- Sensate focus is a series of touching exercises designed to deepen intimacy between partners.
- During sensate focus, partners are encouraged to focus on each other’s bodies and not on reaching an orgasm.
- This sex therapy technique is particularly effective for couples who are experiencing a sexual lull.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Deepening a sexual connection with your partner sometimes means focusing less on sexuality and more on sensuality. Sensate focus is a sex-therapist-approved way of connecting with your partner by touching and being touched. The point of sensate focus is to relinquish the goal of orgasm and instead focus on being present.
Sensate focus can help you and your partner to get more in sync sexually and intensify your intimate connection. Here’s more background on sensate focus and how to get started with your partner.
What is sensate focus?
Sensate focus is a series of touching exercises aimed at deepening intimacy between partners. It was first developed by sex therapy research team Masters and Johnson in 1970 and has since become a widely-recommended practice among sex therapists.
Practicing sensate focus allows you and your partner to be present with each other and focus on touching and relaxation, without the pressure of turning each other on.
“When someone is relaxed, they are more able to give and receive pleasure,” says Lisa Hochberger, LSMW, a sex therapist at Wise Therapy in New York City.
Sensate focus begins with a ban on kissing and genital touching so that both partners can focus on non-sexual sensations. From there, you can slowly introduce more elements of sexuality — and finally have sex.
This practice of focused touching borrows many of the principles of mindfulness and encourages you to let go of judgment and focus on experience and sensation. “Eventually it becomes this meditative process,” says Hochberger.
Although sensate focus can be an excellent exercise for any couple, it is an especially helpful tool to ignite desire between people who may be experiencing a lull in their sex life.
“Sensate focus is a good exercise for people who are just trying to get back into it” says Cheyenne Taylor, LSMW, a sex therapist at Manhattan Alternative Wellness Collective.
How to practice sensate focus
Before you begin sensate focus exercises, make sure you are in a room with complete privacy and no distractions. If it helps you get in the mood, you can play relaxing music, turn down the lights, and create a romantic atmosphere.
It’s best to practice sensate focus naked, but if you are uncomfortable with complete nudity make sure to avoid tight or uncomfortable clothing. Also, be sure to remove any jewelry, watches, or other things that may distract from your partner’s touch.
You should decide which person will assume the role of the toucher first and which person will be the recipient. Both of you should take turns with each role.
Each person should spend at least 15 minutes as the toucher before switching off, but there is no limit for how long each session should last.
There are three phases of sensate focus. You can remain in each phase for a few sessions, or move on right away. There are no clear-cut guidelines for sensate focus, and you should do what feels right for you.
Phase I: Sensate focus without genital touching
During this stage, the toucher should explore the other person’s body while avoiding obvious erogenous zones like breasts and genitals. The recipient should focus on relaxing and enjoying the sensation of being touched.
There are no hard and fast rules about what this phase should include, but here are some tips for the toucher:
- Vary the pressure of your touches. In some places, press down more firmly. In others, gently glide your hand over your partner’s body.
- Start with the parts of your partner’s body that are usually visible like the hands, arms, and scalp. Then slowly make your way to the more intimate areas of their body, like the buttocks and inner thighs.
- Alternate between using your whole hand and just the tips of your fingers.
Phase II: Sensate focus with genital touching
Though you are allowed to touch your partner’s breasts and genitals during this phase, kissing and sex are still off-limits. The focus is still on sensuality — not sexuality — so you shouldn’t be actively trying to turn your partner on.
If you are the recipient, you can now place your hand on the toucher’s hand to indicate subtle preferences. This allows both people to communicate non-verbally about where they like to be touched. This form of intimate communication is an important pillar of sensate focus, says Taylor.
Here are some tips for the toucher:
- Don’t lose sight of the whole experience of touching by focusing on the genitals. Remember that you are supposed to engage in light genital touching, not genital stimulation.
- The receiver may start by lying face down so that the toucher is encouraged to first focus on areas of the body other than the genitals.
- If someone is aroused enough to orgasm, it is okay to let the orgasm happen.
Phase III: Sensate focus with sex
In the final phase of sensate focus, you can end the session by having sex. But you should begin by going back to the fundamentals of phase one and get reacquainted with mindful touching.
During this phase, the recipient can take a more active role in the exercise. In addition to guiding the toucher’s hand, the recipient can move more and engage in touching the toucher.
Before sex, both partners may touch genitals first to experience closeness before intercourse. When you finally have sex, be sure to remember to emphasize being present and mindful of your closeness.
Some tips for this phase:
- If you practice penetrative sex, you can take 20-30 second breaks to vary the rhythm and emphasize going slow.
- Vary your positions so that each person gets a chance to be on top.
- You may want to use a lubricant during this phase.
Sensate focus is a great way to focus on mutual pleasure and mindful sensuality. By emphasizing closeness and being present, it can help deepen intimacy between two people. Sensate focus is particularly helpful for couples who feel like they need to reconnect. “Eventually the physical closeness bridges the emotional closeness,” says Hochberger.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.