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Kathy Slaughter introduces an interesting way of integrating pleasure, in both sexual and everyday activities, as a way to heal from trauma. She talks about what trauma does to our body and mind, how to regain the connection between the two, navigate healing in intimate relationships, recognize triggers, and how to trust and feel safe.  

Slaughter’s Interest in Healing from Trauma 

Kathy’s interest in this field of work stems from her decades of experience working with situations like domestic violence, substance abuse, and gender and sexuality struggles. Evolving from her own experience as well, Kathy embraced the idea of pleasure becoming a step in healing trauma.  

Integrating Sexual Pleasure in Trauma Healing & Its Relevance 

While it’s harder to incorporate pleasure in the initial stages of trauma survival, it can be experienced through soothing activities, like a hot bath. When you’re in the thriving stage, embracing pleasure can unlock a pool of resources of soothing strategies. Trauma disconnects people from themselves and the process to get the connection back varies for every trauma, but it’s also fundamentally the same and comes out of the need to feel safe and trust.  

Role of Physical Pleasure 

Kathy identifies behaviors her clients enjoy and reinforces those behaviors in everyday life which couples can transition into the bedroom. Once they start integrating pleasure into their daily life, they learn to be mindful of things around them that bring them pleasure, help with anxiety, pressure release, and sleep.  

Partner Pleasure in Healing from Trauma 

While healthy relationships can restore your connection with yourself, relationships that have trouble with intimacy through sex can experience pleasure in everyday things like holding hands or cuddling. Kathy suggests trauma survivors take individual or couples therapy to recognize triggers and learn how to not let them get in the way of intimacy. 

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn Response & Sharing Responsibility 

A partner who tends to respond by fighting can snap in the bedroom when triggered, a partner with a risk of fleeing might respond by pulling away. Someone with a tendency to fawn might be prone to please, while someone whose response is to freeze might dissociate in the bedroom. Kathy suggests looking out for these responses to check in when it shows up.  

She believes that the partner initiating the activity has the primary responsibility to look out for triggers, while the other person as an adult has the responsibility to look out for themselves at all times. It’s about balancing, supporting, and being there for each other.  

Biography: 

Understanding how abuse happens, how to recover from it, and how communities can prevent abuse and respond to harm in life-affirming ways forms the basis of Kathy’s passion. Grounded in Social Work values and paradigms, Kathy has spent 15 years working on healing trauma and uncovering pleasure, agency, and safety in the consulting room. Currently, she leads a team of five at Soaring Heart Counseling, a sex-positive, queer-affirming, trauma-informed therapy practice in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

To connect with pleasure, Kathy enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, dancing, hiking, and planning outdoor adventures with friends at regional Burning Man festivals. 

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