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Sensate focus: Masters and Johnson (1970)

Sensate focus: Masters and Johnson (1970)


Sensate Focus is a psychosexual therapy technique developed by William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the 1970s to address sexual dysfunction in couples. The technique involves non-sexual touching exercises that are designed to help couples focus on physical sensations and enhance their communication around sexual needs and desires. This article reviews the Sensate Focus technique, its stages, and its effectiveness.

Stages of Sensate Focus:

Sensate Focus is a three-stage process that gradually introduces sexual touch as the couple progresses through each stage. The first stage involves non-genital touching, where couples touch each other's bodies in a non-sexual way, focusing on the sensations of touch and skin contact. The second stage involves genital touching, where couples explore each other's genital areas, again focusing on physical sensations rather than sexual performance. The final stage of the technique involves sexual intercourse, where couples are encouraged to focus on physical sensations rather than performance goals (1).

Effectiveness of Sensate Focus:

The effectiveness of Sensate Focus has been evaluated in a number of studies, with mixed results. A review by Busby and colleagues (2017) found that while there was some evidence to support the use of Sensate Focus in treating sexual dysfunction, more research was needed to determine its effectiveness (2). Other studies have found that Sensate Focus can be an effective treatment for sexual dysfunction, with improvements in sexual function, satisfaction, and communication reported by couples (3, 4).


Sensate Focus is a psychosexual therapy technique that can be effective in treating sexual dysfunction in couples. The technique involves graduated touching exercises designed to help couples focus on physical sensations and improve communication around sexual needs and desires. While research on the effectiveness of Sensate Focus has been mixed, it remains a widely used technique, often in combination with other psychosexual therapies, to help couples enhance their sexual experiences and improve their relationship.


  1. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1970). Human sexual inadequacy. Little, Brown and Co.
  2. Busby, D. M., Christensen, C., Crane, D. R., & Larson, J. H. (2017). A revisionist theory of relationship quality. Personal Relationships, 24(1), 24-46.
  3. LoPiccolo, J., & Friedman, J. (1988). The use of sensate focus in the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 14(2), 129-141.
  4. Heiman, J. R., & Meston, C. M. (1999). Empirically validated treatments for sexual dysfunction. Annual review of sex research, 10(1), 97-130.


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