TWO Prime Guidelines for Integrated Eroticism

One of the most fascinating aspects of sexuality is the differences in what people find erotic. Download the “Creating Erotic Scenarios” worksheet, and have your clients try the exercise with their partner to explore turn-ons.

Eroticism is the most controversial dimension of the desire/pleasure/eroticism/satisfaction mantra. Both in the media and among professionals, eroticism has a kinky/porn/lustful/socially unacceptable connotation. This has caused intimacy-based couple therapists to not just be wary of eroticism, but to take an anti-eroticism stance. It is true that eroticism can be misused by individuals—especially men who compulsively use online porn which subverts couple sexuality. However, the great majority of men, women, and couples recognize that erotic scenarios and techniques are an integral component of individual and couple sexuality. Eroticism involves subjective and objective arousal in the 6-10 range. Pleasuring and eroticism are different dimensions, but not incompatible or adversarial. The pleasuring/eroticism process facilitates desire, orgasm, and satisfaction.

There are two prime guidelines for integrated eroticism. First, it is not at the expense of the partner or the relationship. Second, there is a clear understanding that erotic fantasy is a totally different dimension than real life couple sexuality. Erotic fantasies and erotic materials function as a super-charged “sixth gear”—they provide a bridge to sexual desire or a bridge to orgasm. Confusing the role of erotic fantasy/materials and real life sexual behavior is the problem. Integrated eroticism promotes each partner having her unique erotic voice which reinforces couple sexuality. Integrated eroticism energizes couple sexuality. The core of integrated eroticism is to energize the couple bond, promote mystery and creativity, enjoy unpredictable and non-politically correct sexual scenarios, and provide vitality to the sexual relationship.

Integrated eroticism is a key factor in promoting orgasm and satisfaction. Eroticism has a unique role in resolving female orgasmic dysfunction, male ejaculatory inhibition, and premature ejaculation. Eroticism has a positive, integral role in individual and couple sexuality.


One of the most fascinating aspects of sexuality is the differences in what people find erotic. Have your clients try this exercise with their partner to create erotic scenarios and explore turn-ons.

DOWNLOAD: Creating Erotic Scenarios Worksheet


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This post is an excerpt from the book Sex Made Simple, Clinical Strategies for Sexual Issues in Therapy by Barry McCarthy, PhD. McCarthy is a board-certified clinical psychologist, diplomat in sex therapy, certified marriage and family therapist, and a tenured professor of psychology at American University.

He has published 105 professional articles, 27 book chapters, and co-authored 15 trade books. Barry’s clinical expertise is in sexuality, especially issues of sexual desire, sexual function and dysfunction, relapse prevention, and prevention of sexual problems. He has presented over 350 workshops in the United States and internationally.


Should be on the bookshelf of any couples therapist
– Terry Real, LICSW

Offers a clear path to sexual fulfillment
– Sue Johnson, EdD

Become sex positive with the latest in sex therapy
– Joe Kort, PhD, LMSW


If a gay teen told you he was on Grindr, how would you react?

While online dating and hook-up apps are made for adults 18 and older, teenagers (straight and gay) are breaking the rules and joining the fun. For gay teens, apps such as Grindr, Tinder and Scruff have made it easier to find a partner they can relate to and experience those first romantic encounters with.

With campaigns such as It Gets Better and the Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights movement has continued to see the culture shift to be more accepting of the LGBTQ community. But for many teens, being gay provides its own unique set of challenges.

Like all teenagers, gay teens struggle to be comfortable in their own skin. They worry about pimples, their fashion, and their academic performance. And like most teenagers, they have the same desire to meet someone who makes their stomach churn with butterflies and to have that blissful, yet terrifying, first kiss.

The only real difference between a gay teen and a straight teen, is that finding another person they can relate to and experience those first romantic encounters with can be more challenging.

