Sex therapists are mental health clinicians who have completed advanced, specialized coursework in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders, human sexuality and relationships.
Sex Therapists work collaboratively with physicians to treat a broad range of difficulties related to
sexuality, including erectile dysfunction, rapid ejaculation, vaginismus, anorgasmia, and
dyspareunia. Sex therapy can also address individual issues related to sexual identity, trauma,
sexual orientation, problematic sexual inhibitions, undesirable sexual habits, as well as desire
discrepancies in couples. Although the discussions between the couple and the therapist in the
context of sex therapy are of an intimate nature, the therapy itself never involves physical
examination or contact, of any sort, between the therapist and the patient.
Frequently, individuals and couples bypass a physician’s office and make their initial contact with a psychotherapist, seeking treatment for relationship difficulties and intimacy issues. The therapist may begin their work by obtaining a comprehensive psycho-sexual history from the patient and/or couple, whereby the sex therapist learns about the origin of the symptoms and related information regarding emotions, past history and current sexual functioning.
Through this process, the therapist may discover emerging or persistent symptoms of a sexual dysfunction, which may or may not be a symptom of an underlying disease. In order to rule out a biological cause, such as diabetes, neurological disorders, hypertension, endocrine disorders etc., the therapist may decide to refer the patient to a competent physician for a proper medical diagnosis and course of treatment.
Once a diagnosis has been made, or physiological etiology of the dysfunction has been ruled out, the therapist continues their work with the individual or the couple through talk therapy, assigning specific sexual homework tasks to be completed in the privacy of the patient’s home.
Valerie Areaux, MS, LMFT is a certified sex therapist.