If you’re having sexual problems, you probably want to resolve them as quickly as possible. Sexual dysfunction — whether it’s affecting your intimate time with a sexual partner or just your precious masturbation time — is typically something men want to “make go away” as quickly as possible.
The thing is, it isn’t always as easy as popping a pill to solve problems in the bedroom. Human sexuality is a complicated concept, and sometimes the sexual concerns you’re having aren’t going to disappear with the help of a little blue friend. Sometimes you may need to look at an area of your life that may not seem totally connected to your penis: your mental health.
This is where sex therapy comes in. For many men, sessions with a certified sex therapist can address problems with sexual desire or fill in some gaps on sexual education. It also often functions as a form of talk therapy to help you work through anything from sexual traumas in your past to seemingly smaller problems like feeling you lack the sexual experience to please your partner(s).
Below, we’ve covered what sex therapy is and what a sex therapist does, and shared some examples of what you can see a sex therapist for. We’ve also shared some tips on finding the right sex therapist to help you out.
Let’s start with the question we get asked most often.
Sex therapy is a specialized form of counseling that’s designed to help you (and, in many cases, your partner) treat sexual issues.
Depending on your specific problem, sex therapy might involve learning more about your sexual health and needs as an individual, overcoming anxiety or nervousness about sex, improving the level of intimacy with your partner or many other things.
Although talking to a stranger about your sex life might feel awkward, the reality is that most sex therapists will go out of their way to make you feel relaxed and comfortable and focused on making progress.
While the results of sex therapy aren’t immediate, if you (along with your partner, if you are undergoing sex therapy together) are willing to work with your therapist over time, you may see real improvements in your relationship, sexual performance and level of sexual satisfaction.
There’s no official list of problems that a sex therapist can “solve” and that’s mainly because sex therapy isn’t really about your symptoms — it’s about what’s causing those symptoms. But by focusing on the underlying causes, sex therapy can definitely address symptoms that you’re having.
Common issues discussed and treated during sex therapy include relationship problems, sexual performance anxiety and other sex-related problems, and you might be smart to see a sex therapist if:
You’re experiencing low libido or a low sex drive.
You and your sexual partner have mismatched libidos.
You or your partner are experiencing an inability to reach orgasm (also called anorgasmia).
You have difficulty getting aroused during sexual activity.
You want to spice up your sex life and don’t know where to start.
You have unanswered questions about women’s sexual health or sex education.
You feel shame or distress about your genital shape, size or sexual function.
Your sexual difficulties spring from a medical condition that can’t be cured.
You’re trying to create a healthy sex life through individual therapy.
It’s very hard for you to relax during sex.
You experience premature ejaculation and feel shame or embarrassment.
You’re unsure of your gender identity, sexual orientation or another identity issue related to sex.
Wondering if sex therapy can work for physical problems like erectile dysfunction? It can, in some cases. A recent study published in Sexual Medicine looked at the effects of cognitive behavioral sex therapy on young men with nonorganic erectile dysfunction (NOED) — a form of ED that’s linked to psychological issues such as anxiety and depression.
We have to note this was a very small study, but the researchers found that cognitive behavioral sex therapy produced an improvement in erection scores and a reduction in the severity of ED over the course of the study.
Interestingly, this study also featured a control group of men with nonorganic ED who received treatment with the ED medication sildenafil. The researchers found that the effects of sex therapy and sildenafil on ED score and ED severity reduction had only nonsignificant differences.
The men who took part in cognitive behavioral sex therapy also reported a larger improvement in anxiety scores than those who received the ED medication.
In simple terms, the men who took part in sex therapy showed similar improvements in erectile performance to those who used ED medication, along with a larger reduction in anxiety related to sex.
Contrary to popular belief, sex therapy doesn’t involve any sexual contact between you and your partner or you and your therapist. This isn’t a gynecologist in a smoking jacket, fellas.
Instead, it’s focused on discussing your problems and seeking practical, results-focused solutions to help you overcome them.
A sex therapist may utilize a variety of forms of psychotherapy to help you work through your problems, including:
Couples communication techniques
In a specific form of couples therapy, they may address relationship issues or work with both partners, instead of just you.
Sex therapy offers several different benefits. Some of these are general benefits for your sexual health, performance and wellbeing, whereas others are more specific benefits related to treating erectile dysfunction.
If you think that your ED is related to a psychological issue, taking part in sex therapy may help you to identify and address the underlying factor rather than simply using medication to improve your performance.
Sex therapy can also have benefits for your relationship. Many couples report better enjoyment of sex after undergoing sex therapy.
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Many people will tell you that the hardest part of sex therapy isn’t getting into the things that embarrass you in your sex therapy sessions — it’s finding a therapist.
Most mid-sized and large cities will have several sex therapists, making it relatively easy for you to find someone in your area, but it may be harder to find one if you live somewhere smaller, or depending on your insurance.
Here’s what you need to know:
The easiest way to find a sex therapist near you is by making use of online tools. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT)offers a referral tool that you can use to find licensed sex therapists in your state and area.
If you have health insurance, you can also reach out to your provider to ask about sex therapists in your area. It’s also okay to ask your primary care provider or other healthcare provider to give you a referral to a sex therapist.
Finally, Googling “sex therapist” along with your city or region should bring up local websites for sex therapists offering their services.
For some people, a therapist’s office might not be necessary. If you’re struggling to find in-person care or want a more convenient experience, you might also consider online therapy, which can provide the same benefits in the virtual comfort of your home.
Sex therapy can be an effective treatment option for many sex-related issues, including erectile dysfunction. If you’re not sure whether you need help or not, our advice is to talk to a mental health professional and see what they think. They may suggest other treatments, or they may point you in the direction of therapy.
If you’re not having the fulfilling sex life you want or having ED problems that don’t seem to make sense biologically, keep the following points in mind:
Research shows that sex therapy may be especially effective for ED caused by psychological factors such as anxiety, depression or nervousness about sex. If you have ED and think that a psychological issue could be the cause, consider reaching out to a sex therapist to learn more about how they may be able to help you.
You can also talk to your primary care provider or reach out to a licensed healthcare provider online for more information about treating erectile dysfunction or other sexual health issues. Remember that sex therapy is far from the only treatment option that’s available for your sexual health, especially when they’re caused by an underlying biological issue.
One of the biggest potential benefits of sex therapy is that it can cause significant improvements in your sex life and relationship, often without the use of medication.
Although medications like sildenafil and tadalafil can make getting an erection easier, they aren’t designed to treat anxiety or nervousness about sex.
Want help? We can start you off in the right direction with our erectile dysfunction treatments.
We’ve also provided more information about habits and lifestyle changes for improving your erectile health in our guide to natural ways to protect your erection. And you can read more about premature ejaculation treatments on our blog.
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Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.