What a Sex Therapist Can Do For You
Sex is everywhere. Advertisements are using sex to sell products, and movies are getting riskier with their sex scenes. While this mass portrayal of sex has made it more commonplace in our society, sex is often still a very uncomfortable topic for most people to talk about. This is especially true for those who struggle to find the desire to have sex or satisfaction from sexual experiences.
Surprisingly, a reported 35 to 50 percent of people will experience a troubling problem with their sexual health or sexual behaviors in their life. With such a high rate of people experiencing these problems, it is important to have resources available to help them improve their sexual behaviors and experiences. Sex therapy is a safe, effective way to coach people through the struggles in their lives that may be contributing to their sexual problems and help them find ways to improve their sexual health and quality of life.
What is a Sex Therapist?
A sex therapist is a licensed mental health provider that has been trained and certified in sex therapy. Sex therapists can be psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, social workers, or physicians who have received extensive training in sexuality and sexuality counseling.
A sex therapist is trained extensively in order to work with people struggling with sexual problems in a professional, effective way. They help individuals and partners evaluate their issues related to sex and help them develop solutions to these problems. A sex therapist is also trained to collaborate with other providers, such as medical doctors for physical problems related to sex, when necessary.
Organizations for Sex Therapy
There are a variety of organizations that endorse sex therapy and work to educate providers and patients about sexology. While these organizations each have different focuses, they all strive to advance sex therapy while maintaining its integrity. Some of the organizations that advocate for sex therapy include:
- American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT): This organization is the major certifying body for sex therapists. Their focus is on the advancement of sex therapy and maintaining high standards of practice and ethics in this field. They require therapists to complete education and supervised clinical experiences before they can apply for certification, and each provider must recertify every three years.
- Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR): This is a professional organization that focuses on research and advancement of sex therapy. They work to improve communication of ideas and practices between professionals.
- Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH): This organization works to help those who suffer from problematic or out of control sexual behaviors. They provide education for professionals and for the general public to improve education and reduce stigma related to sexual health.
- American Association of Couples and Sex Therapists (AACAST): This organization is working to integrate couples and sex therapy. They provide training, education, and communication means for professionals to advance this area of practice.
- International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM): This association works to advance the field by promoting research in the science of sexual medicine and identifying diagnostic traits and treatment options for those who suffer from conditions that impact their sexual function.
- American Board of Sexology (ABS): This organization is another focused on maintaining integrity and standards of practice in the field of sexology. They provide training and standards for certification for licensed mental health professionals. They focus on identifying providers with high academic achievement and clinical competency.
What Kinds of Problems Does a Sex Therapist Treat?
A sex therapist is trained to help people overcome issues with their sexual health and relationships. There are a wide variety of sexual problems a sex therapist can help with. Some of the problems a sex therapist can help you address include:
- Low sexual desire or difficult arousal
- Sex addiction or reckless sexual activity
- Premature ejaculation
- Erectile dysfunction
- Painful intercourse
- Inability to achieve orgasm
These are just some of the problems a sex therapist can help you and your partner(s) with. If you have other concerns related to your sexual or physical health, do not be afraid to reach out to your physician or a mental health provider to determine what therapy options you have.
What Happens in a Sex Therapy Session?
Although sex therapy is uncomfortable for many people to think or talk about, it is an effective solution for problems that many people face. Some of the discomfort comes from a misunderstanding of what sex therapy includes.
Sex Therapy is Talk Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy, much like what people often think of as a “typical” therapy session. During each session, the therapist will sit down with you and talk about the problems you are experiencing. They will work with you to address the physical and sexual aspects of your problems, and they will help you identify and overcome these issues.
Sex therapy does not include physical contact with the therapist or your partner during the session. Some forms of sexual coaching include these techniques, but this is not an accepted practice for certified sex therapists and is against the ethics of mental health professionals.
Sex therapy can be challenging when there are certain aspects of sex and sexual relationships you are unfamiliar with. Fortunately, another aspect of training for a sex therapist is the ability to educate clients when necessary. This education can include information about the body or about sex-related topics. Not everyone is raised with the same sexual education and experience, which makes this an essential skill for a sex therapist. It is a necessary part of therapy to ensure everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of all aspects of the discussion.
