What is a sex therapist?

When I tell people what I do for a living, I often get responses of surprise and shock. There’s this idea out there that sex therapy is some scandalous occupation. . . but it’s not at all. A sex therapist is just like any other therapist, but with a specialty in sexual health.

What do you mean, just like any other therapist?

For the most part, sex therapists started their training in graduate school just like all other therapists, learning simply how to do general therapy. So, not surprisingly, sex therapy looks like regular therapy, except the topic in the office is sex. There is NO sexual activity happening in the office. A sex therapist does NOT have sex with their clients. Sex therapy is a professional and ethical career that follows the same standards as other therapies.

Can sex therapists treat other issues, like depression?

Sex therapists are just like any other therapist in that they are trained to be able to treat all types of mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety. This is just like physicians, who are trained to treat all different types of health concerns, but at some point in their training they may specialize in a specific thing (like surgery or dermatology). It’s important that sex therapists know how to treat a variety of issues, because more often than not these non-sexual issues are a part of or even a cause of the sexual issue. For example, I often see men and women with low sexual desire that is caused by depression. Thus, the depression needs to be treated in order to treat the low sexual desire.

How do sex therapists get specialized training?

Most graduate schools do not teach therapists how to do sex therapy. This means that sex therapists have to seek out sex therapy training after they graduate.  In other words, a sex therapist doesn’t just fall into their job because it’s a convenient option, it’s something they had to put a great deal of time and effort in to find specialized training. Training can be formal like in a residency program (much like physicians have residencies) or it can be more informal, such as getting supervision from an already established sex therapist.

Are all sex therapists the same?

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, there is a great deal of variety among sex therapists. They come from different training backgrounds, have different degrees, and have different sub-specialties within the specialty of sexual health. If you’re looking for a sex therapist, you’ll need to make sure the therapist you find actually treats what you need treated. Also, I’d highly recommend that you choose a sex therapist who is AASECT certified, which is the gold-standard in sex therapy certification.