Reconnect to your sensual and sexual self with sensate focus

with Linda Weiner, MSW, LCSW

Linda Weiner, MSW, LCSW
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Sensate focus isn’t a new technique, however, do you know how to use it effectively to truly reconnect to your body and your sensual self?

During a Smart Sex, Smart Love podcast, Linda Weiner, certified diplomate in sex therapy and author of a book entitled, “Sensate focus in sex therapy: The illustrated manual,” explains this mindful touching technique that can enhance your sex life. “You can turn off the chatter” in your mind and tune into your body to improve your sex life, she finds. The technique especially is beneficial for sexually distressed individuals.

Sensate focus is a series of touching experiences that people can use for themselves to reconnect to their body and calm themselves or use with a partner to reduce pressure between the two and improve their sexual health. Deepening a sexual connection with your partner may mean focusing less on sexuality and more on the sensuality of touching. Turn off the thinking brain and turn on the primal brain, she asserts. In this podcast, Linda explains how to focus on mindful thinking to relieve anxiety, worry and sexual tension. She discusses the three components of sensate focus: temperature, texture and pressure, and how to use each to help with self-love and body acceptance.

JOE KORT  0:05
Welcome to smart sex smart love. We’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboo and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. Today I’m excited to be talking about sensate focus, mindful touch for reconnecting to your sexual and sexual self. We’re going to be talking today to Linda whiner, owner of sex therapist St. Louis. She will talk about sensate focus, the mindful touching technique for reconnecting to your sexual and sexual self and enhancing your sex life. Linda describes it as turning off the chatter and tuning into your body. Linda is a licensed clinical social worker, a certified diplomate in sex therapy, a supervisor for certification and sex therapy and sexuality counseling, and a continuing education provider for the American Association of sex educators, counselors and therapists. She was trained at masters and Johnson’s Institute and worked there for five years as the director and training of workshops and as a research and clinical associate. Her career evolved into a private practice as a therapist specializing in sexual and relationship concerns. Linda began publishing articles uncensored focus mindful and somatic touch techniques with co author Dr. Constance, AV Clark, and authored a book entitled sensate focus in sex therapy, the illustrated manual, which was published in 2017. Her current interest is in transmitting information about the use of sensitive focus techniques to physicians and allied health professionals, who often are the first contact with sexually distressed individuals. Welcome, Linda. Thank you so much, Joe, we finally did it. I’m thrilled to be on your show. I’m thrilled to have you here. I just feel like you are the premier person to talk about since a focus even though it’s been around forever, and everybody’s been doing it. You wrote a really great book with illustrations on couples doing sensei focus, and then I went to your workshop, and it was so helpful to have it filled in. Because you know, when we’re trained to sex therapists, it’s like just do sensei focus. Well, okay, but like, fill in the me. So maybe you’ll do that. Hopefully you’ll do that today. A little bit, I hope to Yes. Can you tell the listeners What is it so since a focus is really just simply a series of touching experiences that you can use for yourself to reconnect to your body and calm yourself and

Linda Weiner  2:27
or you can use it with a partner to reduce pressure between the two of you to turn on or get something done. So it lets you relax a little bit so that maybe you’ll be able to feel some sexual interest.

It it’s a very simple technique, but it does so many wonderful things.

JOE KORT  2:48
Alright, so normally how we’re trained to use it is a couple comes in, they either haven’t had sex for quite a while, or they’re trying to have sex, and they have a reptile disappointment, or the woman has a Perowne performance anxiety issues. So we say, Take intercourse off the table, and, and orgasm off the table for a minute. And do sensei focus, right? Yes, well, I even go beyond that. And I say, take away any attempt to give pleasure or receive pleasure, and do it totally neutrally as a form of meditation on sensations just focusing on what is the temperature, what is the texture, because we get very caught up in performance and expectations. So even though you’re saying, you know, take let’s take sex, per se off the table, there’s still been an expectation in the field because of the 1970 book masters and Johnson wrote, which they didn’t change their information in many publications, and so all of counselors are still asking people to touch not to get an erection or to get aroused, but touch to give pleasure to your partner or have pleasure for yourself, which if you’re a person with a sexual difficulty, sex is, quote, touching, even taking off your clothes is anything but pleasure enhancing. Okay? It’s still very anxiety provoking later on. After they sort of get the gist and their sexual problems there low level of interest is increasing, getting better erections are getting better, then you encourage the partner to give and take and show and tell and become more adventurous. Once they can function. That’s where since they focus too, or once we’ve dealt with the issue, let’s enhance and optimize our sexual relationships. So that’s the piece that I’m really trying to get out there, which I think will help clients and individuals with lower expectations of that they’re supposed to feel pleasure, I’m thinking maybe there will be more people who actually do the exercises because therapists say Joe don’t say is that Oh, my biggest problems? I can’t get them to do it. Yes. And the clients come in and say we didn’t do it with that was boring. What’s the point? Yeah, what would I like what you’re saying The point is, is

