What is Sensate Focus?
Sensate Focus Techniques are exercises that improve mindfulness and intimacy between you and your partner. Some couples use sensate focused exercises when they are feeling sexually disconnected. For those who have been through trauma, sensate focus can be a safe way to relearn touch and reconnect with your body and partner.
The purpose of the first few steps is not to have sex, but rather learn how to touch and be touched in ways that bring pleasurable sensations and emotions. For this reason, communication is important. It is advised that both of you agree on the length of time that you plan to engage in these exercises. Participation in exercises is about 30 minutes of uninterrupted time and without talking. The purpose is to be mindful of sensations and emotions. While exercises are designed for couples, there are ways to modify the steps to use individually. Below is a brief summary of steps 1-5.
Step 1: Non-Genital Touching
Step 1 includes exploring what kind of touch feels safe and good on your body while excluding genitals and chest (either alone or with a partner). If you are with a partner, you can take turns exploring areas of the body that are not directly tied to sex or genitals.
Step 2: Include Genital/Chest touching.
Step 2 includes genital and chest touching. If you are with a partner, you can take turns touching each other’s body, including genitals, without the expectation of sex. If you are doing these exercises on your own, then there would be no expectation of masturbation.
Step 3: Adding Lotion or Body Oil
Step 3 is a continuation of steps 1 & 2, only you are adding a variety of different sensations, such as lotion, scent, or body oil. Again, the goal is not to have sex and you are still taking turns.
Step 4: Mutual Touching
If you are engaging in sensate focus exercises with a partner, then step 5 is where you include mutual touching. Enjoy each other’s body without taking turns. Repeat the step above if you are alone or you can proceed to step 6 when you feel ready.
Step 5: Sex or Masturbation
Stage 6 includes engaging in sex with your partner or masturbation if you are alone. If you are alone, you can use sex toys. Use the skills learned in the above steps to go slow and notice sensations.
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