Confer Facebook LinkConfer Twitter Link
Your basket TEL: 0207 5357595
Seminars, conferences and online resources on psychotherapy and human relationships
Working with Sexuality: Bodies, Desires and Imagination

Online module

This package of resources provides 17 hours of CPD on a range of contemporary clinical perspectives to help support practitioners in working more confidently with this vast and complex subject. It combines a rich archive of:
  • Video and audio lectures and presentations
  • Interviews and discussions
  • Comprehensive supporting study guides (To come in April)
  • Research resources
  • Therapeutic skills
Because of its centrality to human experience, sexuality has always been a prime focus of clinical and theoretical debate, as well as controversy. Sexual desire and behaviour can reflect our attachment style, be affected by loss and trauma and is influenced by our neurobiology. Furthermore our assumptions about, expectations of and even enjoyment of sex are shaped by our gender identity that is itself often an unconscious product of a historically binary and normative social and psychoanalytic culture.

We live in a society that is both obsessed with and ashamed of sex, a paradox that extends to the consulting room where therapists can often find themselves uncertain about and avoidant of working with their client's most intimate desires and the erotic aspects of transference. An in-depth knowledge of our own sexuality and our ethical responsibilities towards clients can enhance the safety and intimacy of the therapeutic relationship and help prevent sexual boundary violations that will inevitably re-traumatise clients.


Module speakers

Dr Galit Atlas, Dr Meg-John Barker, Dr Jessica Benjamin, Dr Thaddeus Birchard, Dr Andrea Celenza, Dr Christopher Clulow, Dr Ronald Doctor, Dr Anton Hart, Janice Hiller, Professor Brett Kahr, Cabby Laffy, Professor Dany Nobus, Chris Oakley, Professor Stephen Porges, Christiane Sanderson, Joyce Slochower and Estela Welldon.

Resources in this online module

Perspectives on Perversion

Professor Brett Kahr
Video Psychoanalysis, Sexual Fantasy and Childhood Trauma

Brett Kahr gives an overview of Freud's pioneering theories of sexuality and its role in the development of the psyche. He gives fascinating details of his own extensive survey that gathered the sexual fantasies of 25,000 British and American people aged 18 to 94. As one of the few therapists trained to work with both individuals and couples Kahr also shares the unique perspective this has given him on the role of sexuality in the couple relationship.

Video interview with slides - 1 hr 10 mins
The speaker Professor Brett Kahr has worked in the mental health profession for over 40 years. He is Senior Fellow at the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology in London and, also, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London. More >>

Dr Ronald Doctor
Videos The Role of Violence in Sexual Perversion

This presentation argues that perversion serves both a defensive and destructive function. The patient with a perverse psychopathology operates a paradox: he knows something and does not know it. These two attitudes are held simultaneously and yet are apparently reconciled, and an internal world is created in which reality is distorted and misrepresented. The perversion arises in an attempt to create this false reconciliation between contradictory ideas that can no longer be kept separate and it is when the perverse solution proves inadequate to contain the patient's internal conflict that violence erupts. Ronald Doctor describes a male patient who uses cross-dressing as a perverse solution to his outbursts of uncontrollable violence.

Video lecture with slides - 33 mins

The Role of Violence in Sexual Perversion - Q and A

Video talk - 7 mins

The speaker Dr Ronald Doctor is both a Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at West London NHS Trust and is in private psychoanalytical practice. He is a member of the British Psychoanalytical Society and the British Psychotherapy Foundation. He is a Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College and is a member of the Board of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy. More >>

Professor Dany Nobus
Audio Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Perversion

In this witty talk, Professor Dany Nobus describes the origins and development of the concept of 'perversion' and details the many attempts psychoanalysts have made to define perversion in a way that reflects the breadth and extent of human sexual practices. He concludes that whilst Freud was perhaps right in thinking that the infant's psyche is polymorphously perverse, he may have been wrong to conclude that as adults we ever entirely outgrow this aspect of our sexuality.

