What Sex Therapy Is — And Isn’t

What isn’t sex therapy?

When I tell people I am a sex therapist, a lot of the time people give me a confused look. Many people think that sex therapy is having sexual intimacy with the clients to help them improve their sexual abilities. While I support sex work and sex workers, this is separate from sex therapy. In fact, sexual intimacy is NEVER ethical or legal to have between a therapist and client, so this perception can be harmful if not just very, very awkward.

Sex therapy is not sexual surrogacy or sex work. Sex surrogacy — the act of physical intervention to help clients learn and practice intimacy and sex — is the way sex therapy is often portrayed in popular culture and the media. An example of this is the movie The Sessions, a fabulous movie about a man in an iron lung who goes to a sex therapist (very briefly in the movie) and gets referred to a sex surrogate. This surrogate is Helen Hunt’s character who has a set amount of sessions with him and sets up some great boundaries with him. Sexual surrogacy is an example of sex work that insurance will cover and is usually limited to about 6 sessions, but only in states where sex work is legal.

Sex therapy is not a live Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health magazine. Sex therapists may give sex education and give ideas to clients to try, but therapists in general leave the advice-giving to friends, family, and other sources. This is one of the ways that therapy is different than relationships outside of session.

Okay, so what is sex therapy?

Sex therapy utilizes the more traditional skills of counseling (goal setting, empathy, reflection, connecting meaning, etc.) to whatever the client and counselor define as sex related. The outcomes can vary widely depending on what topics are important to the client. Sometimes this includes LGBTQ, body image, sexual empowerment, healthy relationships, gender diversity (which is different than sexuality or sex), sometimes it does not. It really depends on the training of the counselor and their subspecialties.

Sex therapy looks different with every therapist because usually sex therapists have subspecialties within the very broad and vague umbrella of “sexuality.” Some examples of all the different topics sex therapists can specialize in are: erectile dysfunction, sex after infidelity, couples counseling and sex addiction.

My subspecialties are: talking frankly and nonjudgmentally about kink/BDSM and polyamorous relationships, consent, communication, healthy relationships, tackling sexual shame and body image issues, recovery from religion, increasing sexual empowerment/freedom and where LGBTQ+ factors into all of the above. I am trained to handle all sex therapy issues outside of this as well.

Above all, I am a very sex-positive counselor, which means that I will never shame you or judge you for whatever you bring to the room. I believe sex, intimacy and desire (whether you are asexual or hypersexual) are normal and natural parts of life and identity that can impact us dramatically.

If you are curious about whether sex therapy can help you, call or text today for a free phone consultation at 720-593-0253. Or, if email is your bag, reach out to caitlin@authenticyoucounseling.com.

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