Rachel Needle – Surprising Reasons Sex is Good for Your Health – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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This week’s guest on Smart Sex, Smart Love is Licensed Psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist, Dr. Rachel Needle. Together, she and Joe Kort talk about why it is so important for therapists to talk about sex when working with individuals or couples, how our biggest sex organ is our brain, how sex is good for you, and, what couples can do to keep the passion alive in their relationship! Physical intimacy is extremely important in a relationship and it’s good for you! Joe and Rachel get down to the nitty gritty of exactly why sex is good for your health. Plus, they talk Modern Sex Therapy Institutes and the courses and certifications they offer:

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Speaker 1: On today’s show I’ll be discussing the secret reasons why sex is crucial to your life, why sex is good for your health and how important physical intimacy is to a relationship with my guest, dr Rachel needle. Rachel needle is an expert on why the brain is our biggest sex organ and what couples can do to keep the passion alive in their relationship. She received her Sidey in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern university and her BA in psychology from Barnard college, Columbia university. Dr Rachel needle is a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapists. She’s in private practice at the center for marital and sexual health of South Florida and runs a comprehensive group practice called whole health psychological center. Dr needle is the co-director of modern sex therapy institutes, a continuing education provider company that trains medical and mental health professionals and certifies sex therapists. Around the world. Rachel has been quoted in a number of popular magazines and newspapers such as details, glamour, cosmopolitan, Washington post and men’s health and has written several articles for glamour magazines, online blog, smitten. Welcome Rachel. 

Speaker 4: Hi. Thanks for having me, Joe. 

Speaker 1: Yeah, thanks for coming on. I really appreciate it. So I want full disclosure for everyone. We’re friends, we’re colleagues, and I am a proud and happy to be partnered with you in your modern sex therapy, um, institutes, uh, for, um, the LGBTQ, IAA and sex therapy for couples. So I’m glad to have you on. 

Speaker 4: So happy to be here. Joan. We’re, we’re so excited that you are a partner in [inaudible]. 

Speaker 1: I really appreciated it when you approached me and it was fun creating that program, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But I want to ask you first if I could, you know, being a sex therapist, people are listening, some are, are therapists themselves and some aren’t. Um, people really don’t know like what a sex sex therapist is. Would you mind sharing that? 

Speaker 4: Sure. So, um, sex therapists can be a number of different things. So mostly we are either mental health professionals or counselors, um, who have specialized training in the area of sex and sexuality. Um, so we do add extra training on top of our degrees. So mine is a doctorate in psychology and clinical psychology to be able to specialize in that area. Not only to feel comfortable with the knowledgeable about sex and sexuality, anything from gender and orientation to behavior, like in dysfunction and function. Um, so we do a number of different things. 

Speaker 1: That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s really helpful for people to know that because people, you know, I don’t know if you get this, I get this a lot as a sex therapist, you know, do you touch people in your office? Is it just talk therapy? Do you get that a lot? 

Speaker 4: Absolutely. I think they [inaudible] the first thing that happens when I tell somebody that I’m a certified sex therapist is they think sex arrogant. Um, and so, you know, and in which case you, you do touch the client or can, um, so we don’t, we do talk therapy or licensed are still as, um, in the mental health arena. 

Speaker 1: Yeah, exactly. And, um, can you tell people what a sexual surrogate is so they know the difference? 

Speaker 4: I’m sure. So the sexual surrogate is somebody that, that works with a client who oftentimes is struggling socially or doesn’t have experience, um, or uh, for some actually have some sort of disability who has not been intimate both emotionally and physically at times with a, um, with any other partner on understanding the body. They give knowledge, they help them feel comfortable being with someone, learn how to touch often. Um, so it can be a variety of different things. 

