What you can expect

You'll likely begin sex therapy by describing your specific sexual concerns. Sexual issues can be complicated, and your therapist will want to get a clear idea of all the factors involved. Once your therapist understands the situation, he or she will discuss ways to resolve your concerns and improve your communication and intimacy.

Talking about sex and intimacy may initially feel awkward. But certified sex therapists are trained at putting you at ease and are skilled at identifying and exploring sexual concerns.

If you're in a relationship, it's usually most helpful to involve your partner in meetings with your sex therapist. You and your partner may be assigned a series of homework exercises, such as:

  • Communication exercises with your partner
  • Slowing down and focusing on what you're sensing during intimate encounters (mindfulness techniques)
  • Reading or watching educational videos about sexual health
  • Changing the way you interact with your partner both sexually and nonsexually

Sex therapy is usually short term. Some concerns can be addressed quickly, in just a few visits. Typically, however, several counseling sessions are needed.

As sex therapy progresses, you can use your home experiences to further identify and refine the issues you'd like to work on. Remember, sexual coaching that involves physical contact is not part of mainstream sex therapy and is against the ethics of licensed mental health providers.

Other issues

Keep in mind that concerns about sex and intimacy are often linked to other underlying issues, such as stress, anxiety or depression. In other cases, sexual function is affected by chronic illness, medication side effects, surgery or aging.

Depending on your concerns and your physical health, seeing only a sex therapist may be enough — or your sex therapist may be part of a team that includes your health care professional. For some sexual concerns, medication may be helpful. A complete medical evaluation can help determine the nature of your problem and the treatment options that may be appropriate.

Aug. 15, 2017
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