What is sex therapy? Benefits, how it works, and more


Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy designed to help people identify and overcome their sexual challenges and improve their sexual satisfaction.

Sex therapy can benefit anyone who wants to improve their relationship with sex and pleasure. It may be especially helpful for those who struggle with lack of arousal, painful intercourse, inability to reach orgasm, or other sexual dysfunctions.

Sex therapy does not require both partners. Some people may benefit from individual therapy sessions, while others may find couples sex therapy more helpful.

This article explains why someone may need sex therapy, what to expect during therapy, how to find a qualified sex therapist, and more.

Sex therapy is a type of talk therapy designed to help individuals and couples with problems achieve sexual satisfaction.

Physical, psychological and emotional factors can all cause sexual problems. The goal of a sex therapist is to help a person or couple resolve these issues and achieve a more fulfilling sex life.

Sex therapy does not involve sexual contact between clients and therapists.

As with any psychotherapy, sex therapy is all about talking about the issues.

Typically, the client and the sex therapist discuss any experiences, emotions, and concerns that may be contributing to the client’s dissatisfaction and sexual challenges. They will also work on coping mechanisms to help them build a more satisfying sex life.

Sex therapists can also give their clients “homework”. This may vary by individual or couple and may include assignments designed to increase sex education and improve communication between partners. Sex therapists may also assign sexual experimentation and sensory focus homework.

If they suspect that a physical problem is causing the sexual problems, the therapist can refer the client to a doctor. In turn, the doctor and therapist can work together to resolve the physical problem while guiding the client towards achieving their sexual goals.

Sex therapy can help both individuals and couples:

  • gain a realistic understanding of sex and pleasure
  • identify and treat the underlying causes of sexual problems
  • develop and maintain a deeper sexual connection with themselves and their partners

People who suffer from sexual dysfunction may be among those who could benefit the most from sex therapy.

Simplified, sexual dysfunction is an umbrella term for various recurring sex-related difficulties and includes:

These dysfunctions can lead to lack of interest in sex, low self-confidence, sexual performance anxiety, painful intercourse, and inability to arouse or achieve orgasm, all of which have a serious impact on a person’s ability to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling sex life.

Sexual dysfunction can have physical or psychological causes. Sometimes it is associated with a history of abuse.

Sexual trauma

Sexual trauma can especially interfere with a person’s interest or ability to enjoy intimacy and sex.

Research suggests that sex therapy can help people with a history of sexual trauma. For example, combine trauma-based therapy with sex-positive techniques may be more effective in helping someone overcome trauma-related sexual dysfunction than using trauma-based therapy alone. These studies are small but promising.

However, as some researchers note, some people with a history of sexual trauma may need individual therapy to address other issues before they are ready to explore sexual desire and satisfaction in sex therapy.

Discussing someone’s sex life with a stranger can be uncomfortable. The therapist is likely to anticipate this and will start with simple questions to get to know you.

People can expect to discuss their:

  • health
  • sex education
  • sexual background
  • beliefs and ideas about sex
  • specific challenges with gender

The sex therapist will work with the individual or couple on their specific concerns and challenges through talk therapy. The frequency and duration of therapy sessions will depend on the client, challenges and needs.

The sexologist does not:

  • choosing sides or trying to convince anyone to do anything
  • undress or ask anyone to undress
  • have sex or instruct in sex

Note that sex therapists, like all therapists, are not one size fits all. Compatibility is important for successful treatment. If someone does not feel comfortable with their therapist, they may wish to consider another expert.

Couples sex therapy is when both sex partners attend therapy sessions.

For some people, attending sex therapy sessions alone is enough. For others, the presence of both partners is more beneficial for strengthening communication and improving satisfaction.

In some cases, the therapist may be able to help a couple determine whether individual sessions, couple sessions, or a mixture of the two would be most beneficial.

Sex therapy aims to provide a comfortable and supportive atmosphere for people to safely talk about their challenges in achieving a healthy and fulfilling sex life.

Anyone can benefit from sex therapy, especially people who experience sexual difficulties and are dissatisfied with their sex life.

Some people benefit from individual sex therapy sessions while others find couples sex therapy more helpful.


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