Tag Archives: sexuality

Counselors: How do you deal with attraction to clients?

For my counseling friends, you may wish to read this piece by Ryan Neace about sexual attraction in the therapist office. Do you have someone to talk to in this kind of frank manner about the reality of attraction? How do you handle it?

Remember, sexual attraction is not limited to just wanting to have sex with someone. Ryan does a good job identifying types of sexual responses to others beyond outright lust and fantasy. Notice also his drawing attention to the myth of the sexual vortex.

“The pastor who refuses eye contact sends a clear message…‘You are seductive. You are a sexual vortex that I may get sucked in to.’ The slippery slope of my lust is your problem. And my ministry is too valuable to allow the likes of you to trip me up.”

Given that we all have examples of counselors and leaders who crossed sexual lines, the myth and fear of the vortex can keep us from addressing needs of others. And, as he notes, it sends a very loud message to some clients (mostly women) that they are a danger at the cellular level). What a burden we place on others!

Two questions for readers:

1. How do you respond to incidents of sexual attraction?

2. How would you want to respond to the question posed to Yalom copied below (about whether he would in a different situation be attracted to a female client)? Redirect? Focus on the “deeper question”? Answer it?

Yalom considers a female client who asks, “Am I appealing to men? To you? If you weren’t my therapist would you respond sexually to me?”

… [Yalom’s answer]:

If you deem it in the patient’s best interests, why not simply say… ‘If everything were different, we met in another world, I were single, I weren’t your therapist, then yes, I would find you very attractive and sure would make an effort to know you better.’ What’s the risk? In my view such candor simply increases the patient’s trust in you and in the process of therapy. Of course, this does not preclude other types of inquiry about the question—about, for example, the patient’s motivation or timing (the standard “Why now?” question) or inordinate preoccupation with physicality or seduction, which may be obscuring even more significant questions. (bold emphasis Ryan’s)


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling skills, Sex, sexuality

Why “sexy wife” language hurts so many women

Maybe you’ve seen this post: http://deeperstory.com/the-sexy-wife-i-cant-be/? If not, you should read it to learn just how painful and destructive and superficial the “be a sexy wife for your husband” is, especially when combined as “biblical teaching.” Now, the feeling of being sexy isn’t the problem. What is the problem is the failure of speakers/writers to account for the large number of women (and men!) whose sexuality was stolen from them via abuse and other forms of oppression. In addition, these “be sexy” speakers/writers seem to ignore how Scriptures have been distorted to demand sex from spouses (someday I should write a post about the number of times I have been asked during public Q and As about 1 Cor 7 and the demand it makes on women to please their husbands).

Can you imagine giving a talk about the joys of giving birth to an audience where 1:3 women were infertile? Can you imagine NOT acknowledging that a large portion of the audience might struggle with the topic?

For those of you who did read the above talk, the author Mary DeMuth, posted this follow-up post regarding the weight of the stories she heard in the comments section of her first post. Note how she finds hope and comfort among darkness and heaviness. For brave ones, you might read the comments at the bottom of both posts. Note the relief expressed that someone else understands. Note the common refrain, “I didn’t breathe while reading this.” That should tell us how desperate many are for being understood and that most are expecting the other shoe (that “just do it” one) to drop. Note the links to other posts already on this topic.

We need better pictures of sexuality in marriage that recognize pleasure as something that can be had but not at the expense of reality of safety, vulnerability, and comfort. Sexual pleasure is good but it is not the highest end. And decreased quality of pleasure is not a temptation or risk for adultery…unless pleasure has become a god to us.


Filed under Abuse, Christianity, church and culture, Sex, sexuality, trauma

Sexual dysfunction considered

Americans are confronted with the problem of sexual dysfunction every time they turn on the television. Seems there’s no end to the ads for products designed to improve sexual performance.

What is your response to this media blitz? Are you thankful that individuals with real problems have access to information and solutions? Or, and this is probably more likely for most, are you feeling harassed by drug company profiteering on our society that makes sexual zenith the end-all-be-all human experience.

Both are true. Despite the over-emphasis in the media, couples really do have struggles with their sex lives. And due to a number of factors (embarrassment, lack of church conversations about good sex, histories of abuse, etc.) many suffer in silence.

What follows are some common questions a good counselor will ask couples in order to uncover the nature of their problems.


1. What is your understanding of “good enough” sex? This question explores one’s view of sex. What does it entail? Who leads? Is it planned or spontaneous? How long does it last? Is there a focus only on orgasm or penetration?

