What is Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy is a subspecialty of psychotherapy, focusing on the specific concerns related to human sexuality. People of all ages, creeds, health status, ethnic backgrounds, whether partnered or single, may benefit from working with a psychotherapist who specializes in this area. AASECT Certified Sex Therapists use specialized clinical skills and theoretical knowledge to help people solve their sexual concerns.

In most states and provinces, sex therapy is not a separately licensed or regulated profession, just as child psychotherapy or geriatric psychotherapy is not government regulated beyond granting the basic license to practice therapy. To assure the public of highly qualified practitioners, AASECT provides voluntary certification to those therapists who have completed the rigorous certification process. Only those therapists who have met these qualifications may designate themselves as “AASECT Certified Sex Therapists.”

What are some possible reasons that an individual may need sex therapy?

There are many reasons for a person to seek sex therapy. People experiencing concerns about arousal, performance, or satisfaction are likely to seek sex therapy. Among these problems are decreased or increased desires for sexual intimacy, or in the case of a couple, mismatched or discrepant desire or interest in sexual intimacy. Both men and women can experience concerns about arousal; there are many causes and options for solving these problems. At any age, performance or lovemaking skills can be of concern, as well as concerns about orgasm and satisfaction or lack thereof.

Additionally, concerns about sexual trauma in one’s background, medical conditions that affect one’s sexuality, sexual pain disorders, concerns about gender identity or sexual orientation, and issues around sexual compulsivity or addiction are frequent concerns that people discuss with an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.

What happens during sex therapy?

The sex therapy process is very similar to that experienced with other mental health practitioners. The AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will meet with the person as an individual or with a couple in an office setting, where an extensive history of the concerns will be taken. The AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will note both the psychological and the physical components and will establish one or more diagnoses. After this, a treatment plan will be proposed, with the individual’s or couple’s involvement in its development. In some instances, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist may work closely with the person’s physician, nurse, or other therapist or counselor to establish causes and remedies for the problems.

Depending on the diagnosis, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will educate the person or couple about the issue and discuss possible options for change. This educational process may occur through suggested reading material, through watching educational audio-visual materials, through discussion with the therapist, through attending workshops, or all of these therapeutic processes. Sometimes having more information will allow the problem to resolve. Sometimes more specific or intensive therapy will be needed.

If more specific therapy is needed, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist may suggest a regular schedule of office appointments. Often, homework exercises to be practiced individually or as a couple in the privacy of their home, between office appointments, will be suggested. The homework may be as general as communication exercises or as specific as actual sexual suggestions, depending on the progress in therapy and the person’s level of comfort with accepting direction.

In no instances and under no circumstances will a AASECT Certified Sex Therapist observe a therapy patient/ client having sex nor engage in any kind of sexual activity with a therapy patient/client, whether in the office or in any location. To do so is a breach of ethics, and in some states and provinces is a crime. Touch and the AASECT Professional; also AASECT Code of Ethics.

Communication Tips

-Try not to interrupt when the other person is speaking, let them finish

-Reflect back what you heard, this will let you know if what you heard is what your partner was trying to say and will allow the other person to feel heard/understood

-Share your perspective and feelings in a way that will not put your partner on the defensive 

Connection Tips

-Be present and in the moment, when your partner is speaking, give them your full attention

-Show affection in a way your partner will feel loved, for some that is touch and for others it is an act of kindness

-Have time without electronics, either over dinner, in the bedroom, or on a walk

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-Exercise and nutrition reduce stress, improve mental/physical health, and increase desire

-Mindfulness and meditation can cure a range of issues from sleep to orgasm

-Be in nature when possible to ground yourself, calm, and utilize your senses