Reframing Exercise as Movement: Meeting Our Bodies Where They Are

It is easy to think that a healthy lifestyle must look a certain way–think about the many aesthetically pleasing lifestyle accounts on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc. When our own lifestyle does not align with what we see on these platforms, we potentially end up perceiving ourselves as unhealthy.

When I was in high school, I remember following several fitness-related accounts that essentially promoted just one way of engaging in physical activity. Everyone’s weekly exercise plans looked the same–it always had to be something along the lines of Monday: Lower Body Strength Training and HIIT, Tuesday: Upper Body Strength Training and Core, Wednesday: Total Body Cardio, and so on. If you did not do 40-60 minutes (or longer) of intense exercise every single day, you were not “grinding” hard enough. To this day, I still see influencers with large platforms promoting similar ideas.

I mean, it is true that moderate- to high-intensity exercise has significant benefits for our physical and mental health. But when it reaches a certain point–when one starts to prioritise exercise above all other aspects of life such as relationships, self-care, and rest–it can become unhealthy. Additionally, attempting to do moderate- to high-intensity exercise routines every single day for the rest of your life is not sustainable in the long-term. This kind of all-or-nothing thinking where anything less than moderate- to high-intensity exercise does not “count” can lead to a lot of guilt when life inevitably gets in the way of strict exercise plans.

So, how can we better sustain a healthy lifestyle in the long-term?

There are a few ways, one of them is reframing the way we think of physical activity. Specifically, reframe exercise as movement. Movement is essentially anything that involves the act of, well, moving. Broad, right? That is the point. When we think of traditional exercise (strength training, HIIT, cardio, etc.) as just one way to engage in movement, it allows for more freedom and flexibility in the way we engage in physical activity.

Part of reframing exercise as movement more generally is understanding that there are several other ways to engage in physical activity that still benefit our overall well-being. Some examples of movement (that are not traditional exercise) include:

• Walking
• Swimming
• Stretching
• Dancing
• Cleaning
• Gardening

Research has found that regular movement can improve your mood and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress (Ensari et al., 2018; Meyer et al., 2016), increase your energy levels (Ellingson et al., 2014), reduce the risk of chronic disease (Booth et al., 2017), improve blood flow to the brain and improve brain health and memory (Jackson et al., 2016), and improve sleep (D’Aurea et al., 2019).

Now, this is not to say ‘down with traditional exercise routines! Throw your dumbbells out the window!’ First of all, please do not throw your dumbbells out the window, that is incredibly dangerous. Second, reframing exercise as movement is simply one way to facilitate a more diverse and flexible way of engaging in physical activity. It is about listening to your body and meeting your body where it is at in the moment (as opposed to limiting yourself to a strict and intense exercise plan you must follow every week). It may be that one week, you are extremely busy with a work project, and you know that it would be difficult to do two strength training routines, three cardio routines, and two HIIT routines. So instead, your movement plan for that week may look like:

• Two days of strength training
• Multiple days of more everyday forms of movement (e.g., bouts of 10-minute walks, brief dance parties throughout the day, cleaning different areas of the house throughout the week)
• One or two days of rest coupled with some light stretching

Additionally, it may be that you have received doctor’s orders not to engage in certain movements due to an injury or postpartum recovery. Or you may be dealing with an illness where light movement and rest are more beneficial to healing. It may also be that you are travelling or on vacation where it is harder to engage in traditional exercise. There are many reasons for needing to change what your movement plan looks like. It may look the same for a week, or a month, or longer. But it may also change on a weekly basis…maybe even a daily basis! There is really no one-size-fits-all movement plan. It is all about doing what works for you right now and doing so without guilt or judgement. In other words, meet your body where it is at.


Booth, F. W., Roberts, C. K., Thyfault, J. P., Ruegsegger, G. N., & Toedebusch, R. G. (2017). Role of inactivity in chronic diseases: Evolutionary insight and pathophysiological mechanisms. Physiological Reviews, 97(4), 1351–1402.

D’Aurea, C. V. R., Poyares, D., Passos, G. S., Santana, M. G., Youngstedt, S. D., Souza, A. A., Bicudo, J., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M. T. (2019). Effects of resistance exercise training and stretching on chronic insomnia. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 41(1), 51–57.

