Sex therapy is a type of talk therapy that’s designed to help individuals and couples address medical, psychological, personal, or interpersonal factors impacting sexual satisfaction.
The goal of sex therapy is to help people move past physical and emotional challenges to have a satisfying relationship and pleasurable sex life.
Sexual dysfunctions are common. In fact, 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men report experiencing some type of sexual dysfunction during their lifetimes. These dysfunctions may include:
- low libido
- low confidence
- lack of response to sexual stimulus
- inability to reach orgasm
- excessive libido
- inability to control sexual behavior
- distressing sexual thoughts
- unwanted sexual fetishes
A fulfilling sex life is healthy and natural. Physical and emotional intimacy are essential parts of your well-being. When sexual dysfunction occurs, having that fulfilling sex life can be difficult.
Sex therapy may be able to help you reframe your sexual challenges and increase your sexual satisfaction.
How does sex therapy work?
Sex therapy is like any type of psychotherapy. You treat the condition by talking through your experiences, worries, and feelings.
Together with your therapist, you then work out coping mechanisms to help improve your responses in the future so that you can have a healthier sex life.
During your initial appointments, your therapist will either talk with just you or with you and your partner together. The therapist is there to guide and help you process your current challenge:
- They are not there to take one person’s side or to help persuade anyone.
- Also, everyone will keep their clothes on. The sex therapist will not be having sexual relations with anyone or showing anyone how to have sex.
What questions will a sex therapist ask in the first session?
In your first therapy session, a sex therapist may ask you questions around the following topics:
- Your sexual history, both as individuals and (if applicable) as partners
- Your general mental health history
- Your sexual orientation and gender identity
- Your family and your relationship with them
- Any traumatic experiences or history that the therapist should be aware of
- Any physical or medical concerns that may be affecting the current issue
- The course of your relationship and what it’s like outside of sex (if the issue is related to a partnered relationship)
- Your typical sexual habits, including frequency and type of sexual contact and masturbation
- How you show desire and affection, beyond sex
With each session, your therapist will continue to push you toward better management and acceptance of your concerns that may be leading to sexual dysfunction. All talk therapy, including sex therapy, is both a supportive and an educational environment.
It’s meant to provide comfort and encouragement for change. You will likely leave your therapist’s office with assignments and work to do before your next appointment.
If your therapist suspects the dysfunction you’re experiencing is the result of a physical sexual concern, they may refer you to a medical doctor.
Your therapist and the doctor can consult about your signs and symptoms and work to help find any physical concerns that may be contributing to greater sexual problems.
Do I need sex therapy?
One way to determine if you need to see a sex therapist instead of another type of talk therapist is to analyze what parts of your life are the most affected by how you feel right now.
If your quality of life and emotional health are greatly affected by your sexual dysfunction, it’s a good idea to see a sex therapist. Likewise, if a lack of intimacy or difficulty communicating with a partner leads as your most serious personal concern, a sex therapist is the place to start.