Dr. Stephen Snyder is a trained psychiatrist and practicing sex therapist. He recently served as guest expert in The Refreshed Therapist Network—a refreshing online community for psychotherapists.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Snyder near his practice in Manhattan, and we discussed his book, Love Worth Making.
When and why did you decide to write this book?
If you've been a sex therapist for 30 years as I have, and you haven't conceived a book idea, then you haven't been paying attention. Sex is the most fascinating window into the human mind.
I served for several years as the Chairperson of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR) Consumer Book Award Committee, and also served on its Professional Book Award Committee. I read scores of sex books, but rarely found anything that I thought contributed much to my clinical practice. I thought more about this, and it occurred to me that there was no really good book about sexual emotions. So I set out to write a book that would have everything I'd learned about how to understand sexual emotions, particularly in committed relationships. (Here's a video I made that explains this in more detail.)
I experimented for years with the ideas and techniques that ultimately went into this book, and I often sent patients drafts of it to read. I'd get their feedback, keep what worked, and discard the rest.
Who is the target reader for your book, and how does it help this person?
Research suggests that up to 25% of adult American women in heterosexual relationships are markedly distressed about their sex lives. These women are my primary audience. But I've had people of every age, gender, and orientation tell me they found it helpful. I've also been told it makes a great wedding gift.
The book is intended to be useful for therapists as well—especially therapists who aren't sex therapists but who want to be able to counsel people in their office about sexual matters. Sex problems are so ubiquitous that most clients at some point will want help with sex concerns, if their therapist is open to hearing about it. I call this "being your client's 'accidental sex therapist.'"
How can sex therapists, or couple therapists, use the book in their work with clients?
Most therapists I've spoken with just give the book to a client and tell them to read it all the way through. It's designed to be very easy reading. Most of it's stories anyway, so it's not technical at all. There are no lists to be memorized, no worksheets, and no quizzes. Nothing to work at, or accomplish.
It's just to be enjoyed. I mean, after all it's a sex book.
How has writing this book impacted your career and visibility?
Nowadays when someone calls me for an appointment, there's a good chance they're already read my book. Which is fabulous, because it means they've already begun percolating ideas about what they need. That's a big time-saver in the office. It lets us move right away to more interesting stuff.
You probably had to do a fair amount of background reading, before sitting down to write Love Worth Making.
That's an understatement. When I wasn't writing, I was usually busy reading.
What are the best books you encountered along the way, that you'd recommend to therapists, or to their clients who are interested in exploring this topic?
I added an extensive Notes section at the back of Love Worth Making. So if you find a particular chapter of interest, you can easily check the sources.
Love Worth Making owes a tremendous debt to the late Avodah Offit, who basically originated the idea of a "sexual self" back in the 1970's. She wrote a fair amount about early attachment and later adult sexuality. She'd originally intended to be a writer before going to medical school, and she had a wry, poetic style that was uniquely her own. Her best book is Night Thoughts: Reflections of a Sex Therapist (1981)—basically a collection of essays, some of which are masterpieces of originality.
Dorothy Dinnerstein's The Mermaid and the Minotaur is another book from the 1970's whose ideas I found invaluable.
Among more modern authors, I probably owe the greatest debt to Ian Kerner (She Comes First), Michael Bader (Arousal), Emily Nagoski (Come As You Are), Harriet Lerner (The Dance of Anger), Timothy Gallwey (The Inner Game of Tennis), Jon Kabat-Zinn (Mindfulness for Beginners), and Lori Brotto (Better Sex Through Mindfulness). Lori Brotto originated the idea of applying mindfulness to sex, and much of my book is mindfulness-based.
What's next for you?
For my next book, I'm hoping to write about masculinity. Conflicts about what masculinity means, exactly, are at the heart of many couples' troubles today.
The most important development of the 20th Century may well have been the emancipation of women. The most important development of the 21st Century may be men figuring out how to handle the consequences of this.
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Dr. Snyder taught members of The Refreshed Therapist Network (RTN) how to move through the idea-development, writing, and publishing stages of book creation. His masterclass will guide you in the essentials, and it’s available inside the membership. Learn more.