by Australia Counselling Member Christina Taylor
“Joy and woe are woven fine, A clothing for the soul to bind.” William Blake
Standing on the Californian coast at Big Sur is, in itself, a magical experience. However, for me, in March 2014, the excitement was in finally meeting a woman who had just been awarded the 2013 most prestigious award for Professional Standard of Excellence by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists (AASECT) – Gina Ogden.
In 2013 I was reading books regarding sex therapy practices when I came upon Gina Ogden’s “Expanding the Practice of Sex Therapy” in which she writes of her “ISIS” model. I was actually travelling in Canada at the time and as soon as I returned to Oz I sent an email to Gina to ask if she had any practitioners in Australia I could learn more from about the “ISIS model”. Immediately she responded. In subsequent discussions she suggested that she would be delighted to be my Supervisor and was possible for me to come to a workshop. Hence my being at Esalen, California.
My passion for Gina’s work lies in her expanding the practice of sex therapy beyond performance and orgasms. My interest and focus is working with Grown-Ups(over 45’s) and with clients who are possibly seeking to enhance their desire and their relationships. The “ISIS” model is an organising principle which enables you to recognise where you currently are and where you would like to be.
The “ISIS” model is a template for change, growth and sexual consciousness either for you as an individual or as a couple. In essence it is a circle (that can be created on the floor, or on a piece
of paper), that is divided into four quadrants and has a centre. Each quadrant has both positive and negative aspects (the joy and woe of Blake’s poem), which unfolds at a timely pace, through the Mental, the Physical, the Emotional and the Spiritual quadrants. What Gina calls the “ISIS connection” occurs when all of these meet and merge in the centre, which is wide open to the other aspects. This is where sexual experience enters the uncharted territory of ecstasy and mystical revelation.
Working within this framework it is possible to understand, at a visceral level, what messages, judgements, energetic environments and physical experiences we underwent in our formative years, and to re-examine them in a non-judgemental fashion.
The Physical Quadrant – The path of sensation: including sensory experience-smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. Movement and stillness. Comfort and safety. Arousal, orgasm, and other physical pleasures. …and the path of sexual dysfunction: pain, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), disease, disability, distorted body image, and sexual dysfunction.
The Emotional Quadrant – The path of passion and compassion: feelings-love, passion, longing, anger, and fear. Whatever touches the heart. Empathy. Compassion. Trust- the ability to let go of control. …and the path of fear and anger: so-called dark feelings: anger, fear, angst, disgust, and any emotions that are the fallout from sexual experiences that were disappointing, controlling, scary, painful, violent, abusive, or just plain boring.
The Mental Quadrant – The path of discernment and choice: Beliefs and messages about both sexuality and spirituality- including religious messages. Imagination, intuition, memory, and dreams. Waking dreams and fantasies. Wishes, intentions, anticipations, and expectations. …and the path of judgement, guilt, and shame: instilled in us by a society, a religious practice, or a community moral code that fears sex and its consequences. Sometimes sex is to be feared—given the incidence of rape, incest, and sexual aggressions over the course of human history.
The Spiritual Quadrant – The path of connection and meaning: A deep sense of connection with one’s self, one’s partner, and/or a “higher power.” This can include inner visions, communication with divine forces, experiencing one’s self as part of all that is sacred. …and the path of disconnection and over control: “irrational facts” about sexual responses and relationships, including disconnection, isolation, depression, and dissociation, or a problematic need to dominate, or be subservient, or keep one’s self or one’s relationship tightly controlled.
At the Centre -The place of integration and transformation: The experience of the Centre differs from person to person and time to time. It is totally subjective, and yours to define for yourself.There’s no past and no future here, only a greatly expanded now. It’s a place of clarity and vision, of vastness, of unconditional love…and the shadow side, when sex falls apart: When physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experience meet they can blow our circuits, especially if there is unresolved density and negativity. This is the shadow side of the Centre-the experience of pain and repression of pain, the feared and the unexplored. This is the agony of despair, the terror of sexual violence and abuse, the burden of shame, guilt, loneliness, isolation – and dysfunction. This shadow place can be a place of dissociation, as well as of association. One client calls it “the valley of the shadow of death.”
The experience of training with Gina in using the “ISIS” model gave me a framework to work together, to allow your story to unfold, in your timeframe; and, as I encourage you to explore further in the different quadrants, I can observe with wonder your expanding to your full sexual consciousness.
I understand why the leading American Sex Therapists Association made Gina the beneficiary of their most prestigious award. She is indeed a Master Sexual Therapist and I am honoured to have
undertaken training under her tutelage.
About The Author
I’m Christina Taylor. In my practice in Sydney and the Hunter Valley, I offer an integrated holistic approach, working with the emotional, the physical, the mental and the existential/spiritual.
I believe that a treatment plan should be individually tailored to each client or couple. I also believe that a therapist’s personal development, level of maturity and the ability to connect with others with integrity are the most significant factors in assisting clients move towards deeper sexual fulfilment.
See more about my work and practice at: http://www.enhancingdesire.com.au