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The Short Version: Sex isn’t a topic many people want to talk about honestly, especially if things aren’t entirely satisfying in their own bedrooms. Sexual issues can be a significant source of pain and sadness, and those who suffer often don’t know where to turn for solutions. The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado, aims to help those who aren’t finding freedom and sexual satisfaction in their relationships. Dr. Jenni Skyler and her team prove that it is possible for couples and individuals to overcome blocks in the bedroom and find meaningful connections, love, and fabulous sex that lasts.
According to a study published in Psychology Today, sex is on our minds quite often. The study found that men thought about sex an average of 34.2 times a day, while women thought about sex an average of 18.6 times a day. So, nearly once an hour, the idea of sex pops up in our brains.
But some people think about sex even more — especially when there’s a problem in the bedroom. Sexual issues are quite common in relationships, although the entertainment industry mostly depicts sexual relationships as ecstasy in the bedroom between responsive and understanding lovers who deliver excitement on command.
The Intimacy Institute for Sex and Relationship Therapy in Boulder, Colorado, maintains a special focus on helping individuals and couples enhance their pleasure and knowledge of human sexuality. The Institute does so in a way that encourages couples to find inner peace and satisfaction — and forget their preconceived notions.
“When we help to break those doors open, we help people find deeper intimacy on so many levels: emotional, spiritual, physical, sensual, and erotic,” said Dr. Jenni Skyler, Sex Therapist and Founder of The Intimacy Institute. “People find out how to make those connections, even if it’s not how society or Hollywood thinks it should look, which lead to freedom and satisfaction.”
Sexual health is linked directly to happiness in our relationships, our own feelings of self-worth or shame, and so much more. But, even though the problem is behind closed doors, the breakdown of sexual health and happiness can linger for so long that it spreads into other parts of life.
“I’ve always wanted people to know that they have permission for pleasure. Sexuality is still taboo in society, and we have so many negative social scripts and myths around it,” Jenni said. “I just want to debunk the myths and deconstruct the narratives that keep people imprisoned in transactional sex.”
Jenni founded The Intimacy Institute in 2009 while she was working as a sexual health scholar for The Center of Excellence for Sexual Health in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, she was working on a team of sex experts, and she envisioned a practice that specialized in sexual health.
A couple of years later, she met her husband, Daniel Lebowitz.
“I founded it, and, soon after, I met my now husband, who was in school for therapy. He wanted to do grief and bereavement work. But I had an overflow of clients, and he liked to do a lot of masculinity work. So, I said, ‘Why don’t you learn about male sexual functionality and work with a few of the men?'” she said.
It wasn’t long before Daniel started finding the work rewarding and developing his own functions and sessions for male clients.
“He is just a brilliant specialist when it comes to masculinity and male sexual functioning work. I handed it all off to him,” Jenni said. “Together, we co-direct and run a lot of workshops to train therapists, and also run couples retreats to help people learn more intensively.”
When Daniel and Jenni welcomed their first child, the couple added Dr. Chelsea Holland and Vinny Perrone to the practice’s team of experts.
Clients who visit The Intimacy Institute range in age from 18 to 80, with the average age between 30 and 50. Couples and individuals come mostly from the Boulder area, as well as from rural communities in Colorado that lack therapists trained to address common sexual issues. Sometimes the therapists see clients over Zoom or FaceTime.
Frequently, couples are dealing with what can simply be described as a desire discrepancy, where one person’s desire, most commonly the man’s, outweighs that of his partner.
“We have protocols for diagnosis and creation of treatment plans to help couples and individuals find how to grow. The way we accomplish that is unique because we weave in a lot of emotional-focused therapy to develop layers of intimacy, starting with emotional intimacy, then physical, sensual, and erotic intimacy. It’s a four-stage intimacy building approach.” — Jenni Skyler, Sex Therapist and Founder of The Intimacy Institute
Sometimes men try to work through what therapists call “out-of-control sexual behaviors,” which are different from sexual addiction. For women, painful sex and a struggle to orgasm are frequent topics of discussion.
The Intimacy Institute helps couples deal with the underlying issues that lead to their recurrence and therapists provide tools for changing their behaviors at home.
“We’re clinical, direct, and no-nonsense. We’re well-trained in understanding human sexuality and mental health issues systemically,” Jenni said. “We have protocols for diagnosis and creation of treatment plans to help couples and individuals find how to grow. The way we accomplish that is unique because we weave in a lot of emotional-focused therapy to develop layers of intimacy, starting with emotional intimacy, then physical, sensual, and erotic intimacy. It’s a four-stage intimacy building approach.”
Jenni and Daniel hold workshops throughout the year to help couples connect more deeply and overcome any sexual issues that may be limiting their pleasure in the bedroom.
Along with online workshops, they will host a People Pleasing Workshop in the fall of 2018 and a three-part intimacy course later in the year.
The latter workshop is broken down over three weekends, which focus on emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, and the struggle of keeping both alive during parenthood. The workshops typically include between six and 10 couples.
“We try to keep it intimate because we want to help everyone in the room,” she said.
Jenni said she finds such joy in helping people talk about sex more freely than they ever thought they could. She and Daniel are even working on their first book together to demystify intimacy for a wider audience.
Plus, Jenni is the Resident Sexpert for Adam & Eve, a leading adult toy company. She provides expert advice on the site to promote intimacy, fun, and consensual pleasure in all romantic relationships.
“I love seeing people find happiness and pleasure. Sometimes it may take a little longer to unwind stuff and work through it, but we can help marriages stay together and help people find orgasms, pleasure, and eroticism in their sex lives,” she said.
Through The Intimacy Institute, Jenni has seen countless couples discover more excitement in their relationships, and when clients thank her for helping them, she feels rewarded.
“Sex can be a struggle and a big elephant in the room, so helping people feel comfortable talking about it can be a breakthrough,” she said. “Many clients, at the end of sessions, will say, ‘Thank you for helping us get to this place. We never thought we would be here. Our parents never talked to us about sex, and now we can do this.'”