Speaker 1: That’s so well said. I appreciate the distinction for people listening. You know, um, for the longest time as I’ve been a therapist, 34 years and most of those years wa I was not sex therapy trained. I dealt with trauma, sexual trauma, sexual abuse, out of control, sexual behaviors, uh, the formerly, uh, outdated model of sex addiction. And, um, people would heal and get better. And then the reason I became a sex therapist is then I would be lost. Like, okay, so what’s healthy sexuality for this person? And so I found that I needed to get additional training about sex therapy because I F I believe this, and I know this was true for me. If therapists are not trained in sex, they’ll lead the client to what they think is healthy sexuality for them and not for the client. So my question to you is, why is it important for therapists to talk about sex when working with their clients, both individuals and couples? 

Speaker 4: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I mean, it is, I mean, even if somebody does not come in for sexual issues, something is going to come up again. You know, sex is, is ranges, you know, and topics. So, you know, it’s not just that, you know, those sexual desire or sexual functioning issues, right? They might want to develop healthy sexual goals, explore fantasies, look at, you know, struggle with their gender or their sexual orientation. So when we don’t, and everybody who comes in our office, right, is going to have gone through puberty. Let’s just even start there. Um, so it’s important to have some knowledge and background, even if you’re not specialized in these sexual issues because lo and behold, something will come up, whether it was messages they received about sex that has them thinking differently about their own sexuality or struggling in a relationship, even emotionally, right? Things will come up that we weren’t, we weren’t taught about. Um, so it’s important that we have at least some knowledge, even if you don’t want to be a certified sex therapist. Um, but you know, some knowledge on the area of sex and sexuality and feel comfortable talking about it. 

Speaker 1: Right? Cause that’s the biggest issue. I used to have this comic, I can’t find it anywhere. It just kills me. It was a therapist and a client and the client’s on a Freudian couch and she says to her therapist, you know, doctor so-and-so, there are some things that I don’t tell you. And the therapist responds and I want you to know mrs. So and so how much I really appreciate that. And people laugh at that. But it’s fun. It’s not really funny because a lot of therapists are uncomfortable, aren’t they? 

Speaker 4: Yeah. A lot of people in general are uncomfortable talking about sex. And so when it comes up and such, I may can’t tell you how many times I get referrals from other therapists, which I, which I actually appreciate not just the referral, but that they recognize that it’s outside of their bounds of competence. So to work with somebody who they’re continuing to work on just on the sexual issue. And I, I do it a lot, but one of the things I say is that to both the therapist and the client is that there’s going to be some overlap. I’m a psychologist so I don’t just look at your sexual issue when you come, come up, come in, you know. Um, and it is a difficult topic for many to discuss. 

Speaker 1: That’s such a good point. Cause people do think that they’ll say, do you do anything else? They don’t realize that I’m actually a regular therapist dealing with regular issues and in addition to sex and most people think therapists, any therapist is trained if they’re regular therapists are trained in sex. So both are, are not true. 

Speaker 4: Right, exactly. And so it’s important to be able to work with another therapist. But you know, I always say, you know, let me help you so that you can do this on your own too. So through kind of collaborating on the client, sometimes they learn a little bit and then, you know, sometimes they’re open to taking some of our courses. 

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I always, when I train therapists, I always say, the number one reason that your clients might fire you is because of you’re not trained in sexuality or gender issues. And they want to talk about that. And what do you think about when Esther Parral and I agree with her, uh, but I want to know what you think, uh, when she says there’s two conversations when you’re working with couples, you know, one is the relationship conversation and one and another is the sexual conversation and one doesn’t make the other necessarily better. What do you think about that? 

Speaker 4: No, I agree as well. I mean, you have to talk about both though. And they’re both oftentimes gonna come up and sometimes together and sometimes separately. 

Speaker 1: Yeah. If I’ve, I’ve started to think as I’ve gotten more in, into the field that it’s a little unethical, uh, maybe very unethical to not ask your couples or your clients around their sexual health. We’re so driven to do everything else. Well bio-psycho-social um, you know, their mental health but not their sexual health. What do you think of that? 

