CLOSED | Sex in the Digital Age: The impact on attachment and intimacy

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Date(s) - 09/06/2018
8:30 am - 5:00 pm

Friends House


CPD Hours seven

08:30 – Registration & Coffee

09:00 – AGM

09:45 – Welcome & Conference Open
Peter Saddington

09.50 – Online Dating, Cyber Safety, and Sexting! Oh my! How to work with technology-related intimacy issues in practice
Presented by: Dr Markie Louise Christianson (L. C.) Twist
Chair: Peter Saddington

10:40 – Coffee / Tea

11:10 – Internet Infidelity: Perceptions, experiences and implications for therapeutic practice? 
Presented by: Dr Andreas Vossler and Dr Naomi Moller
Chair:Corinna Furse

12:10 – Caught in the Net: Couples and the internet
Presented by: Jenny Riddell
Chair: Andrew Yates

13:10 – Lunch

14.10 – What are we Frightened of? Sex in the digital age 
Presented by: Feona Attwood
Chair: Dana Braithwaite

15:10 – Coffee / Tea

15:40 – Digisexuality?! What the tech is it?
Presented by: Dr Markie Louise Christianson (L. C.) Twist
Chair: Kirstie McEwan

16:20 – Closing Remarks
Peter Saddington

16:30 – Conference Close

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Online Dating, Cyber Safety, and Sexting! Oh my! How to work with technology-related intimacy issues in practice

The Internet and new media have changed how we relate—our dating experiences, sense of personal and relational safety, methods of communicating with partners—in short virtually everything. Yet, there remains a dearth of clinical literature and training on how best to work with technology-related intimacy issues, and the relational advantages that technology can present for people and their relationships when skillfully managed. Thus, in this talk, I present my co-developed framework—the Couple and Family Technology Framework—and offer related practical clinical tools for bolstering the advantages that technology can have in relationships while minimizing the issues that it presents.

Presenter: Markie Louise Christianson (L. C.) Twist, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and mental health counselor, as well as a clinical fellow and approved supervisor of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and certified sexuality educator through the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Dr. Twist has over 70 journal publications, 13 book chapters, and has presented over 200 times in various venues. Dr. Twist is co-author of the book, The Couple and Family Technology Framework: Intimate Relationships in a Digital Age. Dr. Twist also serves as the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Virtual Issues Editor, and is an editorial board member for the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. In addition, Dr. Twist serves as a visiting professor in the Couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Twist is also an associate professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department, and Marriage and Family Therapy Program, as well as the Program Coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Sex Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and is an Affiliate of the Wisconsin Harvesting Opportunities for Post-Secondary Education (HOPE) Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more on Dr. Twist link to

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Internet Infidelity: Perceptions, experiences and implications for therapeutic practice? 

With the Internet and social media now being part of everyday life in the Western world, there are growing opportunities for partners to engage in online behaviours and activities that may be considered unfaithful in the context of a committed relationship. This matters because infidelity commonly causes significant relationship distress and can have a negative and deteriorating effect on marriages and families. There is however a lack of information about the actual online behaviour and its impact with little research conducted with those who have actually been impacted by internet infidelity. In this talk we will present research findings on perceptions and experiences of Internet infidelity in the general public, and the impact of problematic online behaviours on couple relationships and families. Based on the presented research evidence, we will discuss practical implications for working with this presenting problem in therapeutic practice and provide an overview of treatment approaches for therapeutic work with Internet infidelity.


Dr Andreas Vossler is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University, as well as a Chartered Psychologist and trained systemic couple and family psychotherapist. His research activities are curreently focussed on intimate relationships and therapeutic work with infidelity and online affairs. He is lead editor ofMad or Bad? A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology (2107) and  co-editor of The Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Handbook (2014) and Understanding Counselling and Psychotherapy(2010; all Sage). He has published many academic papers and book chapters on topics related to counselling and psychotherapy, family therapy, online counselling and health psychology.

