Sexual health is an important part of our overall emotional and physical health, that many people may experience problems with at some point in their life – which is when sex therapy can help.
Talking about sexual problems can be a daunting and embarrassing area of discussion for some people; and seeking out help to address such concerns can be a nerve-wracking experience. However for those seeking to resolve their sexual issues, sex therapy offers a safe space to do so.
What is a Sexual Therapist?
Sex therapists are like other types of therapists and have boundaries in place regarding physical contact. They follow a code of ethics and aim to provide a safe and supporting space for clients.
Like other therapists, a sex therapist will empathically listen, discuss and talk with you about your concerns.
What makes sex therapy stand out from other forms of therapy, is that a sex therapist is qualified and more equipped to assist with sexual concerns.
Sex therapists use similar therapy techniques as other types of therapists, and may integrate aspects of behavioural and cognitive interventions, with modalities of psychodynamic, mindfulness, relationship, as well as education interventions in the course of their sessions. The type of interventions used will depend on the client and their concerns. A sexual therapist can work with you to help resolve various sexual issues such as:
- Concerns about sexual desire or arousal;
- Concerns about sexual interests of orientation;
- Concerns regarding past unwanted sexual experiences;
- Difficulty communicating around sexual matters;
- Difficulties with sexual arousal;
- Early ejaculation;
- Erectile dysfunction;
- Impulsive sexual behaviour;
- Intimacy issues and concerns;
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia);
- Trouble reaching orgasm (anorgasmia);
- Sexual abuse or trauma;
- Sexual identity questions.
What Happens in Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy begins with a thorough assessment of the client’s presenting sexual concerns, with the sex therapist often undertaking a detailed history of your physical and emotional health as well as information about your relationships. This assessment allows the therapist to gain an understanding of your overall wellbeing, and can help you to explore and gain further understanding of your concerns.
From there, both you and your therapist can begin exploring your concerns, developing strategies and goals and if needed, a treatment plan.
Homework between sessions is an important aspect to successful sex therapy outcomes, with a sex therapist offering suggestions for individuals or couples to action between session. One example of homework is sensate focus, a technique that aims to assist in building trust and intimacy while reducing anxiety. Other potential forms of homework may include communication exercises for you and your partner, engaging in materials that aid in further sexual health education, and experimentation with role play and sex toys in the comfort of your own home.
Sex therapy is often short term, with some concerns and issues addressed quickly. However, it’s also quite common that several counselling sessions may be needed, and depending on the client’s concern and requirements, the sex therapist may be part of a broader health professional team.
Who is Suited for Sex Therapy?
There is no one “type” of person suited for sex therapy, as people from all backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, genders, and religion are welcomed by sex therapists. There is no need for you to be involved in a relationship in order to participate in sex therapy; and if you are currently in a relationship there is no need for your partner to be involved in the sessions. If you wish to have your partner involved, this is commonly welcomed by the sex therapist and may assist in working towards homework goals.
Due to their training, sex therapists are informed and trained to work with individuals whose relationship styles may differ from monogamy. Qualified sex therapists are also welcoming to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, pansexual, intersex, non-binary, gender variant, gender creative or genderqueer, and have an understanding on specific sexual health concerns and acknowledge the importance of inclusive language.
Preparing for Sex Therapy
There is no need to gain a referral to see a sex therapist, and due to the sensitive nature of discussing sexual behaviours, it is important that you as a client, find someone you can trust.
Currently in Australia, sex therapy is not yet regulated by the government which means there is the potential for clients to approach and work with someone who is untrained and inexperienced, therefore it is important to do your research. It is important for clients to ask questions about the sex therapist’s work experience and qualification/s, as most qualified sex therapists have had some form of education, training, and supervision in the area of sexual behaviour and health.
Prior to an appointment with a sex therapist, it helps for the client to be prepared. This could include writing a list detailing any sexual concerns, as well as key personal information such as medical conditions or major life stressors.
It can also be beneficial to write a list of current or past medications including vitamins, supplements, and over the counter drugs.
To ensure that you have selected to work with a sex therapist that is right for you, you are welcome to bring along a list of questions to ask the sex therapist. This also has the added benefit of building trust and rapport between you and your therapist.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
- Althof, S.E. (2010). What’s new in sex therapy. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 5-13. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01433.x
- Binik, Y.M., Hall, K. S., & Wetchler, J. L. (2014). Principles and practice of sex therapy (5th Ed.). New York, N.Y: The Guildford Press.
- Graham, C. A., & Hall, K. (2012). The cultural context of sexual pleasure and problems: Psychotherapy with diverse clients. New York, N.Y: Brunner-Routledge
- McCarthy, B., & Wald Ross, L. (2018) Expanding the types of clients receiving sex therapy and sexual health services. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44, 96-101. http://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1321599
- Pukall, C.F. (2009). Sex therapy is special because it deals with sex. Achieves of Sexual Behaviour, 38,1039-1040. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9468-8
- Rademacher, L., & Hoskins, L. (2017). The principles of pleasure: Working with the good stuff as sex therapists and educators. London, UK: Taylor & Francis
- Tabatabaie, A. (2014) “Does sex therapy work? How can we know?” Measuring outcomes in sex therapy. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 29, 269-279. http://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2014.915705