Sometimes relationships and people go through sexual ruts. This is where a sex therapist can step in and help. Sex therapy covers a variety of aspects of a person’s sexual life, and a visit to a therapist who specializes in sex therapy can improve the quality of their life. Learn more about sex therapy and how to find the right sex therapist for you.
Therapy does not include sex. A sex therapist is not a sex worker, rather, a traditional therapist who is certified to specialize in sex therapy.
Sex therapy covers a broad spectrum of personal concerns ranging from sparking one's sex life with a partner to overcoming sexual trauma, sexual dysfunctions, and exploring one's sexuality and gender identity.
The stigma surrounding therapy is starting to lift in society.
Sex therapist can guide you toward a place where you are able to experience the joy of sex without shame, guilt, or fear.
What does a sex therapist do?
Sex therapy provides a safe space to talk with a trusted licensed psychologist and explore your feelings about sex and anything that may be holding you back from experiencing a healthy sex life and achieving greater intimacy with a partner.
Sex therapy encompasses a variety of issues related to sexuality. Sex therapists are regular licensed psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers who are certified to specialize in sex therapy.
Sex therapy is a very broad field and can include:
- Helping people overcome sexual paraphilias that interfere with their lives and relationships in harmful ways.
- Working with someone to overcome any mental implications that can impact sexual desire and function, such as a low libido, erectile dysfunction, and vaginismus.
- Aid in the processing and healing of sexual abuse, assault, and rape.
- Assist those who are physically shut off and fear sex out of an extreme religious upbringing or other incidents rooted in childhood or trauma.
- Work with couples to bring the spark back into their sex lives.
- Support those who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identity to find their way.
- Work with clients who have a lot of guilt about their bodies and sex to overcome fears and embrace their sexuality.
- Process and discover reasons why a person may not be able to reach an orgasm and suggest methods to try at home.
- Help rescue and work with those who are victims of sex trafficking.
- Assist those with sexual addictions to overcome their disease and get to a point where they no longer turn to sex as means of self-medicating.
- Help heal any trauma surrounding sexual abuse related to being involved in a cult or secret society that uses harmful sexual rituals.
- Explore reasons why a person may not find joy or pleasure in the act of sex and give them tools to increase their pleasure.
Misconceptions about sex therapy
One of the most important misconceptions to address is whether a sex therapist is hands-on or not. They are absolutely not and they should not engage in any sexual behavior with you. Any inappropriate actions will result in the therapist losing their license and practice. If you experience inappropriate behavior from your therapist, it's important to report it to the proper authorities.
Although the stigma around sex therapy is dissolving, there are still many other misconceptions surrounding sex therapy. They include:
- Thinking the therapist is a sex worker or hands-on. They are absolutely not and any inappropriate behavior's should be reported to the proper authorities.
- That seeing a sex therapist means you are bad in bed or sexually inadequate. Seeking help does not mean that you are lacking in any way, in fact, it's a brave and empowering step to take.
- That you are somehow sexually broken. Seeing a sex therapist does not mean that there is something inherently wrong or broken. It simply means that you've identified an issue and are taking the best route towards healing.
- That you are weird. Going to a sex therapist does not make you weird. Asking for help about an issue that's causing you problems is completely normal.
- That you will only talk about sex. You'll certainly explore sexual topic and issues that are concerning, and you'll also be looking at all aspects of your life from family history to your current friendships, romantic relationships and work life.
Can sex therapy improve your life?
Engaging in sex therapy can most certainly improve your quality of life once you've found the right therapist. Research shows that the relationship between a therapist and client is the most healing aspect of therapy. Here are some considerations to take into account when looking for a sex therapist:
- Expertise. Does the therapist come recommended? Do they have the relevant qualifications?
- Experience. Does the therapist have experience dealing with your particular issue?
- Empathy. Do you feel like the therapist is compassionate towards you? Do you feel an element of comfort and trust?
It's recommended to spend a bit of time looking for someone who feels like they are a good fit for you. It's of paramount importance that you feel safe and at ease with your therapist. It's okay to have a few trial sessions with different therapists until you find someone that feels right.
Once you find the right therapist, it's important to know that there is no magic wand they can wave to magically heal you. Personal growth and development take a lot of work and it does not happen overnight. If you stay consistent with your appointments and put in the work you will be well on your way to experiencing a healthier relationship with sex and greater quality of life.
Sex therapy vs traditional therapy
Sex therapy is really not that different from traditional therapy, except that the main reason for attending the sessions will be to look deeper at issues affecting your relationship to sex. A traditional therapist can train to be a sex therapist.
It may feel intimidating to seek out a sex therapist at first, due to the nature of the material that will be covered. Once you find the right therapist who makes you feel comfortable and eases your mind while normalizing what you are going through, the feelings of intimidation should calm down.
William Masters and Virginia Johnson were the first sex researchers who studied sexual response from a physiological standpoint and became the world's first sex therapists. Today's research highlights the importance of mindfulness in sex therapy. Whilst traditional therapy can help with some sexual issues if you want to work with a focus on your own sexuality, gender identity, or feelings about your sex life that you'd like to process, a certified sex therapist would be your best choice.
How does a sex therapist guide you?
A sex therapist can guide you in a variety of ways. Whether it's helping you explore your sexuality or gender identity, healing from sexual abuse or rape, bringing the spark back into your relationship, overcoming guilt and shame surrounding your sex life, overcoming sexual dysfunction or an inability to have an orgasm, a sex therapist will meet you where you are and help you reach your goals one step at a time.
The best guides are those you feel comfortable with, so it's important to find a therapist that puts you at ease and whom you can trust to guide you on this personal, intimate journey. Working together, you and your therapist will uncover the roadblocks that are preventing you from experiencing sexual joy. They will also help you process negative sexual encounters and trauma so that you can have a fulfilling sex life in the future.
How to find a sex therapist
Finding a sex therapist is as easy as finding a traditional therapist. There are a variety of online databases with licensed therapists who have profiles listing their specialties and the populations they work with most. Psychology Today, BetterHelp, and SAMSHA provide extensive lists of licensed therapists in your area.
When seeking a sex therapist, it's okay to interview them and ask them questions about their experience, and whether or not they have worked with clients experiencing your specific concern. Remember that looking for the right therapist is an important part of your journey, and once you find the right fit, you will be one step closer to experiencing the joy that can be found in sex, overcoming sexual dysfunctions or trauma, and even having your first orgasm.
If you reach out to a therapist and to find that they do not specialize in sex therapy, ask them for a referral. Therapists have large networks of colleagues and can help direct you to a therapist who provides the exact kind of help that you need.
There is nothing wrong with seeing a sex therapist. In fact, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you are experiencing any issues with your relationship to sex. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will be on your way to a healthy and integrated sex life.
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- Sex Medicine. Cognitive behavioral sex therapy: An emerging treatment option for nonorganic erectile dysfunction in young men: A feasibility pilot study.