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Let’s talk about sex! Research shows that sexual attachment is as imperative to a couple’s bond as emotional connection. Even in individual therapy, we have to understand how our client feels about their sexuality and sexual relationships to understand their world. And yet, even in couples therapy, seventy percent of therapists do not address sex or sexuality.

Sexuality may not even be a part of our intake. Why? Perhaps because we’ve been taught that sex is a specialty. Perhaps we feel anxious that we won’t have the answers necessary to deal with the problems. Perhaps we feel somewhat awkward or voyeuristic to even ask about it.

Discover why sexuality is too important to not talk about it. Learn why you should bring it up and how to become more comfortable with the subject. Use an assessment for whole-person sexuality to include: the mind, emotions, spirit, body, specific dysfunctions, and trauma. Understand the sexual response cycle. Participants will learn strategies to work with client experiences by addressing sexual-emotional attachment cycles and common pursue-withdraw dynamics that can lead to disconnection. Discover how to hold two truths with disparate sexual desires in order to resolve a couple’s negative sexual cycle. Gain understanding of several common sexual dysfunctions.

Throughout this two-day workshop, Dr. Watson will be drawing from emotionally focused therapy, which is specifically attuned to attachment and relationship dynamics, to make sense of and address common patterns that interfere with intimacy. Participants will learn through a mix of didactic material, case examples, and small group practices.



Part 1

  1. The Three Attachment Cycles in Romance (Emotional, Sexual and Caretaking)
    How together these cycles form the strongest couple bond. Understanding that each cycle has a pursue-withdraw dynamic. Using validation to effectively work with a push-pull dynamic.
  2.  Pursuers and Withdrawers – Emotional and Sexual patterns.
    Think about the motives for these push-pull cycles in non-pathologizing ways. Understand how they intersect. (A sexual pursuer isn’t a sex fiend, in fact often feels sex as love and wants intimacy in the encounter. A sexual withdrawer isn’t frigid and often likes sex.)
  3. Sexual Assessment from a Whole Person Perspective for Turn-ons and Turn-offs
    BEST TALK SEX: Body, emotions, spiritual, erotic thoughts, couple cycle, desire for novelty versus needs for security
    Historical (family of origin messages, sexual orientation & gender identification, trauma, first experiences)
  4. Anatomy and Physiology
    Understanding the sexual response cycle with male-bodies and female bodied persons.
    With some attention to transgendered people with gender-affirming hormonal treatment.

Part 2

  1. Bringing up Sex – 3 ways: directly, softly, or hearing the context already present in the therapeutic content
    Video clip of a first session.
  2. Learning T.E.M.P.O. – an EFT organization technique to use with couples (or with an individual client) to deepen their emotional experience of sexual conflict/content during present process.
  3. Demonstration of Double TEMPO
  4. What to Know about five common sexual dysfunctions and aging, and what it means to the couple. Low desire, erectile dysfunction, early ejaculation, anorgasmia, pain problems, & menopause

Learning Objectives:  After completing this course, participants will be able to:

  1. List 3 ways healthy sexuality is imperative to couple stability.
  2. Identify 1 positive goal of the pursuer and withdrawer.
  3. Name one hyperactivating strategy of sexual pursuers and one deactivating strategy of sexual withdrawers.
  4. Describe why treating the sexual and emotional problems in couples as dynamic and non-pathologizing creates more room for change.
  5. Identify 2 areas of exploration for sexual assessment.
  6. Introduce and explain at least 3 concepts about the anatomy and physiology of sexuality.
  7. Formulate a clinical intervention for one sexual dysfunction and indicate when to refer for medical evaluation for the same dysfunction.
  8. Compare and contrast reasons you might bring up sex differently for different couples.
  9. Describe why finding a live emotional trigger is useful in the change process for individuals or couples.
  10. List 3 areas to deepen the emotional experience of a person working through a couple or internal conflict.
  11. Name a typical block in working with sexuality for a sexual pursuer or sexual withdrawer.
  12. Explain how talking explicitly about sexuality gives aid to a couple in an area where they are normally left alone to struggle.

Trainer:  Laurie Watson, Ph.D., LMFT, LCMHC, EFT Certified Therapist, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist & Supervisor (in Training)

Laurie Watson has been a licensed couple’s counselor for over two decades. In clinical therapy, she has helped thousands of couples recover sexual passion and make love again in joyful, intimate, creative and exciting ways, sometimes even after years of sexless marriage. Based on her experience, Laurie believes couples can have both emotional security and erotic sex to enliven their partnership, heal deep wounds from childhood, restore each partner’s sense of hope, and gain stability from which to face the world together. She is the author of Wanting Sex Again – How to Rediscover Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage, cohost of the popular podcast FOREPLAY- Couples and Sex Therapy, a blogger Psychology Today, and is the owner/ director for Awakenings Counseling for Couples and Sex Therapy throughout North Carolina.



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  • Gunst, E., Watson, J., Willemsen, J., Desmet, M., Loeys, T., & Vanhooren, S. (2020). A quest for self‐soothing: A systematic case study into emotion‐focused therapy with an emotionally avoidant client who committed sexual offenses. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 76(4), 676-687.
  • Hickey, J., Palmer-Olsen, L., & (2019). EFT masterclass: Sexual issues.
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  • Nightingale, M., Awosan, C. I., & Stavrianopoulos, K. (2019). Emotionally focused therapy: A culturally sensitive approach for African American heterosexual couples. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 30(3), 221-244.
  • Roels, R., & Janssen, E. (2022). Attachment orientations, sexual behavior, and relationship satisfaction in young, mixed-sex couples: A dyadic approach. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 48(2), 147-166.
  • Tapia‐Fuselier, J. L., Ray, D. C., Allan, R., & Reyes, A. G. (2022). Emotionally focused therapists’ experiences serving interabled couples in couple therapy: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 48(4), 1206-1225.


UNC Chapel Hill – Clinical Institute Program


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