As I was researching material for an upcoming workshop, I came across an article by Dr. Frank Sommers who is the author of “Lose Weight, Stop Stress and Make Better Love” (Amazon.com / Caversham Booksellers). The article appears in The Sexual and Relationship Therapy Journal’s special edition on Mindfulness (ed. By L. Brotto and M. Barker). In the abstract for the piece, Dr. Sommers says, “Increasing evidence is accumulating on the real benefits of mindfulness training. It is also emerging as a core, effective component of modern sex therapy practice.” He notes that neuro-endocrine and neuro-imagery studies he’s observed provide evidence that a treatment called Visually Enhanced Psycho-Sexual Therapy is effective in treating sexual dysfunctions in a number of cases. He discusses applying two basic mindfulness principles, which he terms, “Present Centered” and “Process Absorbed,” as a way of “training the autonomic nervous system, and the integrative and sensory components of the central nervous system.” He sums up by saying that the “graduates” of his 10–15 session practice program “learn to become mindful not only in their loving and love-making behavior, but also generalize this way of being in the world in their daily lives.”
Dr. Sommers’ findings echo what many therapists I talk to are discovering: that using mindfulness techniques in tandem with evidence-based therapies such as CBT and REBT in treating sexual dysfunction not only changes behavior but actually alters brain structure and chemistry in a way that makes those changes more lasting. When you become more mindful about the sources of your pleasure, it encourages the brain to set up a positive feedback mechanism that motivates us to recreate that pleasure we’re feeling now in the future. As a result of becoming more mindful of where our pleasures come from, we can almost assure a consistent increase in the amount of pleasure we will experience. This pleasure, according to Dr. Sommers, will encourage our nervous systems to become more tuned to pleasant experiences and (one hopes) make us more resilient and resistant to negative thoughts and mood disorders.