How can Sensate Focus help with libido issues?

An important technique you’re going to learn during your Blueheart Plan is called ‘Sensate Focus’. Tried, tested, and backed by science, it teaches us to focus only on sensations happening in the moment, and to block out all other thoughts – allowing your body to respond naturally on its own.

To put it simply, Sensate Focus is a practice of focusing on sensation rather than negative thoughts. You’ll start off using this technique alone on your own body, so you can reconnect with yourself and how your body feels. Later, you’ll move on to taking it in turns with your partner to touch each other using this method. It promotes exploration and communication, guiding you along the way so that you can focus purely on sensations.

Think about it this way, you’re not at the beach until you feel the sand between your toes and the sea breeze on your face. That’s when you’re really in the moment. 

No sex before you're ready.

That's right! We're helping you learn to have sex by not having sex. It's all about starting small, learning new skills in your mind and body, and building up at your own pace. So it makes sense that there's not really a place for sex until the very end, when you're both ready.

What counts as sex?

Sex is a broad spectrum that can be a kiss, holding hands, full penetration and anything in between. This is down to your choice, if you feel comfortable with kissing, but not with anything further, that place of discomfort is where your therapy will start. If a kiss is too much because it feels like a gateway to sex for you, then don't do that until you're ready. Discuss with each other, where this line is drawn for you, so that you can both be clear. It's explained in more detail, in our 'Sex is off the table' session and blog post.

For many of you this might not be a change from what's happening in your relationship anyway, but for others, it might feel a little more difficult. It's something that's an important part of this process, and you just need to trust in it. There is a good reason, and you both need to support the other to stick to this rule.

Why is Sensate Focus helpful?

It could be a range of things that have brought you to us. It’s a big step and you should be really proud you made it here. No doubt it’s been a big worry for you for a while. 

You might have experienced some or all of these thoughts: 

  • Why don’t I feel the same way about sex with my partner as I did at the beginning?
  • Why don’t I get excited about sex anymore?
  • What does it mean if I’m not getting turned on? What does it mean if something has changed?
  • Why can’t I orgasm when I want to?
  • What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with us?
  • Will my partner leave?

These thoughts and feelings around what we call ‘performance anxiety’ are psychological factors that can actually block what happens to us physically. Keeping the problem going, building up more pressure, more anxiety and less connection with what you might have enjoyed about sex to begin with. Reducing these anxieties, and reconnecting is what Sensate Focus is all about. 

When we can manage our thoughts, we create a pathway for sexual functioning to happen all on its own. Pleasure, arousal and relaxation are emotional responses that are not within our control. They emerge in response to activities and environments that work for us as individuals. Think of them like all the other (ahem) bodily functions, like digesting your food, you’re not really doing it on demand, your body does it for you. 

Pressure, Temperature, and Texture

Instead, your focus will be on three simple things - the pressure of touch (hard/soft), the temperature (warm/cold) and the texture (rough/smooth). Getting curious about touch as a fundamental bodily experience, with no emotional meaning attached, is at the core of Sensate Focus. You’re focusing on these very basic sensations, nothing else. 

It can feel pretty weird in practice, to only think of our own sensations. It’s a very different feeling to the messages we can often give ourselves: Am I showing my partner a good time? Should I be turned on yet? Is my partner turned on?

What does a first session look like?  

You’ll be asked to do your first session alone, and undisturbed, while wearing little or no clothing. This allows you to fully focus on you, before we introduce your partner later on. 

To begin with, we’ll start simple, touching the often forgotten body parts like the arms, face, stomach and legs. At this stage, you won’t be touching your breasts, chest and genitals at all – that comes in later. This takes all the pressure and expectation away, you’ll see this come in handy especially when your partner joins in later sessions. So relax, there’s no pressure here. 

After sessions, Blueheart will prompt you, or you and your partner to talk together and reflect on your experiences of touch, focus and your body’s responses. 

What will I learn?

A lot. But here are the main things you’ll take away from it. 

Being present. You may know this as ‘mindfulness’ - ignoring your worries about what’s happened before and anxieties about what’s coming next, and just noticing what you’re experiencing here and now. You may have tried similar practices before, but here, mindfulness is tailored into a sex therapy context. 

Radical self-responsibility. Learning that you can’t control your partner’s pleasure. You can only control yourself: your actions, thoughts and feelings. If something is happening that doesn’t work for you, it’s up to you to take steps to fix it, as far as you are able. Working through Sensate Focus with your partner will not only help you reconnect with your body’s in-built sexual functions, but also shine a light on why the problem has emerged in the first place. 

Better communication around sex. You’ll learn how to communicate around sex, as we all know, this can be hard, but we’ll walk you through it and support you as you go. Any challenges you notice along the way, we won’t see them as failures, but as fuel, and more information for you to understand and eventually solve your problem together. 

So, that’s Sensate Focus and what it can do for you and your relationship. Exciting right? We’ll be with you every step of the way.