ON THE COUCH

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVER STORY - By YANG WANLI

At Ma Li’s psy­cho­sex­ual ther­apy center in Shang­hai, the color scheme in the con­sult­ing room is re­lax­ing; pale yel­lows, light greens and blues. Soft mats and cush­ions al­low the pa­tients to make them­selves com­fort­able.

How­ever, sex­ual ha­rass­ment has been a com­mon theme since the center opened. Some men thought Ma was of­fer­ing sex­ual ser­vices, not ther­apy. “Some male clients asked di­rectly how much they should pay to sleep with me,” she said. To pro­mote the center as widely as pos­si­ble, she ini­tially pro­vided con­sul­tancy ser­vices to both sexes, al­though only women were of­fered one-on-one ses­sions. So far, around 10 women have re­ceived step-by-step guid­ance, rang­ing from ba­sic anatom­i­cal knowl­edge to sex­ual tech­niques.

In coun­tries such as the UK, the US and Ger­many, prob­lems can be dealt with in two ways — sex ther­a­pists and sur­ro­gates, usu­ally women who have “ther­a­peu­tic sex” with men with sex­ual dis­func­tions.

“Sur­ro­gates can also treat sex­ual prob­lems in the US, un­der the sur­veil­lance and guid­ance of two or more ther­a­pists. But many peo­ple still be­lieve they are prac­ti­cally no dif­fer­ent from pros­ti­tutes,” said Ma.

At Ma’s center, the treat­ment guides pa­tients through their sex­ual prob­lems, forc­ing them to con­front their is­sues with be­hav­ioral changes and pro­mote new op­por­tu­ni­ties for gen­uine in­ti­macy.

While fully ac­knowl­edg­ing im­por­tant fac­tors such as tech­nique, the ther­apy fo­cuses on es­sen­tials such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, iden­ti­fy­ing and rec­og­niz­ing prob­lems, and pro­vid­ing emo­tional sup­port and guid­ance to build bet­ter in­ti­macy, boost con­fi­dence and raise self-aware­ness.

Ma is plan­ning to run a workshop for men next year. “It will be a chal­leng­ing task. I didn’t think it would be easy for me to main­tain con­trol with 10 men on my own, so a male ther­a­pist from the China Sex­ol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion will at­tend too,” she said.

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