Whether you are seeking sex therapy for yourself or as part of a couple, it’s important to find a therapist that is a good fit for you. A compatible therapist will be able to work at your pace and comfort level and you should feel safe discussing delicate topics.
Typically, the process begins with an intake session. This will involve a thorough rundown of your sexual and relational history.
The Initial Session
There are many reasons why an individual or couple might seek out sex therapy. The first session will generally entail evaluation and gathering information. It will involve discussing the presenting issue or concerns and creating a treatment plan. It’s important that the therapist has a clear picture of the situation in order to develop the most effective plan.
This might include a discussion of the current sexual dynamic as well as an evaluation of each person’s medical history. It’s also common for sex therapists to ask for a thorough overview of the relationship. This is important as sex therapy is not just about sex problems, but rather a way to build a healthier and more loving relationship.
During this time, the sex therapist will likely give some homework to be completed before the next meeting. This may involve communication exercises, experimenting with different types of touching (with or without sex), and sex education videos. It will not, however, involve any touching between partners or any sex in the therapist’s office.
Talking about sex can be difficult, but the therapist will provide a safe and comfortable space to discuss any issues or concerns. As with all talk therapies, it’s important to feel a strong therapeutic alliance and that you have a good rapport with your therapist. During this initial session, you can evaluate whether or not the therapist is a good fit for your needs.
The Second Session
A sex therapist may use various techniques to help you get comfortable in the space and to begin talking about your concerns. They will create a safe and non-judgmental environment where you can openly talk about your sexual concerns and desires. The first session will primarily be about getting to know you, your background, and how you would like to address your sexual concerns.
Once the sex therapist has gained a good understanding of your situation, they will start to formulate a treatment plan. This will usually take several sessions as the sex therapist works with you to find a solution that fits your needs.
One of the most important things to remember is that sex therapy is not just about addressing problems with your sex life, it can also address other issues that you may be facing in your relationship or on a personal level. Oftentimes, sex therapy will help you and your partner communicate better and learn to understand each other’s sexual needs more effectively.
Aside from working with you and your partner, sex therapists can also teach you about anatomy, physiology, and other sexual aspects that may be difficult to discuss. This can be especially helpful if you are dealing with a condition that has impacted your ability to have sex. For example, many people seek sex therapy to heal from an illness that has caused pain in their intimate areas such as dyspareunia or vaginismus.
The Third Session
In individual sessions you’ll likely begin with a discussion about why you chose to seek help, and what brought your current situation to the surface. It’s not uncommon to feel hesitant about opening up about these topics, but your therapist is a safe space and they will support you in whatever way they can.
During this session, your therapist will likely ask you about your sexual history and relationships, and what brings you to sex therapy right now. They’ll also get an idea of what you want from your sessions, whether it’s to heal a past trauma, increase your sexual satisfaction in your relationship or explore kinky turns-ons.
For couples, your therapist may also encourage experimentation by asking you to role play or try out sex toys or positions if health allows it. They’ll also use techniques like sensate focus, which helps reduce anxiety by slowing down the process of intimacy and beginning with nonsexual touch before moving to genital touches and then penetration.
Individuals can also benefit from sex therapy, and are often surprised to find out they’re not alone in their struggles. Heuwagen and Golob note that people who identify as women tend to come in looking for reassurance and exploration of their sexual desire, while those who identify as men often bring in concerns about shame, anxiety, or a lack of libido.
The Fourth Session
If a client is struggling to orgasm, sex therapy may include activities to explore the pleasure centers of the brain in order to increase orgasm. This involves touch exercises, often involving stroking different areas of the body to learn what sensations to expect in intimate encounters. Again, clients keep their clothes on and are encouraged to communicate their responses with the therapist.
The therapist will also function as an erotic educator, helping clients become aware of anatomy and how the body responds in sexual situations. They may suggest reading material or educational videos for the client to watch at home. This helps to ease anxiety, build confidence and help the client to re-learn more satisfying sexual responses.
Some people find it uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss their sex life with a stranger, but sex therapists are highly trained and know how important it is to make the process as safe and supportive as possible. They are also able to create a comfortable and encouraging environment, where clients can share as much or as little as they wish. Most importantly, sex therapists are nonjudgmental and will never make comments that are sexual or inappropriate in any way. They will also help you to develop more effective communication strategies. As with other types of psychotherapy, the success of sex therapy is dependent on how committed the client is to the process.