Speaker 4: I think it’s incredibly important. I mean, we know that, you know, um, couples are more experienced, more better in increased couple of satisfaction and relationship satisfaction when they, um, express higher satisfaction in their sexual relationships. So we know that one impacts the other. Um, and so oftentimes when, you know, people are more satisfied that they’re also satisfied with, with their sexual life and they’re on the same page and they’re a, a healthy and satisfying sex life. So we know that’s important. Research has shown us this. 

Speaker 1: So tell me, so that’s great to know about couples and I’m sure people are, would like to, will appreciate hearing that. What about individuals though? How do they manage that when there don’t necessarily have a regular sex partner? 

Speaker 4: Well, I mean that, that’s important as well. I mean it’s, it’s the level of importance depends on the person, right? Um, but also we know that, you know, sex is really good for our health and you know, releases endorphins. So it makes us feel good. If we’re just talking about like our mental health, it can relieve tension, it can help us sleep better, which will lead to better quality of life. Um, increased longevity even makes our brains functional. So those are like things that contribute, you know, besides obviously contributes to our cardiovascular health and, uh, but we know that sexual hormones can lower rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, you know, boost immunity. So whether you’re in a relationship or not, it’s nice to be able to, you know, these are some of the benefits of, of orgasm. 

Speaker 1: What do you think about masturbation? Would that be, um, some, would that be sex for somebody in and help them with that? 

Speaker 4: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are many people that don’t feel comfortable masturbating or you know, have sort of this style of masturbating that they’re not comfortable with. Um, so we help people become more comfortable with that. Um, obviously, you know, it depends on the individual. We, you know, if this is something that, you know, if somebody is, you know, religion due to religion, let’s say, not, you know, in favor of masturbation. We talk about different ways that they can get pleasure. Um, you know, we don’t push somebody to do something they’re not comfortable with or they’re not ready for. But I mean, we know that masturbation leads to another, a number of health benefits in itself. 

Speaker 1: Yeah. That’s good for people to hear too. How do you, um, when you work with couples, how do you help them keep their passion, their sexual passion, erotic, passion alive? 

Speaker 4: Um, so even it’s not even just sexual that we, you know, things that we deal with, we talk about, you know, even just planning time together. Right? Because when you’re disconnected and then when you’re not taking the time to connect, you’re less likely to be sexual with each other. Right. Nowadays, especially when, you know, you have two parents, often times out of the house, you know, working, you have, if you have children in the home or stress from work, you know, you’re often, you often will spend a lot of time together and when you do, it’s not free from distraction. So how many times have you seen couples sitting in a restaurant? Both of them have their phones out, you know, so we help them on, you know, we help them to look at reconnecting as well, um, doing things that they did at the beginning of a relationship. 

Speaker 4: When we’re at the beginning of a relationship and things are more exciting, um, we tend to, um, spend more time trying to court our partners or, uh, become closer. We do things like kiss. I mean, at the beginning of a relationship, couples often enjoy deep kissing and as the relationship duration goes on, this subsides. So talk to couples about just, you know, making it a point to touch and that doesn’t have to be sexual touch to kiss where, you know, like really make out like for a couple of minutes a day. And that doesn’t have to lead to say, you know, any other sexual activity, but, but it could be nice to do that. Um, we, you know, communication is huge. One of the things that often gets lost besides, you know, communicating on a and, and having time together is, um, communicating about sexual needs and what you want. 

Speaker 4: So helping people feel more comfortable with, um, talking about what they like even in the moment. Like, you know, where they like it. Like, you know, keep doing that or, or a little to the right where I, you know, I would love if you would try doing X. um, also I find that a lot of couples really get down on themselves that they’re not having more sex than they have this idea of how it’s supposed to be. And some of that comes from the media. So I talk to people a lot about ditching that myth so that things should happen spontaneously. That this is what it should look like, that it should be this many times. And it should, you know, you shouldn’t be you, you shouldn’t be able to walk past the doorway because you’re so into each other, right? You’re going to rip each other’s clothes off and do it right there against the wall. Like overtime. That’s not, doesn’t happen as often. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a great sex life and you don’t want each other, but have realistic expectations of what that’s gonna look like. 

