What Is Sex Therapy, and How Does It Benefit Your Sex Life?4 Min Read
If you’ve seen the hit Netflix series Sex Ed, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of sex therapy (and if you haven’t, it comes highly recommended). Many of the show’s awkward, laughter-inducing scenes play on the fact that sex therapy isn’t something widely accepted or understood by mainstream culture. Yet, as many of the characters discover, having candid and informative conversations about sex has a lot of benefits, both inside and outside the bedroom.
Almost anyone engaging in a sexual relationship can stand to benefit from sexual therapy. There is so much worth discovering about both yourself and your partner(s). So, if you’re curious about exploring sex therapy but aren’t sure where to get started, here’s a quick breakdown of all the questions you might not have thought to Google (yet).
How do I know I need sex therapy?
Sex therapy is like regular therapy — there doesn’t need to be something seriously wrong in order for you to benefit from it. However, there are a few common reasons why people go to sex therapy:
- They feel like they are in a “rut” with their partner. Perhaps the sex has become less exciting than it used to be, leaving both partners dissatisfied and wondering if they still have chemistry.
- They struggle to communicate or understand how their partner is communicating during sex.
- They have feelings of shame or guilt when they have sex.
- They are struggling with their sexuality and sexual identity.
- They have experienced a sexual trauma.
How do I choose a sex therapist?
If you’ve ever gone to therapy, then you likely realize the importance of having the right person sitting across from you in your most vulnerable moments. Choosing a good sex therapist can make all the difference, but how to find the best person for the job?
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sex therapists. However, some things you should look for are:
- Someone who looks at the whole picture. Finger-pointing, shame, or blame are why people require sex therapy in the first place. A good sex therapist will look at all perspectives — and if you’re attending with another person, they’ll encourage each partner to look at the other’s point of view.
- Someone who is thorough and well-rounded. Sexual histories inform present-day sexual habits, whether you realize it or not. Moreover, your erotic fingerprint comes from not just your romantic relationships, but familial values and cultural legacy. Competent sex therapists almost always weigh each partner’s sexual history — the good, the bad, and especially the ugly — before making any assumptions. They’ll ask what sex means for you, how members of your family or community treated and talked about sex, and about the important events that shaped your sexuality.
- Someone who doesn’t try to micromanage your sex life. A common punchline goes that sex therapists will tell you to treat sex like an appointment, especially if you’ve been in a rut lately. Sure, scheduling sex can be a helpful tool for extremely busy or stressed couples — but adding intimacy to your Google calendar isn’t always the answer to a sexless relationship, even if it means more sex. Oftentimes, improving your sex life stems from changing the quality, not the quantity, of sexual relations. This means tackling some far more complex problems, but that’s what a sex therapist is for!
Bottom line, it’s alright to ditch your therapist if it’s not working out. You won’t necessarily find the perfect person on your first try (it’s kind of like dating in that way). Remember to trust your gut and practice self-advocacy!
What can I hope to gain from sex therapy?
Of course, this answer might look slightly different depending on each person and their goals. However, if you are considering sex therapy because you want to improve your relationship with your partner, there are several things you might expect:
- Improved communication. Sex therapy provides a safe space for partners to learn about and better understand each other, both throughout the sessions and in the bedroom. The introduction of new and effective communication tactics can make both partners feel safer and more in tune with one another, which, as we’ve discussed in BTBz, is a huge part of a positive sexual experience!
- Increased seduction between partners. It’s a bit of a paradox — the longer you stay with your partner, the less you may feel the need to seduce them, despite the fact that you or your partner might require more seduction to maintain the same level of passion. Sex therapists can help couples discover new techniques to seduce one another and bring back the spark.
- Setting and navigating meaningful boundaries. Sex can’t and doesn’t happen without consent. When it comes to long-term partners, however, it can be helpful to be more specific than simply saying “no.” For example, you might tell your partner that while you don’t want to have sex right now, you are open to kissing or cuddling. Or, if you’re currently not in the mood but feel that maybe you could be, you might communicate that you’re open to the idea but need your partner to help you get there. These answers show a level of acknowledgement of your partner’s needs while still honoring your own sexual autonomy. However, navigating that balance can be tricky — which is why having input from a trained professional is extremely helpful.