Counseling Today recently published an article I wrote about Sensory Processing Disorder, a condition that makes it difficult for sufferers to feel certain types of stimuli, such as hot or cold, certain fabrics, or human touch.
I interviewed several people for the piece (which you can read here), but was struck by the story of one woman who agreed to be interviewed because this condition was affecting her marriage so significantly. Despite their love for one another, but her sensitivity is not something she can just set aside, not even for her husband.
Counseling is such an obvious suggestion, yet so many couples counselors (me included, before researching this article) would be likely to just assign intimacy homework out of hand, not fully understanding the extent to which her sensitivities are a part of how she experiences the world. Therapy with a counselor who is specifically attuned to this perspective definintely could help, but the client must be honest and open about his/her sensitivities (as every person I interviewed had a different arrangement of challenges). Getting to this openness is part of the treatment process, but demands that the client feel comfortable in the therapeutic alliance. We are comfortable with certain people, for certain reasons, which often cannot be named. I usually tell prospective clients that they will not “hurt my feelings” if they think we aren’t a good match. Therapy only works when the connection between client and counselor is comfortable.