What is sex therapy? It is similar to regular counseling, but the focus is on intimacy in your marriage. Sexual issues are addressed directly, not after working on broader issues of the relationship.
Different kinds of counselors can do sex therapy: psychiatrists, marriage/family/couples counselors, psychologist and clinical social workers. But those of us who focus in intimacy in relationships usually have additional training beyond what is required for the license to be one of the above professionals.
Sex Therapy – Training and Experience
In addition to studying sex therapy methods, your therapist may have attended a graduate school focused on the specialty, done a rigorous amount of study on their own, read many scientific journals devoted to sexual research, and/or regularly attended the conferences of the main sexological organizations.
Sex therapy is almost always talk therapy, designed to help both individuals make sexuality a more meaningful part of their lives—not just intercourse, but closeness that strengthens the relationship.
What Is Sex Therapy Like?
The therapy progression may go something like this:
- The therapy starts with a meeting to discuss your issues, decide whether sex therapy is in order, and whether you and the therapist are a good fit.
- Next, a meeting with each person provides the therapist with a sexual health history. This history provides a clear sense of each partner’s relational, psychological and sexual development.
This second meeting could include a discussion of sexual attitudes and beliefs as well. Through these meetings, the therapist gains useful information about how to approach your situation, and you get comfortable sharing personal information with the therapist.
- At the third meeting, the therapist should be ready to present a treatment plan based on findings from meetings 1 and 2, your desire to become closer to your partner, and your motivation for success. The three of you will discuss the plan and make any changes you see fit.
- With a plan in place, the actual treatment begins. It can take just a few sessions or longer, depending on your situation. Each session will probably end with “homework” for you to do in the privacy of your bedroom. Depending on the results, changes may be made to the plan along the way.
Understanding What Sex Therapists Do—and Don’t Do
We resolve sexual issues by addressing them directly, not first dealing with any broader relationship issues you may be having. Contrary to popular opinion, sex does not magically fall into place once you have worked out other challenges!
Counselors who deal with intimacy issues in couples do not try to force the person who wants less sex to want more. We address the complex physiological processes that are part of the sexuality picture, and work collaboratively with physicians when physical problems underlie sexual problems.
We usually have several options for treating a particular issue. Treatment is tailored to the clients.
One thing any reputable sex therapist will not do is try to change your sexual orientation or gender expression.
Issues That Sex Therapists Work On
A wide range of issues can be addressed through sex therapy, including:
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Sexual dysfunction such as premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, vaginismus
- Desire and arousal issues
- Pain during intercourse
- PTSD, anxiety, trauma and negative body image
- Sex addiction
What Makes Sex Therapy Work—or Not
It works when the couple is committed to the process. It is best to approach this kind of therapy with the same attitude you take toward any other goal, like a promotion at work or losing 20 pounds.
A satisfying sexual relationship is a worthy goal that will pay dividends in every other aspect of your life.