Sex therapists will ask for a full sexual and relationship history before starting any work. This can be uncomfortable, but the key is to be honest.
Children, infidelity and painful physical issues can all detract from a healthy connection and sexual experience. A sex therapist can help couples navigate these challenges and reconnect.
1. You’re Feeling Bored
A fulfilling and healthy sex life is a critical part of emotional, physical and mental well-being. If you’re struggling with any issues related to your sexual health or desire, a sex therapist can serve as a professional guide to help you explore new avenues, navigate the do’s and don’ts and rekindle the spark.
A sex therapist is also the person to see if you’re experiencing pain during sexual activity (like painful vaginal muscles, according to the Cleveland Clinic). This could be because of a medical issue like pelvic pain syndrome or a psychological cause like trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder from a past traumatic experience.
A sex therapist will ask you questions similar to those in a standard therapy intake, but with a focus on your sexual history and your current relationship to intimacy. They may even ask you to practice SFW touch exercises with them in session, such as stroking their hand or arm, which can be a great way to get to know your therapist before the sessions begin. These activities can help you work up to having full sexual contact in your sessions with them.
2. You’re Feeling Uncomfortable
When you are experiencing pain or discomfort during sexual interactions, a sex therapist may help address these issues. For example, a sex therapist might teach you ways to increase the amount of orgasm you experience during intercourse. They might also assign “homework” — practical activities you can try at home — to increase pleasure and reduce anxiety.
For couples, this might mean practicing new sexual techniques or increasing the frequency of sex. In addition, a sex therapist can teach couples to improve communication about sex and intimacy.
Sex therapists are trained to give you in-depth knowledge and answer all of your questions about sex without judgment. They can also teach you sex-related skills to help overcome sex anxiety, such as Sensate Focus, a technique for reducing anxiety by focusing on sensations only during sex.
A sex therapist can also help you navigate your gender identity and sexual orientation. For example, Powell says that she often works with LGBTQ+ clients and kink-friendly couples who need to explore their sexual interests together. She can even help couples craft a relationship format that works for their sexual preferences, such as a polyamorous marriage.
3. You’re Feeling Unhealthy
Many people seek sex therapy when they’re experiencing an emotional or physical imbalance. Regardless of whether you’re single or in a relationship, you can receive the help that you need to have healthy sexual relationships.
During your first session, your therapist will likely take a comprehensive history of your sexual and relational experiences. This can feel uncomfortable at times, but it’s important for the therapist to understand the current state of your health and well-being.
Your sex therapist may also ask about your masturbation patterns, how often you reach orgasm, and more. They may even work with you to create homework assignments, which could include exploring new positions or using sex toys that increase pleasure.
If you’re struggling to afford a one-on-one sex therapist, try asking the office if they offer payment on a sliding scale. This is typically based on income brackets and can be much more affordable than traditional talk therapy. Alternatively, you can also check to see if your insurance covers sex counseling sessions. You can also find online sex therapists, which work over video call instead of in-person.
4. You’re Feeling Insecure
A sex therapist may help clients deal with sexual insecurity related to cultural, religious or societal views of sex, lack of communication about sex or intimacy between partners, poor body image and coping with a physical sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction (which is common among younger clientele) or vaginismus. They also work with couples to address relationship issues that are exacerbated by sexual difficulties.
Sex therapists often use a non-pathologizing approach to sexual concerns and may teach clients about anatomy through visual and written materials as well as practice touch and arousal exercises with their partner(s). They can help address sexual arousal disorders such as erection problems or a decrease in sexual desire as well as physiological issues like pelvic pain and dyspareunia.
Additionally, a sex therapist can assist LGBTQ+ clients with gender issues and questions. They can reassure them that there is nothing wrong with them, and aid in their journey of self-discovery. They can also help them navigate the changing dynamic that comes with being open about their sexual orientation in a monogamous relationship.
5. You’re Feeling Unhappy
There are many reasons you might be interested in sex therapy. Qualified sex therapists provide a supportive and educational environment to help you understand your sexual experience in the past, how you feel about intimacy now, and what you want to see in the future.
Sex therapy can also be a valuable tool for couples struggling with sexual satisfaction or issues with communication around sexuality. Using mindfulness techniques like sensate focus, which helps to reduce anxiety by slowly building trust and intimacy by starting with nonsexual touching, then genital touch, and finally penetration, can be a great way for couples to reconnect and explore their own feelings of arousal together.
Individuals often seek out sex therapy when their sexual functioning is affected by a health issue or life event. These can include infertility, pregnancy, medical events and sexual trauma, which can be a powerful impetus to find help. A sex therapist can help you navigate these situations by providing support and education, as well as helping you find your own voice and empowering you to take action in your sexual health.