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Sex Therapy 101

June 15th, 2020


“Love received and love given compromise the best form of therapy.” - Gordon Allport

word cloud of sexual health words

Seeking Therapy?

There are so many different reasons that people may seek counseling. These reasons can vary from person to person and situation to situation. One such reason people may pursue therapy is for help with sexual concerns. For example, one type of sex therapy that people may seek is Family Sex Therapy.

If you have concerns about your sexual health, by the end of this blog post you will have a greater idea of what couples’ sex therapy is and if it is right for you and your partner!

Sex Therapy – What is it?

  • Sex therapy is a type of therapy sought by individuals for help with sexual concerns, difficulties, and dysfunctions
  • May focus on performance issues
  • Can involve helping with relationship issues

Conditions for Which People May Seek Sex Therapy

a young couple on a therapist's couch
  • Pain During Sex
  • Premature Ejaculation
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Arousal Disorders/Issues
  • Desire Disorders/Issues
  • Low Confidence
  • Lack of Response to Sexual Stimulus
  • Inability to Reach Orgasm
  • Excessive Libido
  • Inability to Control Sexual Behavior
  • Distressing Sexual Thoughts
  • Unwanted Sexual Fetishes

How does Sex Therapy Work?

  • Often will meet in the therapist’s office – in a private room
  • Couples may meet with therapist individually, or they may choose to meet together. Other times, couples will choose to do a hybrid of both
  • Therapy will typically last between 8-12 weeks on average

Sex Therapy Techniques

  • Sensate Focus
    • A sex therapy technique created by scientist practitioners Masters & Johnson in the 1960’s to enhance the intimacy and connection between partners
    • Sensate Focus involves several behavioral exercises to improve sexual health and well-being for couples. Some areas of sensate focus include:
      • Partners share mutual responsibility for sexual health
      • Psychoeducation about sexual health and how sex impacts relationships
      • Couples develop and practice willingness to change attitudes about sex
      • Combating performance anxiety
      • Improving communication about sex and sex practices/techniques
      • Reducing problematic sex roles and behaviors in the relationship
      • Homework to practice to improve sexual relationship
  • Breathing Drills
    • Focusing on diaphragmatic breathing can be beneficial for reducing both cognitive and somatic anxiety
  • Providing Education
    • Sometimes some of the stress and anxiety that is experienced revolving around sexual dysfunction occurs because of a lack of knowledge
    • Many times, those with issues will isolate themselves instead of seeking help
    • In their isolation, they may feel as though they are alone and the only ones who are experiencing such issues
    • Clients are able to break down walls and eliminate self-pressures once they are educated by a professional, such as would be the case when meeting with a sex therapist
  • Communication Strategies
    • Therapists who work with clients facing sexual dysfunction or hardship will often examine the relationship as a whole and, with the client, try to identify areas that could be improved
    • One such area that is often targeted is that of communication
    • Sex therapists often will explore how couples are sending and receiving messages from one another and if there is a breakdown in communication
    • Sometimes, the issue is not a lack of communication, but the absence of communication altogether
    • It is important that couples are able to share their thoughts, needs, wants, and desires to one another to allow for a healthy, happy sex life to grow and flourish

My Sex Life is Private to me – What will this Experience be Like?

It is very understandable wanting your sex life to remain private. In most cultures, one’s sexual activity is reserved to oneself, and possibly one or more trusted individuals who may share in the sexual activities (whether as an active or inactive participant). In whatever case, these activities are meant to be private and guarded, not shared to the public. With that concern in mind there are a few ideas about sex therapy that should be mentioned:

  • You will be meeting with a trained expert who works with individuals with sexual issues and who need sexual therapy
  • Most likely, you will be meeting in a private office with only the therapist (unless you and your partner(s) decide to go together)
  • Things you discuss and tell the therapist will stay confidential. This means that nothing you tell the therapist will be shared with other people
  • You can rest easy knowing that your sex life will remain private to you!

Additional Areas of Sex Therapy

A couple smiling on a couch with a therapist

Many of the areas that were discussed in this blog post involved couples sex therapy and improving issues between two individuals involved in a relationship. And while this is what much of sex therapy is, it is not all that sex therapy can help and address.

Sex therapy can also be beneficial for those trying to eliminate distracting sexual thoughts and remove unwanted sexual fetishes. Further, it can be beneficial for those who have experienced difficulty controlling their sexual behavior. Therefore, sex therapy can be beneficial for those at both ends of the spectrum, those who want to improve and increase their arousal, and those who want to decrease or stymie their arousal levels.

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