by Anne Ihnen
Last month, I met with Dianne Grob, LMHC, to talk about a 12-month group she’s starting this year, “The Intimate Geography of Sexuality”. We discussed her background and how it led to her interest in human sexuality, and she shared with me the ways her mentors and teachers have inspired her.
Dianne has been interested in the topic of human sexuality since she was an undergraduate intern at the Human Sexuality Center in Boston. She belonged to a cohort of 15 students who worked under a sex educator to provide peer counseling to other students around sexual issues. Dianne’s experiences as an intern opened her eyes to a diversity of people: “It was great… the group of 15 of us was mixed racially, in gender, and in sexual orientation. It was a fantastic learning experience.” Dianne stayed with her internship for 3 years. The group became close, and Dianne is still friends with some of those people.
Toward an intimacy-based model
After getting her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Dianne began working as a couples therapist. She found a mentor, Michael Kelch, a psychotherapist and certified sex therapist, and from him she learned a intimacy-based developmental model for couples therapy. This model opened Dianne’s eyes to a new way of thinking about sexuality.
When Dianne was first learning about sexuality as an undergrad in the 70’s, “..everything was about orgasm. Everything: who could have the most, who could have the best.” In contrast, in the intimacy-based model she was learning, “ … sex became about an energetic expression of loving between two people. This was the primary goal, and orgasm was the secondary goal.”
This new paradigm dramatically changed the way Dianne worked with couples. She began to cover intimacy in all its realms: emotional, psychological, intellectual, physical, erotic, sexual, and spiritual. “Over and over, I began to hear from women, especially pre-menopausal and menopausal women and women who’d been in 20-year + relationships, that they felt ‘broken’, or that ‘something was wrong’ with them, or that they ‘didn’t like sex'”. After hearing these kinds of statements from women for several years, she came to see that “.. the whole paradigm around sexuality is trying to change… my mentor had taught me that there’s a collective shift that’s trying to happen, and it’s getting expressed through women first”.
Dianne began to tell her women clients that they weren’t alone, that many women report feeling broken, and they often responded with tears and a feeling of relief.
Four years ago, Dianne began to study with Thomas Huebl, whose teachings combine spiritual and psychological approaches. Dianne has witnessed him working one-on-one with people, and “…watching him work gave me a sense of how much more is possible in psychotherapy. His skill level, mastery, precision, and compassion are unmatched by anybody I’ve ever watched, and his influence sparked my inspiration to do this group.”
Structure and Intention for the group
Dianne feels that women need to be talking to each other about sex. “Most of the women I see in therapy with their partners aren’t talking to anybody because they have too much shame.”
Dianne’s group is for women who have done some work in therapy and who feel ready to talk about sexual issues. Group members will engage in a gradual process of getting in touch with their unique sexual identity and life energy, using movement, art, video presentations, and practices that will be taught in the group and then practiced at home. The group will meet once a month for a year, and through this process, group members will make conscious the nuanced aspects of sexuality that they may not even be aware of.
The arc of this year-long project will be from the suffering of feeling broken to a discovery of the longing that is hidden beneath it, with the understanding that each member’s suffering and longing will be unique.
Dianne is offering a one-day workshop on February 6 for women who may be interested in participating in this year-long group. For more information, click here.