Reader’s Request Fridays: Who Goes To Sex Therapy?

November 2, 2013

Welcome to Reader’s Request Fridays. As a reminder, I’ll be addressing one reader email per week, so if you have a specific question you’d like answered or a topic you’d like covered, please email me. If you’re interested in counseling, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to schedule a consultation.

This week’s post is inspired by a discussion I had in an airport last weekend. A friendly middle-aged woman struck up a conversation with me while we waited for our flight. We got to talking about our jobs, and I was curious to see how she would react when I shared that I am a sex therapist.

As you can imagine, I get a wide variety of responses to this disclosure. Some people have turned bright red and found some excuse to move on from our conversation. Others have uttered a simple “oh”, with no further comment. Quite a few people have leapt into intimate details of their own sex life, seeking my input.

I respect all of the reactions that I get to my profession because I know each response is reflective of that person’s relationship with their own sexuality.

My fellow passenger was intrigued. She said she had heard of sex therapy before, but didn’t understand why people needed to go to sex therapy unless something was wrong with them.

She asked me pointedly, “so who really goes to sex therapy anyway?”

Who Goes To Sex Therapy? | Vanessa Marin Sex Therapy

It was a great question. I paused for a moment, then responded:

“very brave people who value their pleasure.”


The woman started laughing, and we launched into a long discussion of sexual enjoyment (did I mention our flight got very, very delayed?).

Something within me had been ignited, and I started writing notes for this post as soon as I got onto the plane.

The truth is that I get asked this question a lot, but I hadn’t answered in that way before. In the past I have launched into long explanations of sexual shame and embarrassment, misinformation and limiting beliefs, and the variety of conditions I treat. I’ve framed my answers more in terms of solving sexual problems than in increasing sexual pleasure.

Of course pleasure has always been a big part of my work, but I am coming to realize that it truly is the heart of what keeps me so passionate about sex therapy.

I love helping people learn to unabashedly and wholeheartedly value their own pleasure. Nothing is more exciting to me than someone who is willing to say, “My pleasure is important, and I am willing to invest the time, money, and attention into bringing more of it into my life.”

So to return to my new friend’s question, who really goes to sex therapy?

Men and women who want to stop fighting or ignoring their bodies and embrace the incredible potential for enjoyment and pleasure that we all have inside of us.

Couples who long for those early stages in their relationship where the touch of a single finger could send shivers up their spine. Or couples who never had that stage.

Anyone who wants to stop running through their to-do list, getting distracted by negative thoughts, or mentally floating near the ceiling during sex.

People who have never had the experience of being fully present and engaged with their sexual pleasure.

The stressed, overworked, and exhausted people who can’t even remember the last time they did something kind for themselves or their bodies.

Anyone whose confusion, shame, or naivete has prevented them from fully enjoying sexual contact.

Sexual abuse survivors, and those who have had negative sexual experiences, who want to remember that their bodies are capable of connection, presence, and pleasure, regardless of their past experiences.

And most of all, people who are incredibly brave.

As passionate as I am about this work, I understand how scary, embarrassing, bizarre, awkward, or strained it can be to reach out to a stranger for help with something so intimate.

I applaud the people who work up the nerve to call me or send me an email, and I am proud of the folks who are reading this blog.

Each of us has our own journey to go through when it comes to connecting with our pleasure. I would love to help you out should it feel like the right next step for you to take!


hey there!