While online dating and hook-up apps are made for adults 18 and older, teenagers (straight and gay) are breaking the rules and joining the fun. For gay teens, apps such as Grindr, Tinder and Scruff have made it easier to find a partner they can relate to and experience those first romantic encounters with.

While these sites may be fun, exciting, and enticing, they can also be potentially dangerous. It’s a complicated, sensitive issue to balance safety concerns with the desire and need to find someone to connect to. Joe Kort, Ph.D., has been speaking on the subject of gay counseling for 25 years. Now he wants to know…

“If a gay teen told you he was on Grindr, how would you react?”

Watch the video, and join the conversation in the comments below.


Gain a better understanding of the current LGBTQ culture, sexual fluidity and trauma associated with growing up in the closet when you join Joe Kort for a CE seminar on DVD.

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At PESI, we believe your Facebook news feed should be a place where you connect, learn and interact with others. That’s why we’re working to bring you the most up-to-date information about your professional field.

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Inside Out: Family-Friendly Film, or Psychotherapy for the Masses?

A major emotion picture is set to be released on Friday, June 19. You think it’s a family-friendly film… but is it?

A major emotion picture is set to be released on Friday, June 19. Thousands of families will be heading to the theater for what they think is an entertaining, family-friendly film.

…They’re right. It IS an entertaining, family-friendly film. But to the mental health world, it’s a great example of a relatively new model of psychotherapy. Do you recognize it?

If you’ve been living under a rock (we won’t judge you, it sounds divinely peaceful) and haven’t caught the preview, take a moment to check it out. Just make sure to catch up with us below.


If you identified the therapy model demonstrated in Inside Out as Internal Family Systems (IFS), points to you!

Scratching your head and wondering what IFS is? We chatted with Frank Anderson, M.D., psychotherapist and board chair of the IFS Center for Self Leadership, to get the low down on this revolutionary therapy.


PESI: How was IFS developed?
Anderson: Dick Schwartz developed IFS 30 years ago to help clients with eating disorders. Schwartz realized that clients were describing experiences with various parts, many extreme, within themselves. When these parts felt safe and had their concerns addressed, they were less disruptive. In developing IFS, he recognized that, as in systemic family theory, parts take on characteristic roles that help define the inner world of the client. Today, IFS has established a legacy of effectiveness in treating many mental health issues, and has been applied to a myriad of professional and lay public endeavors.

PESI: What makes IFS unique compared to other treatment models?
Anderson: Most modes of psychotherapy believe that if you have parts it’s pathological. Not in IFS. In IFS the idea of multiplicity of the mind is normalized. Every part has a good intention, and every part has value. We strongly believe that all clients possess “Self Energy” and have the ability to heal themselves if they listen to their parts.

PESI: The amount of practitioners being trained in IFS has grown significantly in the last few years. Why do you think that is?
Anderson: I believe the meditation craze has help people realize that going inside and exploring the self is healing, and we do use meditation in IFS therapy. When people start going inside and listening to the different voices in their head, they start feeling better instantly. As more therapist begin using this treatment model, they are seeing its ability to permanently heal wounds and make a huge impact for their clients.

PESI: What would you tell a therapist who is thinking about exploring IFS training?
Anderson: IFS is a very powerful tool. Once you experience it and see it in action you will be hooked.

PESI: What do you think of Pixar’s film, Inside Out?
Anderson: The IFS community is really excited about this film. When it comes to teaching our children about emotional intelligence we are failing. Most of what are children are experiencing in schools is cognitively based and behaviorally orientated. Bringing meditation into classrooms is a step in the right direction. However, we need to bring more emotional awareness to our children and destigmatize the idea of mental illness so we can promote maintaining mental health.

I hope that this film helps parents realize that parts are normal, and there is a way to work with them and acknowledge individual feelings without shaming someone.

It’s OK to have feelings, and to have a lot of them.

