Counsellors Corner: What is sex therapy?


It is a form of counseling intended to help individuals and couples resolve sexual difficulties, such as performance anxiety or relationship problems.


A SEX THERAPIST helps people with sexual problems. Sex therapists are qualified counsellors, doctors or healthcare professionals who have done extra training in helping people with problems relating to sex.


What are THE BENEFITS of sex therapy?

Sex therapy can help both individuals and couples: gain a realistic understanding of sex and pleasure, identify and address underlying causes of sexual issues, grow and maintain a deeper sexual connection with themselves and their partners.


Which issues are usually addressed?

Low sexual desire and little interest in sex,

Erectile dysfunction

Problems achieving orgasm.

Premature or early ejaculation.

Pain during or after sex.

Sexual avoidance or aversion.

Negative, repressive sexual attitudes and values that impede arousal.

Problems with experiencing pleasure or arousal during sex.

Limited or inaccurate information about sex and sexuality.

Sexual abuse issues.

Anxiety or worries about sexual performance.

Compulsive sexual behavior that negatively impacts sexual functioning.

Mood, mental health and substance use concerns that undermine sexual functioning.


Which relational issues usually underly these challenges and need to be addressed?

Communication and conflict resolution.

Fear of intimacy.

Divorce/previous relationships.

Children and parenting issues.

Different relationship expectations.

Extramarital relationships.

Forgiveness and acceptance.

Gender role conflict.

Health problems and limitations.

Grief, death, and loss.

Financial disagreements.

Relationship problems contributing to sexuality concerns.

Conflicts about differences in sexual desire or preferences.

Substance use, mood and mental health impacts on sexual intimacy.


Clients generally meet in the therapist’s office. Some choose to attend sessions alone; others bring their partner with them. Session frequency and length usually depend on the client and the type of problem being addressed.


It’s normal for clients to feel anxious when seeing a sex therapist, especially for the first time. Many people have trouble talking about sex at all, so discussing it with a stranger may feel awkward. However, most sex therapists recognize this and try to make their clients feel comfortable. Often, they start with questions about the client’s health and sexual background, sex education, beliefs about sex, and the client’s specific sexual concerns.

It’s important to know that sex therapy sessions do not involve any physical contact or sexual activity among clients and therapists.


Sex therapists usually assign “homework”—practical activities that clients are expected to complete in the privacy of their own home. Such homework might include the following:

• Experimentation. Couples who feel they’re in a sexual rut may try different activities, such as role playing or using sex toys, to increase their desire. Other couples may need to adjust their sexual routine or positions, especially if one partner has a health condition that requires such changes.

• Sensate focus. This technique for couples is designed to build trust and intimacy while reducing anxiety. Couples progress through three stages, starting with nonsexual touching, progressing to genital touching, and, usually, ending with penetration.

• Education. Sometimes, clients do not receive adequate sex education while they are growing up. As a result, they may not be aware of anatomy and how the body functions during sexual activity. Therapists might assign books or web content to read or videos to watch. They might also suggest that clients use a mirror to learn more about their body.

• Communication strategies. Clients may practice asking for what they want or need sexually or emotionally in a relationship.


Success with sex therapy often depends on how committed clients are to the process. If clients are willing to put in the effort, either alone or with a partner, they may reach their sexual goals.

Stephan Bouwer