Dr Naomi Moller is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University, as well as a Chartered Psychologist. She is also Joint Head of Research at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Her research activities are currently focussed on two areas: (1) intimate relationships and therapeutic work with infidelity and online affairs and (2) the implications for therapy and understandings of family of embryo donation for family building, a form of donor conception. Naomi has published many academic papers and book chapters on topics related to counselling and psychotherapy.

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Caught in the Net: Couples and the internet

This paper will look at examples of the role of the internet in a couple’s relationship. We will explore how the internet may act as a catalyst for dynamic change, resulting in increasing or dimininishing intimacy in the couple’s relationship. Using clinical vignettes illustration will be offered as to how this may present in, and be worked through in couple psychotherapy. The attachment patterns of the individual and their couple fit will be explored alongside the role of the therapeutic encounter and the triad in the room in effecting understanding and change.

Presenter: Jenny Riddell, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working with individuals and couples. She is a registered member of The Bowlby Centre and TIMP. Her specialist interests are in how a couple grieve, infertility, affairs and working with couples in later life. She has a private practice and supervises trains, teaches and is academic supervisor for MA dissertations on a variety of psychotherapy trainings. She has worked with Relate, WPF, TR, and is a member of BPC, UKCP, BAPPS, BACP (Snr Accred).

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What are we Frightened of? Sex in the digital age 

Sex is increasingly connected with the digital, with digital media a central access point or portal through which individuals experience, articulate, negotiate, and define their desires. Concerns about the future of sex in the digital age raise a number of important questions about the way we experience and conceptualize sex and sexuality and how we might understand the relation between the material and mediated worlds of sex.

In this presentation I examine the concerns that are often expressed about digital sex and how these clarify hopes and fears about the future of sex as it becomes increasingly mediated, networked, ambient, and mobile. I consider these concerns in relation to what we actually know about the developing connections between sex and digital media. I show how these connections may challenge the ways we are used to thinking about sex and how they might also help us to develop expertise that can be deployed in educational, political and medical contexts, and build the everyday knowledge that we need to navigate the way our sex lives are changing.

Presenter: Feona Attwood, Professor of Cultural Studies, Media and Communication. Her work investigates the changing place and significance of gender and sex and their representation in contemporary society. It examines the ways in which sexual practices and representations are caught up in wider debates around bodies, media and technologies, and the emerging centrality of new technologies in conceptions of gender and sexuality. She is the author of Sex Media (2018) and co-editor of the journals Sexualities and Porn Studies.

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Digisexuality?! What the tech is it?

In this talk I will answer the question of what is digisexuality and why it is essential for clinicians to be aware of digisexuality and how to offer support to people who engage in digisexuality. Along with my colleague, we have coined this term and we conceptualize it in two waves. The defining feature of first wave digisexuality is that the technology mediates a sexual connection with a human partner (think sexting, online pornography, use of avatars, as a few examples). The defining feature of second wave digisexuality is the immersivity; meaning either no human partner is present, or if they are, their presence is not essential to the experience (here we are talking sex dolls, viritual reality sex, sexbots). In relation to engagement in digisexual practices, paritcualrly, of a second wave nature, we believe that some people will (and do) identify with a digisexual identity and related community. Indeed, in the not too distant future, we believe there are and will be people who see digisexual as their primary sexual and erotic orientation – they will be in relationships with their technology and this will be their primary sexual and relational orientation, not an orientation to humans. Based on this theory, I will discuss the implications for working with digisexuals, including the sexual stigmatization, erotocentrism, and digisexualphobia they will (and no doubt do) face.

Presenter: Markie Louise Christianson (L. C.) Twist, Ph.D.

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The full fee for attending the conference is £95 for COSRT members and £110 for non-members.

Cheques should be made payable to COSRT in GB pounds sterling. Payment must be received by COSRT before the conference. Confirmation and details of your booking will be emailed to you.

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COSRT reserves the right to change the venue or speakers due to unforeseen circumstances. In the unlikely event of the conference being cancelled, a full refund will be made, but COSRT disclaims any further liability.

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