Speaker 1: I’m so glad you’re saying this because the media does give a false impression that sex should be this headbanging wall against the wall, just like you said, and that’s the beginning of a relationship. That’s not the longterm of a relationship. Is that what you’re saying? 

Speaker 4: Yeah. I mean, I’m not saying that it can’t be that there can’t be a spontaneous sex. I mean, of course we still have that time, some people, but the more sort of life gets in the way, the harder that becomes. And most people have to make a conscious effort just to stay in the relationship and the passion. I mean, as with anything else that you do, right, it doesn’t just happen automatically forever. You have to put time into that. Um, and so plan that time together, even if it’s Sachs and some people say, Oh well that makes it so you know, boring because then we know we’re going to do it. Well, I talked to people about building that anticipation. I actually think it can be even hotter when you know it’s going to happen, let’s say at the end of the day, right. Spend time texting your partner really racy and exciting things and what you can’t wait to do to your partner and you know, set the stage. Um, if you feel comfortable send pictures. I always tell people to leave their, any identifying marks that especially their, their faces out of it if they want to feel safer doing so. 

Speaker 1: Now you tell me. Right, exactly. I love that you said though, I just, I wish I could find this video. I don’t remember where I saw it, but I’ve never forgotten it. It was about longterm vintage love, mature love. And they were, you know, couples together 30 40 years and this was an L an older adult couple. They were probably in their late sixties, early seventies. And he turned to her at the end, any French Kister and it was just a little bit. And then she started laughing and she pulled away and she said, he hasn’t kissed me like that in over 10 years. And she was not negative about it. She was laughing. And I thought, wow, that happens. It 

Speaker 4: absolutely, and for a number of reasons, I mean, but it’s important to regardless of what else was going on in the relationship, remind yourself of what, you know, you first fell in love with what you were attracted to at first and try to get back to that place. And that is, and, and know that it’s going to be different. That different doesn’t have to mean not as good. Right? It can be just as satisfying and just as amazing. Um, but different. Um, as I talk to people about like, remember that mystery and selection are important. So seduction and build up anticipation as I mentioned, like at the beginning of a relationship. Um, continue to make an effort to do those things and to maintain an erotic connection. Um, so don’t make things so routine. So even just a small switch up, that doesn’t mean like, you know, you have to do things you’re not comfortable with. Even just switching positions or switching locations, you know, rooms. Um, don’t focus on just your orgasm. Focus on like fond and excitement and the buildup and what feels so good. Um, and spend time with your partner, really like anticipating, imagining, fantasizing together, share your fantasies. If you’re comfortable, um, just try something new. 

Speaker 1: You know, it’s also really important is what you said earlier in that what you’re saying it now to the whole anticipation thing. People do it when they’re first in relationship. You’re texting all day, you’re sexting all day, you’re planning when you’re going to do it. And I remember, um, listening to Esther PRL talk about people doing it and in infidelity, right? And affairs, you know, they’re planning and they’re having all this seat and it’s exciting. So then you’re right. So why wouldn’t that also be true for when you’re a longterm couple? And it does add to the excitement, just like you say. 

Speaker 4: Yeah, you ha you have to make a conscious effort to have some of these things continue regardless of what’s going on. And I talked to people about sort of reconnecting and I know you and I both work, you know, do some, uh, Margo, um, relationship work. And one of the things I remember the analogy is like, there’s this carpet in between you and the more you know, you, you kicked her under the carpet and if you don’t clean out that dirt right, eventually it’s so high you can’t even see each other. So make sure that you’re focusing on your relationship. You’re, you know, sweeping out that dirt every day and so that you can kind of stay, I, you know, maintain emotionally connected to your partner and not start to build up resentment or let things sort of build up like that. 

Speaker 1: Yeah. Because then that starts building up the resentment and then people don’t, then those things get in the way of lots of things. But, but it also gets in the way of being sexual with one another, doesn’t it? 

