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Sensate Focus

Sensate Focus

By: Riley Fortier, M.Ed.

What is it?

two people holding hands on a bed

Source: Sinitta Leunen via Unsplash

The term sensate focus was coined in the 1960s by sexologists Masters and Johnson as a way to explore your own body and a partner’s body through touching. One of the main ideas behind it is for people to let go of goal-focused expectations of sensual touch. Other names for sensate focus are mindful touching or non-arousal focused touch, because it is focused on areas other than the genitals.

Why is it useful?

This type of touch can be useful for people who experience anxiety around sex or have other types of sexual dysfunctions because it teaches you and your partner to be more mindful of your sensual experiences. 

Some ways that it can be helpful to folks is by:

  • Improving communication to express what you like and what you don’t like
  • becoming more aware of what you find pleasurable
  • Recognizing your own needs when it comes to sex
  • Increasing your sexual self-awareness
  • Expanding your sexual behaviors and sexual repertoire
  • Appreciating sexual play – it doesn’t always have to be about orgasms
  • Cultivating desire between yourself and your partner


  • Talk with your partner beforehand to make sure you both are invested in trying this technique.
  • There is no real time limit on sensate touch. You can do it for as long, or as little as you need.
  • Try it while being guided through instructions from a sex therapist, or other mental health professional.
  • Try focusing on solely the sensory aspects of touch like temperature, texture, and pressure.





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