I was meeting with a new client who is concerned because she
is not feeling much in the way of sexual desire and it is causing problems with
her husband. As we are talking and I am getting the bigger picture of her life,
she mentions that she brought up her lack of desire with her psychiatrist and
the psychiatrist told her to “drink a glass of wine” and that should help. HEAD
EXPLODING. Now aside from this being pathetic advice and not related to
increasing desire in any way (more on that in a bit), I should mention that the
client in this story is 5 years sober. So I can only imagine that this
psychiatrist was so thrown by the topic of sexuality that she gave this
knee-jerk inappropriate, if not unprofessional, piece of advice.
So for those of you reading, let’s clarify why this was bad
advice, for anyone, not just a client in sobriety. Alcohol – in small amounts!
- can lower our inhibitions and help us relax. True enough. But sexual desire
is not equivalent to low inhibitions. If someone is not feeling sexual, it is
just as likely that a glass of wine will only make them uninhibited enough to
say, “no way, I just want to watch the game”. Supporting someone who wants sex
but feels inhibited or ashamed about it is totally different than helping
someone who wants to want sex but just currently doesn’t.
There is so much to explore and consider when you are
working with someone with desire issues and so many deep and insightful places
that conversation can go. What a waste to stop the exploration with a throw
away, impersonal “solution”. Desire is mysterious. It can require us to look
deeply and with compassion at the intersections of our needs, identities, life
phases, and relationships that all pull and draw us in sometimes conflicting
Bottom line : We can do so much better than this. We should
be doing so much better than this. For therapists and other professionals out
there, the time is now. You don’t all have to be sex therapists. Hey I want to
keep my job. But it is part of your responsibility to be sexually aware enough
to provide someone with a clear-headed space to bring up sexual concerns
without getting shut down. If you feel lacking in this area, be compassionate
with your own place in a sexually uninformed culture and then seek out good
training and education. Have good referrals; take sex seriously as the nuanced
and valuable thing that it is in our lives.
And if you are someone looking for sexual support or
exploration, there are people who are able to be supportive of you as a unique
person. They are out there. I promise. Keep looking.
trainings on sexuality and relationships? Get on the mailing list for Melissa’s
upcoming trainings, follow along on the Facebook page or bring
Melissa to your area or organization by coordinating a training. Send Melissa
an email to connect - firstname.lastname@example.org