Speaker 4: Absolutely. And I know that this, I mean, you know, I don’t tell people who have trauma history if there’s something coming up or pain, but for the majority of people, like I will say, you know, kind of like the Nike slogan, just do it because the truth is, is that our biggest sex organs are brain. So even when you kind of don’t feel like it again, as long as there’s not like some trauma or something coming up in negative in that way, um, you like most likely you’re going to get aroused, you’re going to get into it, you’re going to end up enjoying it. And I tell people how long could it actually take? I mean really like every doesn’t have to be this like marathon session. It could be a little quickie just to connect, just to, you know, have an outlet to feel good and connected to your partner. Just do it. 

Speaker 1: I used to have a client, a gay couple, they used to say, we have two kinds of sex. We have thrown me down sex and we have making love sex and sometimes we just want to get off with one another or quickie. And sometimes we want to eye gaze and foreplay. And so I totally agree with you. I would ask you, um, when you say in this common, I remember learning this even in the 80s that our biggest sex organ is our brain. You just said that. Can you explain that? What do you mean? 

Speaker 4: So when we talk about sex, we often talk about like our genitals, right? And that’s where they typically involved in sex. Yeah. But our biggest sex organ, what we have to be in the moment, we have to be thinking sexy thoughts. I mean, when you’re 11 years old, yes. You kind of like, we think of like an 11 year old like, you know, male, let’s say, who, you know, can, the wind can blow a certain way and swing, you know, they get it, they get an erection. But for the majority of people, like especially as we get older and not just physically, but other things coming up in our life, that’s not how it works. Right? We need to be into it. Our brain. We need to be thinking sexy thoughts present in the moment, um, to be able to really enjoy sexual activity. 

Speaker 1: I told, I really agree. What I’ve been so drawn to you about and still continue to be impressed and drawn to is your passion for learning and teaching and just your VI to me, I’m just going to say you’re very smart. You know, a lot of things. You’re a regular psychologist and then you’re this advanced, um, psychologist and sex therapist. Why did you decide to teach about that and create the modern sex therapy institutes? 

Speaker 4: Um, so that’s a great question. So, you know, I think part of it is, um, obviously from, from as far back as I remember, I wanted to be a psychologist and I grew up with a mother who, you know, was in the women’s health field, spoke very openly about sexuality. So I was always comfortable, you know, discussing sexual topics. I was a peer educator in, in, uh, high school and you know, a lot of people are uncomfortable. So this was just an area that was sort of a natural progression for me. You know, I wanted to help make sure people had accurate information and understanding of how they got to where they are in relation to their sexual issues and concerns and help them towards a path to healthy and satisfying sexual life. And I, I found that, you know, I, I’ve always loved educating. 

Speaker 4: I’ve been teaching since, uh, as soon as I received my master’s in 2003. Um, and I’ve always enjoyed it. And I, I found that there was a gap. There was, you know, a lot of programs but, but not a lot that we’re doing this in a comprehensive way. Um, and so for me, for modern sex therapy and students, our goals were to reach as many people as possible, regardless of where you were in the world. Um, and to have as much information from experts in the area as possible so that people could get the best education when they were studying, um, to, to again, either specialized in sexuality or just learn a little bit more. Um, so, you know, not everyone who goes through our program has to, you know, a certified sex therapist, educator or counselor, you know, they can just choose to learn more about the, the area. 

Speaker 4: We have people that actually aren’t even professionals in our field that have come to workshops. Um, so I just think it’s really important and I think it’s also being recognized. So for our program, for instance, I know you and I spoke last week about the LGBTQA from an a therapy certification program. Will insurance companies now are requiring people to have a certification if they say they work with the LGBTQ population. Um, so, you know, that’s also important. So we’re developing these niches, you know, between having an LGBTQA track, alternative relationships, track people of color, track transgender, mental healthcare track. We’re just trying to expand as much as possible to be able to make sure that people get all the education and all their needs met in one place. 

