Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
What is Sex Therapy?
Sex therapists are qualified counsellors or healthcare professionals who have had extensive training in human sexuality, in addition to being well-trained couples and marriage counsellors and therapists.
When you seek out sex therapy, you need to look for a registered relationship/marriage counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist who uses specialised clinical skills and theoretical knowledge about human sexuality. In addition to having post-graduate training in couples and marriage counselling, a registered sex therapist gets specific sex therapy training which includes the biological, psychological and social aspects of human sexuality. A combination of skills and training is needed to help you deal with your unique sexual difficulties or concerns.
Sexual issues can often cause distress and conflict in relationships and sex therapists can assist you with these difficulties.
Some sexual concerns include:
- Lack of sexual knowledge or education
- Believing wrong/harmful information about sex from the media or religious institutions
- Struggle to understand sex, desire, eroticism, privacy versus secrecy
- Erectile and/or ejaculation difficulties
- Performance anxiety and lack of confidence
- Problems reaching orgasm
- Low sexual desire concerns for both men and women
- Intimacy problems
- Relationship and marriage difficulties
- Painful sex or intercourse
- Sexual problems or changes due to illness, ageing, surgery or stress
- Compulsive sexual behaviours, or out of control sexual behaviours (mistakenly called sexual addiction)
- Sexual trauma
- Questioning your sexual identity, orientation or preferences
- LGBTQI+ issues
- Gender identity issues
- Interest in kink
- Cross dressing or other fetishes
I’m a specialized and expertly trained therapist working for your best interests. I have worked with heterosexual as well as LGBTQI+ people for decades and am competent in working with many sex and sexuality issues.
Watch internationally recognised sex educator Dr. Emily Nagoski debunk some sexual myths in this 5:20 minute video below.
What Does a Sex Therapist Do?
Sex therapy is a specialized form of professional counselling that focuses on addressing sexual concerns, sexual pleasure, sexual functioning and sexual expression of human beings. Many people have problems with sexual issues at some point in their life and these issues can often cause distress and unhappiness within their relationships.
Sex therapy is like any type of psychotherapy. You treat the concern/problem by talking through your experiences, worries, feelings and desires. Together with your therapist, you work out coping mechanisms to help improve your responses in the future so that you can have a more satisfying sex life. Everyone keeps their clothes on. The sex therapist will not be having sexual relations with you, showing you how to have sex or have you behave in a sexual way during a therapy session.
Numerous studies have shown that a positive relationship between your therapist and you is very important for effective outcomes in therapy, so it is wise to choose carefully.
Regulation and registration of sex therapy
In Australia sex therapy is not yet regulated by the government. Unfortunately this means untrained and inexperienced people can call themselves sex therapists. Beware of untrained therapists. Ask them about their post-graduate training in sex therapy.
I am an accredited sex therapist and am are listed by area on the ASSERT NSW website under Therapists. My extensive training in diverse models of counselling and sex therapy are on this page. I have professional indemnity insurance and am committed to upholding the PACFA strict code of conduct.
ASSERT NSW (Australian Society of Sex Educators, Researchers & Therapists) has a list of accredited professional members who must comply with rigorous criteria. They have to show evidence of high level skills as practicing sex therapy counsellors or therapists, have ongoing supervision and engage in yearly education by attending workshops, conferences, seminars and reading academic journals and books related to sex therapy.
What Happens in a Sex Therapy Session?
I will take a detailed history by asking questions in order to get an idea about your concerns and to help you get a better understanding of them. We will develop strategies and goals to work with these issues and together we will co-construct a treatment plan, so there is no misunderstanding about your goals for therapy.
Each therapy session is completely confidential. Sex therapy is not “just talking.” During or at the end of each appointment I give homework and reading to complete between sessions. This could include doing exercises or questionnaires, erotic exploration, reading or watching educational resources relating to our discussions and your presenting issues.
Homework is an integral part of therapy. It offers you the chance to practice new skills and try out different strategies. It is important, as change doesn’t usually happen without trying something new. Ideally most people want to phase out old unhelpful habits and bring in better ones.
In subsequent sessions, the at-home exercises are discussed and difficulties explored. Therapy can help the individual or couple explore their thinking and behaviour around sex and their relationship, and “re-learn” more satisfying sexual interactions.
I have many ways to help you
There are many different therapeutic models used by sex therapists in Australia. I show my models of counselling on this page. Please feel free to ask me more by contacting me.
There are no rules as to which modality/models your therapist will use. What is important is that the therapy suits you and you can see that things are improving. This should happen early in the therapy.
Be Proactive About Sex in Your Relationship
As the hormone-related stimulus for sex decreases with busy-ness and age, having sex requires more planning, creativity and open discussion. These are all skills required for a loving, authentic relationship. Various physical, psychological, relational and contextual factors impact changes in our sex hormones. Things like pain, illness, stress, post-baby, aging, menopause, lack of sex education, fears of inadequacy, unhelpful communication and relationship dissatisfaction all play a big part in our sexual health. These influence the reduction of testosterone (the hormone responsible for desire) and oestrogen (the hormone responsible for heightened sensitivity, sexual pleasure and increased strength of orgasm). When this happens, passion may be reignited by oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone.
Set aside one or two hours for a “sex/intimacy date” every one or two weeks. Prioritise this part of your relationship. Don’t be fooled by the myth that sex should be spontaneous. Watch this 1.5 minute video with sex therapist Ian Kerner discussing that when it comes to sex, being “spontaneous” rarely works.
If you want a good, satisfying sex life, first create the basics of a strong relationship. This includes respectful communication, good negotiation and problem solving skills combined with a loving, intimate connection to each other. Then anything else that turns you on, like sex toys, shared porn, bondage etc adds spice, fun and variety.
Let’s ditch the word “foreplay”
Sex educator & therapist Dr. Laurie Mintz says that “Foreplay” is totally misunderstood as the thing you do before the “real” act. Expand your concept of sex to include any activity which brings connection & pleasure. It can begin as soon as the previous sexual encounter ends, with tender words and gestures that are followed up by love notes, flowers, hugging, touching and flirting. These increase anticipation and the flow of oxytocin until you’re ready for the next encounter. In sex, as in all things, liberating yourself from past rules, expectations and behaviours can contribute immeasurably to life. Don’t limit your physical interaction only to penetrative sex. There is a huge array of loving and erotic touch that we can learn to give and receive.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your sexual health and relationships. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.
Adapted from ASSERT NSW.