What is Psychosexual Somatics®?
“The mind is like the wind and the body like the sand:
if you want to know how the wind is blowing,
you can look at the sand”
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
Psychosexual Somatics® Therapy (PST) is an evolutionary, body-oriented therapeutic modality dealing with sexual and intimacy issues, developed by Mike Lousada. Unlike many somatic sexology trainings, PST approaches sexuality through the heart, not through the genitals. It is a unique combination of psychotherapeutic and bodywork disciplines, based on the understanding that most sexual issues present as a combination of cognitive (mind) and somatic (body) symptoms. It is only by addressing both mind and body, therefore, that full resolution can be achieved.
Using the latest understandings from neuro-science PST has developed a neuro- affective relational model that makes it ideally suited to safely help resolve client’s sexual, emotional and medical trauma. Through a combination of talk work and bodywork these, as well as non-traumatic intimacy issues, can be resolved. This allows the client to move into a more empowered relationship with their sexuality.
Cognitive awareness is the first step to empowerment. By understanding how and why we avoid intimacy we can begin to make different choices that support greater connection, intimacy and pleasure. PST offers a clear roadmap to understanding intimacy issues and helps you move through any blocks to a greater capacity for connection.
An essential part of PST for many clients is down-regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Practitioners are taught an understanding of the role of the vagus nerve in our capacity for presence, connection and arousal. By applying both a clinical application of Polyvagal Theory and Trauma Therapy, PST works safely with trauma and helps to create new neural pathways.
Awareness is the first step towards empowerment. PST applies somatic mindfulness and erotic mindfulness to help increase your awareness of limiting beliefs and how they manifest in the body. When we are connected with our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations we can remain present in intimacy and not enter dissociated states or familiar patterns of avoidant behaviour. Mindfulness also contributes to creating a positive neurological state.
PST focuses strongly on awareness of the felt experience in the moment. By becoming aware of physical sensations and any associated emotional responses we can begin to integrate body and mind into a more cohesive whole which creates a stronger sense of selfhood.
The body is also part of the self. There is a growing evidence that emotion and trauma are “stored” in the fascia and other body tissue. By using conscious intentional touch and applications from visceral technique and myofascial release therapy PST supports a deeper body-mind integration and allows the discharge of “negative” or traumatic memories and emotions. Supportive, loving touch also offers a new reference point for contact that creates new neural pathways.
Most people struggling with sex and intimacy are partly dissociated from their body. Breathing is one of the keys to reconnecting with your body, to developing embodied presence and to generating sexual energy. PST uses different breathwork techniques to cultivate, move and direct awareness and sexual energy, creating greater flow in the body.
A therapeutic process may contain one or more of the following five stages:
- Cognitive ApproachAwareness of cognitive and affective issues through psychotherapeutic processes
- Somatic Awareness Connecting clients with sensation and emotions in their body through somatic mindfulness and other non-touch techniques
- Physical Release Of somatic and affective blocks and trauma through physical therapy
- Erotic Mindfulness Helps the client access their own inner erotic energy and notice any remaining resistances to this
- Sexual Awakening Sexual response and empowerment through pre-agreed touch, breath, sound and movement techniques
PST offers a clearly boundaried, safe therapeutic space in which clients are supported to resolve intimacy issues both within the mind and the body. The model uses safe, powerful, quick and effective techniques to allow the client to understand their old, limiting patterns from the past, how these affect their present situation, and empowers them to make positive changes for their future.
How is PST different from regular sex therapy?
Conventional sex therapy arises from the medical model, which focuses on function and dysfunction, and on pathologization. It assumes that if desire (I want to have sex), arousal (my body responds to desire) and function (I can get erect/orgasm, etc.) are all working ok, then sex should be working just fine. It makes sex into a “black box” that doesn’t need to be talked about directly.
In PST we open the black box and we talk about sex. We explore what’s working and what isn’t, we look at the deeper underlying issues from your past. We also focus not only on resolving “dysfunction” but also on helping you move towards your sexual potential. PST believes that our capacity for pleasure is only limited by our own fears, not by physiological constraints.
Another significant difference is that sex therapy only addresses psychological and emotional aspects of sexual issues. Unfortunately sexual issues tend to effect both mind and body and it is only by addressing both that we can get to the root of the problem. PST techniques involve physical touch as well as talk therapy to help clients reach a rapid, safe and effective resolution of intimacy issues. It is this integrated body-mind approach that offers the evolutionary element of PST.
How Does PST Work with Sexual Trauma?
PST uses a scientific and knowledge-based approach. It is inevitable that when we work with sexuality, clients with trauma will come into our practice. Many alternative or new age approaches to sexuality, such as tantra and de-armouring practices, focus on the experience of expansion and of ‘pushing through’ resistances. This type of approach has been shown not only to be ineffective in the long-run but also potentially harmful to the client.
In contrast, PST never forces or pushes through resistance or ‘body armouring’. Instead it honours these as important aspects of self and supports the client to allow these places to open in their own time, when witnessed with loving gentleness. The client leads this process and the PST practitioner is trained to observe the clients neural regulation or dis-regulation ensuring that the client does not expand or push through any embodied resistance too fast.
PST also emphasises the importance not only of expansion, but also of integration. It is this dual pulsation of expansion and integration that makes PST a uniquely safe approach to working with sexual trauma.
PST was developed after many years of study in various fields, and is informed by a unique combination of psychotherapeutic tools and:
Somatic, emotional and cognitive mindfulness
Somatic trauma therapy
Such as Somatic Experiencing
Myofascial release and osteopathic soft tissue techniques
Energy and transpersonal psychology
In sessions the Psychosexual Somatics® Practitioner holds a safe container in which the client’s process can unfold allowing them to integrate body and mind. Through the methods described above and by witnessing and reflecting back the client’s process, especially by focusing on the practitioner’s somatic counter-transference, the client is enabled to begin to come into relationship with disowned aspects of their selfhood. Working simultaneously with the client’s cognitive and somatic responses allows the client to make behavioural changes as well creating as positive neural growth.
During a session, a Psychosexual Somatics® Practitioner works with the cognitive, affective, somatic and transpersonal. The emphasis is on the client finding their own erotic energy not on the practitioner “doing something” to them.
The foundation of PST is to empower the client through increased awareness of the body-mind connection. It is through this awareness that positive change occurs.