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Kaplan’s Triphasic Model
Kaplan’s Triphasic Model
Kaplan’s Triphasic Model is a model of human sexual response developed in the 1970s by noted sex therapist, Helen Singer Kaplan and is one of many Cognitive Physiological Models that addresses the physiology of sexual response. This theory attempts to address the sexual response cycle as it conceptualizes three relatively independent phases that include the sexual desire phase, vasocongestion of the genitals or “excitement” phase and the reflex muscular contractions of the orgasm phase which is also associated with the resolution phase.
The Kaplan Triphasic Model is built on the work of the Masters and Johnson’s Sexual Response Cycle theory of 1966. (Greenberg) Their major contribution was their description of the four phases of the human sexual response which includes the excitement phase, plateau phase, orgasm phase and the resolution phase. Master and Johnson explained these phases in full detail as it relates to similarities in humans in general while also providing explanation to the dissimilarities that occur thanks to a difference in gender. Females in Males have many sexual responses in common and some that differ, one example would be how males need a refractory period to recover before being capable of having another orgasm while females can have multiple orgasms in a single session. While studying the sexual response cycles of males and females, Master and Johnson found startling differences and amazing similarities which provided the base to how we view sexual responses now.
As a pioneer in the field of sex therapy Kaplan criticized the field of sex therapy for “failing to address the importance of sexual desire disorders as a separate clinical entity and suggested that the sexual response cycle be reconceptualized as triphasic, consisting of desire, excitement and orgasms phases” (Rosen). Adding the desire phase substantiated the need for an expanded model of sexual response as it accounted for the critiques of the Master and Johnson theory.
Components of Model
The Desire Phase
Historically, sexual desire has been defined variously as an appetitive state, an innate psychological drive which shapes the personality, an instinct, a need, and most generally, as "lust" (Beck). Sexual an internal feeling of wanting or needing sexual intimacy that often includes engaging in sexual behaviors that lead to sexual satisfaction. This is the first stage of Kaplans Triphasic Model and basically consists of one who becomes psychologically interested in sex before any physical and bodily changes happen.
The Excitement Phase
This was initially the first phase of previous popular model developed by Masters and Johnson but is the second stage of Kaplan’s model of sexual response. This is the stage where arousal begins in response to physical stimulation, psychological stimulation or both. The excitement phase may last for minutes or hours. Signs include increased heart rate, breathing and blood flow mainly to the genital areas. As vasocongestion continues, men may get an erection, and women may experience lubrication.
The Resolution Phase
The resolution phase encompasses the orgasm stage. An orgasm is a peak of sexual arousal, during which a series of rhythmic, involuntary contractions of the genitals and anus occur along with highly pleasurable feelings. An orgasm may result from: manual stimulation, oral sex, intercourse, masturbation, massage, fantasy, sex toys or any number of other activities. On average, orgasm typically lasts a few seconds and is commonly accompanied by ejaculation in men and, less often but for some women, female ejaculation (Good in Bed). This final stage of sexual response proposed by Kaplan is the phase of the cycle where there is a return to the pre-aroused state.
Sexual Response Cycle in Females
“Here are the stages of the Female Response Cycle. The cycles are similar to Kaplan’s Triphasic Theory with the exception of not having a “Desire” stage. This stage wouldn’t be pictured in the ideal image of Kaplans model because it deal with psychological aspects of the human body. Therefore, a depiction of the female genital organ wouldn’t be necessary.” (
. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <
Sexual Response Cycle in Males
“Here are the stages of the Male Response Cycle. Like stated before, the cycles are similar to Kaplan’s Triphasic Theory with the exception of not having a “Desire” stage. This stage wouldn’t be pictured in the ideal image of Kaplans model because it deal with psychological aspects of the human body. Therefore, a depiction of the female genital organ wouldn’t be necessary.” (
. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <
Concepts of Model
Kaplan’s recreation of the sexual response model is unique thanks to the implementation of the desire phase. This stage had initially gone unrecognized and ignored but Kaplan realized the necessity for this aspect of the overall stage. The desire stage is basically the psychological pre-physical sexual response stage. It had most likely gone ignored before because most probably felt that sexual responses only occurred with physical activity. This isn’t the case because sexual desire is not always present during sexual activity, and Kaplan understood this concept. An example of this would be a partner engaging in sexual activity just to satisfy their partner although they themselves may not feel a desire to do so. This phase is without question an important aspect of the Triphasic model which is the reenergized model of the basic cycle of sexual response.
While this models addresses the phase of sexual responses it also is used to address sexual dysfunctions as Kaplan believes that sexual dysfunction falls into one of these three categories and that the categories are separate and distinct being that one could properly function in two out of the three phases but might find a problem in the third. In her book, “
The Evaluation of Sexual Disorders: Psychological and Medical Aspect”
Kaplan addresses these issues. The main purpose of her dissertation is to evaluate the psychosexual dysfunctions because these syndromes are among the most prevalent, worrying and distressing medical complaints of modern times. The concept of the Triphasic model can be applied to this distress because it can classify dysfunctions into separate syndromes of disturbances involving disorder in either the desire, excitement of orgasm phases of the aforementioned cycle. When a disorder is correctly diagnosed there is a good chance that it can be properly resolved thanks to the distinction and clarification of the different stages. This approach is relevant because it recognizes that desire, excitement and orgasm impairments are separate diseases and being that they are each associated with a different set of causes, they will therefore respond to different and specific therapeutic interventions (Kaplan).
Greenberg, Jerrold S., Clint E. Bruess, and Sarah C. Conklin.
Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality
. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2010. Print.
Kaplan, Helen Singer, and Melvin Horwith.
The Evaluation of Sexual Disorders: Psychological and Medical Aspects
. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1983. Print.
"Glossary - Good in Bed."
Good In Bed | Sex Therapy and Advice - Good in Bed
. Copyright ©2011, Good in Bed, LLC. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <
Rosen, Raymond C. and Sandra R. Leiblum.
Current Approaches to the Evaluation of Sexual Desire Disorders.
The Journal of Sex Research. Taylor & Francis, Ltd 1987
Beck, J. Gayle and Alan W. Bozman, Tina Qualtrough.
The Experience of Sexual Desire: Psychological Correlates in a College Sample.
The Journal of Sex Research. Taylor & Francis, Ltd, 1991. Print
Sexual Response Cycles
. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <
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