Audio lecture with slides - 34 mins
The speaker Dany Nobus is Professor of Psychoanalytic Psychology at Brunel University London, former Chair of the Freud Museum London, and Founding Scholar of the British Psychoanalytic Council. He is the author of numerous books and papers on the history, theory and practice of psychoanalysis, and in 2017 he was awarded the Sarton Medal of the University of Ghent for his outstanding contributions to psychoanalytic historiography. More >>

Estela Welldon
Video The Impulse to Murder: Shame and Childhood Trauma

Dr Estela Welldon suggests the principle cause of violent crime is the need to express rage, helplessness and humiliation rooted in unconscious childhood memories of abusive experiences and domestic violence. When these experiences have been extreme, and there has been a lack of loving containment by an attachment figure, something powerful is held inside the psyche until it is released in adulthood through loss of control, often triggered by a repeated trauma. Although the violent act may appear irrational, in the context of the patient's past experiences it may be very meaningful. The violent act, furthermore, provides a sense of agency, of being seen and experienced by others. The key to forensic psychotherapy is for the patient and therapist to uncover the unconscious meanings of the act, through language. Hopefully this will be aired before the 'splash' - the moment when the crime is committed - if that person has access to therapeutic help. By gaining an understanding of their own past experiences of rage, impotence and humiliation the patient may resolve the unconscious impulses underlying the crime. We see that in effective psychotherapy, talking and thinking replace the acting-out.

This talk was originally included in our modules on Psychopathology but has been included here because it's relevance to the genesis of sadism and violence.

Talk to camera with subtitles - 26 mins
The speaker Dr Estela V. Welldon MD DSc (Hon) FRC PSYCH is the Founder and Honorary Elected President for Life of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy; Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; Honorary Doctor in Sciences Oxford Brookes University; Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at Tavistock Portman NHS Clinics; Honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association for Psychoanalysis. More >>

Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Other Wounding

Christiane Sanderson
Video Healing the Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adult Desire and Capacity for Intimacy

Christiane Sanderson shares her perspective on how therapy can best support survivors of childhood sexual abuse as well as her extensive knowledge of how this kind of trauma can affect a person's sexuality and capacity for intimacy.

Video Interview - 1 hr 23 mins
The speaker Christiane Sanderson BSc., MSc. is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton. Christiane has over 26 years' experience working in child sexual abuse, sexual violence, complex trauma and domestic abuse, she has run consultancy and training for parents, teachers, social workers, nurses, therapists, counsellors, solicitors, the NSPCC, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Committee, the Methodist Church, the Metropolitan Police Service and the Refugee Council. More >>

Dr Thaddeus Birchard
Video Treating Sexual Compulsivity in Men

Dr Thaddeus Birchard gives an overview of his Cognitive Behaviour Therapy group work with male clients who experience sexual compulsivity, which can encompass a wide range of behaviour including internet porn addiction and paraphilias. His discussion of 'Charles' also sheds light on the internal shame-ridden world of the sexually compulsive and suggests that repeated childhood wounding influences the sexual blueprint in adult male survivors.

Video Interview - 1 hr 12 mins
The speaker US born Dr Thaddeus Birchard is an Anglican Priest who worked for many years in parishes in Plymouth, South End and London. Afterwards he retrained in Psychology, earning a PhD in The Psychotherapeutic Treatment of Sexual Addiction, in which he has since specialised. More >>


Janice Hiller
Videos The Neurobiology of Falling in Love and Intimate Relationships

Janice Hiller explains the male and female hormonal reactions that take place during the life cycle of a relationship. She describes how the three evolutionary phenomena of lust, attraction and attachment (that are often in conflict) trigger neurobiological reactions that give rise to the human behaviour that poets and agony aunts have been writing about since the beginning of time. She also briefly outlines how competing male and female arousal systems and reproductive priorities affect the couple's sexual and relational behaviour over the course of meeting, mating and sometimes, moving on.

