Sarah McKenzie is a psychotherapist in London and online

What attracted you to become a therapist?

Like many people in the helping professions I’ve had my own challenging experiences which lead me to explore how to help others in a meaningful way when they feel stuck or are trying to make sense of difficult feelings. 

Where did you train? 

My qualifying MA was at University of Roehampton, following trainings were at Anna Freud Centre, EMDR Association, NHS and currently at Tavistock Relationships.

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise?

I have always been interested in the deeper issues that lie behind conflict or disconnect in relationships, and training in psychosexual therapy has offered insight and a way to help people using a combination of psychodynamic relationship therapy, mindfulness, psychoeducation and behavioral homework. 

With sexual issues you might think you are the only person who experiences the difficulty or feel a lot of shame around it, attending to this and finding sexual pleasure and connection with yourself and your partner/s can be life changing. 

How does sex therapy help with monogamous and polyamorous relationships?

In some relationships people might stay together for years quite happily not having sex, it is only a problem when you say so – for example if you are a hetero couple you might come to sex therapy because you want to conceive and have difficulty with penetrative sex. 

It is common for all sexual relationships to encounter sexual issues through the lifespan and if you are in polyamorous relationships you might encounter similar issues to your monogamous friends including difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, premature or delayed ejaculation, anorgasmia or pain during sex. If you have trauma in your personal history or experience discrimination of any kind, your body may have responses to physical touch that your thinking brain doesn’t understand, or low self-esteem may hold you back from fully expressing yourself with your partner/s. 

Whatever kind of relationship you are in, psychosexual therapy challenges sexual myths imposed by outdated ideas and misleading sex education, especially around masturbation, shame and gender divisive roles.

What sort of people do you usually see?

I see individuals and couples across the lifespan. People exploring their sexuality or gender, older adults with new or long term partners when sexual functioning may have changed with age; people struggling to have sex following an affair in the relationship or to connect sexually after trauma. Common difficulties are desire discrepancy in couples, erectile dysfunction, ejaculation issues, vaginismus and pain during sex. 

Have you noticed any recent mental health trends or wider changes in attitude?

I think people are very well informed about their mental health, generally speaking because there is increased awareness from more nuanced documentaries, celebrities discussing their mental health or information on social media that covers everything from impact of trauma to potential diagnosis. Many clinicians I speak to are dismissive of what people learn on social media but when I have looked up the content my clients have been informed by, I have found some knowledgeable experts by experience and sex educators. I think generally people are perceptive to what is knowledge sharing and what is misinformation. 

What do you like about being a therapist?

Just looking for a therapist can be a huge step from a place of uncertainty and vulnerability into another unknown. This might become a search for understanding, acceptance, and ultimately accessing more joy so being with someone in the core of this journey is always unique and such a meaningful way to spend the day. I feel so lucky that this is my job. 

What is less pleasant?

Zoom sessions when there are technical issues, never fun!

How long have you been with Welldoing and what you think of us? 

I have been on Welldoing just a few months, the newsletter has really interesting relevant articles for both clients and therapists.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Yes! Dr Lorri Brotto has some free mindfulness audios on her website. It would be simplistic to say that developing a mindfulness practice will improve your relationship to sex but if it is new to you this is a good place to start. 

Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined by JJ Bola and Mind the Gap: The Truth about Desire by Dr Karen Gurney are great reads. 

Emily Nagoski has a podcast, a much-referenced book in the sex therapy world, and great resources on her website. These are quite mainstream general recommendations, in session any recommendation would be culturally informed by the client.

What you do for your own mental health? 

Good food is important, isn’t it? To take time over the making and add lots of herbs and spices. Spending time outdoors and regular digital detox. 

You are a therapist in London Bridge, what can you share with us about seeing clients in this area?

This is a great place to have therapy as people can come from all over London or even further afield. It must be one of the busiest parts of the city but somehow has a neighbourhood feel to it and with Borough market and beautiful places to walk and explore in any direction along the Thames it is a great place to reflect or treat yourself after therapy.  

What’s your consultation room like?

It is calm and quiet with a welcoming reception area. 

What do you wish people knew about therapy?

Making art work or sharing images in the therapy session is not just for those who struggle with words – it can help you access deeper levels of insight, and find shared meaning if you are attending therapy with your partner. 

What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

To trust myself.

Contact Sarah here

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