PESI: What’s next for the Center for Self Leadership?
Anderson: The Center for Self Leadership is focused on bringing evidence-based validity to the IFS model. We are working to do research and prove the efficacy of this treatment model. Recently, the results of a randomized controlled study published in the Journal of Rheumatology showed that an IFS-based intervention had positive effects on patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Lean more about the study here!)

We are also actively training new therapists and bringing IFS beyond the psychotherapy world as advocates of the need for emotional intelligence and understanding.

Want to learn more about the Foundation for Self Leadership? Check out FoundationIFS.org.


Have you explored the Internal Family Systems model? 
Let us know what you think in the comments below!


Treating Clients with Personality Disorders: Enhance the Strengths, Not the Weaknesses

When we overlook the client’s strengths in our treatment plans, we treat only a portion of our client and unintentionally distance ourselves from treating the whole person.

We tend to spend the majority of our time in treatment focusing on our clients’ weaknesses. While this is an important part of treatment, it leaves out a vital part of our clients: their strengths.

When we overlook the client’s strengths in our treatment plans, we treat only a portion of our client and unintentionally distance ourselves from treating the whole person.

Most individuals with a personality disorder come in with an overwhelming amount of weaknesses or areas of concern. As we progress in treatment we identify triggers and core content that promotes maladaptive patterns of behaviors that cause our clients to disrupt their lives. Bringing weaknesses into awareness should only be 10% of the treatment process; the other 90% is building on their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.

How can we ensure we highlight each patient’s strengths?

A worksheet has been created to help you work with your clients to identify their strengths. Download the worksheet – it has six strategies to help your client enhance their strengths in difficult situations. Next, watch the short video to learn the three categories of strengths. Understanding these categories will help you maximize your ability to identify and build upon your client’s strengths.


Get 6 strategies to help your client enhance their strengths in difficult situations.

Download: Strength Enhancement Worksheet



This post was written by the nationally recognized expert Dr. Daniel J. Fox.

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Optimism Practice: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

In this optimism-building exercise, we’ll be thinking about goals that you have for the future, and breaking them up into more manageable sub-goals. By focusing on these, we can shift from pessimism to optimism.

This post is an excerpt from Real Happiness by Jonah Paquette, PsyD


Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go on a trek in the Peruvian Andes on the way up to visit Machu Picchu. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, filled with indescribable beauty and incredible culture. But I must admit I was not quite up to the challenge physically at times. Our group trekked great distances at high altitudes each day, and I was stricken by altitude sickness midway through the trip. At several points I even thought of quitting, feeling that my body couldn’t last the entire journey.

It was at this point that I noticed how our guide traversed the land with grace and ease, effortlessly chugging along on the way up the mountain. I asked him what his secret was, half-jokingly and not expecting much of a response. “Just one foot in front of the other,” he said back to me. “I don’t look at the top of the mountain, and how far away it seems. I just think about the next step I have to take.”

When our guide said that to me, I was reminded of a piece of ancient wisdom from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who reminds us that the “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Armed with this reminder, I stopped thinking about how on earth I would be able to finish the entire trek and reach the summit. Instead, I began thinking about how I would make it through the next step, the next quarter mile, the next mile, and so forth. I became more immersed in the present moment, and was even more able to experience and appreciate the beauty that surrounded me. Before I knew it, I was standing at the top of the pass, out of breath and exhausted, but happy.

Pessimism often stems from feeling that we cannot possibly reach the finish line from where we are standing. We look off in the distance and the ground in between where we are and where we wish to go feels insurmountable. But just as we cannot scale an entire ladder in one single step, we must remember that the path to reaching our goals is a longer journey. In this optimism-building exercise, we’ll be thinking about goals that you have for the future, and breaking them up into more manageable sub-goals. Whereas large-scale goals can sometimes feel overwhelming and unachievable, the steps in between are eminently doable. By focusing on these instead, we can shift from pessimism to optimism.

