What is a a sex therapist and what does a sex therapist do? A sex therapist is a specially trained professional who is qualified to help you with your sexual health and intimacy or relationship concerns. Sex therapists are often licensed mental health professionals with a masters degree in counseling or mental health related field, though a sex therapist may also be trained as a coach with a special skills in addressing sexual issues, most often referred to as a "sex coach" but sometime also referred to as a "sex therapist"
When people wonder "what is a sex therapist?" they often are uncertain as exactly how a sex therapist works with their clients.
Sex therapists work in much the same way as other mental health professionals, counselors, and coaches. The primary difference is that a sex therapist is trained to work specifically with a diverse range of sexual issues, and, if they are a licensed mental health professional, may also treat more general counseling concerns such as marital issues, communication, anxiety, depression, etc.
An example of issues a sex therapist might work with are things like sexual dysfunction, lack of pleasure or desire, anxiety and body image, changes in sexual identity, health sexual functioning, communication between partners, intimacy issues, gender and identity issues, non-traditional relationship dynamics, sexual addiction, fertility concerns, etc.
No. Sex therapists do not have sex with their clients and should not be confused with sex surrogates! The movie "Sessions" is not an accurate description of what sex therapists do because this movie was about a sexual surrogate, not a sex therapist. Sexual surrogates are trained professionals who may have sex with their clients as part of a carefully designed therapeutic intervention.
However, despite what many people believe about sexual surrogacy, sexual intercourse is not always a part of sex surrogate therapy, if at all, and it is certainly never the first step a surrogate will take with a client. If it occurs at all during the course of treatment with a surrogate, sexual intercourse is usually the final step and typically signifies the conclusion of the therapy. While sexual surrogacy is a valuable and yet largely misunderstood profession, it should not be confused with sex therapy.
What is a sex therapist and are they licensed professionals?
Most sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals, either Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) or Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW). However the term "sex therapist" is not a protected term and may be used by professionals who do not hold one of these professional licenses such as sex coaches or somatic sex educators.
Most non-mental health licensed sex therapists will use the term "sex coach" in lieu of the term sex therapist, but this is not always the case. If you are looking for a licensed mental health professional who is trained in sex therapy be sure to look for the professional license demarcation of LPC, LMFT, or LCSW.
Sex coaches and other non-licensed helping professionals should not be brushed aside simply for not holding a mental health license. Sex coaches and other non-licensed professionals offer a valuable dimension to the sex therapy field because they have fewer restrictions on how they may work with their clients and, as a result, they can offer a different dimension to the treatment of sexual issues that a licensed professional simply cannot. Non-mental health licensed professionals are also able to work with clients outside of their home state because coaching does not have the state specific restrictions and licensing requirements that mental health has.
Many sex coaches and non-mental health licensed professionals will work closely with a licensed sex therapist to ensure a comprehensive and effective treatment approach. However, it's important to note that non-mental health licensed professionals do not treat mental health issues and disorders.
If you are presenting with a mental health issue in conjunction with the sexual challenges it is best to work with a sex therapist who is a licensed mental health professional or a sex coach/sex therapist who is also a licensed mental health professional in your state
If you choose work with an non-mental health licensed professional be sure to choose one who has undergone appropriate training and holds adequate certifications to ensure quality care.
In addition to their mental health license and training most sex therapists also have additional training and certification in human sexuality and sex therapy.
What is a sex therapist and do they have specialized training?
Organizations such as the the American Society of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (ASSECT) provide continuing education and professional certification for professionals wishing to specialize in sex therapy and sex education however there are many other avenues for a sex therapist to gain the requisite experience and qualifications aside from the ASSECT certification which may include certifications and training programs with other organizations such as:
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