What Does a Sex Therapist Do?

Women's Health | | Natasha Weiss
5 min read

Having a professional help you better understand or improve certain areas of your life can be monumental. 

You might think of therapists as someone who helps people with things like depression, anxiety, and grief. But did you know they can help with more specific areas of your life – like sex?

A sex therapist is a mental health professional that specializes in helping people navigate issues regarding their sexuality and sexual functioning. 

Seeking out mental health care can be daunting enough, and even more so with a subject as sensitive as your sex life. We’re here to help demystify what sex therapy is, who might benefit from it, and why people seek it out. 

Why Do People Go to Sex Therapy?

Simply put, people go to sex therapy to help them handle issues regarding their sexuality, sex lives, and pleasure. 

For most people, sex is an integral part of being human, but unfortunately, there are numerous life events, societal influences, and disorders that can keep us from having a healthy and fulfiling sex life. Sometimes people need extra support and guidance in order to do this, that’s where sex therapists come in. 

Sex therapists can help you get to the root of where your sexual issues are coming from, and help you enjoy sex more overall. 

What are some things a sex therapist can help with?

Difficulty Reaching Orgasm

Although orgasms don’t necessarily have to be the goal of sex, it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening when you have difficulty having one. 

A sex therapist can help whether you have difficulty having an orgasm with a partner, or by 

yourself as well.

Pain During Sex

While pain during sex could be because of a physical issue like ovarian cysts or endometriosis, some of it may be psychological as well. 

If sex is painful for you, or you have difficulty with penetration and would like to do it, a sex therapist can help you understand why and give you practical tools to help decrease discomfort and increase pleasure. 

Low Libido

People experience low libido due to any number of reasons like hormonal changes, stress, depression, and certain life events. It can also put a huge strain on your relationship. 

If low libido is negatively impacting your life and relationships, a sex therapist can help with that. 

Sex After Trauma

Traumatic incidents, whether they were sexual in nature or not can impact your sex life.

A sex therapist can help you understand how this trauma has impacted your sex life, and how to heal and move past it.

Questioning Your Sexuality

Sex therapists that specialize in LGBTQ+ areas can help you figure out how you relate to your sexuality. Sexuality can change over time, and sometimes these changes catch us off guard or can be difficult to deal with.

What Happens During Sex Therapy?

There is no one size fits for sex therapy. Different providers will have different approaches that tailor to the needs of their individual patients. 

Depending on the reason for your visit, you may go by yourself or with your partner. 

Your sex therapist will most likely want a detailed history of your sex life, and what has brought you into their office. 

While modalities like sexological bodywork use hands-on methods, sex therapy is strictly talking therapy. This talk therapy will help them better understand the root of what has brought them there and how to move forward. 

You can expect to be given “homework” or take-home exercises to help you build your sexual practice and increase communication.

If your therapist determines that your sexual issues may stem from a physical problem, they will help refer you to another provider who can help you with that.

Depending on your needs, you can expect to have sessions weekly, every other week, or even monthly. It can be helpful to go weekly at first if you’re able to, to help build your relationship with your therapist and build momentum in your healing.

How To Find a Sex Therapist

Like with any relationship, it can take time to find the right sex therapist for you. If someone doesn’t feel like the right fit, trust your gut, and try to find a new provider. 

There isn’t strict regulation on who can call themselves a sex therapist, so you’ll want to pay attention to their credentials, training, and experience. 

Psychology Today is a great website that allows you to search for therapists that specialize in the niche you’re looking for (like sex therapy), as well as filter through insurance providers and other helpful criteria. 

The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists has an online directory to help you find registered sex therapists in your area or virtually. Another online directory is AASECT, The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Both of these organizations have strict criteria that providers have to follow in order to be considered sex therapists.

If you’re thinking about going to a sex therapist, know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, you should be proud of yourself for taking steps to heal or improve what can be one of the most sensitive parts of your life.

Come at the experience ready to be vulnerable, honest, and to do some deep digging. 

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