Having a great sex life- Advice for Women, and People who love them.

Having a great sex life- Advice for Women, and People who love them.

As a Clinical Sexologist, I have the privileged opportunity to know the intricacies of many people’s sex lives.

Therefore, I can say directly that there is no ‘normal’ or right number of times a month or ways of being intimate that are right for everyone.

What is satisfying for each couple and individual varies enormously. Saying this, I do see patterns and there are certain things that people bring to my counselling room regularly that may be helpful for you to know a bit about.

Many women and people with vulvas / vaginas experience difficulties relating to sexual difficulties at some point in their lives.

Here are some common ones and some things to think about if you or a loved one experiences any of them.

 Painful Sex

This is really common and there are a lot of reasons why this could be happening.

A non-exhaustive list is scar tissue, thinning of vaginal walls, tight muscles due to anxiety or previous sexual trauma or physical trauma from giving birth, STIs or infections as well as dryness. The first step is to see your GP, depending on what is happening for you they can refer you to a gynaecologist or pelvic floor physiotherapist to support you. Once any physical aspect is also being addressed, get some support to combat anxiety, tension and sexual aversion that may have developed due to the pain. There are also many wonderful devices and toys that can support you to experience sexual intimacy in different ways and without pain.

 

Lack of Arousal.

Bodies change throughout the lifetime. We change with age, fluctuating hormones, state of external life and relationships, illness and injury.

It’s unreasonable to expect a baseline level of arousal to remain constant.

But the good news is that good sex doesn’t depend on arousal and orgasms, a desire and motivation to be sexual is needed, then the fun can unfold in a myriad of ways.

If there is a willingness from all involved to be really present and just enjoy whatever sensation and experience is happening in the moment, without such a focus on orgasms or a certain type of activity you can still have satisfying and pleasurable sexual connections. Use a great lube to ensure any touch glides, there are so many different types these days.

 

Mismatched Desire

Ripping each other’s clothes off in a passionate flurry isn’t something that happens much outside of movies, at least not in long-term relationships.

And once that rush of honeymoon endorphins are over, couples are rarely going to both desire sex at exactly the same time. Each human has an amount of sex each day, week, month or year that feels satisfying.

Difficulty arises when there is a big mismatch, as one person will seek sex, the other feels obliged and pressured, or refuses and the other feels rejection.

Both people in this situation may need to adjust to a shared middle ground; talk about what that is in a neutral setting from a loving heart, remember more or less isn’t better or worse- it’s like food, some people just have bigger appetites than others.

For many women who experience less desire than their partners, it’s really common that the mental load they carry of the home, kids, work and partner is too overwhelming and not fairly split, and therefore they feel too exhausted and resentful to want to be sexual, this warrants a really frank conversation about shared responsibility and what feels reasonable.

You might also want to explore how to bring some ‘New Relationship Energy’ into your love life, as familiarity and comfortability are so cosy, but sometimes a spark is needed to reignite the sexual passion too.

 

Not feeling Connected

Many women and more feminine leading people really need to feel emotionally connected before they have any desire for sex or can open sexually.

If there are any trust issues, feelings of insecurity or perceived lack of connection in the relationship many women just don’t want to be sexual. Intimacy starts out of the bedroom. So do your best to connect through conversations, shared activities, laughter and play- this is often better foreplay than any kind of sexual advance.

 

Orgasms (lack of)

Many women don’t orgasm purely from penetration and need non-penetrative touch or oral sex before or after or added stimulation from a vibrator or a hand to reach orgasm during sex.

This is perfectly common and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong. Learning and exploring slowly and playfully with a partner exactly what works is a wonderful experience and highly recommended.

Other people will have trouble letting go during sex and therefore find it hard to release, while others find they don’t build up enough intensity of pleasure to get to orgasm. Some medications prescribed for mental health issues interfere in this way, for others it’s due to being too ‘in the head’.  Learning mindfulness as a sensual and sexual practice can slowly build more connection to the body and the moment that can allow more pleasure. It can be frustrating not to reach orgasm but being with whatever pleasure is available in the body at a certain time with a sense of relaxation is something to enjoy, in and of itself. For some people and some bodies, toys and devices will be necessary to add the level of stimulation needed.

 

Happy Practicing!

Why scheduling sex is a great idea

Why scheduling sex is a great idea

Many people think scheduling sex sounds boring and makes it dull, however scheduling sex can have enormous benefits.

Sex often happens late at night when both are in bed at the end of the day. This can be lovely and orgasms can promote a lovely restful night’s sleep, but that time is not always conducive to being present, connected and engaged.

