What is Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy broadly refers to specialized skills and specific treatment approaches to sexual concerns, problems and relationship issues. These can involve questions about sexual orientation/identity, or gender identity, or sexual/relationship preferences (including non-traditional relationships and "fetishes"). In general, a sex therapist helps you clarify, set goals and resolve sexual questions or difficulties which affect you and/or your relationship. Sometimes physical difficulties prevent or diminish sexual pleasure. In other instances, sexual communication and intimacy may seem difficult, and unsatisfying.
Properly trained sex therapists have not only taken classes on sexuality and received supervised training in sex therapy, they have also explored their own sexual attitudes and beliefs and continue to do so. To be a sex therapist, one needs to be exceptionally non-judgmental, unconditionally accepting, and open to very frank conversations.
There are several professional associations that credential sex therapists. The largest and most well-known is AASECT, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists. Unlike some other credentialing organizations, AASECT will only certify licensed mental health or medical professionals as sex therapists.
How does Sex Therapy work?
Choosing to begin sex therapy takes confidence to risk speaking about and sharing some very private information about oneself. Your therapist will do an assessment and, when appropriate, a full social and sexual history. You finish therapy when you have accomplished your goals. At all times, you are in charge of the pace, type of growth and the changes that you make. Sex therapy sessions are confidential.
What does Sex Therapy treat?
Many issues are appropriate for counseling, including sexual communication and negotiation. Other topics may be frequency, mutually agreeable behaviors, extra-marital sex and managing jealousy, lack of desire or boredom with routine. Some men may have problems with erections or ejaculation and women may have concerns about orgasm, painful intercourse or lubrication. For both partners there are sexual changes through life’s stages, including the effects of pregnancy and parenting, questions in mid-life, menopause and aging, and sexual activity following illness, surgery or disability.
I also see people who have had sexual trauma: are recovering from sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation as a child and other coercive sexual experiences. I also help people become comfortable with less common eroticisms, behaviors, relationships and fetishes.
Is Sex Therapy for you?
Sex therapy is helpful to couples, partners, families and individuals. In fact, sexual concerns are often major factors which prevent people from forming satisfying relationships. People of various ages are seen in therapy. People from all walks of life experience sexual difficulties and want accurate sexual information. Also cultural taboos, shyness or embarrassment about sex affect many people.
Sexuality counseling and/or sex therapy may be especially appropriate for those involved in alternative relationships (e.g., polyamory) or kink.
For many couples and partners who are interested in sexual enrichment, therapy is a safe place to acquire appropriate information and explore new behaviors.
Do I have to be in a relationship to benefit from sex therapy?
The short answer is "No." There is much that can be explored, learned and/or practiced on your own, with appropriate guidance.
Relationship and Individual Counseling
Although your sexual history reflects how you interact in many other areas of your life, not all issues that bring you to therapy are of a sexual nature. We can help you create or change a relationship, including contracting an alternative lifestyle or dissolution. We assist you to perceive options, make choices and resolve your concerns.
I and/or my partner was sexually abused. Can sex therapy help?
Yes, sex therapy can be especially beneficial in partnership with trauma-informed psychotherapy. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary (and perhaps not possible!) to "resolve all trauma" before beginning one’s journey toward improved sexual functioning and/or sexual recovery. In fact, when properly engaged in, sex therapy and trauma therapy integrate extremely well and one can “speed up” progress in the other.
I don't really have a problem per se, I just want a better sex life. Can sex therapy help?
Absolutely! Many people seek sexuality counseling or sex therapy because they want to get to that "next level" of sex. For some men, that may entail learning to become better lovers, or more comfortable with sexual behaviors that their partner(s) would like. It is even possible for some men to become multi-orgasmic! For some women, a "better sex life" might also entail becoming more comfortable with sexual behaviors that their partner(s) would like. Or they might wish to experience more and better orgasms. Or perhaps you wish to experiment and expand/explore your sexual boundaries. Sexuality counseling can be very useful in these situations, and is often relatively brief.
Are there any sexual issues or concerns that a sex therapist will not work with?
Yes. Ethically, I can not condone any form of child sexual abuse or exploitation. By law, any current and/or onoing child sexual abuse or exploitation must be reported to law enforcement. In addition, I will not work with people who engage in sexual (or other) practices that involve non-consensual physical, psychological or emotional harm, or physical or psychological coercion.
I often work in conjunction with your family doctor or specialist when dealing with specific medically-related problems such as erectile problems or vaginismus. How we will coordinate your treatment will depend on your specific goals. I never consult with any other professional without your informed consent and permission.