1st Edition

Sensate Focus and the Psyche Integrating Sense and Sexuality in Couple Therapy

By Susan Pacey Copyright 2024
    130 Pages
    by Routledge

    130 Pages
    by Routledge

    Sensate Focus and the Psyche explores in depth both psychoanalytic and psychosexual perspectives of sensate focus, a programme of touching exercises for couples with sexual problems, and in so doing provides an original, integrated model for understanding the conscious and unconscious impact of this tactile intervention on couples in treatment.

    Susan Pacey reviews the historical relationship between psychoanalysis and sex therapy and the splitting of mind, body and relationship since Freud. She illustrates how the tactile intervention can help repair the early life impingements on partners’ individual development that mobilise anxieties about sexuality and shame in adulthood. Case studies illustrate how sensate focus can help conceptualise unconscious embodied memories, repair shame, encourage Winnicottian play, work through transitional phenomena and develop psychological space, establishing a platform for the healthy expression of adult sexuality. Pacey discusses how sexual desire and aggression are inextricably linked in the human psyche, proposing that sensate focus can help enable positive aggression necessary for sex and reduce the potential for partners’ anxieties about their psychological separateness. Lastly, she proposes judicious use of this powerful, tactile intervention and highlights contraindications.

    Sensate Focus and the Psyche will be essential reading for all psychotherapists who work with individuals, couples and families.


     Foreword by David Scharff 

    1. Conceiving

    2. Splitting

    3. Sensing

    4. Embodying

    5. Asserting

    6. Integrating





    Susan Pacey is a psychosexual and couple psychotherapist in private practice in Central London and formerly in the NHS. She was awarded the degree of Doctor of Couple Psychotherapy by Tavistock Relationships and the University of East London in 2018. She is a teacher and author of several papers on sexuality and couples, and was an editor of the international journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy for seven years.

    “In this important and highly informative book Susan Pacey draws on her research and extensive professional experience to bring together body, mind and relationship in addressing the untapped potential of psychosexual therapy. She provides a theoretically grounded basis for overcoming the dualism that has restricted its development for decades. Sensate Focus and the Psyche should be required reading for therapists of every persuasion who work with adult sexuality.”

    Christopher Clulow PhD, Senior Fellow, Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology

    “In this extremely lucid book, Dr. Susan Pacey has provided us with a detailed exploration of the sensate focus approach to couple work with much wisdom, exploring the very close links to the more traditional, familiar forms of psychotherapy. By integrating these different bodies of theory and clinical insight, Pacey has succeeded in encouraging couple psychotherapists to speak about bodily sex in a more direct manner, while also inspiring sex therapists to think more psychoanalytically. Both students and senior practitioners alike will find this well-documented and thoughtful text of great inspiration.”

    Professor Brett Kahr, Senior Fellow, Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, London; Visiting Professor, Psychoanalysis and Mental Health, Regent’s University London; author, Sex and the Psyche

    “Sensate Focus and the Psyche advances previous efforts to integrate psychoanalytic concepts and sensate focus exercises to treat sexual problems. Numerous clinical vignettes add richness to the ideas and encourage clinicians to use sensate focus exercises in new and imaginative ways, thereby deepening the treatment.”

    Norma J. Caruso, PsyD, Associate Clinical Professor, VCU School of Medicine; International Psychotherapy Institute, USA