In therapeutic procedure involving the dual-sex teams, the control within the team rests primarily with the silent cotherapist during treatment sessions. The silent cotherapist is literally in charge of each therapeutic session. He or she, as the observer, is watching for and evaluating levels of patient receptivity to therapeutic concept and to the educative and directive material presented by the active cotherapist.
The silent cotherapist’s role is to define, if possible, degrees of understanding, acceptance, or rejection of material and to identify immediate areas of concern in either member of the dysfunctional couple.
The silent observer really acts as the coach of the team. As soon as it is apparent that there is need for a situational change of pace, that the individual subject under discussion can be presented in a different, possibly more acceptable or understandable manner, or that it requires further clarification, the roles reverse and the cotherapist functioning previously as the observer, fortified and advantaged with the salient features of patient reaction to the on going situation, becomes the active discussant.
The previous discussant then assumes the role of observer. And so roles change back and forth as indicated by patient responses or the immediate need for a particular sex-linked definition or explanation of material. Much of the patient’s reaction can be identified by the observer that cannot be immediately apparent to any individual therapist simultaneously attempting to direct therapy and to evaluate levels of patient receptivity.
In the finite cooperative interaction between mutually confident cotherapists in any dual-sex therapy team, the currently dominant partner influence at any particular time is not being exercised by the one that is talking, but by the one that is observing.
Inevitably any sexually dysfunctional couple has, as one of its fundamental handicaps, insecurity in any and all sexual matters.
How often have the sexual partners asked themselves if they are really “complete” as individuals?
Has their functional efficiency been diminished in stressful situations other than in bed?
How do their patterns of sexual response compare to those of their peers?
How can a particular sexual situation or any confrontation with material of sexual content be handled without awkwardness or embarrassment?
The cotherapists encounter a multiplicity of these problems to which they can respond by holding up a professional “mirror” and helping the marital partners understand what it reflects. With the non-judgemental mirror available, constructive criticism can be accepted in the same non-prejudiced, comfortable manner in which it must be presented.
With this educational technique of reflective teaching, the distressed couple can be encouraged to take that first step that ultimately presages success in therapy for sexual dysfunction. The step consists of putting sex back into its natural context.
Seemingly, many cultures and certainly many religions have risen and fallen on their interpretation or misinterpretation of one basic physiological fact. Sexual functioning is a natural physiological process, yet it has a unique facility that no other natural physiological process, such as respiratory, bladder, or bowel function, can imitate.
Sexual responsivity can be delayed indefinitely or functionally denied for a Iifetime. No other basic physiological process can claim such male ability of physical expression.
With the advantage of this unique characteristic, sexual functioning can be easily removed from its natural context as a basic physiological response. Everyone takes advantage of this characteristic every day as he rejects or defers untimely or inappropriate sexual stimuli in order to comply with the social requirements of the moment.
Religions have found dedicated support from those willing to sacrifice their functional physical expression of sexuality as a devotion to or appeasement for their god or gods. If the natural physiological process of human sexual response did not encompass this completely unique adaptability, the sacrifice of denying one’s sexual functioning for a lifetime could never have been made.
But the individuals who involuntarily take sexual functioning further out of context than any other are those members of couples contending with the inadequacy of sexual function. Through their fears of performance (the fear of failing sexually), their emotional and mental involvement in the sexual activity they share with their partner is essentially nonexistent.
The thought (an awareness of personally valued sexual stimuli) and the action are totally dissociated by reason of the individual’s involuntary assumption of a spectator’s role during active sexual participation.
It is the active responsibility of therapy team members to describe in detail the psychosocial background of performance fears and “spectator” roles. This explanation is best accomplished by the co-therapist of the same sex as that of the individual whose performance fears are to be discussed. Again, education is the basis for therapeutic success, and the dual-sex team can best present this information by following a sex-linked guideline.
Sexual Dysfunction Treatment
In any approach to a psycho-physiological process, treatment concepts vary measurably from school to school and, similarly, from individual therapist to individual therapist. The Reproductive Biology Research Foundation’s theoretical approaches to the treatment of men and women distressed by some form of sexual dysfunction have altered significantly and, hopefully, have matured measurably during the past 11 years. There are founded on a combination of 15 years of laboratory experimentation and 11 years of clinical trial and error.
When the laboratory program for the investigation in human sexual functioning was designed in 1954, permission to constitute the program was granted upon a research premise which stated categorically that the greatest handicap to successful treatment of sexual inadequacy was a lack of reliable physiological information in the area of human sexual response.
It was presumed that definitive laboratory effort would develop material of clinical consequence. This material in turn could be used by professionals in the field to improve methodology of therapeutic approach to sexual inadequacy. On this premise, a clinic for the treatment of human sexual dysfunction was established at Washington University School of Medicine in 1959, approximately five years after the physiological investigation was begun. The clinical treatment program was transferred to the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation in 1964.
When any new area of clinical investigation is constituted, standards must be devised in the hope of establishing some means of control over clinical experimentation. And so it was with the new program designed to treat sexual dysfunction. Supported by almost five years of prior laboratory investigation, fundamental clinical principles were established at the onset of the therapeutic program. The original treatment concepts still exist, even more strongly constituted today. As expected, there were obvious theoretical misconceptions in some areas, so alterations in Foundation’s policy inevitably have developed with experience.