Video lecture with slides - 50 mins

The Neurobiology of Falling in Love and Intimate Relationships - Q and A

Video talk - 8 mins

Understanding Female Arousal

Janice Hiller explores the various biological and social factors that influence women's experience of desire and how these affect their sexual behaviour. She gives an overview of the main historical research and theories of female sexual desire and details some of the sexual problems women experience along with factors to consider when treating their psychosexual issues.

Video lecture with slides - 43 mins

Understanding Female Arousal - Q and A

Video talk - 15 mins
The speaker Janice Hiller, BSc, MPhil, AFBPsS, C.Psychol is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and until 2017 was Senior Academic Tutor in Psychosexual studies at Tavistock Relationships, where she still teaches and tutors. She trained at the Institute of Psychiatry and worked in adult mental health earlier in her career, before becoming head of a Relationship and Psychosexual Service in North East London. More >>

Professor Stephen Porges
Audio Discussion on Polyvagal Theory and Sexuality

Neuroscientist Dr Stephen Porges discusses how trauma affects the body's tolerance for intimacy with reference to his pioneering Polyvagal Theory. He gives a detailed yet accessible account of how overwhelming experiences cause the brain to automatically enact various embodied survival strategies like dissociation that make relating painful and difficult.

Audio interview - 42 mins
The speaker Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. More >>

Ethics and Diversity

Dr Meg-John Barker
Video + Audio The Conditions of Consent

Queer writer Meg-John Barker explores what we can learn about this current sex/gender moment by turning our attention to gender, sexual, and relationship diversity (GSRD). What can queer, kinky, asexual, and polyamorous communities teach everyone about how to navigate sex - and wider relationships - with consent?

Video talk with slides - 30 mins

The Conditions of Consent - Q and A

Audio - 8 mins
The speaker Meg-John Barker is the author of a number of popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including Queer: A Graphic History (with Julia Scheele), How To Understand Your Gender (with Alex Iantaffi), Enjoy Sex (How, When, and IF You Want To) (with Justin Hancock), Rewriting the Rules, The Psychology of Sex, and The Secrets of Enduring Love (with Jacqui Gabb). More >>

Dr Anton Hart
Video + Audio Attending to Sexuality in the Psychoanalytic Relationship

Anton Hart discusses the importance of therapists being open to and curious about their own and their clients' sexuality. As infants our sense of mind and sexuality develops in relation to caregivers and, as adults, our sexuality and our attitudes towards it reflect much about our individual human experience. Issues of privacy, shame and otherness contend with desires for connectedness, union and fulfilment in ways that are unavoidably and revealingly re-enacted in relational psychoanalysis. Hart believes therapists should strive to empathically inhabit all aspects of their patients' desires, fantasies and behaviour so as to expand aspects of their own identities and thereby their analytical capabilities.

Video interview - 1 hr

Good In Bed? Power and Ethics in Psychoanalysis and Life

In reflecting on the present moment, which involves revelations of high-profile rapists, sexual assailants, and those using their power to sexually coerce and exploit (including iconic figures Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump), this article considers the relationship between the destructive and oppressive forces that underlie these abuses, and aspects of "ordinary" sexuality that people struggle to integrate in their relational lives. The author explores the ways that such ordinary sexuality, particularly under ubiquitous conditions of patriarchy, is likely to include aspects of objectification, coercion, and exploitation. Further considered is the psychical and relational fallout of the counteractions currently being mounted against such violations and abuses. Two brief case vignettes, one of a heterosexual man, the other of a heterosexual woman, are used as exemplars of the tolls that coercive abuses and their remedies may be taking on sexual relatedness.

