“Didn’t we see you here at the clinic a few months ago? And didn’t we fit you for a diaphragm? Right. So I wonder how come you’re back now for another pregnancy test.”
That’s how my career in sexuality and sex therapy started. I was a volunteer counselor at a family planning clinic, talking with women coming in for pregnancy tests. I kept noticing that a lot of these women had been prescribed birth control pills, fitted for diaphragms, or sent home with condoms—and now they were concerned they were pregnant.
These women weren’t using the supplies we gave them.
The reason was usually the same: “I didn’t want my boyfriend to think I was a slut.” Or “I didn’t want a new guy thinking I was hoping for sex.” That’s when I realized that there’s more to family planning than products and services. There’s sexuality—and the feelings, misinformation, and stereotypes that shape our sexual choices.
So I became a sex therapist. And I became a marriage & family therapist. I became a passionate advocate for sexuality training of psychologists and physicians.
For over 30 years, my week has focused on my patients—men, women, and couples. About half have sexual difficulties, such as problems with erection, orgasm, lubrication, scary fantasies, desire (too low, too high, or too unusual), painful sex (both women and men), affairs (their own or their partner’s), or internet pornography. Of course, when people have sexual problems, their shame, guilt, and anger are never far away. Those are part of our sessions, too.
The other half of my patients bring in the rest of humanity’s woes—problems with kids, in-laws, money, drinking, and that all-purpose description, “communication problems.” Actually, I think most couples “communicate” just fine—their disrespect, their anxiety, their boredom, their low self-esteem, their lack of empathy, their unwillingness to change. They just don’t like hearing this “communication” from each other.
My style as a therapist is eclectic. I’m extremely flexible, because every patient is different. Some need information; some need compassion; some need wisdom; some need tough love; some need a little teasing to lighten them up; some need to take their own needs more seriously; and some people just need help growing up.
What I’ve learned over time is that everyone wants to be “normal,” and too many people are afraid they aren’t. Everyone wants to feel special. And while people say that what they most want from sex is pleasure and closeness, they often focus on other things—how they look, smell, and sound; what their penis or vulva is doing (rather than how it feels); and how they imagine they compare to other men or other women in bed. Absolutely none of that gives people the nourishment they want from sex.
So we’ll talk about a lot of things (without wandering all over the place, I promise). You’ll feel understood. You’ll experience a relationship with someone who isn’t judging you, blaming you, or trying to get something from you. If you and your partner come in as a couple, you’ll talk with each other about the things you haven’t been able to discuss, in new ways that don’t immediately trigger conflict. And you’ll learn how to have conflict productively, so it leads to decisions, accomplishments—and the end of conflict.
Just please don’t expect a lot of simplistic advice that you’re already getting from your friends or relatives anyway. And please don’t expect a lot of instruction about what to do with those few inches between your legs—because that’s not where most of sex happens.
After all, sex isn’t just an activity—it’s an idea. So if the subject is sex, we’ll mostly talk about your sexual ideas—and by shaping those, your sexual activity will become much more satisfying.
Individual or couple, you’ll learn about yourself—a scary, thrilling, confusing, and ultimately very helpful process—and you’ll actually grow some so you can get more of what you want in life.
While no therapist is right for everyone, I might be the right therapist for you. By the end of the first session, we’ll have a pretty good idea, one way or the other.
If you’re interested, give me a call: 650/856-6533.