Do you hesitate to engage in sex therapy? Perhaps you want to ask: “Is there any sex in therapy?” or, “Will I have to take my clothes off?” or even, “Do you offer hands-on services?“. I have also been asked, “Is this going to be like the movie The Sessions with Helen Hunt?” These questions reflect misunderstandings about sex therapy that have existed long before the movie release. These concerns and beliefs often prevent people from reaching out for help when they need it most.
The role of sex surrogates, sex workers and sex therapists often get confused by the public. Let me clarify: there are great differences between these professions. Let’s look at each one to understand them more fully.
Sex surrogate partners are trained to provide hands-on therapeutic methods to help a person achieve optimal sexual functioning. They often help clients who are sexually inexperienced, struggle with erection problems or orgasms and/or struggle with body image issues. Their methods include techniques such as breathing exercises, education of anatomy/physiology, body awareness and sexual interaction between surrogate and client. Although sex surrogacy is not a licensed profession, it does have a professional regulating body known as the International Professional Surrogates Association that provides the highest standards of care through it’s established code of ethics and training programs. Helen Hunt played the role of a sex surrogate partner in the movie The Sessions.
Sex workers consist of people such as erotic dancers, fantasy workers (i.e. dominatrix/dungeon master), escort, sexual masseuse, adult film star and/or prostitute. Sex workers are not organized by any regulating body and often exchange their services for money.
So what happens in sex therapy if not these things? Sex therapists are state licensed clinicians who take a more holistic approach to help you resolve your sexual issues. When you meet with us, we begin by gathering a comprehensive history of your life, family, relationships, sex life, work, leisure, spiritual life, medical history and your goals for therapy. Together we create a plan for how often we will meet.
There is NO nudity, personal touching or sex with the therapist in or outside the therapy office, EVER.
A sex therapist must have a solid background in couples therapy. While we work with both individuals and couples, a large part of our work involves couples. Often problems ‘in the bedroom’ have more to do with your relationship than with your body.
I see two key problems that frequently come up for couples who struggle sexually – communication and anxiety. Couples often do not have the language or courage to talk about sex. This skill deficit creates anxiety about sex. Sexual anxiety leads to negative sexual experiences, lack of sex or a “hands off” approach. These result in disconnection which further deteriorates the relationship.
Your sexuality is also vulnerable to many other influences – family, friends, social pressures and work. A sex therapist understands how these may impact your sex life. We work with you to help you understand and address potential problems in these areas.
Sex therapists educate their clients. We educate you about sex, your body, the human sexual response cycle, how to focus on sensuality, how to talk about sex as well as how your relationship and other factors effect your sexual functioning. In addition, we provide exercises for you to do in the privacy of your own home to help you create individual sexual pleasure, strengthen your relationship and regain healthy sexual functioning.
Many good generalist therapists may listen to some of your sexual problems and validate your experience but are limited in how to resolve your sexual concerns. If you are already working with a psychotherapist, a sex therapist can provide adjunct services to directly address your sexual concerns.
Sex therapists can address both non-sexual as well as sexual concerns. We possess the education, the language and the comfort to speak candidly about many life issues, including your sex life.