Therapy, also known as psychotherapy or counseling, is the process of working with a therapist to process negative beliefs, relationship challenges, feelings, and behaviors. With therapy a person can change damaging habits, resolve negative thought processes, increase relationship satisfaction, and help a person live their happiest life. Sex therapy is the specific focus of therapy that incorporates sexual health, identity, sexual attraction, healing shame, and many of the aspects of sex. Sex therapy is hands off in the same way traditional therapy is.
As part of working in sex therapy some specific topics a sex therapist has special training for:
- Couples counseling
- Sexual education
- Premarital counseling
- LBGT affirming therapy
- Asexual therapy
- Gender identity
- Sexual identity
- Open relationship and Polyamorous relationships
- BDSM and kink counseling
Why would someone go to a sex therapist instead of another therapist?
Sex therapists have special training to deal with sexual dysfunction and disorder. They do not shy away from the sensitive talks that are necessary to have. What is important is a sex therapist will not make a client’s sexual behavior the primary problem or goal of therapy. Often therapists will tell their clients that their sexual behaviors are the root cause of their issues, when a client is coming in to talk about issues around depression or anxiety.
There are many different kinds of therapists, psychologists, and counselors and most do not have any or a limited training in sex and sexuality. When it comes to sex, many professionals get so much wrong and end up causing harm and shame. These professionals are doing their best to help, but if they do not have the training they may end up doing more harm. Now a therapist can always seek training, consult with an expert, and do their research to learn about their clients to help.
Who certifies sex therapists?
Sex therapists have specific training, may be licensed professionals who are certified, or seeking certification through one of several organizations. The largest of these organization is the American Associations of Sexuality Education, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). According to AASECT’s website, sex therapists are “licensed mental health professionals, trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy, who have specialized in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns. In the absence of available licensure, they are certified, registered, or clinical members of a national psychotherapy organization. Sex therapists work with simple sexual concerns also, but in addition, where appropriate, are prepared to provide comprehensive and intensive psychotherapy over an extended period of time in more complex cases.”
AASECT maintains a directory of certified sex therapists that can be used here.