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Desensitization of Sexual Anxiety: Relaxation, Play, and Touch Experience with a Pet

by Cecile H. Pichel, Lynette A. Hart
Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals ()

Abstract

Systematic desensitization is a technique for enhancing relaxation in people with sexual anxieties. In this case study, a couple married for three years had not yet developed physical closeness or sexual intimacy. As a child, neither partner had experienced close family relationships. The treatment involved encouraging playfulness and the enjoyment of touching and stroking a kitten in order to induce relaxation and desensitize the couple to physical contact. The couple decided to obtain their own kitten, and, in the absence of any sexual pressure, the couple began to appreciate the pleasure of touching. Therapy continued for another month with continued emphasis on having more fun, playing with the cat, and relaxing generally. The sexual relationship improved gradually, reaching near-normalcy during an enjoyable cruise. The natural experience of interacting with a cat resulted in a reduction of sexual anxiety, and the presentation of graded stimuli in desensitizing sessions was not required. An animal, serving as a social relaxant, can be a useful adjunct in treating sexual anxiety.

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