Ellingson, L. D., Kuffel, A. E., Vack, N. J., & Cook, D. B. (2014). Active and sedentary behaviors influence feelings of energy and fatigue in women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(1), 192–200.

Ensari, I., Sandroff, B. M., & Motl, R. W. (2016). Effects of single bouts of walking exercise and yoga on acute mood symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis. International Journal of MS Care, 18(1), 1–8.

Jackson, P. A., Pialoux, V., Corbett, D., Drogos, L., Erickson, K. I., Eskes, G. A., & Poulin, M. J. (2016). Promoting brain health through exercise and diet in older adults: A physiological perspective. The Journal of Physiology, 594(16), 4485–4498.

Meyer, J. D., Koltyn, K. F., Stegner, A. J., Kim, J. S., & Cook, D. B. (2016). Influence of exercise intensity for improving depressed mood in depression: A dose-response study. Behavior Therapy, 47(4), 527–537.

The Foundations of Sleep

Sleep Foundations

When was the last time you woke up in the morning feeling refreshed and not needing an alarm clock? Would you say that you got enough sleep over the past week? These are the first two questions sleep researcher, Matthew Walker, asks in his wonderful book “Why we sleep.” He then goes on to write that research has suggested two-thirds of adults answer these questions with a simple “no.” The fact is, we need sleep but for the majority of us, we don’t get enough. In psychology we discuss sleep strategies and techniques as “sleep hygiene” however, my intention for this piece is just to provide the basics of sleep with a few tips and tricks as such we will call this Sleep Foundations.

What’s happening in the brain

When you think about it, initially sleep doesn’t really make sense. It is our most vulnerable state, and we are super unproductive – from an evolutionary perspective this seems well, dumb! However, when we then unpack why we sleep, you can see that it is our most productive state and fundamental for survival.

Throughout the night an average person will go through 4-6 sleep cycles that consists of four sleep stages (creatively called stage 1-4). As you progress through the night the sleep cycle will increase in longevity starting at about 70 minutes where later cycles can last about 90mins. The first two stages are called Light Sleep that consists of falling asleep (about 7 minutes) to Light Sleep stage 2 in which the brain activity slows (lasting about 10-25 minutes). On average, a person typically spends about half their time in stage two light sleep. Light sleep helps to sort out the content in the hippocampus (the memory and learning centre), like a cleaner and providing a mental refresh.

Next comes Stage 3 or Deep Sleep (20-40mins), in this state the body is relaxed and is critical to a restorative sleep, allowing the body and brain to recovery and have growth. The first sleep cycle of the night mostly consists of Deep sleep however, if one was to stay up and say, binge Netflix or scroll on TikTok, what actually happens is that a part of this stage gets disrupted. Deep sleep helps sort out the hippocampus so the information gets to it’s appropriate destination. So naturally, if these first sleep cycles are disrupted, our brains can have a hard time processing memories or moving new concepts into long-term storage (which is why late-night cramming sessions aren’t very successful).

The first three stages are also considered Non-REM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) as the final Stage, Stage 4, is called REM sleep (10-60mins). During REM sleep the brain’s activity is similar to when you are awake, however the body’s muscle’s experience temporary paralysis where you can then experience dreams. In the initial sleep cycle you barely enter REM sleep and as the night goes on the REM stages are extended. In REM sleep our brains do fascinating work in trying to make sense of the day, connecting stored memories and new memories often in weird and wonderful stories that we call dreams. REM sleep can offer not just creative but emotional insights too. Dreams can be therapeutic in which they help to facilitate a processing of intense emotions such as fear and anxiety. In short, Deep sleep helps to store and recall information, Light sleep helps to learn new information and REM helps to improve how we make sense of information and any emotions that are associated with the information.

So what is a full night sleep? I have heard people try to survival on 6 hours a night, often in the pursuit of being more productive. However, to be blunt less than 1% of the population can survive on 6 hours or less. As an adult, we actually need 7-9 hours of sleep availability. What I mean by this is having enough time, where we account for sleep initiation and disturbances throughout the night – which are very normal. For teenagers, the recommended hours for sleep is 8-10 where it then gets longer for younger children (school aged children require 9-12hours). A great experiment to find the right amount of hours for yourself is to allow yourself to naturally wake up, with no alarm clock (preferably on a day where there is no work responsibilities). You could also ask yourself:

  • When getting the minimum of 7 hours, do you feel productive and happy or longing for more hours in the night?
  • Do you have any medical or health concerns that might require more rest?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get through your day?
  • What are your energy levels like throughout the day?
  • When you have an open schedule, do you tend to hit snooze and have a sleep in?

