Learn about what is sex therapy and what a typical session may look like.
Talking about sex can seem difficult for many people. Low libido and sexual performance are bedroom issues that may be beyond what your usual therapist, primary care physician, or ob-gyn would discuss.
Here is where sex therapy comes in — professionals who focus specifically on human sexuality, and who can offer compassionate, research-backed help while addressing psychological, physiological, and cultural factors in play.
What Is Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy can be described as a form of talk therapy that helps individuals and couples to address the psychological, emotional, or interpersonal factors that impact sexual satisfaction.
Sex therapy aims to help people overcome their emotional and physical challenges and have a fulfilling relationship and a sex life. Sexual dysfunction can be common. In fact, 31% of women and 31% of men have experienced some form of sexual dysfunction in their lives. These dysfunctions could include:
- erectile dysfunction
- Low libido
- Absence of interest
- Premature ejaculation
- Low confidence
- Inability to respond to sexual stimuli
- Inability to attain orgasm
- excessive libido
- Inability to control sexual behaviour
- Distressing sexual thoughts
- Unwanted sexual fetishes
It is natural and healthy to have a fulfilling sex life. Your well-being depends on your ability to have emotional and physical intimacy. It can be hard to have a fulfilling sex life when sexual dysfunction is present. Sex therapy might be able to help you to reframe your sexual problems and increase your sexual satisfaction.
Sex therapy is not just about helping couples or individuals with their sexual dysfunction but also improving their enjoyment, skill, and confidence in their sexual experiences. They don’t judge people based on their sexual desires and fetishes but instead recognize that everyone is unique and will have different sexual experiences. Sex therapists prefer to work with couples and will encourage them not to judge or blame one another for their sexual problems.
How Does Sex Therapy Work?
Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy. Talking through your feelings, worries, and experiences can help you treat the condition. You will then be able to work with your therapist on coping strategies that will help you have a better sex experience in the future.
Your therapist will talk to you alone or with your partner during your first appointment. Your therapist will help you to process any current challenges.
- They are not there for one person or one group.
- Everyone will also be required to wear their clothes. The sex therapist won’t have sexual relations with anyone nor show anyone how to have sex.
Your therapist will push you to improve your sexual dysfunction management skills and accept your concerns. All talk therapy, including sex therapy, is supportive and educational. Sex therapists offer comfort and encourage you to make changes. They will likely give you assignments and work before your next appointment.
What Happens In Sexual Counselling?
In most cases, sex therapy will involve several sessions with a therapist who acts as a counselor to help the couple discuss their sexual issues and to facilitate them sharing these problems. Although the treatment is intended to be done together, some aspects may only affect one of the partners. Individuals may also seek therapy, and they will be treated as such.
Initial assessment and Talk Therapy
A sex therapist will listen to you describe your problems and assess whether the cause is likely to be psychological, physical, or a combination of the two.
Each therapy session is confidential. You can see a sex therapist by yourself, but if your problem affects your partner as well, it may be better for you both to attend.
Talking about and exploring your experiences will help you better understand what is happening and the reasons. The therapist may also give you exercises and tasks to do with your partner in your own time.
Sessions usually last for 30 to 50 minutes. The therapist may advise you to have weekly sessions or to see them less frequently, such as once a month.
A therapist, or another health professional, may ask the couple questions about their sexual difficulties in order to determine the severity, nature, and causes.
- The history of their relationship, including when they were first attracted and when they became sexually active.
- Sexual difficulties may develop.
- Nature of sexual problems;
- Couples’ explanations for having difficulty with their sexual relationships
- Attitudes towards sexuality
- Previous treatment for sexual problems and the response to that treatment.
It may be difficult to discuss the history of the relationship. Many couples seeking sex therapy are experiencing relationship problems and may feel shame, guilt, and anger. Negative emotions can interfere with treatment. The sex therapist will encourage couples to talk about past events and then move on, leaving behind any negative emotions.
Therapists might also ask the couple questions about their childhood, which could impact their sexuality today.
- Their parents’ marital status, details about their parents’ intimacy level, and attitudes to sexuality;
- Childhood experience with incest and sexual abuse
A physical examination is also important. A Sex Therapist, who is not a doctor, nurse, or physiotherapist, cannot conduct a physical exam. If the complaint is serious, a physical exam is usually required.
- a sexual pain disorder (e.g. vaginismus, dyspareunia);
- erectile dysfunction; or
- It is believed that the condition is caused by a neurological disorder.
The physical examination can often provide important insight into the causes and nature of other sexual problems. This can help the doctor choose the best laboratory tests and other investigations for diagnosis. You can use it to:
- Women may experience degeneration in their genital tissue, which could indicate an oestrogen problem or connective tissue disorder.
- Erectile dysfunction in men could indicate diabetes, cardiovascular problems, or lower urinary tract problems.
- The emotional and physical responses to pelvic or genital examinations of a woman and a man can provide insight into psychological issues that may be underlying sexual dysfunction.
Doctors use the information gleaned from history and examination to create:
- A preliminary diagnosis of the causes of the couple’s problems sexually (especially if the difficulties are primarily caused by psychological or biological factors).
- A strategy to resolve the sexual problems based on the diagnosis.
- A strategy to resolve any issues that may affect sexual problems (e.g. Referral to couples therapy or marriage counseling to address issues like intimacy and trust.
Sometimes, the terminology used by medical professionals to classify sexual complaints can make diagnosis more difficult. In the medical world, complaints are often referred to as dysfunctions or disorders rather than difficulties. This terminology is seen as problematic by many professionals, who believe it implies that people who don’t live up to a certain sexual ideal (e.g., Being able to have an orgasm each time they have sex is a sign that someone is dysfunctional. Many people argue that current sexual ideals are unrealistic and that failing to have an orgasm or an epileptic from time to time is normal.
Some of the treatments for sex therapy include:
- Sexuality counseling Sessions for individuals, couples or groups – Sex counselling addresses issues such as self-image, sexual identity, gender roles development, and relationships. Counsellors and clients interact to explore and understand the connections between sexual desires and practices, ideals, and duties.
- Medications include prescriptions of PDE5 inhibitors to treat erectile dysfunction and antibiotics to treat STI (sexually transmitted infections) that contribute to problems such as dyspareunia.
The bottom line
For many reasons, fulfilling sex life is essential for your overall health. A healthy sex lifestyle has many benefits. These include lower blood pressure, better health, and stress reduction. Sex is also a fun, natural part of our lives.
For some, however, sex can be a source of anxiety and worry. Sexual dysfunction can cause problems in relationships, loss of confidence, or other negative consequences.
Sex therapy is an integrative approach that treats and eliminates underlying issues. These concerns could be physical, like low circulation. These concerns could also be psychological, like anxiety, stress, and confidence issues.
Individuals and couples can use sex therapy to find a way of having open, honest communication. This will allow them to work through their concerns and challenges towards a happy, healthy sex life.