What is Sex Therapy?
Sex Therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy which focuses on treating sexual dysfunctions and sexual concerns. Sex therapy is usually more directive and solution focused than other forms of psychotherapy. People from all walks of life can benefit from sex therapy, regardless of age, health status, sexual orientation or whether they are in a committed relationship. Sex Therapists use specific clinical skills and knowledge to help people improve their sex life.
What kinds of issues do people bring to Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy deals with the sexual challenges of couples and individuals, and can be beneficial in many cases. Some examples are:
- Sexual desire challenges. Sexual desire means the biological drive and interest to engage in sexual activity. You may suffer from low sexual desire, or there might be a discrepancy of sexual desire between you and your partner.
- Sexual arousal challenges. Sexual arousal means the preparation of your body for sex. If you are a man, you may have difficulties attaining an erection. (Erectile dysfunction). If you are a woman, you may find it harder to become aroused, becoming lubricated in your vagina, and be ready for penetration.
- Sexual satisfaction: Difficulty reaching an orgasm or reaching an orgasm prematurely.
- Pain during sexual activity.
- Chronic medical condition’ effects on your sex life.
- Post traumatic stress disorder’ effects on your sex life
- Sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Sexual compulsivity (so called “sexual addiction“).
- No specific sexual dysfunction, but vague dissatisfaction with your sex life, and motivation to improve your lovemaking skills.
What happens in Sex Therapy?
The sex therapy process is similar to the therapeutic process with other mental health practitioners. The first step is an evaluation including a clinical history in order to determine the factors that led to your concerns. If you come as part of a couple, this evaluation will usually include your partner. In some instances the sexual problem may have a medical component. In these cases the sex therapist, with your consent, will coordinate treatment and consult with the your physician.
The first step in the treatment is education. The sex therapist will educate the person or couple about the issue. Sometimes having accurate information is enough to solve the problem.
If more therapy is needed, a sex therapist may see you as a couple, or sometimes see each of you individually. Homework exercises are an essential part of treatment. You will get assignments that you practice in the privacy of your own home, either by yourself or with your partner. The homework assignment may be related to general skills, such as better communication or relaxation techniques, or more sexually specific such as a suggestion for a specific sexual activity.
Under no circumstances will a sex therapist engage in any kind of sexual activity with a patient or an ex-patient. No sexual activity takes place at the therapist’s office.
Should I come with my spouse/partner?
If you are in a committed relationship, it would be helpful to come with your partner. Even if you believe that the problem is yours, your partner’s understanding and support are crucial to overcome the challenge.
What if I know that my problem is purely physical?
When there is a physical component, it is often accompanied by an emotional component. When a sexual problem occurs, embarrassment and guilt often follow. Fear that the problem will happen again may cause the person to avoid sexual situations. Therefore, treatment by a sex therapist can be helpful .
I am already in therapy. Do I need to go to a sex therapist as well? Why not go to a general mental health practitioner?
General therapists usually do not have the specific knowledge and techniques used in sex therapy. If your problem is specifically related to sexual issues, a sex therapist is the most appropriate for you.
Who can be a sex therapist?
A sex therapist must first be a therapist – a mental health professional, with an advanced degree, who holds a current state license. In addition, Sex therapists have specialized training, knowledge and skills not known to most other therapists. Currently there are two organizations in the US that regulate certification and ensure high standards for the profession. One of them is AASECT – American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, and the other is the American Board of Sexologists. Both organizations have a list of certified sex therapists on their website.