This is a question I get asked A LOT. Especially from friends and people who hear that sex therapy is a thing and not just a thing like you see in the movies, but an actual career. Yes, sex therapy is a legitimate field of therapy. Sexology, the study of human sexuality, is an actual field of study and an actual profession. Since most people engage in sex to some extent (even not engaging in sex can affect our lives in various ways), it’s fair to say that many of us could benefit from sex therapy at some point in our lives. But people have many different ideas of what a sex therapist actually does and some people have virtually no clue. Well, I will try to explain as simply as possible what sex therapy is and also a little about what sex therapy is not.
A sex therapist works with anything and everything involving sexuality. Ready? This a rather long, though nonexhaustive list…Ok, anything and everything could mean sexual trauma, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual recovery, gender and sexual identity expression and/or concerns, gender and sexual fluidity, low or heightened sexual desire or arousal, relationship issues, changes in sexual desire or attraction, ejaculation concerns, erection issues, fantasy, orgasm problems, lack of orgasm, anxiety around anything related to sex (including performance, though we don’t like that word-sex isn’t about performing, but more on that later), pain with sex, paraphilias, kink, BDSM, infidelity, non-monogamy, masterbation, esteem related to sexuality, coming out, accepting one’s sexuality or the sexuality of another, asexuality, polyamory, LGBTQIA+, problem sexual behaviors, STI’s, embracing sexuality with age, embracing sexuality with illness, sexual health, sexual education, porn or erotica use, conflicting sexual values or beliefs, sex and religion or spirituality, sexual impulses that cause issues, intimacy concerns, body image, sexual development, sexual shame, and the list goes on and on.
Literally anything and everything to do with sex. Individuals and couples alike experience issues with sexuality and a sex therapist has specific training to fully receive and listen to issues involving sexuality without judgment or reaction. A sex therapist differs from a regular psychotherapist in that they have specific education and experience involving sexual health, problems, and enhancement.
And now onto what a sex therapist doesn’t do. A sex therapist does not engage in any physical act with a client, at all. Like, never. A sex therapist is not a sex worker. While sex work is a mostly respected field in the world of sexology and sex therapists, the two are completely different. Sex workers receive money for sexual services. There are no sexual services that happen with a sex therapist. No, your sex therapist will not show you how any of it is done. Well I take that back. We will show you how it’s done, using props, resources, and education, just not ourselves.
A sex therapist should never balk at anything sexuality related and even (most likely, if they are certified anyway) had to participate in a Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR). A SAR is a seminar designed to challenge and confront any predisposition or beliefs that could interfere with being a safe and effective sex therapist. And we have all watched a lot of porn (for educational purposes of course) and most of us have seen and/or heard it all.
In essence nothing should raise the eyes of a sex therapist. It’s all one big open and welcoming space to share your sexuality and to feel heard and supported whether you are seeking healing, acceptance, or connection. All are welcome and valued. You should feel heard and affirmed when engaging in sex ther