You may be asking yourself, “How does the brain know when to sleep and when to be awake?” The answer may be something you’ve heard about before – the circadian rhythm. This acts as the brain’s biological clock, lasting roughly around 24 hours. The true name of this internal clock is the suprachiasmatic nucleus which sits in the front part of the brain, drawing a line behind your eyes. Throughout the day a sleep pressure is built up through chemicals that initiates sleep such as adenosine that will create a feeling of sleepiness during the evening.

Alongside adenosine, in the evening the suprachiasmatic nucleus releases melatonin that together helps to drift off into a slumber. There are of course a number of factors that will impact the body clock which consequently can shift the sleep pressure. One example is caffeine, this acts as a block to the sleep pressure building up (think of a dam) but as one might expect (and experience) the dam will ultimately fail and the waterfall of sleep pressure that had been building up throughout the day will come crashing in. This actually happens slower than one would think given that caffeine has a half-life of 5-7 hours, meaning if you consume caffeine in the afternoon say at 7.30pm then by 1.30am you will still have 50% of that caffeine in your system. Sleep will not come easy or as smooth as your brain battles against the opposing forces of caffeine. Sneakily, caffeine is also in green tea, decaf (yep!), colas, chocolate even ice cream!

As I mentioned, there are a number of factors however the last one I will leave you with is light. Light exposure has the biggest influence on our body clock where the sun encourages us to be awake and the moon encourages us to be sleepy. Blue light from devices can trick our brains into suppressing the release of melatonin which we need to initiate that first sleep cycle. For example, reading a book on a device suppresses melatonin production by 50% more then reading a printed book.

If you want to know more about sleep tips and tricks, check out our sleep foundations checklist gift! Lastly, if you do experience any sleep difficulties, please seek professional support that can create a tailored sleep intervention that will suit you. If you answered no to any of the above questions or simply just want to improve your sleep, I challenge you to take on these tips and tricks on our sleep foundations checklist and see if they make any difference. Sweet dreams!

A way to connect with your inner world

You may have come across self-reflection promoted as a process we can only engage in when we encounter difficult experiences or experience overwhelming feelings. While that is absolutely a way to use self-reflection, it can also be a way to really connect with your own inner world! Most importantly, it can be for any and all experiences, including the exciting and the mundane. Reflecting on your happiest moments or the most mundane moments of doing laundry is a part of the process too. 

Self-reflection can also be a process to help you clarify your values, your thoughts and actions and help you gain perspective and a better understanding of yourself. For example, individual psychological therapy is one of the many places we engage in guided self-reflection with the help from a psychologist! While this is important, we can also do our own self-reflection in our day to day lives with some journaling, talking to friends or even with drawing or playing music. Don’t underestimate the ways we can explore our inner worlds! In this blog post, I will be exploring some ways we can connect with our inner worlds.

Journaling is one such method that has gained quite a bit of popularity with lots of journaling prompts popping up left and right on socials! Journaling can provide us with a safe space to reflect, question, cry, laugh and look back on to  remember. It is not only a tool but also a space where we can be unconditionally ourselves and pour out our emotions without judgment! It can be super fun to experiment with different ways of journaling to explore your inner world: 

  1. Reflective journaling: A way to reflect on your experiences and interpreting events to find meaning or value. Often done by writing down experiences or by using journal prompts. 
  2. Gratitude journaling: Writing about experiences for which we are grateful for or a list of things we are grateful for to cultivate appreciative feelings. 
  3. Dream journaling: Writing down your dreams on a regular basis and tracking or noticing specific themes and patterns over time to uncover certain emotions or experiences. 
  4. Stream of consciousness journaling: Writing down whatever comes to your mind, free of judgment and grammatical correctness until you are ready to stop, it can be great for emotional release. 
  5. Visual journaling: Drawing, collaging or any type of visual art form to express your feelings or experiences, you can always turn your words into certain artistic expressions. 

