, take time to hear their side. Ask open-ended questions about their perspective on the matter. Then, be intentional about weighing their thoughts and concerns in your decision. They will feel like you listen to them and care about them, and you may find the solution to a problem that you never considered.

Communicate better in your relationship.
By Gottman.com on 24.12.2021

Good communication is so important in relationships.

I am seeing more and more clients in my practice where communication is not good or has broken down in the relationship.
Think of patterns, "What keeps happening?"

Make time for the relationship, set a side time to talk and listen without interruptions.
Take ownership of what you want to say, how it makes you feel and your needs. Allow the person who has listened to make you aware they have understood before replying, again taking ownership.

If you both cannot agree can you meet in the middle.

If you notice patterns and communication is not good then seek counselling before it goes too far. A couple of sessions may get you communicating better.

Happiful.com May 2020 written by Carolyne Bennett
How to meditate:
Do you struggle to switch off every time you try to meditate? Don’t despair. These useful tips will help you reach a state of zen in no time

We’re led to think that meditating should be simple. You just sit there, relax, and think of nothing, right? Well, the truth is a bit more complicated than that, and many of us can find it difficult to switch off the internal chatter in our minds. After all, meditating encourages us to do something that we’re not used to. All day long our brains are working in overdrive – reminding us to pay that bill, pick up the shopping and send those emails – and sitting still and quiet can feel very alien to us. And that’s if we even manage to carve out 15 minutes of our day to dedicate to it.

So, what’s the answer? Meditation instructor Carolyne Bennett says it’s important to stick with your practice – even if you find it tricky at first.

“People think that meditating is challenging for many reasons, and as a result give up too soon,” she says. “Perhaps there are too many distractions around you, your mind is leaping from one thing to another, or you convince yourself that you’re no good at it and question why you’re doing it in the first place. But the benefits of meditation are accumulative, and the more you sit, the more your mind will become quiet and peaceful.”

If you need a helping hand, try one of the below techniques – they’re ideal for beginners, and will soon help you to enjoy a sense of calm.

Opt for a guided meditation

These are a beginner’s best friend. Available on apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Buddhify, guided meditations allow you to tune in to an instructor’s voice, and follow their directions as they guide you into a meditative state.

“Our minds love having something to do, and hearing a set of soothing instructions gives you something positive to focus on,” Carolyne explains. “Guided meditations provide an amazing, magical experience by taking you on a journey. As with all meditations, if your mind wanders, remember that’s OK, because that’s what they’re designed to do. Once you’ve become aware that your thoughts are elsewhere, just bring your attention back to the guided meditation, and continue where you left off.”

Count 100 breaths

This is an ideal technique to improve your concentration, and encourage your mind to be still. It involves counting down from 100 with each breath until you reach zero, and allows you to notice the steady rhythm of your inhalations and exhalations.

As you try this method, pay attention to your body’s reaction as you take in and release air. Notice the sounds you make, and how it feels. Breathing is like an anchor for many of us, and settling into this practice can ground you, and create a deep sense of relaxation.

This is also a useful practice if you’re feeling anxious at any point in your day – simply counting 10 or 20 breaths can help release stress quickly and efficiently.

Complete a body scan

Rather than switching your brain off completely, this type of meditation aims to connect your body and mind together, and put them in sync. It involves mentally scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, slowly paying attention to the sensations that arise as you do so, and noticing any areas of discomfort.

“A body scan meditation is very restorative and healing, and can help you to relax at a deep level,” Carolyne says. “It’s best to try to stay awake for this, to really appreciate the benefits, but if you do nod off then don’t worry.”

You can easily centre your practice around some relaxing music, the sounds of the ocean, or even just a ticking clock
Use a timer

While seasoned meditators can come in and out of a meditative state with ease, and feel confident in knowing when their session has naturally come to its end, beginners often struggle with this point – this is when an alarm can be handy. Set a timer for a certain number of minutes (it doesn’t have to be long – even five minutes is a good start) and then relax into your practice knowing that time won’t become a distraction.

Focus on your senses

As Carolyne tells us, sensory-based meditations are great for helping you become aware of the current moment. “They bring you out of your head and into the present by grounding you in your body, and relaxing your nervous system,” she says.

Try it yourself by choosing one of your senses to focus on. Sound is perhaps one of the most obvious choices, and you can easily centre your practice around some relaxing music, the sounds of the ocean, or even just a ticking clock. You can also follow the same principle with smell (by burning incense or essential oils), touch (by holding some fabric in your fingers or massaging your body with your hands), or sight (by staring at a flickering candle).

And if you’re still struggling…

Don’t beat yourself up. Meditation has many benefits, but it’s a skill that requires practise and time. Enjoy the peaceful moments, and seek extra guidance through meditation apps or classes.

Carolyne Bennett is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor, NLP practitioner, and advanced Law of Attraction coach. Find out more by visiting carolynebennett.com

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