Sex therapy is a type of talk therapy that’s designed to help individuals and couples address medical, psychological, personal, or interpersonal factors impacting sexual performance and satisfaction.

The goal of sex therapy is to help people move past physical and emotional challenges to have a satisfying relationship and pleasurable sex life. This may mean helping people achieve deeper intimacy in their sexual relationships, moving beyond dysfunction to pleasure, and also assisting couples who have mismatched desire.

Sexual dysfunction is common. In fact, 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men report experiencing some type of sexual dysfunction during their lifetimes. These dysfunctions may include:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • low libido
  • sexual shame
  • premature ejaculation
  • low confidence
  • lack of response to sexual stimulus
  • inability to reach orgasm
  • inability to control sexual behaviour
  • distressing sexual thoughts
  • unwanted sexual fetishes
How does sex therapy work?

Sex therapy is like any type of psychotherapy. You treat the condition by talking through your experiences, worries, and feelings. Together with your therapist, you find the causes of these issues and where necessary work out coping mechanisms to help improve your responses in the future, so that you can have a healthier sex life.

Your therapist is there to guide and help you process your current challenge:

  • They are not there to take one person’s side or to help persuade anyone.
  • Also, everyone will keep their clothes on. The sex therapist will not be having sexual relations with anyone or showing anyone how to have sex.

All talk therapy, including sex therapy, is both supportive and educational. At no point will you be expected to change who you are. Sex therapy is about embracing who you are and achieving sexual satisfaction as you are. You may be asked to change some habits or ways of perceiving situations that are negatively affecting your sex life.

You will probably leave your therapist’s office with assignments and work to do before your next appointment. Your therapists approach to therapy will determine the type of assignment that you will be given.

If your therapist suspects the dysfunction you’re experiencing is the result of a physical sexual concern, they may refer you to a medical doctor. Your therapist and the doctor can consult about your signs and symptoms and work to help find any physical concerns that may be contributing to greater sexual problems.

Do I need to see a sex therapist?

If you are asking the question, then the answer is probably, yes.

If your quality of life and emotional health are affected by your sexual dysfunction, it’s a good idea to see a sex therapist. Likewise, if a lack of intimacy or difficulty communicating with a partner leads as your most serious personal concern, a sex therapist is the place to start.

How do I find a sex therapist?

Finding a certified sex therapist in South Africa can be tricky as it is not currently a recognised professional body, and sexology is not offered by any of our higher learning institutions. You will need to do an internet search for sex therapists and then check on their profiles to see where they have received their training and accreditation from.  Note that being part of SASHA does not men that they are a certified sex therapist. But it can be helpful if you are looking for a sex coach. There are also some licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and clinical social workers who have opted to continue their education in sexual health training via international institutions and you will be able to find this on their sites.

Because sexology and sex therapy is not currently recognised as a professional body in South Africa, your medical aid will not cover sex therapy costs.

If you’d like a more personal recommendation, talk with your doctor, gynaecologist, or urologist. Many doctors have met and recommend sex therapists to their patients every day. They might be able to direct you toward a provider whose style closely aligns with your own needs.

What to know before your appointment

When you’re ready to begin sex therapy, keep these five things in mind as you prepare to decide on whom to meet for therapy.

Compatibility

Therapists are unique. Successful therapy depends largely on how well you communicate with your therapist and how much you trust them and their guidance to help you through your concerns. This is one of the reasons that many sex therapists will offer an introductory call free of charge before starting therapy.

If you don’t feel comfortable with a sex therapist at any point, look for another. And don’t be afraid to tell your therapist that this is the situation. They may have another therapist in mind who will suit you better.

Solo versus couple

You do not have to bring your partner with you to sex therapy. For some individuals, solo sex therapy is adequate to address concerns. For others, having both people present during therapy may help improve satisfaction and build a stronger connection.

Talk with your partner about your choice to begin therapy. If you’d like them to be involved, ask.

Logistics

When deciding on a sex therapist, it’s important to keep in mind where your therapist’s office is and how easy it is for you to get to. You may be attending appointments during your lunch hour, after work, or on random days when you have a free hour.

Some therapists, like myself offer tele-health sessions (virtual sessions), so you may be able to meet with them online from the comfort of your home.

Treatment plan

During your first appointment(s), your therapist will likely go over an initial treatment plan with you. For most individuals and couples, several sessions are required at first.

However, once treatment is making a significant difference and your therapist feels confident you can handle future challenges, you may be released from your therapist’s care.

 

The Final Word

A fulfilling sex life is vital to your health for many reasons. Physical and emotional elements of a healthy sex life have far-reaching benefits, including lower blood pressure, better heart health, and stress reduction. Sex is also just a natural, fun part of life.

However, for some people, sex is a source of great anxiety and worry. Sexual dysfunction can lead to relationship complications, loss of confidence, and many other negative effects.

Sex therapy is an integrative approach to treating and eliminating underlying challenges. These concerns may be physical, such as low circulation. They may also be psychological concerns, such as anxiety, stress, and confidence issues.

Sex therapy can help individuals and couples find a way to have open, honest communication so that they can work through any concerns or challenges toward a healthy, happy sex life.

 

Got a question about sex? Send your questions and I’ll answer them! What’s your question?

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