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What is Sex Therapy Like?

What is Sex Therapy Like?Have you ever thought about seeing a sex therapist for help with a sexual problem?

If the question makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re not alone. The idea of discussing the intricacies of one’s sex life with a stranger can be awkward, especially if you find sex difficult to talk about. And sex therapy can have an air of mystery around it. What, exactly, goes on during the sessions?

Simply put, sex therapy is a form of psychotherapy designed to address sexual problems for individuals and for couples. It is talk therapy only – no sexual situations occur during sessions.  

Therapists can help clients:

  • learn more about their sexuality, including the anatomical aspects of sex
  • build communication skills so they can talk to partners about sex
  • develop strategies and techniques to improve a couple’s sexual relationship
  • work through sexual orientation or gender identity questions
  • cope with past sexual abuse or trauma
  • learn to manage unwanted sexual behaviors or compulsions


Ever thought about seeing a sex therapist for help with a sexual problem? (Click to tweet)


Sometimes, psychological factors contribute to sexual problems. For example, anxiety can play a role in premature ejaculation or vaginismus. Therapists can help with that as well.

Can sex therapy help you? Today, we’ll answer some common questions that can guide your decision.


What are the first steps?

Before you start looking for a therapist, see your doctor. This could be your regular doctor, a urologist, or a gynecologist.

Sometimes, sexual problems have physical causes. For example, erectile dysfunction (ED) – the inability to get an erection firm enough for sex – may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition like diabetes or heart disease. Painful sex for women could be related to endometriosis or hormonal changes during menopause. Low sexual desire in both men and women can be linked to stress, fatigue, or medications like antidepressants.

Who are sex therapists?

Sex therapists may be psychologists, physicians, social workers, or other clinical professionals. Usually they have graduate degrees and special training in sexual issues and counseling.

How do I find a sex therapist?

Most likely, your doctor can refer you to a sex therapist who specializes in the type of problem you’re having. If not, try looking for one through a professional association, such as the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).

Your therapist should have appropriate training, credentials, and licensing. Don’t hesitate to ask the therapist about his or her background before you start therapy. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, or if you feel the therapist-client relationship is not a good fit, it’s fine to look for another one. For sex therapy to be effective, it’s important to have a good rapport.


What is a sex therapy session like?

Sessions usually take place at the therapist’s office. Some therapists work in medical centers, but many have private practices. Many design their consultation spaces like living rooms in an effort to make the atmosphere relaxing and welcoming.

Sex therapists understand that you might be nervous. They are trained to put you at ease and guide you through the conversation. They will probably ask you about your physical health, relationship with your partner, your upbringing and sexual education, and your attitudes about sex.

Once they understand the problem, they might assign “homework.” This could be reading or watching videos to learn more about the body and sexual technique. It might also include exercises to try with your partner, if you have one. Sensate focus – a process that moves from non-sexual to sexual touching – is one type of exercise, designed to foster trust and intimacy between partners.

Remember that sex therapy sessions are talk therapy only. They do not include any physical contact or sexual relations at the session, with partners or with the therapist.

Should my partner go with me?

If you and your partner are having sexual issues, it’s helpful if you attend sessions together. Often, couples need help in communicating with one another. They may not know how to talk about their sexual needs. Or, there might be deeper problems in the relationship that are affecting what happens in the bedroom.

If your partner won’t go with you, sex therapy can still be beneficial for you alone. Your therapist can help you work out strategies for approaching your partner about your situation.


What if I don’t have a partner?

Even if you don’t have a partner, sex therapy can still help. Some patients avoid new relationships because of sexual problems, even when they would like to be in a couple. Working with a therapist can help solve the issue and build self-confidence.

Making the call

It’s tough to admit you have a sexual problem. Making that first appointment may be the most difficult step. But it’s worth trying, not only for your sexual health, but for your relationship and overall well-being.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: What is Sex Therapy Like?


Mayo Clinic

“Sex therapy”

(February 14, 2013)

Bellows, Amy, PhD

“An Overview of Sex Therapy”

Psychology Today

Watson, Laurie J, LMFT, LPC

“Should We See a Sex Therapist?”

(November 4, 2012)