A sex therapist is a trained professional in the field of emotional counseling or psychotherapy who specializes in human sexuality. This kind of therapist helps individuals and couples overcome problems with intimacy, relationships and sexual health. Sex therapy involves regular counseling sessions with a client or clients in a professional environment, like other forms of emotional and psychiatric therapy. Through this process, the sex therapist will determine the client’s most pressing issues and their causes. He or she may then suggest goals or actions that are likely to resolve these issues.
There are numerous kinds of therapists and counselors available to help people address a wide variety of emotional and psychological issues. These include religious and medical professionals, as well as psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Any of these may refer a patient to a sex counselor or therapist if they feel a specialized approach is necessary. A sex counselor will generally address a specific problem in the short term. A sex therapist, who is usually trained in psychology or psychotherapy, can address more comprehensive, long-term problems as part of the bigger picture.
Most sex therapists have a background in medicine, psychiatry or social work. With training and experience, they learn how to identify and resolve a wide range of sexual and relationship issues. They are also trained to treat clients confidentially and without judgment, even if the client’s personal values or standards are very different from their own. Sex therapists are licensed to practice therapy, and may also have special certifications from professional organizations. Like all therapists, they are forbidden by laws and codes of conduct from engaging in sexual behavior with clients.
A sex therapist will generally have several one-hour sessions each day with various clients, some of whom will be couples. Early work in these sessions is focused on getting to know the client’s needs and the particular sexual issue that requires treatment. The therapist may then suggest techniques or approaches designed to address these problems. These can include educational or reading materials, workshops, and relationship-building exercises. Multiple therapy sessions may be necessary for some clients, especially when dealing with deep-seated problems such as depression or sexual abuse.
Clients will seek a sex therapist for a variety of very personal reasons. Single and partnered people alike may have concerns about desire, arousal or intimacy. Couples may have trust and commitment issues, or trouble dealing with dissimilar sexual needs. Sex therapists also help people deal with gender identity and sexual orientation issues, medical problems, and sex addiction, among many other special situations. They may also need to address larger life issues such as anxiety, substance abuse or personality disorders, a process called intensive therapy.