Many couples attend sex therapy with me complaining that they have less sex than they would like to be having.

They say that life gets in the way, kids are prone to interrupt and they are just too tired to fit it in.

During a session of sex therapy, barriers to more and better quality sex are explored, and these will be as unique as each couple that attends counselling, but a good tip is to schedule some time for sex each week.

Having this special time put aside means that you can prepare mentally and emotionally for intimacy. It can build sexual desire as you look forward to this time. It can take the pressure off one person having to initiate and then exposing themselves to possible rejection.

Scheduling sex also gives your partner the message that they are important and are a priority.

Couples I work with in sex therapy and relationship counselling sometimes have lost some of their spark and want some help to rekindle romance and sexual chemistry again. Scheduling sex can be a surprising way to do this.

During these ‘sex dates’, couples might bring a different game to play, such as a sexual communication game, or set up a certain role play or scene that sounds exciting. Different sexual energies such as playful, flirty, dominating or submissive can be brought in through intention, by wearing certain clothes or by bringing in certain objects. Couples might like to use this time to bring in some elements of Tantric Sex, such as starting with a short meditation, including more eye contact during the session and moving energy around their bodies during the love making. Other couples might be more drawn to explore a kinkier side, incorporating some impact play, role play or consensual power dynamics that can be eroticised.

Sometimes you might find that at the agreed time, one of you is feeling too tired, drained or just not available for sexual interaction for whatever reason. The invitation here is to still commit to the time together. Instead of sexual interactions, cuddle, stroke each other and talk.

Really dedicating yourselves to some sexy couple time like this will do wonders for your relationship, your health and your lives. Why not try it for a month and see?

What’s the difference between a counsellor, a psychologist and a psychiatrist

What’s the difference between a counsellor, a psychologist and a psychiatrist

As a counsellor, people often ask what is the difference between what I offer and seeing a psychologist.

 

Counsellors have been trained in the art of listening and supporting people. Counsellors do not put as much focus on mental health diagnoses or use as many assessments as Psychologists.

Counsellors can have anywhere from a 2-year Diploma Qualification to Degree level and post graduate training. (I have a Masters Degree as well as a Bachelor).

A good tip is to look for a counsellor who is accredited with the Australian Counselling Association.

Counsellors usually charge between $90- $180 for a session and many have rebates for Private Health Insurance but are not currently able to offer Medicare rebates. Many people prefer to see a counsellor as they do not need a GP referral, and some people don’t feel comfortable talking about their personal lives with their GP.

Counsellors use many of the same modalities as Psychologists. All Psychologists in Australia hold a general registration with the Psychology Board of Australia and have extensive training and experience as part of that registration, usually 6 years of training.

Psychologists are experts in how the mind functions and often assess people for different mental health and behavioural disorders.

Unlike Psychiatrists, Psychologists cannot prescribe medications. The Australian Psychological Society suggests Psychologists charge $260 for 50 minutes and Medicare rebate may be available (between $84 and $128 back.) People with a mental health diagnosis, disability, chronic medical condition, recent or current pregnancy and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can receive up to 10 bulk billed sessions per year.

A Psychiatrist is a medical Doctor who works specifically with Mental Health issues. They take comprehensive mental health assessments and provide clinical diagnoses and treatment plans including prescribing psychotropic medication such as antidepressants.

It takes up to 11 years of training to become a Registered Psychiatrist. Psychiatrists generally work with people with complex conditions such as schizophrenia, severe depression and bipolar disorder. Fees range from $300 to over $400 but Medicare will often provide a rebate so your out-of-pocket cost would be between $40 and $170. Some Psychiatrists bulk bill.

If you would like to learn more about Ella’s extensive qualifications and experiences see; https://ellashannon.com/about-ella.html#/

 

How can emdr help me to heal?

How can emdr help me to heal?

People come to counselling for a wide range of reasons.

Some want to heal from traumatic experiences in their past such as childhood abuse, sexual assault, growing up with critical parents or other specific events.

But many people see a therapist because they just don’t feel inspired or joyful in their lives. They move through life with moments of happiness, but their main state is one of anxiety or just feeling down.

EMDR is a wonderful type of therapy that can support people back to a state of lightness and ease.

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It was developed in the 1980’s and has grown more and more traction with thousands of therapists around the world now offering EMDR to their clients. 

There are different theories about how it works, the way I like to understand it is more of a metaphor.

