Sexual problems cause us personal distress and can disrupt our relationships.
A sex therapist will use a combination of talking and practical work that might work faster and more effectively than regular therapy or counselling. Whether you are male or female, a problem of sexual performance (erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, vaginismus, dyspareunia) or sexual desire (low desire, sexual addiction, excessive masturbation, addiction to online pornography) could be treated much faster and more effectively if you see a specialist sex therapist.
Sex therapists differ from traditional counsellors and therapists because we specialise in working with clients on sexual problems. Those sexual problems really fall into two types:
The first is problems of performance:
For men that usually means difficulties with erections, for example premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction; for women it usually means some sort of pain or discomfort when being penetrated during sex, often referred to as dyspareunia or vaginismus.
Performance issues also go hand-in-hand with issues of sexual desire:
Our sexual desire may be too low, which leads us to withdraw from intimacy with our partners, or maybe our sex drive feels too strong and we cannot cope with it and we become perhaps addicted to some sort of compulsive behaviours: may be masturbation; may be addiction to internet pornography; maybe we become excited by sexual behaviours that we keep very private because we consider them to be very shameful. Or - and this works with both men and women - we have sexual fantasies that we find intrusive or too shameful to share with others.
All of these issues, whether they are issues of performance or desire, can destabilise us as individuals and cause all sorts of feelings from depression to anxiety. And they can really destabilise the relationships that we are in. There are two parties in a relationship and both of them could have sexual issues that feed off the other. For both the individual and the couple, sexual issues can be very troubling.
When a traditional therapist or counsellor works with a sexual issue, they will tend to talk it through with their client, enable them to make sense of the experience and somehow reframe it and restructure in their minds so they can deal with it and move on and have a more positive experience.
A sex therapist will also do those things but will combine it with some very practical work. Let's take for example a client who has difficulty being touched: they find touch uncomfortable or they are frightened of touch. As a sex therapist I would partly use those traditional therapeutic tools of talking through the issue, listening to their history, understanding the context of the problem. But then in addition to enabling them to reframe it and to cope better I would be giving them practical exercises.
For example: for the experience of touch, I would be giving a client exercises to get back in touch with the basics of their own experiences of touch, to make it non threatening and then to move the client to experiencing more intimate touch and ultimately sexual touch. If the client is in a relationship we can at some stage bring their partner in and the partner can then share the experience of being touched and touching someone else.
Whether you are working with an individual or a couple, using these practical exercises in addition to traditional therapeutic methods can be a very fast and effective way to get someone through a sexual problem they are facing.
So my advice would be if you have a sexual problem or sexual thoughts fantasies or behaviours that are troubling you or destabilising your relationship, then it would make sense to consult a specialist sex therapist and see whether there is anything they can offer in this combination of talking and practical work that might work faster and more effectively than regular therapy.