Homework is another essential component of sex therapy. As previously mentioned, physical contact does not occur during sex therapy sessions. However, there are often assignments to help people implement the strategies talked about in therapy. You, or you and your partner, will likely be assigned homework to improve communication, education, and sexual experiences. Some of these exercises include:
- Experimenting with new or different activities
- Communication exercises to improve openness between you and your partner during and outside of sexual encounters
- Watching educational videos or reading information about sex
- Focusing on sensations of you and your partner and the intimacy that builds up to sexual intercourse
Communication can be a big factor in sexual problems between partners. Sex therapy recognizes this issue and encourages couples, in therapy sessions and through homework, to improve their communication with each other. The therapist may ask you or your partner to share you frustrations or preferences with your partner during therapy. They will also likely ask you to practice communicating at home.
Communication is not only about what you and your partner prefer during sex. It also includes sharing the things you dislike, fantasies you have, and goals for your relationship. Opening up about these topics can be hard, but it can help you and your partner achieve a healthier, more satisfying sexual relationship by having a better understanding of each other and establishing trust.
Individual or Couples
Sex therapy is flexible in its ability to help individuals or couples work through problems with their sex lives. In either case, the therapist will work with the individual or couple to identify areas of mental or emotional struggle that might be contributing to the sexual problems. Sex therapists can work with individuals to improve their confidence and competence about sex, and they can work with couples to improve their communication.
Either way, you and/or your partner should find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and struggles. It is also essential all participants are willing to listen to and implement the concepts and strategies presented by the therapist.
Should I See a Sex Therapist?
A sex therapist can offer solutions to many problems you might be experiencing with your physical relationships. If you are struggling with issues that impact your sexual behaviors or decrease your quality of life because of problems related to sex, you should consider seeing a sex therapist. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to join you if you feel their participation would help improve your sexual health and relationship.
Most of the time, sex therapy is a short-term approach to solving issues with sexual desire or function. However, the length of therapy depends on the problems each person is experiencing and how quickly each person can overcome these issues.
When looking for a sex therapist, it is important to be particular. Most importantly, you should find a therapist who is certified in sex therapy. Not only does this mean they have adequate training in their field, but it also means they are required to maintain ethical standards. Ask if they have much experience working with people who have similar problems to yours.
Look for a therapist that makes you feel comfortable. You are going to be sharing intimate details of your life with this person, and you need to feel comfortable being open and honest.
Challenges of Sex Therapy
Many people who could benefit from sex therapy face challenges. The first challenge is a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about sex therapy itself. Sex therapy is not talked about often, so there are many people who do not even know it exists. Among those who have heard of sex therapy, there is a vast misunderstanding about the techniques used to help people through their problems related to sex. Education about the therapy sessions and benefits therapy can provide can help many people find and participate in the therapy they need.
People who participate in sex therapy often have a hard time opening up to a stranger about their sexual problems. They might feel embarrassed to discuss these issues with a therapist they do not know, especially during the first few sessions. If their partner is present for therapy, it can be a bigger struggle to feel comfortable communicating openly. The therapist you choose to work with should make you feel comfortable opening up about your struggles.
An essential part of successful sex therapy is the complete participation of everyone involved. It can be hard for you or your partner to remain open to all of the ideas, recommendations, and observations your therapist may have about your relationship. Your therapist should provide their input in a nonjudgmental and supportive way to establish a trusting relationship with you and your partner.
Find a Sex Therapist Now
If you are struggling with problems related to sexual function or desire, you should consider speaking with a sex therapist. ThriveTalk has certified sex therapists available to help you, or you and your partner, work through your problems with sex and improve your quality of life. Sign up today to find a therapist who can help you understand and improve your sexual health.
Sex therapy is often an uncomfortable thing for people to seek out or talk about. It can be challenging for those struggling with these problems to build up the courage to seek help. When they do find the strength to confront their problems, they are often met with roadblocks in accessing a therapist. Fortunately, the field of sex therapy continues to grow, and more certified therapists are available to help either online or for in-office visits.
There are many misconceptions about what sex therapy is and what it can offer. Certifying boards and other organizations in sex therapy are working hard to advance the field and maintain strong professional standards and ethics within this field. Their efforts are in creating a better understanding of and improved access to sex therapy. If you or someone you know could benefit from sex therapy, begin exploring options for therapy in your area or online. Finding someone who can help you overcome your frustrations with your sexual health and behaviors can improve your sexual experiences and overall quality of life.