When things happen in our lives, they are ‘digested’ by the brain into memories- filed away as things that happened in the past with a beginning, middle and end. But some things occur that get stuck, they remain in the mind ‘undigested’ and fester, like food in the belly that can’t quite go down and continues to make us feel sick. They haven’t been filed away as a story that happened in the past and instead remain ‘open’ in the form of sensations, negative feelings and thoughts about oneself and sensory input (eg certain smells or colours). This happens obviously with big traumas like being attacked, but also with things that may not seem like a big deal such as being embarrassed at school in front of the class, or someone saying something cruel to us.

Clients often say to me, ‘but it was so many years ago, it seems silly I could still be affected by such a small thing’.

Yet when memories are not ‘digested’ as described above, they are still being experienced now, and the information continues to influence the present.

For example a 7 year old girl was teased by friends at school swimming for being ‘fat’. Now whenever she is invited to the beach or the pool she experiences self-loathing and body shame. After some sessions of EMDR, she is no longer influenced by the negative thoughts she learnt at this time many years ago, she can feel free to enjoy her body without the hang-ups of the past.

EMDR helps people to identify memories that may be ‘undigested’, and to work out what negative thoughts about themselves they picked up at the time, that continue to run the show in the present. Through a process of bilateral stimulation, which usually involves moving the eyes back and forwards, these memories are reprocessed and no longer create disturbance in the present.

EMDR therapy will never take away something that is true, and won’t remove bad memories all together, but after EMDR therapy, people report being able to think back to the good parts of their childhood, or their relationship with someone who has died for example, without the disturbance and painful emotion that came with it before doing EMDR therapy.  

EMDR therapy can be of use to anyone who is willing to address their past and who wants to free themselves of old patterns and ways of thinking.

The process takes at least 6-8 sessions, and some people commit to long term EMDR therapy to really go back and process all the different memories that are affecting them.

Help! I have no libido

Help! I have no libido

One of the most common reasons for seeking a sex therapist is a perceived lack of libido.

Libido is another word for ‘sex drive’, how driven you are towards being sexual and how often you feel sexual desire and arousal.

It can be helpful to understand that desire and arousal are different things. Sexual desire is the feeling of wanting sex (whether this is acted upon or not), and sexual arousal is the physiological sexual response of being turned on.

For most people during their youth, sex drive was strong and they regularly felt a lot of desire and arousal at the same time. But arousal isn’t necessary for sexual desire. You can desire to be sexual for lots of reasons than just feeling turned on. Perhaps you want to feel close to your partner, or to express your love to your partner, or to relax, to seek pleasure and many other possible reasons for desiring sex. Often once the sexual interaction has begun, the arousal will start to build.

If time is taken and opportunities are created to build arousal- sex can be satisfying, even if there is not as much arousal as perhaps previously experienced.

Sometimes if it’s been a while since being sexual,  bodies are out of practice, and it takes time to awaken to feeling sexual and aroused.

Have fun practicing and enjoy whatever you do feel.

Yet people often attend counselling because they can’t access any desire at all, and being sexual is just not something they feel able to experience or go towards at the moment.

The role of therapy is to help you understand yourself and exploring the reasons why desire is not present is an individual process.

It often starts with looking at the quality of the relationship.

Do they feel respected, appreciated, and loved?

Do they feel loved, but more as a friend and not as a lover?

Equally important is a person’s relationship with themselves and their own body. Societal messages tell us that we are ‘not good enough’ in order to try and sell us things- these messages run deep and body shame and lack of self-esteem can ensure that the sexual, erotic, playful parts of ourselves hide away.

Lack of desire can also be a symptom of underlying health issues, so it is always good to get a full medical check-up to rule out any biological factors that are preventing sexual desire and arousal.

A really common reason that many people have a lack of libido is that they are feeling too overwhelmed with managing daily lives and young children, and especially if they feel that they are managing an unfair proportion of household tasks- sex is the last thing they feel like and it can feel much more like a chore than a reward.

Once these elements are explored and attended to, there are lots of exercises and practices that will start to stir libido up again.

Sexual energy is life-force energy.

 

It’s the part of us that feels inspiration and joy at life. This energy can be stirred up through dancing, laughing, playfulness and doing activities that make us feel alive. Through wearing clothes that feel sexy and through practicing to perceive oneself as a sexual being again. Learning to touch yourself in a pleasurable, slow and sensual way can build up sexual longings and desires. For many people this process will include overcoming shame and stigma about sex and what it means to be alive in your own pleasure, enjoying your body and the body of your lover.

If you need support in this process, sex therapy can be a wonderful support along the way.