enhancement and optimization. Is that what you said? Yes. If you’re not having a sexual difficulty, like low desire,

Linda Weiner  5:07
okay, right. It’s just more about performance. Yes. Right. Say performance. You know how there was a meme that said, it’s not a performance, your penis doesn’t take a bow at the end and get an applause?

Yeah, but but many men expect and do it themselves. But they don’t you know, applause what they do is diminished themselves if it’s not perfect performance every time. Have you heard what I’m saying? I learned it from I don’t even know who in the field erectile disappointment, right. That’s a very cool way to play function sound so, or disorder sound. So we send a man having issues. Why do we have to make it something, you know? Right?

JOE KORT  5:47
Right. And if it’s not physical, it’s not a dysfunction. It could be anxiety, anxieties, the dysfunction not the reptile.

Linda Weiner  5:53
Right? Yeah. Uh huh. And the performance pressure to both have an erection, keep an erection and have your partner experience pleasure.

JOE KORT  6:05
So you know, sort of supposed to take care of them first, because that’s what we’ve been told. Right? And that’s what I like to so if people go and they find this, and you use your hand, you have a handout with Neil cannon, and Avery Clark. That is five steps that what I learned and I loved it, maybe I knew it, but you saying it in your presentation helped me that when when you’re touching your partner, is that about you touching them? Right? It’s about the partner being touched, and teaching you how to touch them, right? No, sorry, Joe. Yeah, got it wrong.

Linda Weiner  6:39
I wholly respect you as a sex therapist. And even with people still talking about pleasure with their clients. This, this sense of focus is so potent, that even so most therapists and in a recent survey said that their clients improved and they used it for many different kinds of sexual dysfunctions. But I’m imagining that if we reduce pressure even more, they don’t have to give pleasure or feel pleasure, they don’t even have to want to do it, just do it. And see what happens as you turn off this thinking brain into the primal brain, and the flow begins to happen. That’s the theory behind doing it this way. And I wonder if more clients wouldn’t drop out if they would be more willing to do it.

But it works anyway. But wouldn’t work better if we described it this way, I’m trying to do a study comparing clients who were given the pleasure definition versus clients that were given the definition of touch, as a mindfulness practice, you know, in a mindfulness practice, you usually focus on a sound like ohm, or you focus on something visual flame, in this in mindful touch. What happens, Joe? Is that when you’re touching, and you’re focused on what’s it feel like, what’s the temperature, what’s the texture, does it feel different if I use more pressure, or less pressure, so it’s all about me, and what I’m experiencing sexually, so you’re having a meditation, if your mind goes off to I wonder if my partner’s doing okay with this, you turn it back to the meditation, just like when you’re meditating, and your mind wanders, which you will. With this, you’re bringing it back to a meditation on what things feel like sensually. So you’re bringing yourself back to your own body experience, because sex happens when the brain is turned off when the thinking brain is turned off. And you’re in the primal brain. And your body knows what to do. You’ve just gotten out of the way with all your anxiety, your worries, your performance fears, and you let your body take over. It’s really similar to sleep. Let me describe this. Am I boring you yet? I hope no, no, keep going. So sex being a natural function, it means your body really knows what to do if we can just get the thinking mind out of the way. In the same way, we all know how to fall asleep. And generally, unless you’re getting in my age group where it gets a little more challenging to fall asleep. But if you’re having difficulty because you’re worried about something and you’re creating anxiety, which then creates the opposite of dopamine, you can’t fall asleep, and the more you live, there you go, Oh my God, if I don’t get to sleep Pretty soon, tomorrow’s gonna be a complete wreck. And then you just stress yourself out more than you can’t, it takes you further and further away from your capacity to sleep. So they tell you count sheep, and Joe, I used to think counting sheep was to bore you to sleep.

