Do You Need a Sex Therapist?

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Sex is among the most common human interactions. Yet despite the central role of sex in our lives, many adults remain hesitant to seek help for sexual difficulties and concerns. That’s a mistake, experts say. Sexual health–which the World Health Organization has defined as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relationship to sexuality”–is an important part of overall health.

Sexual therapists are health providers (typically psychologists, social workers, physicians or licensed therapists) who have had special training in issues related to sex, relationship and intimacy. Sexual therapists can help individuals and couples uncover and resolve issues that may be causing problems with their sex lives–and can help repair emotional and relationship issues that stem from sexual difficulties. A sex therapist may be able to help if:

You’re not happy with the amount, frequency or quality of sex.

Despite many magazine articles to the contrary, there’s no “right” amount of sex. And because so many factors can affect humans’ sex drives–think age, health, hormones, sleep–it’s incredibly common for couples to experience differences in desire.

When one person’s sexual desire is mismatched with another’s, problems can ensue. A sex therapist can help facilitate communication between partners, and can even help each individual figure out what he or she wants and needs from the sexual relationship. A sex therapist can also help individuals and couples deal with unresolved past issues that might be contributing to difficulties with desire–issues such as past sexual abuse, body image problems or fear of intimacy.

You have performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation are often caused by a physical problem, so if you’re having any performance issues, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a physician or nurse practitioner. If an underlying medical condition (such as diabetes) is causing your problem, treatment can help your sex life and improve your overall health. Healthcare providers can also prescribe medication to help with ED.

If you continue to have difficulty after medical treatment, or if an examination doesn’t reveal any underlying medical problem, a sex therapist can help you address any emotional or relationship issues that might be affecting your performance. Sex therapists also teach individuals and couples behavioral techniques to help them deal with physical symptoms.

You have trouble reaching orgasm.

It’s incredibly frustrating to have difficulty reaching orgasm–and that frustration can, in turn, make it more difficult to orgasm.

Sex therapists often use mindfulness techniques and a technique called “sensate focus” to improve sexual health and well-being. Mindfulness techniques help individuals and couples slow down and focus on the sensations experienced during sex. Sensate focus helps couples build trust and intimacy by guiding them through a series of non-sexual touching exercises, which gradually helps partners learn how to give and receive pleasure from one another.

You have concerns about sexual interests or orientation.

Maybe you think your interests are just too “out there.” Or maybe your (or your partners’) sexual needs have changed over time.

Unlike many people, including many healthcare professionals, sex therapists are extremely comfortable discussing sexual interests and sexual orientation. A sex therapist can help you clarify interests, desires and boundaries, and can help you communicate with your partner. Sex therapists can also provide you with additional information and resources, if needed.

The best part: sexual therapists can often help people resolve their sexual difficulties within just a few weeks. You can find a sexual therapist in your area here on Healthgrades or by visiting the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists (AASECT) website.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Nov 15

  1. An Overview of Sex Therapy. PsychCentral. http://psychcentral.com/lib/an-overview-of-sex-therapy/

  2. Vision of Sexual Health. American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists (ASSECT). http://www.aasect.org/vision-sexual-health

  3. Male Sexual Problems. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Male_Sexual_Problems.aspx

  4. Sexual Health. MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sexualhealth.html

  5. Sexual Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/sexualhealth/

  6. Sexual Health. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Sexual_Health.aspx

  7. Sex Therapy. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/sex-therapy/basics/definition/PRC-20020669?p=1

  8. Your Sexual Health. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Your-Sexual-Health

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