Audio reading - 27 mins
The speaker Anton H. Hart, PhD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst and on the Faculty of the William Alanson White Institute in New York City. He is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) and the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA). A Fellow of the American Board of Psychoanalysis, he supervises at Teachers College, Columbia University and at the Derner Institute of Adelphi University. More >>

Joyce Slochower
Videos A Conversation About Boundary Violations in Psychotherapy

Alice Waterfall, our Conference Programme Development Manager and an experienced couple therapist, interviews Dr Joyce Slochower. What constitutes sexual transgression with clients? Why does it happen? And what needs to be done to support therapists and protect their clients?

Video Interview - 27 mins

Don't Tell Anyone - Ghosts That Haunt: Sexual Boundary Violations in Our Communities'

Sexual boundary violations-and their perpetrators-are ghosts that haunt us within (and of course outside) the psychoanalytic world. Reverberating well beyond the particular analytic dyad within which they occur, these violations invade nearly every professional community. Sexual boundary violations cast a long shadow over us; they generate horror, anxiety, curiosity, and sometimes excitement. Our need to deny what we know and to protect exalted mentors from scrutiny has led to a toxic collective silence; by and large, we have remained publicly mute while engaging in plenty of private gossip. Anxiety about the destructive consequences of "telling" further complicates our experience and can result in disavowal-a near total foreclosure of the reality of the breach along with our experience of it. In this paper, Joyce queries the dynamics driving our complex responses to sexual boundary violations and explore their collision with our professional ideal, using a personal experience to illustrate some of these issues.

Video talk to camera - 39 mins
The speaker Joyce Slochower Ph.D., ABPP, is Professor Emerita of Psychology at Hunter College & the Graduate Center, CUNY. Joyce is faculty and supervisor at the NYU Postdoctoral Program, the Steven Mitchell Center, the National Training Program of NIP (all in New York), Philadelphia Center for Relational Studies in Philadelphia and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California in San Francisco. More >>

Working Effectively with Erotic Transference and Counter Transference

Cabby Laffy
Video A Live Supervision on How to work Sensitively and Effectively with a Client's Sexual Issues

Integrative Psychosexual Therapist Cabby Laffy supervises Nicole Scott with a focus on showing how therapists can best support themselves and clients and work more authentically courageously and responsibly with issues of sexuality and the process of erotic transference.

*Further Case Study Transcripts (see attached) - Through these transcripts Cabby Laffy shows her way of working psychosexually with clients through dramatising three sessions with an imagined (but representative) couple who are experiencing distress in their sexual relationship.

Video Role-play - 55 mins
The speaker Cabby Laffy is a psychosexual psychotherapist and a supervisor, working with individuals, couples and groups. She has also facilitated a range of training and workshops since 1991. She is a UKCP registered and NCP accredited psychotherapist, a COSRT accredited psychosexual therapist, a supervisor, a group facilitator, and a member of PCSR and PCU. More >>

Chris Oakley
Audio Sexual Desire and Psychoanalytic Time

Psychoanalyst Chris Oakley argues that both analysts who deny any erotic feelings for clients and analysts who stress ethical behaviour towards clients misunderstand the psychoanalytic method and the altered state generated by the analytic encounter. By its very nature, psychoanalysis allows all feelings and thoughts, including sexual ones.

Drawing on the candour of analyst Harold Searles, Oakley suggests that sexuality is always present between analyst and client and that this generates the 'alive' quality that patients experience during the encounter. However, it is only the non-enactment of that sexual possibility that allows the client to become more fully alive to them-selves, which is the therapeutic goal. Sexual restraint on the part of the analyst is therefore not so much a 'moral' issue per se but more intrinsic to the basic method, aim and successful outcome of the analysis.

Audio lecture with slides - 45 mins
The speaker Chris Oakley is a psychoanalyst from the Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He has written on psychoanalysis in various guises: his book Football Delirium was shortlisted for the 2008 Football Book of the Year, and more recently he contributed to R.D. Laing: 50 years since the Divided Self. More >>

Dr Andrea Celenza
Video Erotic Transference and Counter-transference

In this interview psychoanalyst, Dr Andrea Celenza details the opportunities and challenges of working with an erotic transference and counter-transference. By thinking about and exploring patients' erotic attachment, therapists can uncover the long-buried unconscious meaning of life-constricting neurosis, and in the process help liberate them into a full and rewarding relationship with self.

