Applying theories of social exchange and symbolic interaction in the treatment of unconsummated marriage/relationship. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, February 2009

Talli Rosenbaum


The application of sociological theories in clinical practice introduces a broader dimension to the existing therapeutic approaches available to the mental health practitioner. Rather than deal with a presenting problem or dysfunction by focusing solely on the presenting symptoms, or delving exclusively into a client's internal psyche, applying social theory in a clinical manner adds the element of interpersonal relationships and the connection of the client with his or her social world. This article will describe a therapeutic approach to treating clients and couples in an unconsummated relationship who present with a specific sexual dysfunction or problem that is commonly addressed with sex counseling or sex therapy. Drawing upon sociological micro theories of exchange and symbolic interactionism, this approach combines classic medical, cognitive and behavioral interventions with a process of discovery that leads to an understanding of the social context out of which the problems emerged and are maintained.