Techniques of Sex Therapy

Techniques of Sex Therapy: Behavioral & Exploratory

Sex therapy employs various techniques to address sexual difficulties and enhance sexual well-being. Behavioral and exploratory skills are two essential components in sex therapy, helping individuals and couples address sexual difficulties and improve their overall sexual well-being. Let’s explore these skills in more detail:

Behavioral Skills

Behavioral skills in sex therapy focus on specific techniques and strategies to modify behaviors and responses related to sexual functioning. These skills are practical and action-oriented, aiming to address specific concerns and enhance sexual satisfaction. 

Techniques of Sex Therapy: Behavioral Skills:

  1. The Squeeze Technique: In this technique, the patient’s partner is instructed to stimulate the patient’s penis until they feel initial sensations of orgasm. Then, the partner is cued to firmly squeeze the shaft just below the corona ridge for approximately 3-4 seconds. This rapid squeezing action helps to reduce erections.
  2. The Stop-Start Technique: With the stop-start technique, the patient’s partner stimulates the patient’s penis until they experience premonitory sensations of orgasm. The patient then communicates the instruction to “stop,” and the cycle is repeated. Both the giver and receiver are encouraged to be aware of their own sensations. This process aims to interrupt the impact of anxiety during sexual activities by reducing performance pressure and expectations.
  3. Sensate Focus Technique: The sensate focus technique is divided into three phases. In phase I, the couple is instructed to refrain from genital or breast caressing. In phase II, partners can pleasure each other’s primary erotic areas without reaching orgasm. In phase III, orgasm can be included. This technique allows partners to focus on sensory experiences and gradually explore sexual responses while reducing performance anxiety.
  4. Eyes-Open Orgasm: This process helps couples explore, master, and enhance sexual responses and behaviors that previously caused anxiety. By engaging in sexual experiences with eyes open, partners can increase comfort and intimacy.
  5. Treatment for Women’s Sexual Pain: The treatment involves a gradual approach that addresses a woman’s fears and anxiety surrounding sexual experiences. As the partner becomes more sensitive to the woman’s concerns, they adjust the sexual experience to reduce fear. The woman gradually gains a sense of control and can become aroused and enjoy intercourse. Introducing the use of a dilator or the woman’s finger during relaxation or while lying on her back is a progressive step. Once the woman reaches a level of comfort, her partner can be involved.

Exploratory Skills

Exploratory skills in sex therapy involve delving into deeper emotional and relational factors that may contribute to sexual difficulties. These skills aim to uncover underlying issues, beliefs, and patterns that impact sexual functioning.

Techniques of Sex Therapy: Exploratory Skills:

  • Psychosexual history assessment: Sex therapists conduct a comprehensive assessment of an individual or couple’s psychosexual history, exploring past experiences, traumas, relationship dynamics, and any psychological factors that may affect sexual well-being.
  • Emotional exploration: Sex therapy provides a safe and supportive space for individuals and couples to explore their emotions and vulnerabilities related to their sexual experiences. This exploration helps uncover emotional barriers and promotes healing and growth.
  • Relationship dynamics: Sex therapy addresses the interpersonal dynamics within a relationship, examining communication patterns, emotional connections, and relational conflicts that may impact sexual intimacy. Couples learn strategies to improve relationship satisfaction and strengthen emotional bonds.
  • Cognitive restructuring: Exploratory skills involve identifying and challenging negative thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes related to sex. Cognitive restructuring helps individuals reframe their perspectives and develop healthier and more positive sexual beliefs.


By combining behavioral and exploratory skills, sex therapy offers a comprehensive approach to addressing sexual difficulties. These skills empower individuals and couples to make positive changes, improve communication, enhance intimacy, and cultivate a satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationship.

Source: Textbook of Family and Couples Therapy, Sholevar, G.P., & Schwoeri, L.D. (2003).


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