Speaker 1: And you make it so easy by most of it is online, isn’t it? 

Speaker 4: Yeah, we have, well everything’s available online depending on what certification you want. Some what might have to be in person as well, but we give as many options as possible. So everything’s live, you know, live in person in eight different States now and we’re expanding live via webinars so you can attend from wherever you are in the world. And we professionally record all of our workshops and make them available online after for asynchronous learning. So we give people options. 

Speaker 1: And forgive me if I didn’t hear you say, cause I love when you say how many, um, classes or modules do you have? 

Speaker 4: Uh, over 130 archived workshops. And I think I’ve been saying that for a few months now, which means there’s probably at least 140. 

Speaker 1: I know you continue to do them. I’m just, it’s a, it’s amazing. And I just asked for ’em cause I wanted to learn more about sexual ethics and you, um, it’s like a four part is how many hours is that like four to six hours, isn’t it? 

Speaker 4: Uh, the one I sent you, it was actually an eight hour course. 

Speaker 1: Oh my God. I just think it’s so thorough and so, you know, and I don’t want to scare people and send it necessarily advanced. You have introductory stuff, meaty, meaty, uh, what do you call that? Meet the mediums in between stuff. And then you have the, the harder stuff and um, it’s all good. 

Speaker 4: Everything from just the core, you know, for, from like reproductive and that, you know, anatomy and physiology to developmental sexuality, anything to, you know, treating out of control sexual behavior, which is what Doug, Ron Harvey will be teaching for us in November. Uh, the things that you do, like, you know, um, erotic differentiation and Amal go relationship therapy. So we have, you know, everything in between, you know, the court, the, one of the programs that, that you helped us develop was that couples and sex therapy certification programs. So we recognize that, you know, some people want to be specialized in sex, but they also need more training in working with couples in general. So we, we combined and added the 30 hours and now they can do that as well. 

Speaker 1: That’s really awesome. We have a couple of minutes left. What else would you like people to know about you and your work? 

Speaker 4: Um, you know, I think that, um, you know, it’s possible to do a number of different things, uh, as a therapist. Um, and that specializing is helpful, um, in terms of, you know, building a niche, building a practice, um, for those that are interested in that and that there’s a number of different avenues that you can take to, to become a specialist in sexuality. You know, um, there’s just one route to doing that. 

Speaker 1: That’s great. Oh no, there was a glitch and I think in the, yeah, so go ahead, keep going. 

Speaker 4: Um, and then just on the, you know, professional side in terms of couples is, you know, just take time to reconnect. Um, in general, just make sure that you’re continuing to get to know your partner, that you are spending time together that’s not distracted and that’s your, you know, I tell people, do, do a relationship check in once a month. Have that in your schedule where you, you know, once a month you talk about where your relationships at. What are the things that you’d like to do together? Like what are the, you know, what are your relationship goals, both, both personally, like your goals as a couple as well as to do as a couple, um, where, where would you like to be and, and check in. Are we, are we meeting those? Are there more that we want to add? Are we in a good place? Cause that’s really important. I mean, it’s something that we would do. We get, you know, if you work at a, you know, at a normal job, let’s say you, you get evaluations, you go back and you see where am I with this company? You know, am I meeting my goals or are the, you know, do that for your relationship too. 

Speaker 1: That’s great advice. Thank you so much Rachel. Where can people find you? Where can they find you online? 

Speaker 4: Um, so for modern sex therapy institutes, it’s www.modernsextherapyinstitutes.comandialsohavewww.doctor rachel.com um, and anybody can email me at um, dr Rachel needle@gmail.com and I’m available by phone at (561) 379-7207 and I welcome any questions or anybody interested in learning more about the, you know, being with your partner and what you can do differently or becoming a client or learning more about sexuality as a professional. 

Speaker 1: Thank you so much Rachel. Thanks for being on the show. All right, have a great day. 

Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex smart love. I’m dr Joe court and you can find me on Joe kort.com that’s J O E K O R t.com. See you next time.

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