We hear a lot about mental health and psychedelics these days. But wait, there is more. Connection and openness are also an important part you can experience on a trip. And that's really important for couples. And couples therapy.
Happy Valentine's Day!
In most relationships, something is wrong with the sex. And often it's just a symptom of a larger problem: the partners are not honest with each other, hardly know their own desires, are afraid of opening up to the other. An Amsterdam therapist discovers completely new ways for her clients - among other things, with psychedelic medicine.
That our society is "sexualized" is something we have been hearing again and again for years, often enough people complain that pornography is generally available and the like. If you look closely, however, this is just as true: "Nine out of ten couples have problems in bed". So says Jeanine Souren, a psychotherapist, couples therapist and sexologist from Amsterdam. The therapist, just like her colleagues in neighboring countries, has more than enough to do.
Sex therapy (also simply called sexology) appeals to many at the moment - books about it are successful on the non-fiction market, you see therapists on talk shows or read them as columnists in daily newspapers. In Germany, it's Ann-Marlene Henning, known from bestseller lists and talk shows. North America still reads the books of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, now 93. And the Netherlands have a woman who is one of the first in the world to try something very special: Jeanine Souren (find more about her work on her site) sometimes combines her sex and couples therapy with controlled psychedelic experiences. The Netherlands is the first country where that's completely legal as part of coaching and couple’s process.
"Most of us are very fixated on thinking, we are head workers, that's just the way our society is," Souren says. "A lot of people long to get more in touch with their heart, or even generally their body. And that inner referee that oversees everything and blows the whistle so much has to be silent if you want to enjoy your sexual experience."
First, her therapy involves talking (and for some couples, it stays that way). Souren always begins therapy with a session with the couple, and then two individual sessions with one of each - in case there are issues one would rather discuss without the partner present, so to get everything on the table before the continuation of the process. (There's also more about Jeanine Souren and her work with psychiatrist Hans van Wechem in a podcast episode of The New Health Club, see here.)
Many couples are reluctant about going to sex therapy. If behind this is the shame of talking openly about sexual issues and physical desires, this is at least partially unfounded: After all, not so much of is talking about the sexual act itself. Couples rather speak about what inhibits them and how they would like to get into a deeper connection with each other.
"Problems with sex are the most common thing, especially when you spend many years with a partner," Souren finds. And she (just like most sex therapists) doesn't talk too much about the sexual act. Or, every once in a while she does: sometimes she asks the man to speak for his penis now, and the woman to speak for her vagina. It's like a role play, asking clients to be the voice of their own sexual organ for a moment. "The interesting experience quite often is that people don't really know what they desire and want physically."
So it's more about getting to know yourself and your partner better first. And that's where psychedelics come in. For example, truffles, which contain psilocybin, or MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy pills. By the way, this combination of psychedelic therapy with sex and couples therapy is by no means a Dutch quirk: In a recent essay, the New York Times also raised the question of whether "MDMA can save a marriage." Research very likely says yes.
"The substances make it possible for people to open up and talk more freely without the usual feat and other inhibitions," Souren explains. When couples go on the controlled trip together - in a couple’s session, for example - they can often address issues that might have been weighing them down for years. "Perception shifts from the head to the heart for a few hours with help of the substance and meaningful time spent together. The heart then initiates the connection." Couples can discover new ways to strengthen their connection and get close to each other. "This often is a catalyst to solving the bedroom problems and with continued sessions we can use the insights gained during the longer session”, Souren explains. "Because couples then discover what it's really about for them, and that these divisive things were the real issue behind the sexual problems."
"If we invite our feelings into our thinking world, we can discover completely new possibilities - in life, and also in bed," says Souren. And she advises looking at sexuality very consciously, for everyone, coming to terms with one's sexuality and how one feels about one's body. Especially when you're 40 or 50. Jeanine Souren thinks: "Sex is like a muscle. You have to work out!"
This article is about, among other things, the use of psychedelic substances in a safe medical context. The private possession of some of the substances mentioned is not legal in Germany. The article is medical information, it is about new research in the field of, for example, trauma therapy. Under no circumstances should the text be misunderstood as instructions for the use of drugs outside of a clinical context. The New Health Club informs about new forms of therapy that take place in secured, vetted and legal contexts.