MyTherapist New York | CounselorsNYC Sex Therapy: Behind the scenes

Sex Therapy


What is sex therapy?

“Hot barely legal sexy babes ready to help you with all your sexu…”- No. No. No. Stop. Just no. As an actual certified sex therapist and clinical sexologist, I can tell you right off the bat, it was click-bait, and it worked, because you have no real clear understanding of who to go to for help with healthy sexual expression or sexual wellness. (And I can also tell you, about once a year someone calls for an appointment thinking they are going to get sexy with their therapist, or worse, shows up, and are met with HIPAA forms and assessment interviews in a bustling Manhattan office.

Sex therapy is a form of professional counseling. Sex therapy is talk therapy. Sex therapy helps people address concerns about sexual function, sexuality and sexual expression. These may include problems with arousal, inability to reach orgasm, painful intercourse, or issues of sexual identity or attraction, guilt over sexual fantasies, sexual shame, sexual anorexia, gender identity issues, etc, and a certified specialist in sex therapy isn’t going to ask you to get naked to examine you or touch you, let alone have sex with you. But a specialist in sex therapy also wouldn’t shame you for misunderstanding, and would be happy to explain the field of sex therapy and mental health to see how we might be able to help. Sex therapy is the clinical application of an established professional field called sexology, with its own set of guiding principles, ethical codes, professional organizations and journals.

What is a sex therapist?

A sex therapist’s credentials must include specialized training, experience, and clinical supervision (a minimum of 300 hours by an AASECT-approved supervisor) in addressing the various mental health and sexual health needs of our clients. Virtually all sex therapists have extensive education and background in another field such as mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy or medicine. Becoming a sex therapist includes training and guided practice, akin to an apprenticeship or residency (in medicine).

What do I look for in a sex therapist? 

  • Are they trained in a related field such as the ones mentioned above?

  • Are they certified by AASECT, ABS, or a similar national certifying body? When were they certified?

  • Have they had specific training? Where? With whom?

  • What is their degree? What is their State License that allows them to practice?

  • Have they published or contributed to the field of sexology or human sexuality by completing doctoral research or a dissertation in clinical sexology or other professionally recognized way?

Most therapists display their various certifications in their office. Sex therapists do not have sexual contact with their clients.

Who goes to sex therapy?

Sex therapy is appropriate for people of any age, gender identity or sexual identity, whether they seek it out as individuals, couples or as a group. Common reasons for seeking a sex therapist include orgasm difficulties, premature ejaculation, erection problems, desire discrepancies, pain, identity and orientation issues, inhibitions, medical problems affecting sex, unusual sexual desires or behaviors, or any issue related to sexual identity, expression or function. Sex therapy can be extremely beneficial to people who are interested in relationships beyond monogamy (open relationships, polyamory, polycules, swingers, triads, etc) to work through practical issues like time management and, well, orgasm management, if you will.

What does sex therapy involve?

Sex therapy does not involve sexual contact with the therapist, nor does it involve performing sexual acts in front of your therapist. There are sexual surrogates who have sex with clients for therapeutic reasons and work under the guidance of a sexologist or sex therapist, however beware “freelance” sex surrogates. I do not currently work with sex surrogates in my practice.

Sex therapy involves talking and may involve some behavioral/physical exercises given as "homework". And just like we don’t have to BE your mother to address your issues with your mother, we don’t have to have sex with you to help address your dysfunctional , unfulfilling sex life. The therapist will try to ascertain what your issues are. (When did these issue start? Under what circumstances do they manifest? What are the contributing factors?) You can expect these discussions to be highly explicit though professional and respectful.

You can also expect the therapist to provide extensive education about sexual issues. Because so few people in our society have adequate knowledge about sexuality, this is one of the primary jobs of a sex therapist- acting as an educator providing specialized, focused education on topics such as anatomy, physical response or healthy sexual behavior, and most importantly, sexual pleasure!

Dr. Michael DeMarco is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, ABS Certified Clinical Sexologist, has completed a quantitative doctoral research study in gender roles and sexually driven behavior, and continues to pursue advanced training in sexuality and mental health. Advice columnists are not sex therapists.

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