It can always be a fun experiment to try them out and see how each method feels for you personally. Not only is journaling a way we can explore our inner worlds and gain a better understanding of ourselves, there are also a wide variety of benefits that we can gain from journaling practices: 

  • It may improve our mood by creating cognitive space between thoughts and worries after writing them down.
  • It can help help visualise the issues at hand and help us prioritise any issues if needed. 
  • It may improve stress over time as we slowly learn our triggers and how to better recognise them.
  • It can reduce unhelpful thoughts by providing a non-judgemental space and a place to practice adaptive self-talk.

However, it is always important to remember that it is an exercise and not meant to be solution, and ultimately what you enjoy and works best for you will benefit you the most! 

Did you know that journaling can also act as an emotion regulation technique? Well, research has shown that when we expressively write our feelings and emotions down, it can serve as an emotion regulation technique (Torre and Lieberman, 2018). This is because expressive writing can serve as a mindfulness mechanism. When we put our feelings into words, we have to recognise which feelings we are feeling and where they are coming from. When we engage in that level of observation, it can calm down the mind and regulate our emotions (of course, it is good to keep in mind that this may not work for every emotion!).


Before you dive right in, it can be important to keep these few things in mind: 

  1. Deep breaths and mindfulness! Take it one step at a time and try to be as mindful and as present as you can when journaling. 
  2. Less over-thinking more re-thinking! It is important to make a distinction between over-thinking and re-thinking, research has shown that ruminating can be quite harmful for our mental health. So try engaging in re-thinking as much as possible instead over-thinking. Re-thinking is about bringing in new information and perspectives and eventually coming to a decision, with potentially a goal in mind on how to approach the situation next time. 
  3. For anything and everything! Don’t feel pressured to write perfectly or express yourself perfectly, it can be a space to write whatever comes to mind. Again, it is about connecting with yourself and not always about solving problems or writing about difficult events. It can be about your daily life or your happy moments too! 
  4. It may not always be exciting! While it can be exciting to have empty pages of a journal to fill, it can also be intimidating too – multiple things can be true at once! 

Remember what will be most beneficial is listening to yourself and your own needs in the moment! And always reach out for professional help when needed. 

Links and resources: 


My Experience as a Racial/Ethnic Minority in Australia

I remember my very first day at an Australian school. Right away, I felt like the odd one out being the only Brown girl in a class full of White people. My teacher assigned the smartest girl in class to help me settle in. She spoke very slowly to me, and the feeling of being out of place was getting stronger and stronger by the second. In that moment, I decided I would try my best to put on an Australian accent. When I responded to the girl, she was shocked that I could speak English (of course, it was the only language I could speak) and that I even had an Aussie accent (albeit a mediocre one). For the remainder of primary school, I had several interactions where someone would ask,


“Where are you from?”

“The Philippines.”

“But you sound so Australian!”/”But your English is so good!”


And I would almost cherish comments like that, feeling as though I had just been complimented. At the same time, however, I would feel a twinge of sadness, and I didn’t fully grasp why this was the case until much later. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the reason I decided to put on an accent was to blend in. But when people were asking me where I was from and when they were making comments about my English, my “otherness” was actually being brought to the forefront.

In high school, I was still putting on an accent which was exhausting. I didn’t tell anyone in my family that I had been doing this because I was embarrassed. So, whenever I had friends over, I would speak in my normal accent. And every time, my friends would tell me, “You sound so weird when you’re around your family!”

Clearly, my plan to blend in wasn’t really working. I really struggled with science which invited a lot of the lovely “You’re Asian, aren’t you supposed to be smart?” comments. And of course doing well in other subjects still invited comments like “See? She’s Asian so she’s really smart”. I hated that. I think comments like that have really contributed to the shame I still feel today when I don’t understand something in class, and the times I doubt my intelligence even when I succeed.

There were also instances where people would say I wasn’t actually Asian because I was from the Philippines, not China or Japan. Or people would say I wasn’t Asian enough because I couldn’t speak Filipino. Those comments affected me the most. They made me extremely angry, but more importantly, they made me really question my identity. I already felt such a disconnect from my culture, not being able to speak the language. Every time we went back home, I felt like I didn’t belong. That’s why those comments were especially painful. I felt like I didn’t fit in in the Philippines, and I felt like I didn’t fit in within Australia. I didn’t know who I was for a long time.

It wasn’t until I started going to university where I was exposed to people from various cultural backgrounds that I felt comfortable speaking with my real accent. So much of my growth began on that first day of university. Since then, I’ve LOVED using my (real) voice, and I feel so fortunate to be given a platform to talk about things that I am passionate about.