Instructions: Take a moment and reflect on some of the goals and dreams you have for the future. Consider different domains of your life, including your career, relationship, friendships, and family. Although reflecting on these hopes can feel inspiring and exciting at times, it can also feel overwhelming when we think of tackling it all at once. Pessimism can often set in, making us feel less able to achieve out goals. To overcome this obstacle, it can be helpful to break down our larger goals and dreams into shorter-term sub-goals that can be completed a step at a time. You can use any format that works for you, but if it helps, feel free to use the following prompts to get you started:

Long-Term Goal:

When I hope to achieve this by:

What is the first step I need to take in order to achieve this?

Who can I turn to for help in reaching my goal?

What do I need to accomplish within 1 month?

What do I need to accomplish within 3-6 months?


Paquette



 

Therapy Tools for the Advanced Practitioner

There’s a nasty little secret in the therapy field: Couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists (even advanced practitioners) aren’t good at it.

There’s a nasty little secret in the therapy field: Couples therapy may be the hardest form of therapy, and most therapists (even advanced practitioners) aren’t good at it. Most advanced therapists can manage sessions with challenging couples well, but they make subtler mistakes compared to new clinicians. These mistakes often go unnoticed by themselves and their clients.

Advanced practitioners’ mistakes are more about strategy than technique, more about missing the context than specific relational dynamics, and more about unacknowledged values than lack of knowledge. There are two areas of poor couples therapy by experienced therapists that stand out: working with remarried couples and working with couples deciding to work on their marriage or divorce.

Mistake #1 – Thinking All Couples are Equal

Remarried couples with stepchildren are a minefield, even for experienced therapists, because the partners almost always come with parenting issues, not just couples problems, and because many therapists miss the nuances of stepfamily dynamics. Therapists who specialize in adult relational work but aren’t skilled at parent-child therapy will fail with these families. Experienced therapists who treat remarried couples like first-marrieds usually manage the individual sessions well, but use the wrong overall strategy.

Stepfamilies are a different species, and couples in these families have to be treated with different approaches. Many experienced couples therapists still don’t know this-or even if they do know it, still lack a viable treatment model.

Beyond coparenting leadership issues, couples in stepfamilies swim in a sea of divided loyalties, which even experienced therapists sometimes miss.

Mistake #2 – Not Standing by Marriage

Experienced therapists sometimes give up on couples because of the values they hold about commitment in a troubled marriage. Some experienced therapists believe they aren’t there to save marriages, they are there to help people. No one wants to save a marriage at the cost of great damage to a spouse or the children. But the statement reflects a troubling—and usually unacknowledged—tendency to value a client’s current happiness over everything else.

One highly regarded therapist describes his approach to working with couples in this way: “I tell them that the point is to have a good life together. If they think they can have a good life together, then let’s give it a try. But if they conclude that they can’t have a good life together, then I tell them maybe they should move on.”

The ethics of market capitalism can invade the consulting room without anyone’s seeing it. Do what works for you as an autonomous individual as long as it meets your needs, and be prepared to cut your losses if the futures market in your marriage looks grim.

The Myth of Therapist Neutrality

The biggest problem in couples therapy is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family.

A wise therapist is able to see the whole context of people’s lives, and can reflect openly and deeply on values and broader social forces influencing the profession. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntrye wrote:

In a world that seduces professionals into seeing their work as the delivery of technical services stripped of larger social context and moral meaning, the hallmark of a true profession is a never-ending argument about whether it’s being true to its fundamental values, principles, and practices.

In other words, becoming a competent couples therapist is just the first step to becoming a good one.


What do you think about this article? 
Tell us in the comments below!


Fine tune your couples therapy skills with The Neglected Craft of Couples Therapy: How to Manage Couples Sessions featuring William Doherty.


This post is based on an article originally brought to life by our partner, Psychotherapy Networker.

Click to read the full article, “Bad Couples Therapy,” written by William Doherty, Ph.D.

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