A day in the life of a sex therapist in lockdown: ‘While on a break I might enjoy some self-pleasure’
What is happening to our sex lives under lockdown? According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle, people in the UK are less likely to have sex since the beginning of the pandemic, regardless of age or relationship status.
Here, Emma K Harper, a psychosexual somatics therapist from Derbyshire, shares her working day:
6.40am: My alarm goes off and after some meditation, I dress, have breakfast and prep for my first client.
Since lockdown, I’ve been busier than ever, but I limit myself to four clients per day. My speciality - in simple terms - is helping people to feel more connected with their bodies and their sexuality.
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Although I used to work in person, much of my work can be done without being physically present. It’s fortunate because my sessions are now on Zoom. I wasn’t sure if it would work but feedback from clients has been positive, even if some have to work to hold their session in their cars to create that ‘private space’. It’s not ideal, but Zoom makes therapy more accessible and I also find myself with more energy.
9.30am: My first client today is Sally*. She is in her 40s, divorced with no children and is feeling the effects of physical isolation. Not only missing sex, but simply being touched. I hear this all the time from single clients.
Humans are not designed to handle the world on their own and many of my clients are coping by breaking lockdown rules and meeting others. But clients like Sally, are sticking to the restrictions and are struggling.
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Lack of touch can lead to increased anxiety, depression or even numbing behaviours such as drinking, gaming, porn or social media. My work with Sally involves helping her to get back ‘in touch’ with herself with exercises in self-awareness and self-holding.
It concerns me that once this crisis is over some people might rush into sexual contact prematurely to meet basic touch needs.
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11.30am: My next client is John* who was chronically abused as a child by a family member. Sadly, this is extraordinarily common.
Memories can be buried for many years until suddenly they emerge – sometimes decades later when the person is settled and finally feeling ‘safe’ – which is the case with John. It’s now causing problems with his partner, in a sexual sense.
Together John and I use something called Internal Family Systems to unpick the layers he’s using to protect his younger parts from their vulnerability. I help him reconnect with his core self. This can take a few sessions or it might take many years but when it happens, there’s a real beauty in watching someone heal.
Afterwards, I write up notes, check messages, emails, admin, move my body, prep for next client.
1pm: I take a break, taking time to exercise, run, cycle, nap if needed and eat something. I might enjoy some self-pleasure. To be the best therapist for my clients, it’s essential that I feel connected to my body in whatever way it needs.
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3pm: Alex is my third client. He’s been on a journey of personal and sexual development for some time but in recent months he’s told me that sex is not even a priority anymore.
He’s recently single and feeling isolated, aware that his mental health is in decline and he even mentions suicidal thoughts.
I’ve seen a high rise in clients with overwhelming emotions as a result of the lockdown and this concerns me. We work to support Alex to listen to what lies beneath these impulses so he can determine the right course of action for him at this time.
5pm: Debbie is my last client. She’s emotional. She’s been happily married for ten years and has two children under eight but currently doesn’t want sex with her husband.
Pre-lockdown I saw lots of women who were having sex that didn’t work for them. Many women are conditioned to be a ‘good wife’. But now, the stress of homeschooling, taking care of relatives and juggling jobs means those women can’t tolerate that anymore.
They’re exhausted, stressed and unlike their partners – who think sex is just a ‘nice physical thing’ to do together – these women need more rest and emotional connection first.
Once again, we talk together about Debbie’ self-care. She wants to speak up for herself and instead of getting angry or nervous about sex, let her husband know that she won’t feel like this forever. Perhaps, if she has some time off by herself for the day, it will enable her to feel more relaxed and more available to connect physically.
*all names have been changed
For more info on sexual therapy see findmysexpert.com
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