Building Healthy Relationships Through Sex Therapy
What you need to know about Sex therapy
What is Sex therapy?
Sex therapy and coaching is a method of treatment used with individuals or couples who have sexual problems and concerns. It is based on the belief that sexuality can be a positive part of life, that relationships can be rewarding and that emotional and physical intimacy is a desirable goal. That it is not just physical, but a part of a spiritual life. But it is also built on sound research and a commitment to achieving successful outcomes. Sex therapy and coaching provides a supportive atmosphere in which individuals or couples can talk about sexual and relationship issues with a professional who is knowledgeable and comfortable with this area of life.
How is sexuality spiritual?
Sex and sexuality is not just physical, but it is also a way of communicating in loving and committed relationships.
At a basic level, while each partner is responsible for their own reception of pleasure, they are also responsible for fulfilling the needs of the other. The better each partner knows ways to approach sex, the better each can provide pleasure to the other. But paradoxically, the more pleasure each one receives, the more they are prepared to give to the other.
There is another level to which many couples testify. That their sense of Sacred is embedded in their sex. That they feel themselves tied, not only to the partner but also to all humanity.
Why is Sex therapy necessary?
Self-esteem and feeling comfortable about sexuality are often closely related. "When I can't feel good about my sexuality, how can I feel good about myself?" The reverse is often also true. Reliable information about sexuality is still difficult to find and many people feel uninformed about sexual response and enjoyment. Knowing about our body and feeling at ease with the range of emotions associated with our sexuality can contribute to a sense of well-being.
Sexual intimacy is important for most couples, of whatever gender inclination, as it can strengthen closeness and caring between partners. This is particularly important in today's society where there are many pressures on couples. Dissatisfaction with the sexual aspect of the relationship and the loss of shared intimacy may lead to feelings that threaten the total relationship rather than enhance it. Relationships may even end because of unresolved sexual difficulties.
Who seeks Sex therapy?
The qualified sex counselor counsels people with a variety of sexual concerns which may be a consequence of many factors of personal or social origin. They may be the result of illness or surgery, physical difficulties, or sexual trauma such as incest or sexual assault. Concerns may be about such things as levels of sexual desire, painful intercourse, absence of orgasm, erection problems or timing of ejaculation. Sex Counselors will also facilitate client’s sexual potential enabling them to enhance and enrich a creative form of sexual expression.
In addition, sex counselors work with couples who want to be able to talk more comfortably about sexual and intimacy issues. Sexual problems may be closely associated with other relationship issues which interfere with the desire to be intimate and close with one another.
The sex counselor also helps individuals who have inhibitions they wish to change, and questions to explore regarding sexual identity and orientation.
What can I expect in Sex therapy?
- You have a right to expect your sex counselor to be:
- At ease talking about sexuality and relationships
- Respectful of your feelings, values and privacy
Your counselor will probably begin to assess your concerns by asking you a number of direct questions about your personal history, sexual feelings and behavior. This is to help you and your counselor understand your issues. If you do not feel ready to talk about something, you can say so and your wish will be respected.
A medical examination may or may not be a part of the assessment. If it is necessary you will be asked to see your physician and to request the physician to communicate with the counselor. Your sex therapist or coach is not a physician and cannot perform this service. Some sex therapists have acquired a limited knowledge and can provide a cursory screening but cannot actually diagnose nor treat any physical condition. In a similar way, most physicians, even gynecologists and urologists have little training in sexual psychology and will best refer you to a sex therapists. Some issues which have a physical symptom are actually the result of psychological causes.
Treatment plans vary with different issues and the approach taken depends on the problem. As well as being supportive, the counselor may challenge or confront you on important issues but this but this will be done with respect for your feelings and spiritual or faith values. You may be offered the opportunity to read books designed for use in sex therapy and coaching. Between appointments you, or you and your partner, may be asked to do some exercises at home to help both your communication and comfort with sex. The format of these exercises is usually designed with your counselor so that you feel comfortable with the treatment plan. Ask questions about anything that you do not understand and talk with your counselor about anything that you do not want to do.
You will not be asked to engage in any form of sexual contact or activity with your therapist. You have a right to question the purpose of any activity and to have your questions fully satisfied. We call this, informed consent. You do not give up your self-direction. Of course you will be asked to be very open and frank in discussion of your feelings and your sexual behavior. You may also be shown very clear and explicit illustrations.
What training or certification do Sex therapists have?
People who become sex therapists usually have at least one professional degree in a field such as marital and family therapy and coaching, medicine, nursing, psychology, pastoral psychotherapy or social work plus further specialized educations and training in sex therapy and coaching. Most sex therapists will work under a code of ethics prescribed by their professional association. For pastoral psychotherapists, this is the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. The AAPC requires two professional degrees, a Masters degree beyond university in the member’s own spiritual path in order to be able appreciate other’s faith and spirituality, even if different. In addition it requires a second graduate degree—Masters or Doctoral—in therapy and psychotherapy along with thousands of hours of practice under strict supervision.
No single professional degree qualifies a person to do sex therapy and coaching. Sex therapists come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Knowledge of sexual anatomy and function, relationship issues, sex roles and expectations, and problems resulting from sexual abuse are just some of the areas a sex therapist needs to understand.
There are organizations of sex therapists which provide some effort at certification or credentialing. In particular, the American Association of Sex Educators and Counselors and Therapists and the American Board of Sexology are primary. However, sex therapists come from a variety of backgrounds and not all are associated with either of these.