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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a therapist is difficult enough, let alone finding a sex therapist! Here are few things you need to know that will help you make the best choice:

  1. What type of sex therapist should I choose?

Any therapist can call themselves a sex therapist and there are many different types of therapists. A therapist can be a psychologist (PhD or PsyD), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), clinical mental health counselor (CMHC), or licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). You first need to ask yourself, what kind of therapist do I want to see? Psychologists generally have much more training than all other therapists (typically 6+ years after earning a Bachelor’s degree), but as a result, may be more expensive. Once you’ve decided what type of therapist you want to see, then you’ve got to dig through all those therapists who say they specialize in sex therapy.

  1. Which “sex therapist” is the best?

Again, any therapist can call themselves a sex therapist or advertise that they do sex therapy. But you probably don’t want just any therapist. You probably want a therapist who truly specializes in sexual health. Therapists who specialize in sexual health get AASECT Certified. AASECT stands for the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. AASECT Sex Therapy Certification requires over a hundred hours of specific sex therapy education/training, over 300 hours of being supervised while doing sex therapy, adherence to strict ethical standards, and takes anywhere from 2-5 years to complete. If you want a sex therapist who truly specializes in sex therapy, then you want them to be AASECT Certified. You can locate an AASECT certified sex therapist near you at www.aasect.org.

  1. How do I choose the right sex therapist for me?

Let’s say you’ve looked at the AASECT website and picked a few sex therapists near you. Next, take a look at each therapist’s website and see what they specialize in . . . that’s right, within the specialty of sex therapy there are sub-specialties. Sexual health is such a broad topic, it would be impossible for every sex therapist to be able to treat every sexual health concern. For example, my specialties are couples therapy, sexual dysfunction, transgender health, and cancer and sexual health. I do not treat sexual trauma. Not all sex therapists treat the same sexual health concerns, so you need to review their websites/give them a call to make sure they can treat the concern you have.

  1. Is sex therapy covered by insurance?

Many insurance companies do not cover therapy for sexual health concerns. This is really frustrating and has led most sex therapists to decide not to take insurance. However, ask your insurance if they have “Out of Network” benefits. If they do, your therapist should be able to provide you with paperwork to submit to your insurance for reimbursement of a portion of the fee you paid your therapist.

  1. Is sex therapy even going to help?

Sex therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of sexual health concerns (for example, erectile dysfunction, low sexual desire, difficulty with arousal and orgasm, premature ejaculation, sexual pain, to name a few). You deserve to have a healthy sexuality/sexual relationship and the right treatment is only a phone call away. What are you waiting for?

 

There are TONS of misconceptions about sexual health. Let’s start with orgasm.

Most clients I work with are under the assumption that every woman can experience orgasm with vaginal penetration. This is a myth! Only 18% of women report that they can reach orgasm with penile-vaginal penetration alone. Every other woman needs some sort of clitoral stimulation. Sadly, too many clients have told me that because they can’t reach orgasm with vaginal penetration, they feel “broken.” You’re not broken and you’re not alone.

Maybe your friends have told you they can reach orgasm with vaginal penetration, but ask them (if you dare) how they’re actually having sex (that is, the position). If the position involves any sort of clitoral stimulation (for example, being on top), then they may actually be among the 82% of women that require clitoral stimulation for orgasm. Again, you’re not alone. And you’re not broken. You are NORMAL!

Heterosexual men, this is for you: if your female partner cannot reach orgasm during penile-vaginal penetration, this is to be expected. The inability to reach orgasm with vaginal penetration is not an indication of your sexual prowess, your masculinity or how great a lover you are. It’s simply an indication of anatomy. . .

What’s anatomy got to do with it?

Here’s where the story gets a lot more interesting. Why can 18% of women reach orgasm with vaginal penetration? It’s all about anatomy. We know this because of French Princess Marie Bonaparte (I’m not making this up). In the 1920s Marie Bonaparte was frustrated that she herself could not reach orgasm with vaginal penetration. She had an idea as to why she couldn’t and she wanted to test it out. She recruited over 200 women and she measured the distance between each woman’s clitoris and vagina. Her belief was that the longer the distance between clitoris and vagina, the less likely the woman would be able to have orgasm with vaginal penetration. And guess what? She was right! If the distance between a woman’s clitoris and vagina is more than 2.5cm, then that woman is less likely to reach orgasm with vaginal penetration. Thus, it’s all about anatomy. Don’t blame yourself or your partner for the inability to reach orgasm with vaginal penetration, blame your anatomy!

On a side note, Marie Bonaparte wasn’t looking for blame, she was looking for solutions. She paid a surgeon to move her clitoris closer to her vagina. Sadly, the surgery wasn’t successful.

 

Remember a few things

If you, or your partner, are in the 82% of women who cannot reach orgasm with vaginal penetration, then I want you to remember a few things. First, you (or your partner) are NORMAL! There is nothing wrong with you. Second, there are many ways to reach orgasm beyond vaginal penetration (which will be the topic of a future blog post). Third, if you are someone who has had this misconception, it makes sense you thought this because we live in a country were most people either didn’t get sex education, or if they did, their sex education was comprised of “Don’t get pregnant” and “Here are all the diseases you will contract.” This leads to much sexual confusion and dysfunction!

If you’re not happy with your current orgasmic situation (or your sexual health), consider seeing a sex therapist to help you maximize and/or accept your orgasmic function.