Sexuality is a reality of life. People often seek therapy for issues related directly or indirectly to sex. Talking about sex and sexuality is often part of the experience of therapy. Various difficulties related to sexuality may lead people to seek therapy or the issues may simply arise during the course of treatment. To name just a few examples:
Choosing which therapist will work best for your recovery will depend on your specific situation. Couples can work with male or female sex therapists as the work done in session is strictly instructive and verbal. All exercises and suggestions of a physical nature are to be performed by the couple outside of the session. If an individual chooses to enter sex therapy on their own, they may be more comfortable discussing their sexual issues with a therapist of the same gender. However, both male and female sex therapists are trained to address the emotional, physical and biological issues that can influence sexual activity in men and women.
Even if no apparent sexual issues are present, sexuality plays an important role in our lives, our relationships, and, sometimes, in our conversations with a therapist. Sexual energy is powerful and can profoundly affect our mood, our thoughts, and our general state of being. Sexual fantasies and behaviors are not always deemed socially appropriate, and we may not feel comfortable talking about our deepest thoughts and feelings with friends or family. This can lead to anxiety, frustration, and even depression. Therapy is a safe place to talk about any difficulties, fantasies, fears, memories, or desires, sexual or otherwise.
Sexual intimacy can be one of the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences, but for many, sexual activity is void of pleasure. Sex therapists are trained to help individuals and couples enhance their sexual experiences by discovering what emotional fences are creating barriers to sexual enjoyment. Often, sexual issues are a result of negative feelings, traumatic experiences or even anger, that prevent one from being able to fully participate during sexual intercourse. Whether the physical symptom exhibits itself through inability to achieve orgasm or maintain arousal, or even through painful sex, a sex therapist can help one identify the psychological source of the physical symptom. By treating the whole person, psychologically and physically, a therapist can help a client enhance their sexual experience.
• Sexual Desire Disorders: Aversion | Hypoactive
A lack of sexual desire.
• Sexual Arousal Disorders: Female Sexual Arousal Disorder | Male Erectile Disorder
An inability to be aroused, despite having sexual desire.
• Orgasmic Disorders: Female | Male | Premature Ejaculation
Inability to achieve orgasm, or the inability to delay climax beyond penetration.
• Sexual Pain Disorders: Dyspareunia | Vaginismus
Paraphilias: These mental disorders are characterized by sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving non-human objects (coprophilia, Fetishism, Transvestic Fetishism), suffering or humiliation (Sexual Sadism, Masochism), children (Pedophilia) or other non-consenting person (Voyeurism, Frotteurism, Exhibitionism).
Perhaps the most controversial of the sexual diagnoses is Gender Identity Disorder. Many people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered or who are advocates for those persons believe that the traits used to describe Gender Identity Disorder do not constitute a “disorder,” but show evidence of the fluidity and personal nature of gender identity. People who feel they are, at their core, the gender opposite their anatomy usually do not consider themselves mentally ill, but simply “trapped.” They point out that the required “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” is a certainty in our society, and argue that this is not evidence of a disease in the individual, but of ignorance and prejudice in the culture. Mental health professionals who are creating the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) are considering whether to maintain this diagnosis as is, change it somehow, or drop it altogether. Meanwhile, most Americans who seek a sex change operation are required by their medical team to enter therapy and gain the therapist’s approval for their surgery.
Donald, 47, is anxious and depressed. He drinks alcohol to soothe himself. He has never had a serious girlfriend though he is intelligent, fine looking, and financially stable. The therapist’s questions about his romantic desires seem to cause Donald some embarrassments, and the therapist gently inquires further. Donald reveals tremendous feelings of shame about sexual feelings, which are traced to a strict religious background and two disturbing experiences in which Donald witnessed, as a child, another boy being molested by a teacher. Therapy helps Donald overcome his shame and fear and slowly begin to accept sexuality as a normal, healthy part of life. This leads to diminished anxiety and an improved social life.
Missy, 34, enters therapy because she is having attractions to women. She reports being happily married to a man, and is at various times ashamed, excited, confused, anxious, and overwhelmed by these new attractions. She is not sure whether to tell her husband, act on the impulses secretly, or try to engage her husband in “some kind of arrangement,” which she is “sure” he would like but may not be her “cup of tea.” Therapy helps Missy examine her feelings, the possible choices before her, and the best ways of communicating with her husband, whom she decides to tell. She and her husband talk about her attractions, and he is neither judgmental nor perverse. Missy and her husband come to no conclusion about how best to handle Missy’s attractions, but their relationship feels stronger to both of them for having had the conversation, and they both express confidence that their marriage can sustain any possible future.
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Last updated: 02-05-2014
Sexuality / Sex Therapy Articles