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Sex Therapy 101: the highlights

We asked, she answered: an expert weighs in on what makes a healthy sex life
“People talk about food all the time, or their favorite kind of cocktails, where they like to buy coffee from, where they like to go camping and what kinds of favourite activities they enjoy doing. And these are really easy conversations that we have every day. 
And while intimate, sexual play is something humans are designed to do, that is something we might be doing frequently, we're socialized to think it is a weird thing that we shouldn’t talk about. I think it’s important to break those kinds of barriers down in really small, deliberate ways.”

Therapist extraordinaire Michelle MicKitrick joined us for a live Q&A where we tackled people’s most common questions about sex and intimacy in one very short hour.

According to Michelle, there are many reasons people seek her help as a registered sex therapist, but some of the common ones are anxiety around intimacy and sex, low sexual interest or desire, pain during sex, and navigating menopausal changes and sex. 

In a nutshell, she said there are many, many reasons why people are looking for help or a “tune up” in their sex lives and that there are often physical things going on that relate to other emotional or relational things also happening: “Sex therapy is often layered with the physical, emotional, sexual and relational parts of our lives, so there are many different indicators for when a tune-up can help.”

Let’s talk about sex

And what, you might be asking, is a sex therapist’s key piece of advice for improving sex, sexual play and desire? In one word folks: communication.

And if you want a sneak peek into the kinds of tools she recommended for “building a bridge to desire” and making these discussions easier and even fun, check out this article on the Subjective Arousal Scale and the different stages of erotic touch.

Party of one

But it’s more than just talking about your needs and desires with a partner(s) or potential partner. Michelle also emphasized the value and importance of understanding and discovering for yourself what you like and what you don’t like, of knowing what attracts you to your partner and what distances you.

And finding this out can be as simple as sitting down with a paper and a pen and jotting down five words that come to mind when you think about how you like to be touched, how you like to give or receive sensual pleasure, and what feelings or thoughts come to mind when you look at those five words. And, as Michelle said, you can rip up that piece of paper into tiny pieces right after, so don’t let the fear of exploring those ideas stop you from trying the exercise.

“There are all these layers that make it complex for couples to talk about the thing that most people enjoy and that most adults we know engage in to some degree,” said Michelle. “So if we think about the smallest entries to the conversation, the small pleasures you enjoy doing, then just start there.” 

She added: “What would that feel like to start to talk about the things that you like and the things you want? And to volley that back and forth with your partner? It’s important to pay attention to your own desires and wants and to be able to communicate that with a partner.”

...when relationships end legally, the emotional divorce often happens long before that...

Sex after separation

We also asked Michelle to weigh in on whether there is a right (or wrong) amount of time to wait before getting back into dating and/or a sexual relationship after separation and divorce. 

Her advice was to simply do what feels right for you. You can ask yourself: “Do I feel ready to be sexual? Do I feel ready to have my body respond sexually to someone else? Do I feel like I’m in a place to be able to say what I want and also what I don't want?”

“I hear this all the time,” said Michelle. “Things like, ‘I can't believe she's dating again or I can't believe he's out there again already playing the field.’ But who says? Who says it might take someone a long time to be able to be sensual or sexual again? It might take someone a week and another person a year. You have to remember that when relationships end legally, the emotional divorce often happens long before that, so we have to be careful when we make these assumptions about how long a person should wait before dating.”

And if you only take away one thing from Michelle, it might be this advice: “I say that if you're an adult, and if you know your body, and you know what you want, and you're able to govern that and be able to say no if you need or want to, and say yes when you need or want to, then that's your prerogative.”

More resources about sex and intimacy

Join unhitch as a member

Members have a whole area of their own to explore with access to more recordings, checklists, expert resources and more, including the full hour of our candid chat about all things S-E-X with Michelle.

Other resources

Michelle recommended two podcasts and a selection of TED talk playlists to tune into if you are looking for fun, credible and candid conversations for a sex, love and intimacy tune up:

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