Dr. Dawn Michael: An Acclaimed Sex Counselor Who Teaches Couples How to Have Healthy Sex Lives

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Dr. Dawn Michael: An Acclaimed Sex Counselor Who Teaches Couples How to Have Healthy Sex Lives

Amber Brooks Amber Brooks
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The Short Version: Based in California, Dr. Dawn Michael is a certified clinical sexologist with over 19 years of counseling experience. She founded The Happy Spouse in 2010 to give couples a safe place where they could talk about their sexual frustrations and other personal issues without judgment. Dr. Dawn sits with couples in confidential therapy sessions and helps them engage in a dialogue about their needs, preferences, and desires. She has written two books about important sex topics and has an active YouTube channel where she offers direct advice to married couples. If you’re hoping to reignite a connection with your partner, you can learn about human sexuality and work on intimacy issues by consulting with Dr. Dawn Michael.

Dr. Dawn Michael became a strong proponent for sexual health and family values after years of studying communication, human biology, and relationships. She earned her master’s degree in marriage family therapy and her doctorate in human sexuality because she was interested in strengthening the relationships between committed couples.

Photo of Dr. Dawn Michael, Founder of the Happy Spouse

Dr. Dawn Michael founded The Happy Spouse in 2010 to help couples cultivate intimacy.

She doesn’t have the typical background of a sex therapist. She has worked in a psychiatric hospital and counseled teens in a group home. She has even worked in interior design.

Her passion for helping individuals build intimacy and find fulfillment in their relationships eventually led her to a career as a nationally recognized sex therapist. She now serves as an Advisory Board Member and Certified Sexologist of the American College of Sexologists. She is also a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Dr. Dawn has written books and given presentations on sexual health, but she devotes most of her time to working with couples in constructive sex therapy sessions in her office in Thousand Oaks, California.

Today Dr. Dawn has 19 years of counseling experience, and she specializes in dealing with intimacy and sex issues. “I really wanted to become an expert in the field of human sexuality research and how people function sexually,” Dr. Dawn told us. “It’s a fascinating field.”

Empowering Sessions Foster Greater Communication & Intimacy

In her private practice, Dr. Dawn has worked with people from all over the world. The couples who come to her range in age from 20 to 70 because intimacy issues can occur at any time in life. They’re not restricted to one gender or one age group. Her first counseling session with new clients typically lasts 80 minutes so she can really get to know who they are and what they want.

“The first thing I do when I meet someone is try to create a very warm, open atmosphere where people can feel they can say what they need to say,” Dr. Dawn said. “I’m not going to judge them.”

“We would never have understood why were having sexual problems without your help.” — Dee, one of Dr. Dawn’s clients

Dr. Dawn asks couples to outline their sex history and discuss their attitudes toward sex so she knows what issues to address. Sometimes she has to educate her clients on the nuances of the body and human sexuality; other times she has to facilitate an open dialogue between two sexually frustrated partners. Dr. Dawn said that a lot of the issues between couples aren’t about sex at all — they’re about poor communication.

“A lot of it comes down to not being able to communicate what their needs are sexually,” she explained. “They’re trying to read each other’s minds — which 90% of the time they get wrong.”

“Our sex life has improved, but not only that our marriage has improved as well.” — Lori and Tom, Dr. Dawn’s former clients

After meeting with new clients, Dr. Dawn recommends a custom treatment plan of anywhere from three to eight follow-up sessions. She will see the couple together and as individuals to get to the bottom of their communication and intimacy issues. “I give them the tools to learn how to address each other questions,” she said. “I send them home with exercises to help them feel comfortable touching each other and talking things out.”

If necessary, Dr. Dawn will refer her clients to the Sexual Health and Wellness Center, a separate practice that deals with physical problems, including erectile dysfunction, vulvodynia, hormonal imbalance, and other sex-related disorders. A medical doctor and nurses can assist with physical issues while Dr. Dawn provides counseling for the psychological side.

Using Her Experiences & Knowledge to Write Honestly About Sex

As a wife and mother of two teenagers, Dr. Dawn uses her personal experiences to add weight to her expertise in relationships and sex. She shared the perspective of a woman dealing with sexual frustration in her marriage in her first book “My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me.” This thoughtful read was inspired by an article Dr. Dawn wrote in 2016. Her counter-culture exploration of a situation where it’s the man pumping the brakes and refusing sex caused quite a stir. Millions of people read the article, and it had over 2,000 comments.

Cover of "My Husband Won't Have Sex With Me"

“My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me” delves into the psychology behind sex drives.

“It’s a taboo topic,” Dr. Dawn said. “It makes me crazy that more people aren’t talking about it because it’s still a problem I see every day in my office.”

Society may dictate that men should take the lead and be sexually insatiable, but that’s not always the case, and Dr. Dawn wants women to know they don’t have to feel ashamed if their husband refuses sex.

In 2017, Dr. Dawn published “The Ultimate Intimacy Guide for Passionate People” to encapsulate the main takeaways from 19 years of working with couples. She put together a program to help her clients and readers work through intimacy issues. This book provides communication exercises, sex education, love practices, and other thought-provoking lessons. Each chapter addresses a new topic and invites couples to reframe how they view sex and romance.

“Couples can use this as resource at home,” Dr. Dawn said. “It’s been really helpful when people are going through counseling to be able to refer back to the book.”

Dr. Dawn’s Advice: Don’t Mistake Your Partner for a Mind Reader

Some couples in Dr. Dawn’s office suffer from communication issues because one or both of the partners believe that loving someone means knowing their every thought and desire. Which isn’t actually how it works at all. The common refrain goes, “I shouldn’t have to tell him/her what I want. He/she should just know.”

Such unreasonable expectations can lead to frustration on both ends. Dr. Dawn said that clear communication is the solution to most sexual frustrations. Instead of forcing sexual partners to play a guessing game in the bedroom, individuals should just be honest about their needs and desires.

“Ask for what you want,” Dr. Dawn advised. “Be very clear; write it down. Don’t assume your partner knows what you want. They can’t read your mind, so you need to tell them.”

This can be especially important for individuals with fetishes. Talking about fetishes is the only way to have those desires satiated, and those conversations should take place early on in the sexual relationship so both partners know what they’re getting into and can establish ground rules for the future. Couples have to agree to explore kinky activities together, and, if you don’t want the same things, it’s best to know that before the relationship becomes serious.

“Be honest with the person you’re with,” Dr. Dawn emphasized. “Don’t be afraid to be honest about yourself and have the confidence to talk about your needs and desires.”

Helping Spouses Reclaim Happiness by Tackling Touchy Subjects

Over the years, Dr. Dawn has established herself as a go-to resource for couples experiencing intimacy issues. She has helped married couples understand their sexuality and their partner’s needs so they can become more loving and committed to one another. Her straightforward advice can help individuals form a healthier approach to sex, love, and relationships.

Dr. Dawn has nearly 4,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel where she posts weekly videos of herself discussing sensitive sex topics and answering common questions. She also has thousands of Facebook followers and frequently engages with people in the comments on her posts. You can become a fan of The Happy Spouse page or join her private counseling group Intimacy for Passionate People to get her take on the day’s hot topics.

Of course, if you want a more in-depth assessment, you’ll have to book an appointment and start working with Dr. Dawn in private therapy sessions. She’s only too happy to share her insights and help couples reconnect with one another. “I feel blessed by every single one of my clients. They always teach me something new,” Dr. Dawn said. “It’s not just a one-way street. I’ve cried in sessions with them. I really have learned a lot from them, and I feel blessed that they open up to me and trust me.”