Many people have heard of the term “Sex Therapy” but very few know exactly what it is and how it works. The term itself can feel frightening to people. It also brings up all types of questions and worries about what it means.
So let’s dig into it. What is Sex Therapy?
Does it mean having sex with a therapist? Would the therapist disapprove of my sexual interests and try to change them? What if I am “kinky”? Would sex therapy try to make me “normal?” And probably the most common worry is: “I’ve already done everything I can think of to deal with my sexual problems and nothing has worked. I don’t want to spend time and money only to be disappointed again.”
The answers to these common questions are very reassuring, even to people who find that talking about sex makes them anxious.
Sex Therapy is a special type of therapy that focuses on people’s sexual concerns, and helps to alleviate the worries or problems. For example a man might worry about difficulty getting aroused with a partner, or having orgasms too quickly. A woman might worry about intercourse being painful, or difficulty having an orgasm. Both men and woman might worry about the nature of their sexual fantasies, or if they want “too much sex” or not liking sex at all. These are just a few examples of the type of concerns that people come to sex therapists for help with, and sex therapy does indeed help.
Let's start with what sex therapy is NOT:
First let’s put to rest the question of whether a sex therapist has sex with their clients. The answer is a definite NO. Sex workers (also sometimes called prostitutes) are people who have sex with their clients in exchange for money. Sex therapists on the other hand help people fix their sexual problems so that they can enjoy their sex life more. A sex therapist never has sex with their clients.
But it is...
Sex therapy is also a fairly short term type of therapy in which the desired results are achieved relatively quickly. Sex therapy can also be done either with an individual or with the couple. In either case, sex therapy always starts with the therapist learning about what is worrisome to the client.
Therapy is done in a relaxed and warm environment in which the competent sex therapist is interested in hearing about the problem, but never judges the client about what turns them on. There is wonderful variety among the human species. Think about how different we are from each other in terms of height, or complexion, or things that we like to do. Sex is no exception, and there is huge variation among people in terms of what they enjoy sexually.
So you never have to worry in sex therapy that the therapist is going to disapprove of what you like. There isn’t a right way to have sex, nor is there a right level of sexual interest. Also, there isn’t a correct number of sexual partners. For some people, an exclusive sexual relationship with one person feels most comfortable, while others may enjoy sex with different people. It is simply a matter of what feels right to that person.
Many people have never had the chance to talk about their concerns, and speaking with a sex therapist is the first time in their lives that they have ever had the opportunity to tell someone about their worries. This alone provides an enormous amount of relief to many, and to find out that while they may have sexual problems that they would like to work on, it no longer has to feel like a deep dark humiliating secret. Typically they find out that their problem is fairly common, and the time-tested techniques used in sex therapy will bring them great relief.
Once the therapist understands what it is that you are interested in improving, the therapy begins in earnest
You might be given “homework assignments” to help you become more comfortable with your body and your sexual interests. Perhaps surprisingly to many, a lot of these exercises are not sexual in nature, but rather designed to increase your comfort so that sex becomes easier and more pleasant. The exercises are always designed with you collaborating with the therapist, so that we proceed at a rate that is comfortable for you, and while you will be discovering new things, it will never be anything that makes you feel too anxious.
People develop their sexuality at their own rate in sex therapy. Often they see changes surprisingly quickly. And those changes tend to lead to an overall feeling of wellbeing and increased confidence. Many people have reported to me that the changes that they have seen as a result of sex therapy have helped them in other areas of their life, and almost always improve the relationship with others.
A note of caution, however, is important to know that in most of the country, the title “Sex Therapist” is unregulated. That means that anybody can call themselves a sex therapist, and there are some people who do so without proper training.
- First make sure the therapist is certified as a Sex Therapist by the American Association of Sex Therapists, Educators, and Counselors (AASECT). That information is easily found online at the AASECT website.
- Next, look to see what other credentials the sex therapist has. Look for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Ph.D.) or an MD.
- Finally, see if they have any affiliation with a well-recognized hospital or university. In general, only the most qualified sex therapists are put on the faculty of hospitals and universities.
Finally don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and schedule an initial consultation. That is not a commitment begin sex therapy with that person, rather it is an opportunity for you to meet the therapist and for the two of you to figure out if you are a good match. You want to make sure that you comfortable.
It is my practice to meet with anyone who is interested in sex therapy at least once. If for any reason we are not a good fit, I always have recommendations to other therapists and clinics that might be suitable. So with just a little bit of research you can easily connect with the best sex therapists, and I am happy to help point people in the right direction.
For more information on working with me or to schedule an initial consultation, please call 212-242-2219.