While you’re counting sheep, you can’t be worrying about tomorrow. So you can’t turn your mind off. But you can turn it into something that doesn’t freak you out.

And that opens a natural pathway for the natural function to assert itself and you fall asleep. Same thing with sensei focus. you’re focused on temperature, texture, pressure for seconds.

As your mind is turned off, you’re in your body. I liken it to when people get in the shower, a lot of people when the temperatures, right, they put their head back and they go,

Oh, nice, yes. And they’re not thinking about anything. They’re in pure, sensual somatic experiencing. And that’s the state. We’re trying to get to a sense a focus. I’m sorry, I talked on and on. But no, no, no, you’re good. I’m not one of those. I’m a different kind of host I don’t need to share. It’s not about me, it’s about you and your work. But I do want to make sure that I can send clients to this when this is published, because I want them to, you know, hear you and really, some people don’t like to read. Can you just say so? Because I want to make sure I get it. So the couple says, Okay, we’re having these issues. Alright, so you’re going to go into the bad dress and you’re not dressed? What is a step by step process? Can you talk that, okay, it really depends on what the couple negotiates, or what the individual who’s doing it themselves feels like they can and will do not want, but will, okay? Because there’s always going to be a little anxiety. And so it might look different. If you’ve had a lot of say sexual trauma, you’re not going to start nude in the bedroom with no breasts and genital Your turn my turn touching, you might start in the living room with hand caressing, just trying to get focused on what that feels like and manage your anxiety. So it’s what the couple negotiates, or what the therapist negotiates with the individual or the couple. I see term is a first step but generally Yes, the first step is if you can be nude together in the bedroom at some time other than sleep time, because it generally doesn’t work out and try not to turn on the TV first and do the touching later because it won’t happen. schedule a time.

get naked if you can’t otherwise wear your your underwear and touch using only your hands and fingers head to toe front to back avoiding the breasts and genitals focusing on those three things. Temperature wear on my partner’s body, do he she or they feel warmer or cooler? texture, softness versus roughness and is not good or bad. It’s just what is okay.

And pressure. Does it feel differently to me when I put more pressure down and I touch or less and the partner is taking in for themselves? How does it feel to them? temperature texture and pressure wise, but they have a big responsibility. And that is the only way that their partner can touch for themselves is if the person being touched will say, move the other person’s hand. If it feels awkward, irritating, psychologically disturbing, it’s not traffic copying what I want. It’s not right now deer and deer would take it as a compliment, not a criticism because in this culture, particularly men have been taught. They’re supposed to be the magic touch or anticipate how their female or female identified partner wants to be touched. And it’s just, you know, so we emphasize let your partner know if it’s uncomfortable and partner take it as a compliment, not a criticism. And then it moves from once the person is able to exhibit the magic formula touch for themselves, focus on sensations and bring themselves back from distractions. a distraction is anything other than temperature, texture, pressure, especially evaluating do I feel good? Am I getting an erection? Do I think I’m going to get turned on Will my partner be upset all of those are those distracting negative thoughts that make you anxious, so you may get temperature, texture pressure, when you’ve got that you can then move on to maybe include breasts or breasts and genitals. And then it moves on to increasingly what we would call erotic, genital to genital touch without insertion. And then insertion and playing the stride just without insertion is the most fun most female identified people I’ve ever had. What does it say it again? When the female identified partner goes astride her partner as

if it’s male uses his penis any way she wants, or herself. Oh, God out inserting. It’s like Wow, I’ve never done that before it was always gonna close get it in you know.

