Sex therapy is often misunderstood. Some people think that the therapist will engage in sexual activity with the client or that sex therapy is only for individuals with severe sexual issues. In truth, sex therapy provides a secure and welcoming environment where clients can discuss their worries at their own pace. It utilises the same values as any other form of counselling or psychotherapy- Consent, Mutual Respect, and a therapist that that has knowledge with which to work together with you. Therapists never pressure their clients to do anything that they are not comfortable or confident with, and many individuals seek sex therapy to enhance their overall experience and connection. Sex therapy is not necessarily indicative of any problems with a relationship, as it covers a range of concerns.
Understanding Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of counselling that focuses on improving sexual experiences and addressing sexual, or other issues pertaining to sexuality concerns. It is a specialized area of mental health therapy, much like marriage counselling or individual therapy, and is conducted by properly trained and licensed professionals. A sex therapist may only call themselves this if they have additional formal and specialised education in this field. Other designations sex therapists may go by include Clinical Sexologist and Psychosexual therapist.
Sex therapy is not only for those dealing with sexual dysfunction or problems in their sex life. Anyone looking to improve their sexual experiences or wanting to explore and learn more about their sexuality can benefit from sex therapy. Very often, relationship issues spill over and affect couple sexuality. As a result, very often sex therapy can be a form of relationship therapy, as these issues need to be resolved first. It is important to note that sex therapy does not involve any intimate acts with the therapist. As in all forms of psychological therapy, your therapist will usually never touch you.
For those dealing with a specific concern such as erectile dysfunction, pain during intercourse, early ejaculation or low desire, sex therapy can be particularly helpful by exploring solutions that target the root cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms. Sexual issues or identity can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, identity or relationship dynamic so it’s understandable if someone may feel discouraged or embarrassed at first when seeking help from a professional. Know that sexual problems are common and there are professionals who have expertise in this area to support you.
The Professional Involvement
The role of the therapist begins with gathering information about a client’s sexual history and present situation, then helping the client establish realistic goals for themselves within the framework of their life. Once established, the therapist and client work collaboratively to explore strategies and techniques for achieving these goals. This can include homework assignments outside of sessions which may involve practicing communication skills or trying new ways of connecting with one’s partner without any pressure to be intimate while trying out new behaviours.
For example, a couple seeking sex therapy due to difficulties with intimacy may be given exercises that focus on non-sexual touch like holding hands or hugging. These simple acts will help increase feelings of closeness between partners without feeling pressured into intimacy. Similarly, an individual struggling with anxiety related to sexual performance might work with a therapist to develop coping mechanisms through relaxation techniques or visualization exercises.
Sex therapy sessions are customized to meet the specific needs of each client. Some clients may need more frequent visits depending on the severity and type of issue being addressed. Privacy and confidentiality are crucial aspects of sex therapy and clients have the right to feel comfortable discussing any concerns they may have with their therapist. It is important for sex therapists to uphold these principles.
In sex therapy, it is important to establish a safe and accepting space where clients can openly talk about sensitive issues without fear of being judged. Therapists use various techniques like active listening, empathy and reframing methods to make clients feel at ease throughout the counselling session. Many individuals struggle to talk openly about sex due to its taboo status in various societies. Therefore, establishing clear lines of communication can be beneficial in helping clients achieve their goals.
However, while addressing sensitive sexual topics in therapy can be challenging, therapists do not force their clients to discuss any topic they are uncomfortable with. Clients are free to share as much or as little as they want during sessions at a pace that suits them. Some clients don’t always know how to start talking about their sexual issues, so they rely on their therapist’s expertise to guide them through the therapy process.
Debunking Myths About Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is not just for those with severe issues, as some may believe. It can benefit anyone who wants to enhance their sex life, whether for an individual or as part of a relationship. There is no need for clients to have a specific concern to attend sex therapy sessions; they can also use it to explore themselves further and stay aware of their needs and desires.
For example, a couple seeking sex therapy doesn’t have to be near separation or divorce—rather, sessions can serve as proactive interventions to improve communication around sexual issues and develop new ways to deepen intimacy.
Conversely, another misconception is that if you need sex therapy, your relationship is doomed. But seeking help through sex therapy is a positive sign that couples are committed to resolving conflicts and improving their relationship overall.
Reframing the concept of seeking help with your physical wellbeing can also be applied here. It would be far better to seek preventative medical care early on than wait until we are dealing with chronic health conditions that require more intensive treatments.
Another myth surrounding sex therapy is that sessions exclusively involve uncomfortable or embarrassing exercises. Though therapists may suggest exercises or “homework” assignments as part of treatment plans at times, your therapist will always check in with your comfort levels.
Homework may include mindfulness practices, recommended reading material, or exploring one’s own body through masturbation. The purpose of such exercises is to help the clients feel more self-assured about their sexual selves without necessarily involving physical intimacy with their partner.
Lastly, a common (and entirely unfounded) myth related to sex therapy is that therapists might engage in sexual behaviour with clients. This just isn’t the case. Sex therapy professionals are held to the same ethical standards as other healthcare providers and must maintain strict boundaries between professional and personal relationships with clients. Any form of sexual contact could cost a therapist their license and career.
How do these misconceptions negatively impact individuals seeking sex therapy?
These misconceptions may prevent people from seeking therapy altogether. And those who do seek out sex therapy may be negatively impacted by their misconceptions about the process and outcome. For example, some may believe that sex therapists will judge them or think less of them because of their issues. Others may falsely assume that sex therapy is a quick fix for all sexual problems and may become discouraged if progress is slow.
These misconceptions also contribute to the stigma surrounding sexuality concerns and even mental health issues in general. As a result, people may feel isolated and alone in their struggles, leading to further avoidance of personal problems and distress.
Debunking common myths and misconceptions about sex therapy could help more individuals receive the care they need to heal and improve their sexual lives. Education on this topic will ultimately lead to greater understanding, comfort, and acceptance of sexual diversity, hence promoting greater health and wellbeing for those who seek therapy’s help.