An Overview of Sex Therapy
These days, many couples find it hard to fit sex into their busy schedules. And it’s perfectly normal for people to go through periods when they’re just not in the mood for lovemaking.
But if you chronically lack desire for sex — for emotional or physical reasons — you may want to consider sex therapy. Seeking treatment for sex problems has become more socially acceptable today, but it’s still not easy for many people to talk to a professional about such an intimate area.
“There are probably a lot of people out there who could use therapy but don’t come because they’re embarrassed. They may go through years of needless pain or dissatisfaction,” says Alexandra Myles, MSW, a sex therapist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and in private practice.
Deciding whether sex therapy is for you
Before you decide to see a sex therapist, take the time to explore whether it is really what you need. Myles and other therapists recommend that you:
See a doctor, particularly if your problem is physical in nature. A gynecologist or urologist can detect difficulties due to illness, aging, or metabolic and hormonal imbalances. Prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, alcohol, and smoking can all affect sexual functioning, according to Judy Seifer, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist and clinical professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
Learn more about sexuality. In spite of the greater openness about sexuality today, many people have little understanding of their own bodies and sexual functioning. Informational and self-help books and educational sex videos, which are widely available, can be very helpful (see listing below) . Becoming better informed will help you decide whether you really need therapy; some people, in fact, are able to solve their own problems through self-help guides.
What happens in sex therapy
Many people come to sex therapy after individual psychotherapy fails to help them with their sexual problems. Masters & Johnson, the pioneers of sex therapy, discovered back in the 1950s that talking alone wasn’t enough to resolve sexual issues.
“The obvious thing is that you’re dealing with the human body so you can’t just talk about how you feel; you’ve got to work on the physical level as well,” says Myles. Sex therapy generally address the emotional issues underlying sexual problems and employs behavioral techniques to deal with the physical symptoms.