This article was written by the brilliant Maegan Megginson, MA, LMFT, LPC, CST, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. She practices at The Center for Couples and Sex Therapy.
What image comes to mind when you think of a sex therapist? Perhaps you picture someone dressed in a white lab coat, clipboard in hand, sitting behind a desk. Maybe you imagine someone scantily dressed, laying on a chaise lounge in a room filled with incense and bean bag chairs. Or you think of Dr. Ruth and can’t envision anyone else!
Do you have any idea what issues a sex therapist can help you overcome? Or what techniques and tools they might use to help you overcome them?
There is a lot of mystery around who sex therapists are and what we actually do… and for good reason! Sex therapy is not a regulated profession, which means ANYONE can say they offer “sex therapy” services. Scary, right?
This is why finding a qualified, professional, and ethically sound sex therapist is so important.
My advice is to look for a sex therapist who is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). This certification ensures a high level of training and supervision as well as commitment to a strict ethical standard.
Certified Sex Therapists (CSTs) can help you with any concerns you have related to your sexuality and sexual functioning. CSTs are licensed psychotherapists who incorporate years of postgraduate training in sexual health into our traditional talk therapy practices (i.e. there’s no touching in our offices, just good ol’ conversation while we sit on some comfy sofas).
I’m going to share the 5 topics I address most frequently in my practice to give you a sense of what sex therapy is all about… but remember, if what you’re struggling with isn’t listed here, do not worry! There are other CSTs who specialize in exactly what you need, and you can find them here.
Desire Discrepancy - The most common sexual problem faced by couples in my practice is mismatched sexual desire. Here’s the dilemma: Partner A wants sex twice a week and Partner B wants sex twice a year… so what do they do? A sex therapist can help you co-create a sexual relationship that meets both of your needs while improving your ability to talk about sex in a way that leads to connection rather than conflict. We call this a win-win situation.
Low Sexual Desire - Sexual desire is tricky. There’s not an easy marker to determine if you want sex too much or too little. You may never want to have sex and feel 100% okay with that! But sometimes people feel really distressed about their lack of desire for sex. This is often true for women who are stressed out and overburdened. You want to have an amazing sex life (solo or with a partner), but there is no fuel for the fire. In sex therapy, we identify what is holding you back from feeling desire and design strategies to help refill your sexual fuel tank.
Painful Sex - Many women experience pain during sex. I want to emphasize that sex should NEVER be painful. Pain is an indicator that something needs attention in your body. Pushing through pain to have sex is akin to slapping someone in the face when they tell you they need help. Pain can be caused by a lot of different factors. Sex therapists are skilled in helping you identify the source of the pain and create strategies to overcome the pain (which may involve working concurrently with a sexual medicine specialist).
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) or Premature Ejaculation (PE) - Just like women don’t like feeling pain or having low desire, men don’t like it when their penises aren’t functioning properly! ED and PE are the most common complaints presented by men in my practice. Using specialized sex therapy techniques, we are able to identify the cause of the dysfunction and develop detailed homework strategies to help men return to normal sexual functioning ASAP.
Anorgasmia - Both men and women can struggle with the inability to orgasm. The causes of anorgasmia are varied and can range from inadequate stimulation techniques (i.e. you’re not touching yourself right!) to sexual shame, relationship distress, or even trauma. Your sex therapist will act as a detective on the search to find the cause of your inability to orgasm and will guide you on the path to discovering what exactly your body needs to reach climax.
To recap, Certified Sex Therapists are trained professionals who can help you overcome your struggles with sexuality. We love empowering our clients to be their best sexual selves!
Remember to start your search here when looking for a CST. If you’re looking for Sex Therapy in Portland, OR, feel free to reach out to me here! I’d love the chance to speak with you. Good luck!
Thanks so much for your comment @Rhianna! It’s so important for couples to know that there are answers and options for sexual health issues. The more we educate ourselves and create open conversation, the better all our relationships will be. Sending you happy juju for therapy!!
My husband struggles from the inability to orgasm, as you said, and it’s good to know that his condition has a name. While I’m not quite sure about whether it comes down to inadequate stimulation techniques, I think that having therapy help him with his general sexual shame would be beneficial for our marriage, as you said. I’ll be sure to bring it up with him later after he gets home from work and see if getting therapy is something he’d be interested in doing.