by Bill McDonald
First a few clarifications: Sexual counseling itself is considered by many to be a specific branch of the larger field of the psychotherapeutic arts. And because of that, it can involve some specialized certifications and credentialing. I need to state here that I personally have not gathered those specific credentials.
Secondly, I’m not your best resource for the type of information best found in the hundreds (thousands?) of sex manuals on the market. For that information, go to Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, your neighborhood bookseller, or ask a public librarian (they know a lot more than you might think!). If you need some good how to information, find a good book (or a good friend).
What I do know a lot about are the sexual problems that show up in relationships. For me, sex and relationship are tightly interwoven, and to consider them in isolation from each other is, at the least, naïve.
I definitely subscribe to the belief that the most important sex organ of the body is the brain. When I was a younger man, I thought that was a strange idea, but as I get older, it makes more and more sense.
What I want for my clients in their committed relationships is that they have the knowledge (experience) of passion . The foundation for this is that commitment is what best makes for good sex, not vice versa. When we first marry, our hormones can do that work for us, but that will diminish. Then come the “problems.”
And in my experience, it’s those very “problems” (within a committed relationship) that become the key to growing that lively love and intimacy which is one of the purposes and gifts of a long-term relationship. David Schnarch* claims that a sexually active young adult cannot even begin to comprehend the nature and intensity of that sexual passion experienced by a vital couple in their sixties or older.
The purpose of my sexual counseling is to help my clients get there.
And paradoxically, the best sex, (and the best key to intimacy at all levels) comes from each person becoming strong in their own self (Schnarch uses the family systems term “differentiation” - standing on one’s own two feet).
The best teacher for marriage, is marriage - nobody is ‘ready’ for marriage before the wedding. And the best resource for sexual intimacy and passion is to grow within a committed relationship (marriage, etc.). So you can begin to see that for me, my couple counseling and my sexual counseling are actually enriching aspects of the same process.
When I work with sexual (or dating or relationship) issues with individuals, I work from the same framework. Most (perhaps all) sexual “issues” stem from earlier (or current) relationship issues - often from within one’s family of origin. Here too, my goal is to help my client to a new freedom to become and enjoy being a vital healthy sexual person, to the end that the freedom and possibility of love and intimacy in relationship becomes possible.
Being a sexual person is our birthright. What we do with that birthright as an adult, I want to be a free choice.
September 27, 2008
* Passionate Marriage (Holt, New York. 1997). This is one of my favorite books on sexual counseling.