For a long time, I did not fully understand why my experiences in primary school and high school were so hurtful. I didn’t want to share my experiences with anyone, in fear of being seen as “too sensitive.” It wasn’t until I learned more about racial microaggressions and the experiences of other racial/ethnic minorities that I realised 1) I wasn’t being too sensitive, and 2) I wasn’t alone. My hope is that by sharing even just a glimpse into my experiences that other minorities also feel less alone, and maybe even empowered to share their own experiences.

Postpartum Rage and Self-Compassion

One of my passions in psychology is perinatal mental health, this encompasses the period from conception to three years postpartum. In psychology, we refer this period to being an attachment activating event – simply put, parents go through intense psychological processes that literally changes the structures of the brain.

Everyone’s experience of perinatal mental health concerns is unique, the most commonly talked about are postnatal depression and anxiety. Other concerns include postnatal OCD, birth trauma, fear of birth, and psychosis. Postpartum rage is often an overlooked symptom of postpartum mental health concerns, it can be characterised by intense feelings of irritability, frustration and anger that can be directed towards oneself, the baby or others.

Research tells us one of the most effective ways to support postpartum rage is by implementing self-compassion. If you haven’t practiced self-compassion before, hear me out!  I know it can feel incredibly uncomfortable at first to redirect compassion towards yourself but it can be done. Often I hear concerns around self-compassion hampering high standards and goal achievement however, it is important to note when implementing self-compassion research has found that people still can have high personal standards but when faced with failure they don’t beat themselves up and are more likely to try again.

Self-compassion can be a powerful tool for parents particularly when postpartum rage is experienced as it can be accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt.

 Let’s talk about the brain for a moment.

Research has found that during the perinatal period, the brain undergoes a series of structural changes as it is adapting to the new challenges of parenthood. Of important to note is the amygdala the emotional centre of the brain and our internal alarm system (fight/flight/freeze). During pregnancy and postpartum, the amygdala shows some growth as it prepares for the high volume of hormones. However, it has been found that the neural systems that are affected by symptoms of anxiety and depression in the perinatal period overlap and interact with the systems involved in maternal caregiving behaviours. This allows for parents to be more alert and hypersensitive to the baby’s cues. Many women experience symptoms of OCD during the perinatal period (91%!) however, brain imaging show that the intrusive thoughts are associated with parts of the brain that centres around protectiveness not violence.

Let’s not forget “baby brain,” – and yes this may be attributed to increase in stress and sleep deprivation – the feeling of being foggy, scattered, with words on the tip of your tongue. Scans have shown in the postpartum period, the part of the brain that has a focus on memory, the hippocampus, shrinks!

So if we were to reflect and practice self-compassion, know that your brain knows exactly what its meant to be doing, and being kind to yourself.

Tips to support postpartum rage using self-compassion.

  1. Feel the feels

A step by step guide on using self-compassion for difficult emotions. The first is to acknowledge and label the feeling, giving the feeling a name such as “this is sadness” or “this is frustration.” The next step is expand your awareness to your body as a whole and notice where in the body the feeling is expressing itself most strongly, is it a tightness, or a hollow feeling? Now, soften the location in your body, let the muscles relax holding the feeling in a tender way. Soothing yourself through a difficult situation, providing a compassionate touch like placing your hand on your heart. Finally, allow the discomfort to be there, making room for it, and allowing yourself to be exactly as you are in this moment.

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Some mindful moments: watching your baby sleep and breathe, mindfully breastfeeding, mindfully changing your baby, mindful cup of tea (or coffee) mindful shower

  1. Get your needs met

Fill up your emotional wellbeing cup this can also include having some alone time, movement, wholesome foods, sleep, and connecting with loved ones.

  1. Connect with your loved ones

A major element of self-compassion is common humanity, which reflect a sense of interconnectedness and recognising that all humans are flawed work-in-progress. Connecting and sharing stories is a great way to honour common humanity.

  1. Professional support

Having a psychologist to support you can be an invaluable experience. When talking to clients about experiences in the perinatal period, I often here the words “why has no one told me this before, I thought I was the only one!” It speaks loud to the notion that although the conversation around perinatal health has started there is still so much stigma and fear around it. This often makes parents feel even more isolated and when it comes to post-natal rage the feeling of shame is so strong. If you are experiencing postpartum rage or having any difficulties in the perinatal period, reach out.

