Sex Therapy for Middle Age and Older Adults illustrates Dr. Barry W. McCarthy's integrative couples approach to sex therapy. This subspecialty of psychotherapy integrates sexuality issues with general therapy, focusing on the importance of sexuality in a balanced life. Dr. McCarthy's approach is to help middle-aged and older clients learn new ways to experience sexuality and eroticism instead of accepting the common notion that sexuality plays a smaller role as we age.
In this session, a middle-aged woman looks for help with changes in her sex life that occurred after her hysterectomy and her husband's heart surgery. Dr. McCarthy helps her to see her sex life in a new way and to generate ways to get her husband involved in adapting to their changing sexuality.
Middle-aged and older adults have long suffered from the myth that sex should play a decreasing role in their lives. Dr. McCarthy's approach is to dispel this myth and help older clients to see that, although the form sexuality takes will change with time, sexuality and eroticism will continue to be important. He encourages clients to be both positive and realistic about sex—optimistic about its continuing role in their lives, but aware of the effects of bodily changes and medication.
Dr. McCarthy's theoretical model is an integrative couples approach that includes relational as well as individual psychological factors.
The approach usually involves the following steps:
- See the couple together and take their history as a couple
- See the couple individually and gather a detailed sexual history for each partner
- Provide feedback to the couple, helping them to create a new narrative of their relationship and sexual problem, and generate a plan on how to address the problem
Although Dr. McCarthy uses a cognitive–behavioral orientation, his approach can be used with many orientations. He encourages therapists to get involved in sex therapy, as problems with sexuality are becoming more—not less—frequent with the advent of pharmaceutical sexual aids. Medications are generally prescribed without helping the couple to learn to integrate the medication into their style of intimacy, pleasuring, and eroticism.
Dr. McCarthy recommends contacting the Society for Sex Therapy and Research or the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists for information on continuing education, certification, and supervision in sex therapy.
Barry W. McCarthy, PhD, is a tenured professor of psychology at American University, a board-certified clinical psychologist (American Board of Professional Psychology), and a certified marital and sex therapist. He maintains a private practice at the Washington Psychological Center, where he treats individuals and couples.
Dr. McCarthy has presented over 150 workshops nationally and internationally on a range of relational and sexual topics. He has published more than 55 professional articles and 16 book chapters. With his wife Emily McCarthy, he has coauthored 8 books on relationships and sexuality, including Sexual Awareness (2002), Rekindling Desire (2003), and Getting It Right the First Time (2004). Michael Metz and Barry McCarthy have authored Coping With Premature Ejaculation (2003) and Coping With Erectile Dysfunction (2004).
Dr. McCarthy earned his BA from Loyola University and his MA and PhD from Southern Illinois University. His professional memberships include the American Psychological Association; American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists; Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy; and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research.
- McCarthy, B. (2001). Relapse prevention strategies and techniques with erectile dysfunction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 27, 1–8.
- McCarthy, B., & McCarthy, E. (2002). Sexual awareness. New York: Carroll & Graf.
- McCarthy, B., & McCarthy, E. (2003). Rekindling desire. New York: Brunner/Routledge.
- Metz , M., & McCarthy, B. (2003). Coping with premature ejaculation. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
- Metz , M., & McCarthy, B. (2004). Coping with erectile dysfunction. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
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