Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy. Through sex therapy, you can address concerns about sexual function, sexual feelings and intimacy — either in individual therapy or in therapy with a partner. Sex therapy can be an effective resource for adults of any age, gender or sexual orientation.
Sex therapy is usually provided by psychologists, physicians who have special training in issues related to sex and relationships.
Sex therapy is usually short term. The specific treatment plan depends on the issues to be addressed.
Sex therapists do not have sexual contact with clients, in the office or anywhere else. Sexual coaching that involves physical contact isn't considered part of mainstream sex therapy.
Why it's done
Sex therapy can help you resolve various sexual issues, from concerns about sexual function or feelings that affect your sex life to the way you relate to your partner. Through sex therapy, you may address:
- Concerns about sexual desire or arousal
- Concerns about sexual interests or sexual orientation
- Compulsive sexual behavior
- Erectile dysfunction
- Ejaculating too quickly (premature ejaculation)
- Trouble reaching orgasm (anorgasmia)
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Intimacy issues related to a disability or chronic condition
Talking about sex and intimacy can feel awkward, whether you know why you're having a sexual issue or you're baffled by the problem. Remember, though, that sex therapists are trained to understand these reservations and to help identify and explore sexual issues. Through sex therapy, you'll learn to express yourself clearly and better understand your own sexual needs, as well as your partner's sexual needs.
What you need to do
You'll likely begin sex therapy by describing your specific sexual concerns. Sexual issues can be complicated, and your therapist will want to get a clear idea of all the factors involved. Once your therapist understands the situation, he will discuss ways to resolve your concerns and improve your communication and intimacy.
If you're in a relationship, it's usually most helpful to involve your partner in meetings with your sex therapist. You and your partner may be assigned a series of homework exercises, such as:
- Reading about sexual techniques
- Slowing down and focusing on what you're sensing during sexual encounters
- Changing the way you interact with your partner during sex
Sex therapy is usually short term. Some concerns can be addressed quickly, in just a few visits. Typically, however, a number of counseling sessions are required — usually weekly or once every two weeks for several months. As sex therapy progresses, you'll use your home experiences to further identify and refine the issues you'd like to work on. Remember, sexual coaching that involves physical contact isn't considered part of mainstream sex therapy.
Keep in mind that concerns about sex and intimacy are often linked to other underlying issues, such as stress, anxiety or depression. In other cases, sexual function is affected by chronic illness, medication side effects or surgery. Depending on your concerns, seeing only a sex therapist may be enough — or your sex therapist may be part of a team that includes your doctor, psychologist or physical therapist. For some sexual concerns, medication may be helpful.
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