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Sexual Desire Disorders: Dysfunctional Regulation of Sexual Motivation.

Helen Singer Kaplan. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 199. ISBN 087630-784-5.

Reviewed by: Claude Guldner, Th.D., Director, Couple and Family Therapy Centre, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario.

Helen Singer Kaplan was a pioneer in the field of sex therapy. Her work contributed greatly to our understanding and recognition of the absence of sexual desire as a clinical disorder requiring proper treatment. While Masters and Johnson revolutionized sex therapy in the 1960s by classifying sexual dysfunctions according to a four-stage sexual response cycle, Kaplan was among the first to recognize that their model did not account for sexual problems that are rooted in a lack of desire. She postulated a triphasic model of sexual response with desire as the first necessary component of sexual response.

Sexual Desire Disorders. Dysfunctional Regulation of Sexual Motivation is the product of Kaplan's nearly two decades of research and clinical practice in treating sexual desire disorders. The book provides a thorough explanation of the theoretical underpinnings of her work, supplemented by numerous case histories. Although she maintains that her original ideas about desire disorders were "basically on the right track", this book updates and supplements her earlier research and clinical data considerably.

Kaplan conceptualizes the desire phase of sexual response according to a six level continuum: hyperactive sexual desire; high-normal sexual desire; low-normal sexual desire; mild hypoactive sexual desire, severe hypoactive sexual desire; and sexual aversion/phobia disorder. Based on this continuum, She discusses the etiology and treatment of desire disorders from a biopsychosocial perspective that considers neuro-physiological, psychodynamic, and environmental influences on desire. She emphasizes a cognitive behavioural treatment model augmented by psychodynamic approaches when complex issues emerge.

A possible weakness of this approach is that it gives too little attention to sociocultural differences in sexuality. Kaplan's theoretical conceptualization of human sexual desire does not adequately account for how sexual desire is, to some extent, socially constructed. She is far more concerned with behaviour and with psychodynamic conscious/ unconscious factors in etiology than with the meaning that individuals and couples give to their experiences and behaviour.

Nevertheless, Kaplan's work is essential reading for the student and practitioner of sex therapy. As an updated and comprehensive chronicle of that work, Sexual Desire Disorders: Dysfunctional Regulation of Sexual Motivation is an important addition to the sex therapy literature.
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Author:Guldner, Claude
Publication:The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1997
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