Questions we may wish to consider are: What is intimate/non-intimate? How does this experience unfold in the course of a therapy? Where and why are there boundaries? What is ‘Wrong’ with touching, holding or hugging your patient/client? Is there a ‘slippery slope’? Is it possible to be professional and intimate all at the same time?
The world, in one way, has become smaller in the age of technologies that bring global events into every home and village. Viewed from the emotional perspective of each person, it might be argued that the world has become much bigger – each person is susceptible to being overwhelmed by the amount and breadth of stimuli of “global impingement”. “Virtual” relationships abound. Actual relationships can seem more difficult to some. In Australia we see a unique combination: one of the youngest nations of the modern world and the oldest continuous culture on the planet. This is the culture of Aboriginal Australians, the culture of “The Dreaming”.
Do your clients dream about a relationship in harmonious balance between the personal and the interpersonal, between the sexual and the intimate? Just as dreams tantalise us with a surreal and metaphoric view of reality so too do relationships challenge people to recognise how they know their partners, how their partners know them and to differentiate one from the other and themselves from the other person. Relationships have their own surrealistic lens through which people can conflate different aspects. Sometimes, we as practitioners find ourselves working with the intimate and sexual aspects of our client's relationship where we, like our clients, can confuse one for the other. Yet, a relationship can be experienced as the harmonious intersection of both intimate and sexual aspects that leads to a creative expression of human passion and to a transcendent experience of the human condition. By nature, many practitioners are more prepared to enquire into the aspect of intimacy more than the other aspect of sexuality.
Many couples present to a session wanting help because of a lack of connection and intimacy with each other. When a traumatic incident has occurred, working through intimacy issues can be more complex and overwhelming for the couple and Therapist alike. At times there can be a dynamic where one person in the couple has higher needs in response to the trauma. Sessions can become easily unbalanced and neutrality can be difficult to maintain.
The role of intimacy in the sexual experience and behaviour of men and women living in steady relationships is considered important in several theoretical accounts (e.g., (Schnarch, 1991), specifically in models of female sexual functioning (Basson, 2000), indicating an important role of gender in this respect. Empirical research into the causal and directional association of partners’ experienced levels of emotional intimacy and their sexual activity (both partnered and individual) is scarce. Therefore, it is unclear whether intimacy and sexual activity function as a cause or as an effect within this association. A circular process can also be hypothesized to exist here. Studies on intimacy and sexual behaviour have thus far been either cross-sectional or experimental.
Sexual gerontology is the study of sexuality in the aging person. Improving the quality of life for aging people requires a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach. Facilitating the opportunity for innovative interventions including sex education and opportunities for intimacy despite fragility provides legitimacy for both research and proactive intervention of sexuality in aging men.
Cutting edge research on the neuroscience of infant and child development shows that early parent-child interactions of emotional attunement or misattunement can result in chronic stress patterns, internal working models of relationship, and attachment styles that directly impact an individual’s capacity for intimacy and sexual pleasure as an adult. The objectives of this presentation are to provide a therapeutic model that synthesizes the relevant research from developmental psychoneurobiology and sexology and to offer a bodymind approach to sex therapy.