2. What shapes your overall view of sex? This question begins to explore prior experiences with sex (and abuse), shaping beliefs about meaning and purpose, and perceptions of each person’s sexual identity and feelings about their own body. The point of these perception oriented questions is to uncover differences in perceptions and meaning regarding sexual intimacy.


1. How are you feeling about your relationship? Sex therapy is not indicated if there are significant ongoing conflicts across the marriage relationship. Counselors need to deal with hurts and conflicts first since good sex is based on a trust relationship. It is hard to be naked with someone you do not trust.

2. How do you two talk about your sex lives and/or sex frustrations? Can you share with each other your fears and dream; what you like or don’t like? Are their affairs, abuse, or other addictions getting in the way?


1. How would you rate your level of desire for sexual intimacy with your spouse? (High to low) What do you think accounts for this change? Has there been any changes in your level of desire? These questions begin to get at (a) the amount of desire each partner has for sexual intimacy and, (b) possible reasons for either too much or too little desire. Desire is defined as ongoing thoughts and feelings about wanting to be sexual with one’s spouse. Low desire may signal hurts, fears, and other struggles. High desire may signal addictions and/or demanding attitudes.

2. How do you feel about the differences in desire amounts? What we find is that in every couple, one wants more sex than the other. This is not a problem…unless either the one wanting more is hurt and angry about being turned down or the one wanting less feels guilty for saying no.


1. During sex, are you able to maintain your arousal? Do you lose your erection/interest? We want to discover what if any problems begin during the arousal period. Here we may uncover medical issues (disease states, medicines, etc.) that interfere with sexual intimacy.

2. Do you experience pain during sex? Pain is a major sex killer. This may be the result of ancillary problems (e.g., a bad hip or back) or the result of poor lubrication and/or other nerve-related injuries. Some pain in women is the result of anxiety at the point of penetration. But, sadly, these women are told to push through it. Pain must be dealt with in order for them to be comfortable enough to work on anxiety.


1. How do you feel about the frequency of and time to orgasm? Does it take too long or happen too quickly for you? These questions begin to uncover the possibility of problems in achieving a satisfying orgasm. Premature and delayed orgasm are real problems but sometimes we discover that the problem is one of perception. Men generally cannot thrust vigorously for more than 5 minutes without orgasming–actually most are in the 2 minute range. Women rarely orgasm from intercourse alone.

There are certainly more things to know and explore in order to help a couple solve sexual problems but these are the beginning questions most therapists will want to start with. You can find a 2009 PowerPoint presentation and accompanying questionnaire on the topic of sex therapy (When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work) that was part last year’s CCEF conference.


Filed under christian counseling, marriage, Sex, sex therapy, Uncategorized

When is residential treatment an option for you or someone you love?

Harvest USA, a local Philadelphia ministry,  is just about ready to unveil a new booklet that will be available for purchase via download. I wrote this last year after trying to help someone consider whether or not residential care was necessary to address an ongoing battle with sexual addiction.  They sent me an advance hard copy to preview and so I’ve included a pic of the front page on this post. Sorry, I couldn’t provide a better, color shot.

As you might expect, when a sexual addiction is discovered, confusion reigns among the addict and the family. What should they do? What does it mean? Where can he/she go to get help? Strong emotions and the nature of the crisis may lead to quick decisions. Whereas one family wants to find the best, most intensive solution, another family may try to solve the problem “in-house” with accountability from the pastor.

This is a short booklet designed to help the reader cut through some of the confusion and answer 8 key questions to help them decide whether it is necessary to seek treatment in a residency setting. The booklet concludes with a list of books and short-term and residential programs around the country.

I’ll let you know when the e-version is available for download.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling

Book idea: Sexual Crises in the Church

Pastors and church leaders have to navigate a variety of sexual crises that may arise in their congregations. These crises may or may not be crises for some churches even while they devastate another community. And surely these are not the only crises a church may face. But matters of sexuality often unnerve the leadership.

What crises am I referring to? Sexual abuse allegations, date-rape, infidelity among attendees and, pastoral (or leader) sexual abuse, couples living together, sex offenders returning to church, sexual addictions, individuals struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, etc.

Where would they turn to get helps in thinking about the various issues, practical pastoral responses (to the individuals involved as well as the entire congregation)? I’m thinking about a one source document that might survey biblical foundations, explore possible responses as well as prevention plans where appropriate. Why wait til the Crisis to consider how one might want to think about it?

Anyone seen such a resource? I’ve got some other writing assignments but I could imagine an edited volume on the topic. Maybe I’ll skip grading today and see if I can start a proposal.


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction, sexual identity, sexuality