Sexuality is a complex concept that deals with biological and social aspects affecting human behavior and mental health. It has been a sensitive tabooed topic for years, which makes it difficult to openly discuss and attempt to change the social attitudes towards sexual aspects of human life. Accordingly, it requires a delicate professional approach to avoid or avert any difficulties or issues associated with it. This paper aims to analyze sexuality and sexual behavior from the psychological point of view, determine psychological factors affecting human sexuality, as well as look at the marriage and family counselors’ role in establishing healthy sexual relationships between individuals. The paper also considers challenging aspects that counselors may encounter while working with clients and proposes possible solutions.
Nowadays, sexuality and sexual relationships are widely associated with psychological dysfunctions. As with any mental health issue, psycho-sexual disorders are usually the result of both genetic and environmental factors (Potki et al., 2017). This psychological approach is called Nature vs. Nurture Theory and implies that mental illnesses and mental disorders are not caused by only genetical predisposition or only outside factors, but rather they are the mutual product of both. Studies have shown that even though the family history of mental conditions does have an essential part in developing mental illnesses, the environment and outside events are just as important. Thus, psycho-sexual disorders are caused by a range of factors, including physiological, social, cultural, and psychological (Potki et al., 2017). If physiological factors are quite simple to identify and develop a treatment course for, the rest are more complex and often difficult to define and address. According to the research, the most common psychological factors affecting human sexuality are insufficient sexual education, anxieties around sexual performance, lack of self-confidence, disturbed family relationships, childhood trauma associated with abuse, or unpleasant prior sexual relationships.
The psychological factors mentioned above often lead to psycho-sexual disorders, which are the type of unhealthy sexual behavior. The latter is strongly opposed to healthy sexual behavior that is characterized by sexual enjoyment without exploitation or abuse, as well as avoiding unprotected sexual relationships resulting in sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies. Unhealthy sexual behavior may include having sexual intercourse without the partner’s consent, sexual attraction to unusual objects, sadism, sexual addiction, or sexual aversion. Such behaviors often create tension and conflicts between partners, especially in married couples. They also affect the person’s self-esteem and become the source of anxiety, stress, and even depression. It may also happen that people with abnormal sexual behavior do not realize that they have a problem. Then, the suffering falls down on the person’s partner and even their close environment.
Marriage and family counseling plays a crucial role in addressing sexuality and various issues associated with it, as well as in establishing healthy sexual behaviors. It helps build sexual relationships between partners based on specific features and psychological patterns of each individual. Counseling aims at reducing anxiety and uncertainty related to sexual relationships and helping to find intimacy enjoyable for both partners (Zeglin et al., 2018). Notably, as counseling sessions deal with sexual behavior, they must be conducted based on the knowledge of male and female reproductive systems’ anatomy, as well as the human sexual response cycles. Such knowledge allows the professional to build an appropriate therapy approach based on physiological differences in male and female sexuality, sources of pleasure, satisfaction preferences, and sexual needs. Keeping these specificities in mind, it is possible to reduce miscommunication, sexual frustration, and sexual dysfunctions mentioned above.
However, while speaking openly about sexuality is an essential part of marriage and family counseling, such topics may appear uncomfortable for clients. Thus, the counselor has to make a sensitive conversation go smoothly but still effectively (Zeglin et al., 2018). First and foremost, the counselors themselves must be comfortable discussing sexuality in their practice, as they are the ones setting the tone for the therapy sessions. If a counselor is nervous and overall uneasy about the issues being discussed, their clients will inherit such an attitude, which will make the situation only worse. Then, it is necessary to establish mutual understanding and sympathy with the clients, making it easier for them to open up and share sensitive personal information. No less important is the language the counselor uses during sessions. They should use neutral terms, ask questions in a non-judgmental manner, avoid stigmatization or other inappropriate behavior, as well as control their body language in order not to alienate clients.
To conclude, sexuality and sexual behavior are challenging notions that must be considered from the point of view of psychology. Many people struggle with psycho-sexual disorders, which, fortunately, can be treated with the help of qualified professionals. To fulfill their duty efficiently, they must understand human physiology and apply this knowledge when working with clients. Additionally, as the topic is quite sensitive, people find it difficult to discuss it openly. Thus, the counselor’s job is to address it in a comfortable, friendly manner to make their clients more at ease during the sessions. Thus, counseling will become a powerful solution for those who struggle with psycho-sexual disorders.
Potki, R., Ziaei, T., Faramarzi, M., Moosazadeh, M., & Shahhosseini, Z. (2017). Bio-psycho-social factors affecting sexual self-concept: A systematic review. Electronic Physician, 9(9), 5172–5178. Web.
Zeglin, R. J., Van Dam, D., & Hergenrather, K. C. (2018). An introduction to proposed human sexuality counseling competencies. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling 40, 105–121. Web.