What is sex therapy?
Sex therapy is a way of helping people with sexual problems. Humans are complex and sex is not simply about how our bodies function sexually. It is also linked with our emotions, our mental health and how we feel about our relationship, if we are in one.
Sex therapy addresses both the physiological (physical) and psychological (emotional) aspects of sexual dysfunction (i.e. problems with sex). For example, as well as looking at physical health conditions and medication that can affect sexual functioning, a sex therapist supports a client or couple to explore communication difficulties, conflicts and unmet needs in a relationship.
A sex therapist can see individuals or couples, providing a safe and confidential space to listen carefully as the clients describe their sexual problems. There is a thorough assessment to see whether these are caused by psychological or physical factors – or both – and a treatment plan is then developed. Men and women seek out sex therapy for all kinds of reasons, and at any age. Some come on their own and others as a couple. If you have a partner and they are willing to attend, then I would encourage you to seek help together.
Sex therapy often has quite a behavioural approach, meaning the therapist leads, and the goals of therapy are clear, so sessions tend to be focused with a clear treatment plan. As well as treating any physical conditions, the therapy often includes helping the couple improve communication and gain greater emotional intimacy.
What can sex therapy help with?
Sex therapy can help with a number of different sexual problems. These include erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory problems, low sexual desire and orgasmic problems. Others are dyspareunia (painful intercourse – experienced by men and women) and vaginismus, which is a condition in which the vaginal muscles contract, making penetration painful or impossible. These are the most commonly treated problems, and you may be struggling with something else. Don’t let that put you off seeking treatment.
If I was to meet you as a patient, my first priority would be to get an understanding of what your problem is. I would do an in-depth assessment covering all aspects of your life: medical history, medication, fitness and lifestyle, information about your family and upbringing, schooling, and religious or spiritual beliefs. This would help me to get a rounded picture of who you are as a person, which is important when we are thinking about formulating a treatment plan.
My sessions last for 50 minutes, and the initial assessment usually take two sessions. At the end of the second session, I would hope that together we have an agreed understanding of what the problem is, how it is affecting the relationship (if you are in one) and how this might be managed or treated.
How many sessions will I need?
It is difficult to give an answer to this because it will vary on a case by case basis. Sessions are usually every two to three weeks and will continue until the patient or couple feel confident that the problem has been resolved or certainly significantly reduced. Sometimes I will see patients for as few as three sessions: others I will continue to see over several months. Sex therapy is often focused on working towards a goal, so couples will often be given ‘homework ‘to do between sessions. This can be exercises that are not sexual but help to increase a couple’s emotional intimacy and communication, and then the exercises will often become sexually focused.
What do I need to do first?
Before you book to see a sex therapist, you will need to see your GP. You may believe that the problem is entirely psychological (in the mind), or that it is entirely physical (in the body) – but I would strongly advise, whatever your own thoughts, that you see your GP first to rule out any easily treated underlying physical causes.
It is frustrating for couples, if they have invested time and money in seeking help with a sex therapist for something like dyspareunia (painful sex), only to discover a year later that the woman is experiencing recurrent thrush, and once this is treated with medication, the pain subsides. The same applies to something like erectile dysfunction, which has a strong link with heart disease and diabetes. In this case, it is important, therefore, to assess any underlying medical conditions first and treat these, before starting you on medication to help with the erectile dysfunction.
Where can I find a therapist?
To book an appointment to see me, click on the ‘Book an appointment’ button.
I’m based in London Bridge Urology in Central London. My clinic is on a Thursday, and my first appointment is at 10am. My final appointment of the day is at 5pm.
These times or the location may not be suitable for you, so if you are looking specifically for a sex and relationship therapist then I would direct you towards two charities:
COSRT (the College of Sex and Relationship Therapists) www.cosrt.org.uk 0208 543 2707
Each of these organisations have a list of trained therapists who are based all over the UK.
Charges for therapy sessions vary quite considerably according to a therapist’s experience, location and place of practice. You will need to discuss charges with the therapist, as each therapist sets their own charges, and these are not centrally controlled.