Questions about Sex Therapy

Many people have questions about the field of sex therapy. What kind of training does a sex therapist have? What types of problems can be treated by sex therapy? What happens in sex therapy? Is the sex therapist bound by a code of ethics? How is the sex therapist credentialed? Are there professional organizations in the field of sex therapy?

Professional Sex Therapy Organizations

There are two primary professional organizations in the field of sex therapy. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists and The American Board of Sexology both provide certification for sex therapists. AASECT (of which we are certified members) is the larger organization. It certifies Sexuality Educators, Sexuality Counselors, and Sex Therapists. In addition to maintaining a roster of Certified Sex Therapists, AASECT sponsors an annual conference for training and continuing education and publishes two peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

Training and Credentialing for Sex Therapy and Sexuality Counseling

AASECT Certified Sex Therapists and Sexuality Counselors have earned an academic degree in a human service program that includes psychotherapy training from an accredited college or university, at the Master's or Doctoral level. The sex therapist is licensed by the state in one of the following disciplines: psychology, medicine, social work, counseling, nursing, or marriage and family therapy. The sexuality counselor has training in pastoral psychotherapy or another professional discipline.

Types of Problems that Can Be Treated by Sex Therapy and Sexuality Counseling

Sex therapists and sexuality counselors treat sexual issues including erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, persistent genital arousal disorder, difficulty reaching orgasm, low desire, pelvic pain syndromes, out of control sexual behavior, and questions about sexual identity.

Relationship problems that are exacerbated by sexual problems may be addressed using sex therapy. It is also the case that sexual problems may be an arena in which relationship problems get played out. A dual approach is often indicated, focusing on both the relationship issues and the sexual difficulties.

A sex therapist or sexuality counselor may also be consulted for expertise in dealing with the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. Some sex therapists may also work with sexual offenders.

How Common Are Sexual Difficulties in Relationships?

I believe sexual difficulties are quite common in relationships! The challenge is that many people have few tools or resources to address these difficulties, keep their struggles to themselves, feel anxious and worried and conclude that something must be wrong with them -- or maybe they are just with the wrong person.

It is an illusion to believe that sex is "natural", and should therefore come easily without some effort or the benefit of experience. In humans, sexual behavior is learned behavior. It is not instinctive behavior, as in most animals.

So the question is, how do we learn how to do sex? In most Western cultures, there aren't many good options. All other adult behaviors that are important to a child's success in life and in relationships are taught to us, by parents, by teachers, or by other adults. Read more »