Betty Anne Dodson – from being sexually mismatched with her husband to a feminist sexologist!

During my time at the University of Sydney studying a Masters of Science in Medicine (Sexual and Reproductive Health) I’ve had the pleasure of learning about different perspectives and such a huge amount of new information, including about public figures who changed the world’s mind about sexual health. One of these people, Betty Anne Dodson, has just been so fun to learn about. She is also known as B.A.D. and ‘the godmother of masturbation’. She contributed significantly and controversially to improving sexual health and wellbeing for tens of thousands, if not millions of people with the mantra ‘Better Orgasms, Better World’. (1) So here is a little summary of my musings on a legend of sexology.

* I have included references because I appreciate research writing and giving you the opportunity to read further if you’re interested!

Betty could be described by many titles including a sexologist, disrupter, artist, innovator, second-wave feminist, author and a social justice advocate. It is likely her ability to bring these descriptors together creatively in order to effect change in the world that made her such a prolific character. To understand Betty’s contribution to sexology, it is relevant to also understand the timeline of her life and experiences, as these inspired Betty to change her perspective and the focus of her life’s work. I’m always keen to understand why someone developed the perspectives they did – and how this all came about for them.

Betty grew up in Midwestern America. Despite a conservative upbringing she developed an early enjoyment of masturbation which conflicted with the belief permeating society that sexual pleasure for women was only facilitated by a man who the woman was married to. (2) In the 1950s she moved to New York, studied art, and married a man she later described herself as being sexually mismatched with. (3) They divorced in 1965 and she began to explore her sexuality further. During the 1960s she met a man who convinced her that her vulva wasn’t deformed and encouraged her to have orgasms with his electric scalp massager. (3) She also began hosting group sex in her apartment where she noticed that many women were faking orgasms. (1) Reflections from these two pivotal experiences changed the course of Betty’s life and contribution to the world.

During the 1970s Betty became part of the pro-sex feminist movement and was the first recognised feminist to focus on masturbation and publicly advocate for electric vibrator use for women solely for their orgasms. (4) Betty firmly believed that masturbation is inextricably linked to sexual liberation. (2) Betty’s contribution to publicly available sex information and a very progressive feminist perspective of masturbation began. In a MS Magazine article in 1974 she disagreed with the wildly held belief that “if there were any touching of my genitals to be done, my beloved should do it.” (3) She also described how “even my liberal, intelligent friends put down masturbation, making clear that it was a second-rate sexual activity.” (3)

Betty created erotic art including life-size drawings of women masturbating which didn’t sell; however, she observed how men became hostile at the sign of a vibrator in the artwork and were surprised that women masturbated. (3) The controversy from the exhibition ended her relationship with the gallery showing the artwork and there was a media blackout. (4) As often occurred given the controversial nature of her message and the visual directness she communicated this with, businesses and institutions ceased relationships with her. During a lecture tour in the mid-1970s she was projecting six-foot “cunt slides” (her words – not mine) at Syracuse University. (1) She stopped doing this because she was subjected to angry hissing from members of the audience and felt a potential for violence. (1) She also lost support from the National Organisation of Women after showing a slide show of vulvas at their conference. (2) Her direct and honest form of communication was considered obscene and too controversial given the sexual norms and intensity of the patriarchy at that moment in history.

During the early 1970s Betty also began hosting BodySex masturbation workshops in the New York apartment living room, which included a ‘genital show-and-tell’ and learning how to orgasm using an electric back massager. (3) During these workshops she encouraged the use of oil-based lubricant, vibrators, breathing techniques and rocking techniques. (3) Betty believed that sexual repression was one of the tools the patriarchy used to keep women in their ‘proper role’. (3) She believed masturbation taught women to like their own body and enjoy sex and wanted women to be educated to become proficient and independent in having their sexual needs met. (3) The impact of these workshops was profound, including some unexpected findings promoting acceptance of all sexualities. In the male BodySex groups heterosexual men commented on how wonderful it had been to get over their fear of gay men, simply by being in the group together. (5) In 2015 Meyers applied a mixed method approach to examine the outcomes for participating women, as the workshops were (and currently are) continuing. (6) She described the outcomes women experience from participating in BodySex workshops include improved genital self-image, improved sexual self-efficacy, improved sexual satisfaction, increased comfort with their bodies and their own nudity, emotional healing, a sense of sisterhood that participants felt was evident in their general lives post-workshop, positive shifts in their experience of orgasms with masturbation, an increase in the active pursuit of pleasure, and increased openness to talk about sex and sexuality with others, including discussing sexual likes and needs with sex partners. (6)

