Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: What is Sensate Focus and how can it help couples?

Answer from Dr. Locker

Sensate Focus is a sex therapy technique for couples, which involves giving each other pleasure through a series of exercises intended to rejuvenate your sex life. In most of these exercises people are asked to give or receive pleasure without having intercourse. At first, you will be taking turns giving or receiving touch, in order to pay attention to your own senses. Sensate Focus techniques were originally developed by famed sex researchers Masters and Johnson. The techniques can improve your sex life by increasing your satisfaction when you do have intercourse.

Here is more information about what it is, why it works, and HOW TO DO IT...


If want to have sex more frequently, feel more intimate with each other, and have more pleasure from sex, then Sensate Focus is for you. Both partners need to agree to try it together. It works best if you have some past experience together of having enjoyed your sex life together at some time (like maybe when you first started having sex). But if you haven't it is still worth trying.


1) You are thinking and talking about sex with your partner. If you are working on improving your sex life as if it is a project in your life, then you're on the same side of an issue, instead of arguing (or feeling alienated) by it.

2) Touching stimulates desire. It reminds you why you fell in love, and why you felt desire for each other to begin with.

3) You will be having uninterrupted "protected" time to enjoy each other and to enjoy sexual pleasure.

4) It motivates you to have sex. You will remember how much you enjoy sex, and that the "work" aspect of it is worth it.

5) It desensitizes you to get over your fears about having sex with your partner, which could have been based in a fear of being good enough in bed, or maybe a fear of pleasing someone else.

6) It takes pressure off of you about sex how much sex you should be having. The explicit instructions about what to do sexually allow you to feel sexy and sexual without either of you request it of the other. It is an assignment that you both agreed to do at the start. You no longer need to have a fear of failing at sex, or any other concerns about what to do, or if you are good at it. Touching can help you both feel more comfortable with your bodies, with each other, and with sex. You have permission to feel pleasure.

7) It helps you start to be nicer to each other by giving pleasure to each other. That can make you both feel more like having sex with each other.



You should both be completely naked for these activities. Also, set a sensual mood (candles, dim lighting...). Do not have the TV on, turn the phone ringer off, turn your clocks around, and, of course, if you have children lock your door (or send them to a babysitter, relatives or friend's house).

Activity 1 : Take turns giving each other pleasure through touching without talking, but make breasts and genitals off limits -- and do not have sex or an orgasm (neither of you). With your partner flat on the bed, for 30 minutes, touch your partner as if you are giving a massage. Do not talk during this time. Unlike a regular massage, however, don't try to touch your partner only to make him or her feel good. Just do what interests you and what feels good to your hands when you are touching your partner. Focus on what you want to do. Pay attention to how your partner's body feels including the body's curves and skin. Think about the temperature, texture, softness, ruffness, and so on. When 30 minutes are up, then your partner should give the touching 'massage' to you for 30 minutes. You should be aware of the sensations you feel. And remember: Don't talk during the touching. This will help you really focus on how it feels. Finally: no matter how turned on you get at this point, do not have sexual intercourse or orgasm. The objective is to think about what touch feels like, and to give and receive pleasure for a full hour total, without the "goal" of orgasm for either of you..

Activity 2: Include touching each other's breasts and genitals and you each instruct each other about how to touch. A night or two after Activity 1, now make advances in that activity. First talk about what felt good in Activity 1, and how and where you like to be touched. Now, have your partner get flat on the bed, adn your partner non-verbally tells you what to do while you touch. You must start with touching his or her body, excluding the genitals at first. Stay focused on the physical sensations. Do not try to make your partner have a sexual response. Orgasm is not allowed at this point, and still not intercourse! To get more direction about what how your partner enjoys being touched, your partner should put his or her hand on top of yours while touching, in order to direction the location, pressure and speed of touch. Do not talk, just use this non-verbal communication to work together, share control, and become more in tune with each other. The switch roles. You should each receive 30 minutes of touching.

Activity 3: Now start mutual touching instead of taking turns. (This will begin to make your sexual touching feel more natural, since most people don't take turns touching during sexual contact.) Mutually touch each other anywhere for 30 minutes total. Try to do what you have learned that your partner likes. This will help you both pay attention to each other's body, rather than thinking about your own pleasure. No matter how aroused you may become, intercourse is still off limits at this point.

Activity 4: Continue mutual touching and then try rubbing in a sexual way. For 30 minutes, mutually touch, and try the woman on top position, but do not put the penis in the vagina. Instead, the women should rub the penis and his pubic area against her clitoris and vaginal opening regardless of if there is an erection or not. They can use a lubricant if that makes it more pleasurable. She should try to orgasm this way. Still no intercourse.

Activity 5: Begin sexual contact. Get in the positions you had enjoyed during the past couple of activities. Then put the penis into the vagina, and rather than just move and thrust the way you had done during sex in the past, instead, focus on the physical sensation of the feeling of the penis in the vagina. Move only slowly to feel it for a few minutes. Then thrust and move anyway you want, still while paying attention to the physical sensation. Then if either partner is starting to focus on what to do to have an orgasm, stop and look into each other's eyes, staying connected, but slowing down your intercourse. After a total of 30 minutes of this slow connected intercourse (which may include stopping and starting and even loss and regaining of erection) then you may both orgasm. Repeat Activity 5 two to three days later, and move on to Activity 6 two to three days after that.

Activity 6: Have intercourse, any way you want - any time. If you want to commit to saying that you will try to do it twice a week, then give that a try. You sex life should feel as if it as improved at this point.

If Sensate Focus does not work for you, then you may want to see a sex therapist in your area. I do not see patients, but I can explain how you can find a sex therapist in your area.

Copyright © Dr. Sari Locker