Mindfulness-Based Sex Therapy Improves Genital-Subjective Arousal Concordance in Women With Sexual Desire/Arousal Difficulties

Abstract

There is emerging evidence for the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions for improving women’s sexual functioning. To date, this literature has been limited to self-reports of sexual response and distress. Sexual arousal concordance—the degree of agreement between self-reported sexual arousal and psychophysiological sexual response—has been of interest due to the speculation that it may be a key component to healthy sexual functioning in women. We examined the effects of mindfulness-based sex therapy on sexual arousal concordance in a sample of women with sexual desire/arousal difficulties (n = 79, M age 40.8 years) who participated in an in-laboratory assessment of sexual arousal using a vaginal photoplethysmograph before and after four sessions of group mindfulness-based sex therapy. Genital-subjective sexual arousal concordance significantly increased from pre-treatment levels, with changes in subjective sexual arousal predicting contemporaneous genital sexual arousal (but not the reverse). These findings have implications for our understanding of the mechanisms by which mindfulness-based sex therapy improves sexual functioning in women, and suggest that such treatment may lead to an integration of physical and subjective arousal processes. Moreover, our findings suggest that future research might consider the adoption of sexual arousal concordance as a relevant endpoint in treatment outcome research of women with sexual desire/arousal concerns.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Yvonne Erskine for overall coordination of this study. We also wish to thank group facilitators Miriam Driscoll, Shea Hocaloski, Gail Knudson, Brooke Seal, and Morag Yule. Our thanks to Dr. Rosemary Basson and Dr. Mijal Luria for developing the treatment manual used to deliver the mindfulness intervention. Funding for this study was provided by a BC Medical Services Grant to Lori Brotto.

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Brotto, L.A., Chivers, M.L., Millman, R.D. et al. Mindfulness-Based Sex Therapy Improves Genital-Subjective Arousal Concordance in Women With Sexual Desire/Arousal Difficulties. Arch Sex Behav 45, 1907–1921 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0689-8

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Keywords

  • Sexual desire
  • Sexual arousal
  • Vaginal photoplethysmography
  • Mindfulness
  • DSM-5
  • Sexual dysfunction