Constructing The Sexual Crucible Overview

Constructing the Sexual Crucible

An Integration of Sexual & Marital Therapy

Published in 1991 by W. W. Norton & Co.

Constructing the Sexual Crucible: An Integration of Sexual and Marital Therapy

Help for sexual difficulties and dysfunction, and marriage or relationship problems


From the introduction

"The emphasis of this book is on health and growth rather than pathology; absence of pathology does not create the type of marriage folks think they want. Eroticism and intimacy in marriage (and marriage itself) are adult developmental tasks. Thus, this book shifts from the deficit focus pervading many treatment approaches to an asset model; this shift also reflects my faith in human potential, including sexual potential. My patients will tell you, however, there's nothing about this approach that reflects naiveté. We sometimes talk about goodness, but we also talk about hatred and normal marital sadism; it is very much a 'hardball' approach."


First published 25 years ago, Constructing the Sexual Crucible continues to be required reading at many  training programs for psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and clergy.  This was the first publication of the Crucible Approach, laying down the basic tenants still practiced today. This landmark textbook is studied by therapists around the world, because it's ground-breaking contributions:

  •  First application of differentiation to the field of sexuality
  •  Introduction of the concept of emotional gridlock
  •  Describing other-validated intimacy vs. self-validated intimacy and their contribution to emotional gridlock.

Constructing the Sexual Crucible challenges the fundamental paradigms in which sexual-marital therapy is conducted. It conceptually integrates individual, sexual, and marital therapies, and provides a fresh look at the nature of intimacy and the diverse barriers to intense eroticism in many marriages. This extraordinary book documents the science behind the ideas put forth in Passionate Marriage with over 600 pages of research reviews, detailed discussions, and 650 references.

Dr. Schnarch eschews the common focus on sexual technique, the mere reversal of sexual symptomology, or the pursuit of intimacy for its own sake. Instead, he advances the notion of the sexual crucible, an elicitation model in which unresolved individual and relationship problems surface within common sexual styles.

The Quantum Model proposed here provides a systemic framework of sexual functioning which integrates biological and emotional functioning, and elucidates why bodies function sexually and why sometimes they don't. The richness of this model is especially evident in the discussion of inhibited sexual desire and "the politics of desire and wanting."

As Dr. Schnarch constructs the sexual crucible, he integrates behavior, object relations, and family systems approaches. Multiple factors are taken into account: physiological functioning, individual dimensions, the couple's dynamics, and the extended emotional system (both families of origin and lovers or friends.) Then, as the sexual style becomes clear, a single intervention can lead to dramatic change. The therapist may make a straight forward suggestion, point out an inherent paradox, or simply guide the couple in the pursuit of sexual potential. Within the context of the crucible, the therapeutic effects are remarkable.

Dr. Schnarch's patients have convinced him that orgasm is not the ultimate in sexual function, and that sexual potential extends beyond that. With them, and now with his readers, he explores that realm. In another bold move, he looks at the interface of sexuality and spirituality in a discussion that is both enlightening and liberating.

Therapists who take Dr. Schnarch's message to heart are likely to experience a radical change in perspective-from a narrow focus on sexual dysfunction to a broad view of sexual potential. Sexual-marital therapy becomes the context for gratifying personal growth and relationship development.

Note: Constructing the Sexual Crucible is a primary textbook in many university gradute school programs involved training therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. It is authoritative and complete with 600+ pages and 600+ references. Non-professionals who enjoy this book tend to be intellectually rigorous and like to think hard. Passionate Marriage, Intimacy & Desire, and Resurrecting Sex are easier for the average layperson to read.

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