What is sex therapy?
Sex therapy is a form of psychotherapy. Sex therapists assist those (couples or individuals) experiencing problems in their sexual functioning to overcoming them, and in doing so develop a more satisfying sex life. The transformative approach to sex therapy aims to understand the psychological, biological, pharmacological, relational, and contextual aspects of sexual problems.
Sex therapy requires evaluation that psychological examination. On some occasions it may be important to be evaluated by a physician specialist to rule out a physical problem. The reason is that sexual dysfunction may have a physical cause or a psychological cause. A clear example is erectile dysfunction (sometimes still called “impotence”), whose cause may include, firstly, circulatory problems, and secondly, performance anxiety. Sex therapy is frequently short term, with duration depending on the causes for therapy. Certified sex therapists do not have sexual contact with their clients.
My approach to sex Therapy
As a certified sex therapist and trauma specialist I am prepared to work with childhood challenges when necessary that sometimes may be involved in causing the sexual problems. During childhood when we are not getting what we need to develop emotionally we can make internal emotional adaptations that help get us through our childhood. These childhood adaptations may get us through childhood but can wreak havoc on our adult relationships since those adaptation get wired into our brain. This can happen before we have memories. In addition to the challenges of childhood relationship disruptions (aka Attachment) we may have been subjected to physical or sexual abuse or traumatic life events like accidents, medical crisis or death in the family. These traumas create further disruptions in our ability to have a satisfying childhood and adult life. On occasion attachment or trauma based adaptations can disrupt one’s sex life.
Porn Addiction and Neuroscience
The following TED TALK Youtube video on “Changing the narrative around the addiction story”| Cameron Staley | TEDxIdahoStateUniversity is a helpful overview of the complex dynamics surrounding the use and reactions to the use of porn. It considers the roles of the neuroscience, the mind and our emotions.
Sex therapy versus Sex Addiction Therapy
Please be aware of the difference between AASECT sex therapists and sex addiction therapists. Sex addiction does not exist as an official diagnosis in the mental health world. It applies the model of substance abuse and addiction to sex. Below you can read the official AASECT statement on “Sex Addiction.” Here is the link to a Dr. Chris podcast interviewing leading national experts on this question of Sex Addiction. Take special note of the last guest Dr. Nicole Prause, PhD. The title of the podcast is ”debunking sex addiction.”
Who does sex therapy and what is their training?
Sex therapy can be provided by licensed social workers, physicians, psychologists, or therapists who have undergone training and become certified. In the United States, the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) oversees clinical training for a sexual health practitioner to become a certified sex therapist (CST). Certification as a sex therapist requires comprehensive training in sexuality and experience and training in couples therapy. Any licensed mental health counselor can practice sex therapy. Certified sex therapists do not have sexual contact with their clients.
AASECT Certified Sex Therapists are licensed mental health professionals, trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy, who have specialized in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns. In the absence of available licensure, they are certified, registered, or clinical members of a national psychotherapy organization. Sex therapists work with simple sexual concerns also, but in addition, where appropriate, are prepared to provide comprehensive and intensive psychotherapy over an extended period of time in more complex cases.
(Source: American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists)
AASECT Position on Sex Addiction
Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexuality education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexuality education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.
AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual behaviors. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.
AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.