Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy aimed at addressing psychological issues that affect a person’s sexual function, drive or desire to be intimate. When most people hear the word sex therapist, they get a little twinkle in their eyes, as their imagination runs wild. Just the word SEX is one that makes some people uncomfortable and some start to fantasize. It’s important to clear up any misunderstandings and talk about what sex therapy really is.
Most adults at one point or another in their life will be facing an issue that revolves around intimacy or sex. Many probably think that talking about them won’t help and that instead they just need to ‘get over what they have’ or just take ‘a little pill’. Well talking about your sexual issues can help you get to the core of these problems and actually help you deal with them. Often times people are scared or don’t feel comfortable talking about their fantasies or what they like. Sex therapists are comfortable speaking about sex and nothing is off-limits.
WHEN SHOULD A PERSON SEEK HELP FROM A SEX THERAPIST?
There are many different reasons why someone might want to choose to see a sex therapist. In general, it is recommended for anyone whose daily life and quality of life is affected by their sexual dysfunction/desire, or anyone who is dealing with intimacy problem, no matter what age or background. Parent’s sometimes seek the help of a sex therapist to help their adolescent child deal with their new-found sexual interest. Did you know that one out of four of all of men that suffer from erectile dysfunction, suffer from it due to a psychological issue rather than a physical one. Sex therapy can tackle the psychological influence.Other issues that are dealt with in sex therapy are low libido, problems with orgasm, traumatic experiences in relation to sex and relationships, sex addiction and many others. Sex therapists often will work collaboratively with your physician to address all of the causes that can be leading to your sexual concerns.
SO HOW DOES A SEX THERAPY SESSION LOOK LIKE?
Contrary to what many people may believe, a sex therapy session does not involve actual sexual acts, kinky stuff or getting undressed. A sex therapy session is actually very similar to a counseling session with a mental health professional. Sometimes sex therapist will enlist the help of a sex surrogate, even then the therapist will never do anything else than help the client process their experiences through talking.
Sex therapy is carried out by a person that has specialized training in psychological methods of treatment and rehabilitation geared at sexual issues and relationship problems. All sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals and should be knowledgable in helping clients with other issues such as depression and anxiety.
The main goal will be to look at core issues that may contribute to sexual problems and work on those. Sex therapy with couples will explore how communication, self-esteem and trust issues are causing relationship distress. Couple sex therapy will help you break down the barriers to communication and allow you to voice your physical and psychological needs.
SEX THERAPY INVOLVES HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS
A sex therapy session does not involve anything else but talk-therapy and clients always keep their clothes on. However, a therapist may give homework assignments. For couples this could be something similar to sensate focus exercises, that are used to help couples become more intimate and attuned to their partners wants and needs. For individuals homework may come in the form of exercises to help them with impulse control or getting to understand their body better.
NOT EVERY MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IS A SEX THERAPIST, SO BE PICKY.
First of all, its important to understand that only someone who has had that extra training can call themselves a sex therapist. Make sure you check their credentials and look to see if they have that specialized certification. Although a lot of marriage and family therapists, social workers, psychologist, counselors and psychiatrists will say they do sex therapy or work with people on those issues; only those who are certified will guarantee that they have had that extra training. Ask to speak to them first and do your research about the types of problems they treat. Remember, sex therapy can be compared to psychological counseling, which means that it cannot tackle physical impairment that leads to sexual dysfunction such as heart disease, diabetes, low blood pressure etc.
All sex therapists are trained to address emotional, physical and biological issues that can have an impact on sexuality for both men and women. Some sex therapists also have specialized training to help non-binary, transgender or intersex individuals that do not consider themselves cisgender. A sex therapist should never deny any individual’s person’s gender identity or orientation. Additionally, a sex therapist should address the concern that the individuals is seeking therapy for and not what their personal agenda.
Sex therapy as any counseling session is very personal. Find a person you feel comfortable speaking to. Also make sure that you feel heard and understood. You have the right to tell your therapist that they have not understood your or that you do not feel that you are getting the help you need. Remember, sex therapy, does take some time, so don’t expect results after only one session. Sometimes there are issues that are very profound and can take longer, from months to a years. Other problems might just take a few sessions. Give yourself time to heal and work on yourself. Remember that sometimes it may just be your focus on the issue itself that is causing the problem.
Monika Kreinberg is the owner of Mind Wellness Center and a Relationship and Sex Expert. She offers individual and couples counseling to help people improve the relationship with themselves and with others. Her private practice is located in Miami, Florida. She is a dually licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Mental Health Counselor who uses Imago therapy and the Gottman Method to help couples improve their relationship. She is also a BOARD CERTIFIED SEX THERAPIST, a National Certified Counselor and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and is trained in modalities such as psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desinsitatization Reprocessing). Monika is a culturally sensitive therapist who is fluent in five language (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, Therapist Certification Association and the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association. You can read more about her at: Mindwellnesscenter.com and follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mindwellnesscenter, on twitter at https://twitter.com/MindWellness and Instagram at Mindwellnesscenter.com.