Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Applied Clinical Project (ACP)

Degree Name

Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Pei Fen Li

Committee Member

Christopher Burnett


Couples in romantic relationships commonly experience sexual issues and is one of the reasons why they seek therapy. More than 50% of couples encounter one or more sexual difficulties and disorders (e.g., lack of sexual desire, intimacy issues, and/or problems with arousal, orgasm, or sexual satisfaction (McCarthy & Thestrup, 2008; Miller & Byers, 2012). Sexual communication plays an imperative role in exploring these sexualchallenges that clients experience in relationships. The engagement in sexual communication has positive and beneficial impacts on couple increased emotional intimacy, and sexual and relational satisfaction. However, many couples lack sexual communication skills and do not know how to transparently express their sexual needs which can be detrimental to their relationships. Although sexual communication is significant and beneficial, clinicians are not well prepared to discuss sexual issues. They often report feeling less than adequate at doing so. Current sexual treatment and educational interventions have benefits but there is a lack of an integrative approach that addresses clients’ sexual problems from relational and systemic perspectives. This highlights the need to develop an integrated treatment approach to enhance couples’ sexual communication. This Applied Clinical Project is a clinical case study that uses the Biopsychosocial and Emotionally Focused Therapy models to conceptualize a couple’s sexual issues in relational and systemic contexts. An intervention tool called the 5 Sex Languages is further created by the researcher to enhance sexual communication and allow the couple and therapist to approach sexual issues in therapy.