Sex Therapy: Is It for You?

IMAGE These days, many couples find it hard to fit sex into their busy schedules. And it is perfectly normal for people to go through periods when they are just not in the mood for love making. However, if you 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 is still not easy for many people to talk to a professional about such an intimate concern.

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. Consider the following recommendations:
  • See a doctor initially, particularly if you think your problem is physical in nature—A gynecologist or urologist can detect difficulties due to illness, aging, metabolic or hormonal imbalances. Keep in mind that prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, alcohol, and smoking may also negatively affect sexual functioning.
  • 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. 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. Sex therapy generally addresses the emotional issues underlying sexual problems and employs behavioral techniques to deal with the physical symptoms. You may also need other treatment to care for the physical problems that may be affecting you.These behavioral techniques involve physical exercises that clients do on their own outside of the therapy setting. Nothing happens in the therapist's office of a sexual or physical nature. (Sex therapists should not be confused with sexual surrogates, who may have physical contact with their clients as part of therapy.)One popular technique used in treating many sexual problems is called sensate focus, in which couples caress or massage each other without sexual contact. The goal is to help both partners learn to give and receive pleasure and feel safe together. As the partners become more comfortable, they can progress to genital stimulation.As a result of performing this exercise, many couples discover new ways to experience pleasure other than sexual intercourse. Other exercises treat specific problems such as women's inability to have orgasms and men's erectile problems. Performing these exercises often evokes strong feelings that are then explored through psychotherapy. People who have experienced sexual trauma or are confused about their sexual identity may need to spend more time working through their feelings. For couples, who make up the majority of clients, the focus is on improving communication and developing greater intimacy.

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