We’re always hearing we could have a better sex life. But, how often do we actually go ‘under the covers’ to better understand our desires and most embarrassing questions? How do you decide who you’re going to trust with some of your most intimate experiences? Most people do their best to try to fix issues in a relationship when it’s not going well. But sometimes, seeking professional help in this area can be fraught with risk as some therapists aren’t able to deal with these intimate issues effectively.
There needs to be two separate, parallel conversations, when couples come to sex therapy. One, about the emotional health within the relationship, and the other, about sexual health. Many people think that if the relationship gets better, then the sex will too, or vice versa. Both are a myth.
It is important to encourage couples to speak openly about their erotic needs, something that seldom happens outside of the therapist’s office. When these are brought out into the open, discrepancies between each other’s inner erotic worlds can be discovered. Exploring uncomfortable desires more deeply can open a door to greater understanding of themselves, increased empathy for their partners, and potentially lead to healing their sex lives and their relationship. But how do you chose the right therapist?
A good sex therapist can help you build confidence in your sexual skills and develop new techniques, but also help you recognize that sex is about so much more than “performance.” Sex therapy can help you learn tips for managing anxiety in the moment and staying mentally present during sex, which are just as important as sexual technique.
Shop around and consider an AASECT(The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists) certified sex therapist. They will have received extra education in areas of sexual dysfunction, sex and gender identity concerns, trauma, and partner intimacy issues. Compared to general therapists, they will have more experience with diagnosing male and female sexual dysfunctions.
The therapist doesn’t have to have fully advanced training to help you, but they should have more than their normal training – participated in a workshop that focused on working with couples and expanded their sexual health knowledge.
As a trained sex therapist myself, I educate other therapists around the country and internationally. I often ask how many of those have any kind of sex therapy training. In a roomful of 50 or 60 therapists, I usually get no more than four hands! If I give a talk on problematic sexual behaviors, marital therapy, or sexual trauma and abuse, I fill a room. But a talk on helping individuals and couples with sexual pleasure has less than half as many people show up.
Too often, the untrained therapist makes unsound judgments about what constitutes a healthy sex life—perhaps based their own unexamined sexual history of abuse or trauma or infidelity—project this onto the clients and then lead the individual or couple, accordingly, often taking sides with the person who feels aggrieved in the relationship. This is not helpful.