Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 16

Evaluation and Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction

S.MICHAEL PLAUT, PhD
University of Maryland

KAREN M.DONAHEY, PhD
Northwestern University


INTRODUCTION

We sometimes like to think that we have come of age in the sexual arena. Sex is more openly discussed than ever, information about sexuality is more readily available via self-help books and the Internet, and it is even more acceptable to admit that one may have a sexual dysfunction. However, although the spectrum of values and the comfort level may have shifted to the more open, liberal end of the spectrum, there are still many among us for whom sex is a very difficult topic. Sexuality is still not discussed with a sense of comfort in many homes, if it is discussed at all. Sex education in school is still a controversial topic. Although we are addressing various forms of sexual abuse more effectively than ever, a disturbingly large proportion of our population still experiences unwanted sex, which may have far-reaching effects on those individuals' comfort with sex as an important and meaningful part of an intimate relationship.

Those of us who are trained to help people with personal and relationship problems are generally no different than the rest of the population with regard to our own sense of comfort with sexuality. Although the topic may be more easily discussed in the abstract, it is generally considered a private matter that is not readily shared even with those closest to us. For these reasons, many therapists and physicians do not make sexual issues a part of their evaluation or consider that aspect of relationships when helping their clients (Maurice, 1999). Furthermore, the special nature of sex in our lives requires specific therapeutic techniques that many therapists are not taught. The treatment of sexual disorders is, in fact, a specialty within our field, and for good reason.

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