There’s so much pressure on all of us to be amazing lovers in bed. Movies show us impeccably made up actors falling gracefully into bed. Fitting together easily and climaxing simultaneously – all without even smudging their mascara.
Magazines tell us over and over again how to wow him in bed and have more intense orgasms. Then there’s porn, which, for anyone who hasn’t figured out, does not to provide a realistic model of how sexual experiences flow. We are sexually saturated as a culture, yet completely repressed society.
With all of this pressure consistently and relentlessly pressing down, it can be hard to admit when our own sex lives are less than stellar and a reboot.
That’s where sex therapy can help you.
What is Sex Therapy?
A sex therapist is a trained professional that counsel you with sex related issues and questions. A sex therapist can help you better understand what is getting in the way of having a fulfilling sex life and explore strategies to improve all things pleasure related.
So often, people think of sex therapy for couples. It is very common (and helpful) for couples to seek sex therapy together to work through a persistent sex related problems. Couples may seek out help together even if the symptom is primarily happening to just one of the partners like premature ejaculation or lack of desire for sex.
While it is entirely normal for a couples to seek out sex therapy, it is also normal for an individual to see a sex therapist. Sex therapy can be especially helpful in healing past sexual trauma, overcoming performance anxiety, resolving issues around sexual orientation and gaining general sexual confidence.
As I mentioned above, the pressures surrounding sexual expectations are immense. Especially those related to performance and sexual confidence. This goes for everyone. Not just one gender, both men and women experience pressure to be ‘good in bed’.
Sex therapy is essentially a tool to help people understand and navigate the often complicated world of sexuality.
What Issues Bring Most People to a Sex Therapist?
Performance issues like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or an inability to orgasm are a big driver for people to seek out a sex therapist. But, there are many reasons why someone might start working with a sex therapist.
We live in a culture where we are expected to be sexual confidence, yet we are not well taught how to navigate a healthy sexual relationship or how to explore pleasure in our bodies.
Many people end up experiencing anxiety surrounding sex, but since that is counter-cultural to how they are told to be (confident) they may not feel comfortable reaching out for support.
Sex therapy can also help with issues of desire such as hypoactive sexual desire (low sexual desire) or hyperactive sexual (high sexual desire) and desire discrepancy (one person wants sex more often than the other). Often, there is tension caused interpersonally and in the relationship if desire changes or shifts dramatically.
Desire discrepancies is the most common issue that send couples to a sex therapist couch.
People worry when there is a big shift in desire. Will they have to settle for a ‘sexless relationship?’ If each person has a different need for sex, is the relationship over? Often times, these vulnerable topics if not communicated well, can lead to arguments and frustration.
Someone may also seek out sex therapy to overcome body shame, dating help or intimacy struggles.
Though, we might assume sex therapy is only necessary if there’s a concrete problem, but folks can seek out sex therapy even if there is not a major problem. Feeling positive around sex can strengthen not only your experiences in the bedroom but also your overall health.
In sex therapy, you can begin to sort through these typical challenges in a healthy and hopefully pleasurable way.
What Happens During Sex Therapy?
Let’s get this out of the way, no one is having sex during sex therapy (at least not yet in my office). The therapist does not need to watch you have sex with your partner and shout pointers from the sidelines to be helpful.
A well trained sex therapist can catch what is misaligned way before you take your clothes off. Most sessions look very similar to a regular psychotherapy session. You’ll sit in an office and the therapist will ask you questions. Do not be surprised is there are no dildos or sex swings hanging from the walls in this office. Sorry to disappoint!
Many questions will reach beyond your sex life. You are a whole person and your therapist will want to get a complete picture of what’s going on with you. They may ask about other aspects of your life (stress at work, family issues, friendships) and get the history of your current relationship. They will most likely encourage you to reflect and share about your childhood and early relationships.
While a sex therapist has speciality training in sexuality and how to guide you around sex, they are also often trained psychologist and can help you work through other issues if needed.
Is There a Medical Exam?
Your sex therapist is not a medical doctor, so there will be no medical exam. But, don’t be surprised if it is recommended that you get a physical or are referred to see a specialist.
Some sexual problems are also medical concerns. The side effects of many medications, circulatory issues and hormonal imbalances can be the cause of some of the most common sexual concerns. When sex issues are a complex mis of physical, psychological and emotional it is important to make sure there is medically nothing that needs immediate attention.
For the most successful treatment, it is important to take a holistic approach and rule out any possible medical issues.
What Else Could I Expect?
Therapy is not school, but there might be some home assignments. Don’t be surprised if you leave with exercises to do before your next session.
Most people will be assigned mindfulness exercises involving self-touch or partnered touch. Some couples do complain that the exercises are embarrassing or feel forced, but they’re a very important part of the growing process.
Can Sex Therapy Really Help?
Absolutely, sex therapy can really help. Yet, just like any personal growth, you will get out what you put in.
Meaning, for a sex therapist to really be able to help you fully, you must be first fully honest with yourself and the therapist. You need to be prepared to get uncomfortable and dig deep.
Therapy is typically one hour a week. That is 1 hour out of 168 hours in a week. Those who have the most success are those who implement the tools, techniques, and spend time and energy integrating what is being explored.
A good therapist is only as good as the client is prepared to change.
How Do I Find a Good Sex Therapist?
Sex therapists are becoming more and more common these days, thankfully. Many speciality sex trainings are popping up to educate already working psychotherapists around sexuality. Which means many sex therapist usually have a degree in marriage and family therapy, social work or psychology and have then gone on to get further training specific to human sexuality.
Finding someone with the right background and education is important. In addition to researching they have the proper education, you want to make sure that your therapist is someone you feel comfortable confiding in. If you are not comfortable, you may hold back your thoughts and feelings.
Consider reaching out to a few therapists and having a consult call or even an introductory session before settling on the one you like.
Sex should be a source of joy and inspiration in our lives! And, it’s not always as easy as movies and magazines would like us to believe. When sex becomes more stressful than fun, it might be time to consult a sex therapist.