Who are sex therapists?
Sex therapists are usually licensed professionals who have a degree in mental health counseling or marriage and family therapy. In addition to their degree they have received additional training in sex therapy. In other words, sex therapists psychotherapists who specialize in human sexuality- sexual identity, sexual dysfunctions, gender expression, etc. These are generally people who have a sex-positive attitude, and who are there to help you enjoy a happy, fulfilling sex life based on the science of human sexuality (sexology), and not based on urban legends, superstition and a "one size fits all" sort of mentality.
What is sex therapy?
The format of sex therapy is strictly talk therapy. The approach to sex therapy and the healing process can be addressed in various ways. At MyTherapist New York we utilize a cognitive behavioral approach where the focus is on the clients’ distorted thoughts and perceptions. The therapist and the client will explore thinking patterns that lead to specific emotions such as guilt, shame, or anxiety about sex. Once the client understands how their unhealthy thinking and the feelings that then result might be getting in the way of their ideal sex lives, clients can then learn to challenge their cognitive distortions and design a behavioral intervention to prove their new, rational way of thinking and behaving. The client then practices the behavioral intervention out in her/his world and in therapy the therapist monitors and supports the client's progress. Sex therapy is part permission, part sex education, but first and foremost, always empathetic.
Don't sex therapists have sex with their clients?
Sex surrogacy was first introduced by sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, in the 1960’s. Masters and Johnson saw a need for more direct interventions with clients who had severe sexual dysfunctions, particularly erectile dysfunction, but surrogacy is rarely used today.
The types of surrogacy interventions in the 21st Century vary. Some surrogates focus on teaching dating and communication skills. In these situations physical touch is often minimal. The surrogate might practice with client how to hold hands, kiss, or hug and nothing beyond that. Other levels of surrogacy do involve more intimate physical touch and in some situations the surrogate will have sexual intercourse with the client- but always working with the support of a clinical sexologist / sex therapist to coordinate care and monitor progress. Due to the various legal obstacles, sex surrogacy is rarely used.
Why go to a sex therapist? Will they be able to help?
While practicing your sexual behavior with a sex surrogate might seem like the only way to get over your problems, it is not. Sex therapy based on cognitive behavioral interventions helps you identify those irrational beliefs you have about sexuality and challenge them. Then you and your therapist will design behavioral exercises for you to do at home by yourself or with your partner with the goal of increasing your sexual satisfaction- once you have a basic understanding of real life sexuality- not the sex lives you see portrayed in porn or on tv. Your sex life created for you by you. Having the psychological tools to have awesome sex when you can get it, and see less than awesome sex as normal life disappointments rather than complete sexual failures is pretty revolutionary.
Learn more about couples therapy and sex therapy at MyTherapist New York.
Sara is a psychotherapist in New York offering individual counseling, couples therapy, sex therapy and family counseling.