Betty published one of her books written for the general public in 1974 titled ‘Liberating Masturbation’ which was republished in 1986 titled ‘Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving’. (3) Through this she popularised the clitoris and clitoral orgasms. (3) Although the book was purchased by thousands of people, Betty lost the support of the publisher. (1) Betty’s strongly held belief that shame-free masturbation was the foundation of every woman’s sexuality was too progressive for many institutions. The intensity of her delivery and refusal to soften her message, stating that “It’s not fair that women don’t get to orgasm” began raising sexual health as a social justice issue. (3)

Betty’s message did not align with many other prolific second-wave feminists at the time, including Gloria Steinem. (3) Many feminists criticized Betty for focusing purely on pleasure-driven clitoral stimulation and advocacy for equitable access to orgasms for all if they wanted to seek that. (2) Betty credited this for inspiring her to become the sexual educator she wanted to see as a client and she continued to advocate. In 1977 Dr Sally Binford shared that “While I do not agree with all that Betty Dodson has written, or with all the techniques she uses in her workshops, her impact on the field of women’s sexuality has been enormous. Some of us choose to think of her as the Lenny Bruce of the Women’s Movement.” (5)

During the following three decades she continued her private practice work, media appearances, and educating and advocating for the Betty Dodson method. She received a PhD in Sexology from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in 1992. (4) She published ‘Orgasm for Two: The Joy of Partnersex’ which she wrote and illustrated in 2002. (4) In 2008 Struck and Ventegodt published their study of the Betty Dodson method for anorgasmic women. (7) They found that the Betty Dodson method of holistic sexological manual therapy appears to be rational, safe, ethical and efficient for the treatment of women who have chronic anorgasmia. (7) This group therapy method of treatment includes both short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and complementary medicine with reparenting, genital acceptance, acceptance through touch and direct sexual clitoral stimulation with a clitoral vibrator. (7) Of the 500 cis female participants between 18 – 88 years of age with chronic anorgasmia, 25% of which had never experienced an orgasm, 93% had an orgasm during therapy as witnessed by the therapist, and 7% did not. (7) Interestingly, postmenopausal women were just as likely to achieve an orgasm as premenopausal women, and women who had never had an orgasm before were just as likely to orgasm as those who had previous had an orgasm. (7) Outstanding results that were published when societal appetite for research into the treatment of anorgasmic women was… limited… at best.

Betty accepted many awards for her contribution to the sexual health of others. In 2011 she received the Public Service Award from the Society for Scientific Study of Sexuality, and also the Masters and Johnson Award from the Society for Sex Therapy Research. (2)

* fun sidenote fact: I decided to study to be a Developmental Sexologist after watching a Masters and Johnson Conference in 2021! I just found this all so interesting and am passionate about health professionals being well educated in sexology! Anyway… back to Betty…

In 2013 she was named in the Top 10 Revolutionaries by Cosmopolitan Magazine and Top 100 People by Playboy which highlighted her growing pop culture popularity, as the public’s acceptance of female sexuality and masturbation slowly grew. (2) Yet as a public figure Betty also had her detractors who were clear when they believed she needed to explore her own unhelpful sexual biases and beliefs. In 2011 she was criticized for commenting that porn is ‘basically male entertainment’ that pushes women to view on-screen sex from a cis male point of view yet the type of porn she was referring to was not specific and likely did not include gay, lesbian, trans, vanilla or kinky porn which likely promotes female pleasure more so. (8)

