LOS ANGELES — Her professional mantra is “Great Life, Great Sex,” and sexpert Dr. Megan Fleming is dedicated to providing the strategies, skills, and tools for everyday folks to experience both.
A clinical psychologist, AASECT-certified Diplomate in sex therapy and IMAGO-certified in couples therapy, Fleming specializes in relationship issues, helping people in New York City “bring the sexy back” for more than 15 years by tackling issues like body image, desire, sexual makeovers and much more.
Fleming believes intimacy is more than sex, and monogamy doesn't need to equal monotony. Through her workshops and counseling, her goal is to help couples rekindle sagging relationships and spice up their sex lives. Fleming says, she’ll “…show you how to disarm your fears, transform your limiting beliefs, and learn the foundational skills that research shows lead to Masters of Relationship.”
A featured speaker at the upcoming Sexual Health Expo (SHE) in New York, Fleming will no doubt be a main attraction to attendees seeking sage bedroom advice and some intriguing entertainment from the married (15 years) mother of two children, who not only doles out advice, but “walks the walk.”
XBIZ had the recent opportunity to ask Fleming questions about her career and what she feels about the burgeoning sexual health landscape that’s fast becoming the hottest area for consumers today.
XBIZ: Your expertise as a sex therapist is in relationship study. How did you decide to focus on that part of the discipline?
Fleming: While doing my internship and post-doc for Clinical Psychology at Weil Cornell/New York Presbyterian Hospital, I was fortunate to have the training opportunity to do the two-year Human Sexuality Program that Helen Singer Kaplan founded. I doubt I need to mention to the SHE audience, but Helen is the one who added the desire phase to the sexual response cycle.
I began to specialize in sex therapy and started having a number of couples where frankly, I wasn’t feeling competent in my ability to address the dynamics of their relationship that often contributed significantly to their sexual issues. I trained at Ackerman Institute for the Family, became certified in IMAGO relationship therapy and have extensively trained also in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.
I firmly believe in having many tools in my toolbox as a couples and sex therapist so I can meet any couple where they are and can tailor a road map and individualized treatment plan.
XBIZ: What made you decide to enter the field?
Fleming: My interest in sex came through medical illness. Bet you wouldn’t have expected that. Working at Memorial Sloane Kettering for my post-doc, while simultaneously doing my sex therapy training I saw the need and interest to give back pleasure to men and women who had experienced significant sexual side effects from their cancer and it’s treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation, infertility). I loved and love helping couples reconnect to all that’s possible for giving, receiving and experiencing pleasure in their bodies.
XBIZ: Are you seeing more everyday people opening up about their sex lives and seeking guidance?
Fleming: Yes and no. I definitely think in our world today post Viagra, "Sex in the City" and the newly approved Flibanserin/Addyi [Viagra-like pill for women] individuals are aware now more than ever, the importance of sex in a healthy, thriving relationship and that effective treatments are available when difficulties with sexual desire, arousal or ability to orgasm come up.
The reason I still think no is that sex is a topic that adults want to feel like an expert and often there are a lot of feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt that come up as a block. Seeking treatment for many can be one of the hardest things to do, they feel exposed, vulnerable and yet, when they come in, almost globally they experience a huge exhale and feeling of relief to know there’s both hope and help.
XBIZ: What are the most common relationship issues?
Fleming: The most common relationship issues I see are mismatched levels of desire, sexless relationships, those impacted by sexual dysfunctions or the crisis of an affair or addiction (drugs, alcohol, out of control sexual behavior).
XBIZ: Attendees at the SHE conference for the most part are consumers looking to spice up their sex lives. How do you counsel them in this area?
Fleming: I let them know that they’ve already taken the first step by having the thought, wanting a sexier, spicier sex life. The desire itself is already leading to its outcome. When couples visualize and know that more is possible, they already are open to exploring new ways of playing, touching and engaging one another to take their sex lives to the next level.
XBIZ: You’ve been featured in a number of mainstream publications and TV shows. Do you feel mainstream media is becoming more open to discussing sexual matters?
Fleming: Yes, and I love that sex is no longer considered a dirty or censored word. Having sexual matters in the news, normalizes real life challenges and possibilities that I hope inspires couples to have the difficult conversations that they often prefer to avoid. I often tell clients who don’t know how to start a sex conversation (and don’t want to say they’ve been coming in to see me) use a magazine like Cosmo or Maxim and say, I just read … and thought ... What do you think … or they have a sex challenge or survey, up for taking it together?
XBIZ: You say monogamy doesn’t have to be monotonous. Please explain.
I think today more than ever there are all of these conversations and books about whether we are wired for monogamy, or whether that state/choice is against our nature. I believe that there are tons of benefits to monogamy and that it’s time to let go of that image of marriage being a ball and chain. Marriage is what you make it. Yes, it’s work and yet it’s the things that we put our effort into that we most value and can count on.
Most couples do fall into ruts or scripted sex. I say that’s a warning sign, sex should not become mechanical or feel not worth having. It’s up to the couple to explore their bodies, sexuality and sources of pleasure. To me, monogamy is where you feel the safety to get on a tightrope together, face the unknown and really expand your sexual repertoire.
XBIZ: Are there certain age groups that struggle with these issues more than others?
Fleming: Yes and no. Certainly, there are increased rates of disease and disability with age, along with normal age related changes to sexual functioning that impact sexual response. That said, cultural and sexual orientation may also present greater challenges and struggles for some more than others. Sex doesn’t discriminate, no matter your age, gender, race, sexual orientation, we can all be vulnerable at some point in our lives with a sexual struggle. The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone and there is help.
XBIZ: Do you endorse the use of pleasure products, i.e. vibes, gels, etc.?
Fleming: Yes, and I frequently recommend websites, products, and even local stores where clients can go and ask questions and explore the sensations of different kinds of lubes, vibrators, to feel the different weight and texture of dildos, etc.
XBIZ: Your workshop’s watchwords are “Great Life, Great Sex.” Do you feel sex is the key to happiness?
Fleming: For me, great sex is an integral part of having a great life. Our keys to happiness can be unique as each of us are individuals. I let my clients define their own version of their great life and great sex. Sex allows us to feel alive and connected, to me, that’s a huge key to thriving.
XBIZ: What can SHE attendees expect from your talk in September?
Fleming: My workshop is all about making sense of relationship challenges and what to do when the rubber meets the road and you find yourself on the other side of romantic love.
The dopamine and other neurotransmitters that are known as the “love cocktail” and fuel the passion in the beginning stages of relationship are meant to end. That’s when all of a sudden you start to experience the once refreshing aspect of your partner being laid back as lazy and for others, the appreciation of their partner’s order and organization as controlling. The conflicts and frustrations that come up in relationship are meant to happen and are the opportunity for growth, intimacy and great sex.
I’m going to show participants how to disarm their fears, transform their limiting beliefs and learn the foundational skills that research shows lead to Masters of Relationship.
XBIZ: Do you feel sexual health is a burgeoning field? Can we expect exponential growth in the years to come with more sexperts?
Fleming: I hope so. We’ve recently had the FDA approval of the first medication for women with low sexual desire (Addyi), and many more medications for men and women to come. In the end however, even with more medical treatments available, the psychological, relational, cultural aspects of sexuality and sexual difficulties can’t be ignored. We need more qualified and trained professionals to help individuals and couples get the information, education, counseling and resources they need to address their own specific and unique challenges.