Right. So then as I said later, once couples are comfortable and are having a decent sexual relationship in terms of function, then we put the gilded on the lily. And what do you really like and what are your kinks and what have you always fantasized about trying not what did you try with your previous lover

Never go well,

JOE KORT  15:02
you don’t you don’t know me very well, but I absolutely hate expressions and especially if I don’t know what do they mean? So what does gilding in the loline? or whatever? Okay,

Linda Weiner  15:11
overdoing it. It’s already good. Uh huh. And so now you’re putting an unnecessary layer on it.

gilding the lily. Thank you, Joe. Because communication should be absolutely understood. Now, let me

also what a couples, this happens a lot, right? they come back and they say, We blew it, we ended up having intercourse. What do you say to that?

Unknown Speaker  15:36
Well, I say secretly to myself, yeah, they can still. And they got carried away. And there’s hope. Okay. And then I say to them, well, that’s nice that you experienced that together? I’m really glad and underscores that, yes, there is some heartbeat to your sex life. But you said to me that you want it to be regular, not accidental. And so I’m trying to work with you and, and basically teach you how to have it be less than the moon and the stars are in the right position. But how to have it more regularly how what you can do to facilitate that kind of experience more regularly? I say it a little less firmly that I just did I’m a little softer as a therapist. Sure.

JOE KORT  16:28
Sure. We’re on the podcast, we’re in a time crunch. So right? And what about you talk about the whole thing about since a focus is to build sexual tension? Can you expand on that?

Unknown Speaker  16:37
Sure. You know, if you do some touching with a partner or with yourself, and you don’t stimulate yourself to orgasm after or an orgasm doesn’t occur, you just build tension for the next opportunity. So nothing is energy is never lost. So it’s a good thing.

JOE KORT  16:56
Have you ever had an experience where people? And I have right, right where I’m sure you have, but just for listeners where negative things come out of this, right? a conflict comes out of this? Oh, yes.

Unknown Speaker  17:07
Oh, because since a focus will identify where the problem is, so that you can work on it. Okay, if there’s a power struggle, for example, between the couple, we better identify it and work with it so that it doesn’t affect their bedroom behavior.

JOE KORT  17:23
Good. All right. That’s very helpful for people to hear, because I think people think there’s a way to do this. And that’s what I love about your book. That’s what I love about your presentation. And now even today, is there is no right or wrong way to do this.

Unknown Speaker  17:33
Mm hmm. Yes, it’s not a cookie cutter procedure day one this day to that, as it’s often been presented.

JOE KORT  17:40
You talked also about focusing on sharing this knowledge with physicians and allied health professionals so that they can learn of working with these couples, how are you doing that?

Unknown Speaker  17:48
So I’m trying to present more at conferences, and where there is a professional audience also doing more workshops with that, with that focus, and I’ll be increasing that as we go along. Also, joining more writing articles for medical journals. Oh,

JOE KORT  18:10
that’s great. Hmm. I didn’t know there was so much. I mean, somatic.

ideas about this makes sense to me. But then the mindfulness, really thought about mindfulness. Can you explain what that means for people? Because listeners may be like, what does that even mean? I hear it all the time. What do you mean?

Unknown Speaker  18:26
mindfulness is just a state of suspension of troubled thinking, it’s blanking the mind. And then subsequently being able blagging the mind of anxiety and distracting thoughts and being able to focus on the here and now. What is this piece of fruit really tastes like if I’m not watching the TV, reading the newspaper, and just eating if I actually focus on it, and can focus on tasting it. That’s mindfulness, that you’re in the, in the, in the experience, not just participating in it, but logically connected to it, which

JOE KORT  19:06
is really the contributor to performance anxiety, right? They’re spectating themselves. They’re overthinking.

Unknown Speaker  19:12
Oh, they’re watching themselves from the corner of the room rather than being in the experience. And have you ever had a good time at a party when you’re asking yourself? Am I having a good time at the party? Yeah.

JOE KORT  19:24
Right. Um, what do you say about why you got into this, like we all do since a focus we all learned in sex therapy trainings, but you made a career out of it, what brought you to make do that?

