My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was both delighted and dourly disappointed with this book. The delight? At last someone has taken Master’s and Johnson’s Sensate Focus seriously and written up a comprehensive procedure for it. You no longer have to rely on M & Js poor description of it spread across several books or look for some article on the internet that is either blocked by a professional pay wall, or be bamboozled by a self proclaimed sexperts that have little real knowledge of how Sensate Focus really works. Here is a comprehensive set of procedures that will benefit both clinicians and their patients. The book separates the various dysfunctions and provides detailed instructions for each. It also contains treatment plans geared for diverse populations such as LGBTQ clients, the elderly, those who suffer from substance abuse, the disabled, clients with serious psychological problems, and clients on the autism spectrum.
|Image Credit: Institute for Sexual & Relationship Therapy & Training|
The book has tasteful illustrations that are based on the idea that Hellen Singer Kaplan incorporated in her The Illustrated Manual of Sex Therapy from four decades ago. The authors quoted Kaplan's thoughts on the illustrations in her book:
The drawings will, apart from merely illustrating specific positions, also, I hope, convey the beauty and humanity of sex, fundamentals to successful sex therapy.
Weiner, Linda. Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual (p. 3). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
All in all for clinicians and their clients this is an excellent book. Five well deserved stars
For the do it yourself couple that maybe just wants to tune up their sex life…not so much. Hence my disappointment. Quite early in the book the authors make it a point to define two types of Sensate Focus:
Although we have been using the general term Sensate Focus to identify the hierarchical touching suggestions, we make a distinction between two phases of Sensate Focus, as we have suggested. What we have been describing thus far is more accurately referred to as Sensate Focus 1. However, there is also another phase that we call Sensate Focus 2. This is because just as there is more to sex than natural responses, so there is more to Sensate Focus than touching for your interest. While we will be discussing Sensate Focus 2 in more detail at the end of this manual, we are emphasizing the components of Sensate Focus 1 in order to underscore the importance of mastering sex as a natural function, and mastering its attitudinal and practical applications of touching for your own interest, before moving on to Sensate Focus 2. Sensate Focus 1 involves mastering skills for people who are having sexual difficulties. Sensate Focus 2 is for people who are not having difficulties, or who have resolved their difficulties, and who want to enhance sexual satisfaction.
Weiner, Linda. Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual (p. 14). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
OK great! I lick my chops in anticipation of reading about Sensate Focus 2 which will take may wife and I to a transcendental state of sexual satisfaction. So I wade through 9 chapters of dysfunctions and diverse populations. I enjoyed it and I learned a lot but for the most part it doesn't really apply to me. So finally I get to Chapter 10 Sensate Focus 1 and 2. There are some basic definitions and then we get to this paragraph:
However, there is one additional characteristic of Sensate Focus 2 that is perhaps even more important than these relationship enhancements. Clients do not talk about it directly, perhaps because it crosses over into the realm of indescribable experience. However, over the years we have come to appreciate it as the ultimate, if unspoken, goal of those who come in for sex therapy. Kleinplatz refers to this as transcendence. It goes by many names, none of which do it justice: “‘peak experience,’ … ‘magical experiences,’ and ‘spirituality’ … ‘a portal to an alternate reality’ … ‘expansive and enlightening’ … ‘it leaves you bigger than you were before’ … ‘flashes of illumination’ … ‘It [is] revelatory – an epiphany’” (Kleinplatz & Ménard, 2007, pp. 75–76). Noted analyst James Hollis refers to it as “the god to be found in sexuality” and suggests that clients who want to enrich their sexual lives “follow what [the poet] Rilke called the dark ‘river god of the blood’ … The higher power are powers, indeed, but so are the lower ones … [and] sexuality, the dark river god of the blood, is sacred” (1998, pp. 91–92). This spiritual or transcendent dimension of sexuality requires entering into the radically self-focused mindset of Sensate Focus 1 but this time through a deeply sensorial, sensual, and emotional relationship with the partner that characterizes Sensate Focus 2. This is when absorption in the sensations moves into absorption by the sensations and ultimately into an altered state of consciousness that is transcendent sexual responsiveness to which we refer in Chapter 2 (Why is Sensate Focus Based on Touch?). This sensorial, sensual, sexual, emotional, and relational integration leads not only to the enlargement of each partner but also to the enlarged intimate connection between the partners.
Weiner, Linda. Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual (pp. 122-123). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
I had to stop reading. I clasped my Kindle to my pitter pattering heart, stared off into the distance, and sighed. At last, at last! After years of being confused by tantra, failing to give up our addictions to orgasm induced dopamine through the use of karezza, of never knowing the mystical energy flow between Divine Lovers, at last we will follow “the dark river god of the blood” to the sacred transcendent dimension of sexuality through Sensate Focus 2! As tears of joy for soon to be found portals of alternate reality flow down my cheek, I lower the Kindle from my beating heart and with trembling hands begin to read the next paragraph:
Suggestions to enhance sexual satisfaction and enrich intimate communication will be the subject of subsequent publications.
Weiner, Linda. Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy: The Illustrated Manual (p. 123). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
What? Subsequent publications? I have to wait for the next book? What the hell is this the The Game of Thrones? Emphasis, obviously mine.
Hence my dour disappointment. For me the book was still worth while because I have an interest in sexuality like some people have in astronomy or model railroading. But for the average couple that is finding the magic of those first years are slipping away and they would like to tune up things a bit, I am not sure I can recommended this book. I hope in the future to be able to recommend the “subsequent publications,” but for now, I think it would require an extremely devoted couple to benefit from this book without the aid of a professional sex therapist.
As such I do have a concern about Sensate Focus. Will it ever be available for the average do it yourself couple? The thing I like about Sensate Focus is that it is simple and it can be done by the couple seemingly without a sex therapist looking over their shoulder. I really love execises that a couple can do together and build a deeper intimacy. But somebody has to write the book that couple can use for themselves. For a devoted couple, I believe they could sit down, wade through this book, and come up with a program, but why can’t there be a book on Sensate Focus for just that couple? All sorts of arguments can be made that without a sex therapist, Sensate Focus won’t work…and I believe that is true for the couple that are plagued with the dysfunctions described in this book. But what about the functional couple that is trying to avoid getting to the point of dysfunction? Many couples don’t have the financial resources or the time to be heading off to a sex therapist. There are a ton of books on the market about improving orgasms and trying some fantastic positions, but I am not aware of any that give a concise program for Sensate Focus. Rather than adding to the anxieties that a couple’s orgasms are not good enough or in the right spot or that they are having enough of them, why not show a couple how to get lost in sensation and all that other stuff will take care of itself? My personal belief is that Sensate Focus should be a lot of fun to do in its own right and that it could easily be adapted for couples who are not dysfunctional and just want a reliable program to find that “river god of the blood.”
So while my rating remains at 5 stars, because the book is an excellent resource for clinicians and their clients, for the average couple I can only rate it at 3 stars. It can be useful especially for describing what Sensate Focus is and what it can do for you, but it will take some work on the couple’s part to figure out their own program and how they want to implement it. I sincerely hope that the subsequent publications will have have a program of Sensate Focus 1 and 2 for our functional couple that is looking for more out of sex, love and life.
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