Betty hit the peak of pop culture relevance and overall societal impact for her career when she went mainstream with her message in the Goop Lab Netflix show in February 2020. She was 90 years of age!! She famously made Gwyneth Paltrow blush after explaining the difference between a vulva and vagina, something that Gwyneth (along with most of us, really) was unaware of previously. She focused on the importance and power of cis female masturbation and orgasm, and the show controversially showed Betty assisting her business partner in masturbation leading to an orgasm. (1) This was, and arguably still is, considered a reflection of and a burst of propulsion towards sexual health and pleasure being part of the modern-day zeitgeist. Yet, as with much of Betty’s work, this was not without controversy. In the Goop episode Betty stated that there are two types of orgasms for cis women, the tension orgasm and her ‘rock and roll’ orgasm. (9) Which is controversial in the research community. Dr Jen Gunter reports that there is only one type of female orgasm since all originate from the clitoris. (9) The Archives of Sexual Behaviour purports that there are at least four types of orgasms based on the intensity of throbbing and spasms, and whether emotional intimacy was part of the experience. (9) Today most sexologists and researchers suggest that all orgasms occur because of clitoral stimulation whether through the vaginal walls during sex or during manual stimulation. (9) Regardless, Betty continued feeding society’s increased acceptance of and appetite for sexual health discussions.

Betty’s contribution to public health and discourse continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she moved her BodySex workshops online and shared her message that “you are your safest sex partner” with the New York Times. (10) Betty died at 91 years of age in October 2020 at the Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Centre in Manhattan, New York. (1) Her erotic art was exhibited at New York Museum of Sex from December 2020, and her business partner has continued Betty’s life work and BodySex masturbation workshops. (1)

It is challenging to summarise the powerful yet controversial impact Betty, a cis female from the bible belt of America, had within the field of sexology. Nowadays with a quick ‘google’ it is easy to find workshops on cunnilingus, fetish training and other currently fringe areas. There is also more acceptance of people’s sex lives as important and something everyone can own for themselves. (2) Feminism is mostly an ideology within the realm of sexology and for therapists, it is not grounded in interventions or techniques. Yet Betty’s focus on autonomy gave structure to this major tenant of feminist therapy. She provided a map for women to own and direct their own sexual pleasure. She emphasised a women’s right to autonomy based upon her own experiences and decisions, and not based upon opinions of others or society generally. As Karen Washington so eloquently said, “as clinicians, a note that we can take from Ms. Dodson is to never dismiss the role of sex and sexuality in a person’s life, and to meet our clients where they are with genuine care as well as resources.” (2) However, we aren’t quite ‘there’ yet. As a society we are still working to cease harmful gender messaging that shames and stigmatizes female sexual pleasure. Messaging about what is ‘appropriate’ prevents many women from achieving pleasurable sex and orgasm. (2) Betty created an understanding through a significant contribution to freely available sexual health content that masturbation can be a joyful experience in a time that taught that masturbation was sinful and psychologically immature. (5) Perhaps she could have had a broader impact with a gentler delivery style… however, it would not have been so uniquely ‘Betty’. Her life experiences and approach contributed to her being the sexologist she was. Betty has helped make the world a more sex-positive, pleasurable and expressive place for all of us… with her art, workshops, books, videos, private sessions and website devoted to masturbation.



Theobald, S., 2020. How Is Betty Dodson, the Queen of Female Masturbation, Dying? Not Quietly. [online] Daily Beast. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
Washington K, Spencer J. In Memoriam: Betty Dodson–“Better Orgasms, Better Worlds”. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. 2021 Apr 3;33(2):216-9.
Vnuk, H., 2020. In 1970, Betty Dodson hosted a 'genital show and tell circle'. Every single woman orgasmed.. [online] Mamamia. Available at: <(3)> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
Anderlini-D'Onofrio S. Plural Loves : Designs for Bi and Poly Living. Florence: Taylor & Francis Group; 2005.
Hooper A, Holford J. How Big Is Big?: The Mysteries of Sexology Explained. Robson; 2003.
Lisa Meyers. Answering the call for more research on sexual pleasure: A mixed method case study of the Betty Dodson Bodysex™ workshops. Ann Arbor: Widener University; 2015.
Struck P, Ventegodt S. Clinical holistic medicine: teaching orgasm for females with chronic anorgasmia using the Betty Dodson method. TheScientificWorldJOURNAL. 2008 Sep 21;8:883-95.
Fox, L., 2011. Why Sexpert Betty Dodson Is Wrong. [online] Boston Magazine. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
Charara, S., 2020. What The Goop Lab gets right (and wrong) about sex. [online] WIRED UK. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
La Ferla, R., 2020. You Are Your Safest Sex Partner. Betty Dodson Wants to Help. (Published 2020). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 June 2022].
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