Unknown Speaker  19:36
So I was teaching a course on human sexuality at Washington University and I was going to give them a reading and sensate focus, as part of their education. And when I started looking at the literature again, it was all about performance and pleasure and touching for the other rather than touching for yourself and I was like, Oh my gosh, I went to training at masters and Johnson. They never mentioned In this, and though I read that older book, it didn’t register. So suddenly, it occurred to me, oh my gosh, they never published much about it. Except if you went to their conferences you learned about it. If you if you did research with them or work there, you knew about it. But they didn’t publish in any major journal, when they had made, I believe, the total conceptual and instructional change, instead of touching for the other end for pleasure. You’re touching for self. And that leads to pleasure for them and for you. So you don’t have to add to the performance.

JOE KORT  20:41
Yeah, no, that’s great that you did this. You really brought it into the 21st century?

Unknown Speaker  20:45
Yes. Thank you so much, because I was told, oh, that’s such old stuff. Why do you want to write a book about and let’s move on to something new? And I’m like, But wait, nobody knows how to do it the way I learned it, the way they conceptualized it later, for what I think are really good reasons. To modify it.

JOE KORT  21:03
Yes. And what I love about it, and you consulted with me, when you were writing your book was just that you added LGBT into it too, because a lot of people do not do that.

Unknown Speaker  21:10
Yeah. Well, you know, of course, diversity and and helping all people and recognizing differences shouldn’t be part of what we do.

JOE KORT  21:22
Do you know, I just thought about this recently. I don’t know why it never occurred to me, maybe you’re gonna say this is something you’ve always thought about. But people can do sensate focus alone, right?

Unknown Speaker  21:30
Absolutely. You can do it alone. And if you read my book, or even go to YouTube, or tune in again, tell your friend turn into Joe’s podcast. You can do it yourself. Just getting relaxed, focusing on your body tunes off the mind relaxes you improves your immunity, increases depression gives you a sense of joy. Whether you have an orgasm or not, you know, just touching because touches magic. And it is the original bonding chemical, and the original oxytocin chemical and the original way that we felt safe and loved having skin to skin contact with our caretakers. The essence of touch is love, relaxation, peacefulness, mental and physical health.

JOE KORT  22:23
I think I’m going to do this right after this podcast.

Linda Weiner  22:26
All right. Joe, Joe. Yeah, that’s

JOE KORT  22:29
right, in an office alone song opening. So um, we have to come to an end. Anything else that I didn’t ask you that you thought you know, that’s important that to say in this podcast?

Unknown Speaker  22:38
Well, I think that this can really help with self love with body acceptance, a body that can bring you pleasure, that is soft and warm. And if you’re doing this without judgment, and every time you think a negative thought about your body, you bring it back to temperature, texture, pressure, I think that that is a very positive way, especially if you have had some posts, you have some post cancer treatment. Concerns about body image or your body is aging, it’s a different body. Body acceptance, I think is another important point. Besides the health, mental health and physical benefits, yes, I’m just touching yourself or being touched.

JOE KORT  23:21
It’s such a good point. It really I was thinking abused it with transgender, you know, in their bodies when they have feel dis owned in certain parts of their body and where they have, but it’s a great tool, I think for everyone, but particularly people who are trans that are having issues. Well, any body image issues, right?

Linda Weiner  23:36
Yes. I’d love to hear more about your experience.

JOE KORT  23:39
Yeah, sure. So where can people find you, Linda?

Unknown Speaker  23:42
So the best place to find me is at my website, www dot sex therapist, St. Louis. That’s St. Liu is at gmail. I’m And my email is sex therapist. St. I also have an Instagram. I also have all the social media, but I’m kind of old school.

JOE KORT  24:09
Yeah, well, no, if you have other social media, you’re not old school. But I have

Unknown Speaker  24:12
an army of people who assist. Yeah, yeah. So I

JOE KORT  24:18
thank you so very much. I’m so excited to have you here.

Linda Weiner  24:22
Good to see, well,

JOE KORT  24:23
your work is just so good. And I sat in that I thought I’d say focus. What can I learn what what else could you teach and so much so thank you, Linda. Absolutely. Linda. It was such a pleasure having you on the show. You can hear more of my podcasts at smart sex smart love. And also you can follow me on Twitter, tik tok, Instagram and Facebook. My handle is at Dr. Joe court, and my website is Jo ct JEK Thanks for listening, and until next time, stay safe and stay healthy.