Video Interview - 54 mins

The speaker Andrea Celenza, Ph.D. is Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. Co-Director of an online program in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy sponsored by William James College. As part of this program, she offers an on-line course, What, Where is Psychoanalysis? More >>

The Impact of Attachment on Intimacy

Dr Christopher Clulow
Videos The Challenge of Working Dyadically with the Couple State of Mind

Dr Christopher Clulow discusses the particular challenges and rewards of working with couples and gives an insight into how the therapist can foster intimacy by creating the space in which partners can hear themselves and each other non-judgementally.

Video interview with slides - 32 mins

Sexual Fantasy, Unconscious Fantasy and the Dynamics of Attachment

This talk explores sexual fantasy as an articulation of unconscious phantasy in couple relationships. Drawing on patterns of attachment and attending to "pretend" and "psychic equivalence" states of mind, it considers the potential of partners to combine in enacting shared unconscious phantasy through fantasy-driven sexual encounters. Observations about different forms of narcissistic object relating are made in this context, as are some implications for couple therapists.

The full version of this talk was published in the journal Couple and Family Psychoanalysis under the title 'Sexual fantasy, unconscious phantasy, and the dynamics of attachment'. 2019: 9(1) pp 1-14.

Video talk to camera - 58 mins
The speaker Dr Christopher Clulow is a Consultant Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, a Senior Fellow of the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology and past Director of Tavistock Relationships, London. He has published extensively on marriage, partnerships, parenthood and couple psychotherapy, most recently from an attachment perspective. More >>

Dr Galit Atlas and Dr Jessica Benjamin
Video Coming soon

The speakers Dr Galit Atlas is on the faculty at NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and faculty at the Four Year Adult and National Training Programs at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies (NIP). She is the author of The Enigma of Desire: Sex, Longing and Belonging in Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2015), and of Dramatic Dialogues: Contemporary Clinical Practice (Routledge 2018, co-authored with Lewis Aron). More >>

Jessica Benjamin is a psychoanalyst known for her contributions to psychoanalysis and social thought. She is currently a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City where she on the faculty of the New York University Postdoctoral Psychology Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, and the Stephen Mitchell Center for Relational Studies. Jessica Benjamin is one of the original contributors to the fields of relational psychoanalysis, theories of intersubjectivity, and gender studies and feminism as it relates to psychoanalysis and society. More >>

Grey Oval, Kandinsky (1917)

  • Self-funded: £230
  • Organisationally-funded: £250
  • Institutional account (4 or more): £90 per user
  • Teaching licence (10 or more): £75 per student
  • Test and Certificate of Attendance: £36

This module includes:

  • 16 hours of video and audio presentations illustrated with captions, diagrams or images
  • Supporting notes, slides or references
  • Study guides
  • Bibliography linked to relevant articles and books
  • Additional resources relating to each speaker
  • Discussion forum
  • A Certificate of Attendance through which you can acquire up to 17 hours CPD on the basis of a multiple choice questionnaire assessing your knowledge of the module.

Study guides

(To come in April)
  • Introduction
  • History
  • Terminology; diagnosis; labelling; classification
  • Biological, medical and sociological background
  • Trauma
  • Forensic aspects and the criminal justice system
  • Ethics
  • Diversity
  • Specific issues for psychotherapists and counsellors
Confer Online...

  • Executive Producer: Jane Ryan
  • Producer: Louise Smith
  • Assistant Producer: Josh Daniel
  • Website Developer: Ryan Murphy
  • Video Editor: Lucy Ventura
  • Study Guides: Henry Strick van Linschoten
  • Graphic Designer: Will Slegg