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Institute of Psychosexual Medicine (IPM)

Who we are

The IPM was founded in 1974 by doctors and Dr Tom Main, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. The professional organisation provides education, training and research in psychosexual medicine. This includes study days, short introductory courses and longer term seminar training to Diploma and Membership level.

What we do

A non-traditional patient approach is fundamental to IPM's work.

Observe and listen

The practitioner learns to listen to the words and observe the atmosphere during the consultation. Words spoken or unspoken in the consultation become important, and noticing patterns of how a patient negotiates their appointments, the urgency of their presentation, and their appearance and manner may all give insights into the difficulty. Special consideration is paid to why the patient has come now.


Study and interpret the practitioner/patient relationship

The relationship that develops within a consultation is studied closely to understand which feelings arise from the patient and which from the doctor. Using a psychodynamic approach, feelings aroused within the doctor are seen as possible “transference” of the patient’s own. These observations when interpreted back to the patient may allow him/her to make connections with their sexual complaint and to understand their problem.

Psychosexual medicine does not involve generalised or prescribed solutions. The practitioner learns to tolerate a degree of uncertainty about the problem and allows the patient to be the expert. By focussing on the interaction between the patient and the practitioner ways can be found to help him or her find a solution.


Use the genital examination as a psychosomatic event

Psychosexual Medicine can only be practised by practitioners who examine in their every day work. The setting of the examination provides another opportunity to look at the evolving practitioner/ patient relationship. The patient and/or the practitioner may lower their defences, thoughts which have not previously been verbalised may emerge, real and imagined fears are acknowledged.

When interpreted in the context of this relationship a true understanding of the patient's difficulty may be reached. 

Contact us

Current Chair: Dr Sheila Radhakrishnan