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Liz is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist with a private practice in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, California. Most of her clients are looking to increase their levels of intimacy and improving sexual and relationship satisfaction.
How does addiction impact our sexuality? Sometimes, clients meet with Liz before they have found a balance between obsessive and compulsive sexual behaviors, and they’re trying to figure out how to have satisfying sex. And other times, people are in recovery wondering how to have satisfying sex now that they’re sober. To feel uninhibited during sex, they often used a substance to numb uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Some clients have a lack of comfort in sex, so when they use a substance or compulsive sexual behavior it makes it easier to have a sexual experience, but at the same time, they aren’t always present.
Clients that are used to using a substance to feel more uninhibited during sex may have felt more comfortable communicating their wants and desires, but sober, they can find it scary to tell their partner what turns them on, or even to look them in the eye.
In clients struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, they may have a part of their sexuality that they don’t feel comfortable with sharing in a relationship that they care about. It can be hidden in their porn viewing, or maybe they are going outside of their relationship to fulfill the desires that they find uncomfortable to share.
Liz helps clients by asking them what is keeping them from asking for what they want, and assessing the level of intimacy and the level of vulnerability they are having with their partner. And to asses whether or not they have realistic expectations. Sometimes clients are expecting their bodies to react in a way that is unrealistic.
When clients are having sex with people they don’t know very well, or they haven’t built a history of trust with, issues with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or an inability to orgasm, can be common. When you don’t know how a partner is going to react, it can be challenging to ask for what you want.
Many people who struggle with addiction may have early attachment trauma, and it is sometimes difficult for them to regulate their emotions to be in an intimate relationship. These intimacy issues start to show up because they have a hard time connecting due to the intense emotionality.
Liz explains that the first step in beginning this journey is to have a casual conversation with the client to get to know what has been going on in their life. Then giving the client permission to be in a place of open curiosity to figure out what they like and if they don’t know what they want, then the conversation turns to answer that.
Clients can ask themselves what excites them. What are your fears and worries? Understanding what our expectations are around sex and moving away from what we think sex should look like helps set realistic expectations around sex. Real sex is not like Hollywood movie sex.
Human sexuality is complicated, should be explored organically, and in a safe environment. One of the key ideas is moving away from orgasm focused sex. It should be about exploring each other and enjoying each other. Have a pleasure session with yourself, or with your partner, without an expectation that your body is supposed to respond in any particular way.
You can find Liz Dube’s blog and other information at lizdube.com