Do we need to see a therapist?
I think we have sexual problems?
How do we find the right type of therapist?
A sex therapist, what the heck is a sex therapist?
It never fails to amaze me, that the mere mention of sex and human sexuality continue to titillate and cause a state of unrest for most, when thrown into the mix of everyday conversation.
I’m standing inside the sushi restaurant last week, waiting for my take-out tempura salmon roll. A very charming and handsome man also waiting outside the front door beckons for me to join him while waiting for our lunch orders. He casually asks if I live in the neighborhood and what I do for a living.
Before I answer him, I notice a woman sitting not 3 feet from us, observing the conversation. She seems somewhat amused by the charming man and his social tactics (pick-up lines). I open my mouth to respond and my mind is already whirling with thoughts of the response I will most likely get from my answer.”I’m a Board Certified Clinical Sexologist, a Marriage and Family Therapist with a PhD in Clinical Sexology…” I pause, watching the expression on his face.
The woman at the table nearby, also has looked up from her lunch, I have their absolute attentions at this point.You do what, he exclaims? I again define my profession, and add, “you know, like Dr. Ruth, America’s favorite sexologist…only a bit younger.”The woman at the table is still watching us. She smiles and says, “this should be interesting.”
This is the response I receive 99.9% of the time from persons, once they’ve asked what my profession is. Even upon explanation, there still seems to be that stunned look on their faces.So then, why the shock effect from stating that one works in the field of Human Sexuality?
First off, `I’m not sure that people fully understand hat it means to be a sex therapist, sexologist or clinical sexologist. It often can mean different things to different people, since the field of sex therapy is very specific to its requirements and regulations.
What then does it actually mean to be a sex therapist? Florida is the only state to license sex therapists. Other licensed professionals in the mental health field may obtain the additional specialty license by completing 120 hours of training and 20 hours of supervised clinical practice. Or, they may attain their PhD in Clinical Sexology by completing a State certified doctoral program in clinical sexology.
Currently, The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists offers such programming in Orlando, Florida. Dr. William Granzig is the founder and Dean of the program, with whose guidance and training I was honored to have studied.Dr. Granzig states in a past interview with the Washington Post, that sexual matters cannot be addressed by just any therapist, so it is beneficial to train people to deal with them specifically.
He also maintains that the model for sex therapy, created more than 30 years ago by William Masters and Virginia Johnson calls for therapists to refer patients to sex therapists when sexual issues arise.Outside Florida, sex therapists are generally licensed in such fields as counseling, social work or psychology. Some receive additional training and certification from organizations such as the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and the American Board of Sexologists (ABS). There are conflicting views about this very specific profession however.
In a recent passing conversation with a colleague in the mental health field, he claimed that sex counseling is simply an aspect of an everyday psychology practice, and though the subject may not come up often, he was surely capable of dealing with such issues, simply based on “personal experience.”
WHAT?? No No No No! In the State of Florida there are very specific and absolute statutes defining the specifics of who can practice sex therapy and who can call themselves a sex therapist. These statutes are clearly stated along with the specific training and course work that one must have in order to practice sex therapy in the State of Florida. Just because my colleague was once a playboy and has endured 4 marriages, doesn’t give him the qualifications to shoot from the hip so to speak, and practice “sex therapy” in his office!That said, hopefully I’ve answered some questions about, what is a sex therapist and how do I find a sex therapist that is qualified?
Why a Sex Therapist instead of any other type of therapist?
Now, I’d like to address exactly when you may need a sex therapist and what to expect in sex therapy, and what sex therapists can really do for you. First of all, it is important to understand that we as human beings don’t exist in a unilateral world. We are almost always in relationship with one or another persons. Whether it be work or personal life, there is a systemic flow to who you are and how you interact in the world around you. In your relationship the issues of sex, intimacy, love, career, health and life in general all add up contextually to who you and your partner are.
As sex therapists, it is often important to break down these individual issues and isolate the actual sexual issues from the relationship factors. Although if is often difficult to separate the two, that’s exactly what your sex therapist tries to do. In better understanding sequences of behavior and patterns of interaction in your relationship, therapy helps you to gain clarity on who you are and what you expect from your partner. Your relationship and sex life are not independent of one another.
However, it is important to point out that fixing your relationship doesn’t necessarily mean a quick fix for your sex life.There is a method behind the madness of therapy and sex therapy. We don’t simply sit in our chairs and pull questions out of thin air like rabbits out of a hat. The original therapeutic models for sex therapy go back some thirty years to the pioneering sexologists. Sex therapists have devoted much time and research in order to gain an understanding of human sexuality and human behaviors. The training and coursework is very specific to sexuality issues. In choosing a therapist of your choice, make sure that the clinician you choose, has received both a proper education, as well as clinical supervision from a University that offers a State qualified graduate program in Human Sexuality.
Some of the more common problems that sex therapists deal with include: premature ejaculation, erectile disorder, performance anxiety, orgasmic dysfunctions, low libidio and lack of desire. Often couples report that they have simply “fallen out of love.” Many sex therapists also handle gender identity issues, gay and lesbian issues, trans-gender counseling, as well as fetish and paraphilia related issues and sexual trauma to name a few. Also of critical import are the interpersonal/ relationship dynamics including both sexual issues and the communication or lack thereof between individuals and couples regarding their sexuality and relationship.
Therefore, they are much more likely to have a comprehensive understanding of your sexuality and relationship issues than a typical psychologist. Sex therapists don’t fix your problem. They help you help yourself. As Sex therapists, we foster a safe place where you can communicate understand, and focus on defining and healing the specifics of your sexual and relationship issues, under the guidance and direction of a trained professional.
Sexual dissatisfaction is the no. 2 reason for divorce in this country. If you are seeking help, you can locate a licensed and qualified sex therapist by contacting the American board of Sexology, or search the Internet which provides numerous therapist locater programs, such