The aim of Sensate Focus is to build trust and intimacy within your relationship, helping you to give and receive pleasure. It emphasises positive emotions, physical feelings and responses while reducing any negative reactions. However, before you suggest sensate focus to a partner, you must both agree that you want to engage in it. It is a very intimate experience and for couples who have deeper relational issues or are suffering from sexual dysfunction, this is unlikely to help.
Sensate focus is a useful therapy for couples who feel unrelaxed or anxious and who want to have a more satisfying sexual relationship in which both partners feel able to ask for what they want and are able to give and receive pleasure.
How long you spend on the program is up to you but typically, sessions last twenty to sixty minutes, spread over six or more weeks
Choose a time and place acceptable for both of you, where you won’t be disturbed.
Make the surroundings as pleasant as possible, choosing music, lighting and aromas to suit you
Turn off the phone andmlock the door.
Take turns giving and receiving touch, allowing equal time for each of you.
The goal is enjoyment and pleasure. Enjoy the journey rather aiming towards any specific destination.
Take as long as you want over each phase. Often, the slower you take it, the more you will get out of it.
Only move from one stage to the next when both partners agree.
When it is your turn to touch, take plenty of time to explore the other person’s body.
Experiment with different sensations and types of touch. Take pleasure in experiencing the texture, form and temperature of the other person’s body.
Try to discover the degrees of pressure and types of touch your partner finds most appealing by encouraging feedback or by placing your hand under their hand so they can show you what they want.
When it is your turn to be touched, make sure you let the other person know what you like and what you don’t. You can tell your partner how you feel, make appreciative noises, or move their hand to where you want to be touched.
Avoid saying, ‘don’t …’ as it can be discouraging. It’s more encouraging to say things like ‘it feels better when you….’
You might find it useful to talk about your experiences afterwards, e.g. ‘I really liked it when you…’
If there is something you would like to try, don’t be afraid to suggest it
Phase 1: Non – Genital Sensate Focus Ground Rules
You can be naked, or wear underwear or relaxed clothing if that feels more comfortable.
You may find a book or DVD about massage useful, if you want to learn different techniques.
At this stage, avoid touching the obvious erogenous zones: breasts, nipples, vulva, clitoris or vagina, penis or testicles.
Only move from one state to the next when you both feel you are ready.
Sexual intercourse and orgasm are not permitted during this phase
During first sessions concentrate on touching the parts of the body normally visible: the hands, arms, feet, scalp and face.
When you are ready, include the back, neck, arms, buttocks and legs, not neglecting the hands, feet and face.
Finally bring in the chest, stomach, shoulders and thighs, but avoid the breasts, tops of legs and the groin area.
Phase 2: Genital Sensate Focus Ground Rules
Having spent some time on non-genital sensate focus you can bring in touching of the breast and genital areas. You might want to spend some time at this stage before moving on to the next.
Continue to pay attention to the parts of the body that you explored in the previous sessions, as well as the new areas that you are incorporating.
The main aim of these stages is to increase each person’s pleasure and awareness of each other’s responses to different types of stimulation. If one or both of you become aroused this is fine but it is not the aim of the exercise.
During genital stimulation it is often useful to use a water-based lubricant. Oil-based products should not be used near condoms.
Sexual intercourse and penetration is not permitted during this phase
First incorporate touching of breasts and nipples. Remember, men have nipples too.
Next include the areas around the genitals, including the testicles of a man
Then introduce touching of the genitals themselves (the labia, clitoris and entrance to the vagina on a woman;the penis, shaft and glans on a man)
After a while you may also want to incorporate oral as well as manual touching (kissing, licking and sucking) into both non-genital and genital touching.
You may want to try the ‘teasing technique’.Manually stimulate the other person’s genitals, gently at firstthen increase the speed of stimulation. Take a rest for a few minutes and then begin again.
If orgasm occurs at this or later stages, that is fine, but that is not the aim of the process.
Phase 3: Penetrative Sensate Focus Ground Rules
Having spent some time on non-genital and genital sensate focus you can begin to include penetration, using fingers, toys and the penis.
Continue to pay attention to the other parts of the body that you explored in the previous sessions.
The person being penetrated should be in control of the depth of penetration and the amount of time spent on it.
While orgasm and intercourse is permitted in this phase, this is not the goal: the aim remains to enjoy the growing intimacy between you.
First begin to incorporate forms of gentle penetration, initially try this with little
or no thrusting, just enjoying the sensation of containment.
Try it first with one person on top and then the other.
Later you can incorporate more thrusting, again with the person being penetrated in control.
You might find some books of sexual positions useful at this point so you can find out which positions are most comfortable and pleasurable foryou, according to the part of the body being caressed.