02 March 2015

What is sex therapy and when is it useful?

Many people are hesitant to consider going for sex therapy, but it’s a highly professional discipline that offers hope and help for a wide range of sexual problems.


Most of us will have a problem with sex at some point in our lives. Some people deal with this themselves but, for others, sexual problems can cause a lot of distress and unhappiness and require professional help.

What is sex therapy?

Sex therapists are health professionals who have specialised training in helping people with difficulties relating to sex. A well-qualified sex therapist has done intensive research on sexual problems and sexual dysfunction, and truly understands how to help individuals faced with these.

Over the last 25 years sex therapy has come of age. If it was regarded with suspicion in the 1960s and early 1970s, sex therapy is now considered a discipline with full-fledged professional credibility. The field has become respectable. It’s associated with journals, conferences, training programmes, professional organisations, accreditation standards and certifications rather than voyeuristic, exploitative charlatans.  

Find a practitioner that’s right for you

Sex therapy can be a somewhat daunting experience and an individual or couple can be quite wary initially. You may be wondering: what kind of person specialises in sex therapy? Is the therapist weird? Do they have all sorts of strange ideas about sex and sexuality?

However, if you consult with a qualified, experienced practitioner who specialises in sex therapy, you will realise that they’re professional doctors with an interest in relationships and mental health care, and have expert skills to help you with your problem.

Read: Do you trust your partner?

Look for a sex therapist with whom you feel comfortable. Be very specific regarding who you want to see. A male or a female therapist? How old should they be? What should they specialise in? Do you want a warm, friendly doctor, or one who is more clinical?

The closer a therapist meets your criteria, the more comfortable you'll feel and the more able you'll be to share your sexual story. If you’re going for sex therapy as a couple, make sure both you and your partner are happy with the doctor you’ve selected. 

What will the sex therapy session be like?

Sex therapy is structured as a normal therapy session, where various questions are asked to get a holistic idea about your and your partner’s life. It’s thus not as daunting as you may think.

The best attitude to have is to be open about your problems and aware that this person is there to help you, not to judge you. They’re professionals who will be empathetic and helpful and will listen to all your concerns and problems.

It's important to remember that all therapy sessions are confidential and you should feel no hesitation to tell your therapist in detail about the issues troubling you, to enable him/her to help you effectively. 

Read: 10 signs of relationship trouble

Sex therapists can help you deal with:

Lack of arousal (inability to get or maintain an erection, or female frigidity)

Lack of orgasm (inability to climax or control ejaculation)

Sexual inhibitions

Painful intercourse

Sexual relationships that become stagnant

Differences in what sexually arouses each of you

Communication breakdowns when it comes to discussing sex

Enhancing your sexual relationship

Difficulty in establishing sexual boundaries

Dealing with sexually transmitted infections within your relationship

Couples struggling with sexual communication

Many people may think that you must have severe sexual problems before seeking help from a sex therapist, but this isn’t so. Many sex therapists deal with couples with general sexual problems, such as lack of effective communication about sexual dynamics in their relationships. It's therefore not necessary to wait for a massive sexual issue to develop before seeking professional help.

Consider seeking help as soon as problems arise, even with small sexual issues, to prevent these growing into big dilemmas. Sex therapy can be very helpful and a rather pleasant experience. It doesn’t have to be scary and stressful.

Source: Kleinplatz, P.J. (2001).  The New Dictionary in Sex Therapy Innovations and alternatives.  USA: Brunner-Routledge.

Image credit: Therapy by Shutterstock

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