As a sex therapist, I hear a lot of myths about sex therapy.
Even here in San Francisco, supposedly one of the country’s most sexually open and educated cities, there are an awful lot of people who don’t understand what sex therapy entails. Here are some of the most common myths, dispelled:
MYTH: “A sex therapist will want me to have sex with him/her in order to help with my problem.”
There are a number of variations on this; I hear from people who are worried that they will need to touch the therapist, be touched by the therapist, get undressed in front of the therapist, or perform sexual acts (with or without a partner) in front of the therapist.
I am a trained, professional sex therapist, and my sessions NEVER include sexual contact of any kind!
I will ask you questions about your issue, and may ask you to try out certain exercises at home, but there will never be any touching or undressing.
(Note: It’s important to understand the difference between sex therapists and surrogates)
MYTH: “A sex therapist will make me do embarrassing exercises.”
Bravo recently aired a reality TV show about therapists, including one sex therapist. This therapist forced her clients to do things like record themselves having sex, dress up in fetish gear, and go out to a sex club.
I can assure you that these were simply stunts for ratings.
Like many other sex therapists, I do suggest exercises for my clients to try out at home. Note that the key word in that sentence is “suggest”. I never force my clients to do anything that feels embarrassing or uncomfortable.
I offer exercises because I’ve found that being able to explore in the privacy of your own home, with or without a partner, can be an important part of the therapeutic process. I tailor my exercises to meet the needs of each individual client.
My aim is to help my clients find their own innate curiosity and test out new things, but in a way that feels interesting and safe. You will never, ever have to do anything you don’t want to do.
MYTH: “A sex therapist is going to force me to answer prying and humiliating questions.”
Sex therapy is supposed to provide an arena where you feel comfortable enough to open up on your own.
I respect how difficult it can be to talk about sex, and I strive to help my clients feel relaxed. I never push clients to talk about topics before they’re ready, and I never ask questions simply to pry.
Above all, I do not judge.
MYTH: “My issue is so embarrassing, even sex therapist will blush.”
The existence of this belief is precisely why I recommend seeking a sex therapist – rather than a general therapist – for sexual issues. While many generalized therapists claim to work with sexuality, it’s worth looking for someone who works primarily with sex.
Sex is a sensitive subject, so you want a therapist who is specifically trained in the topic and knows how to hold every issue with compassion and understanding.
I can assure you that there isn’t anything I haven’t heard at least once! I appreciate the variety and diversity of human sexuality, and I’m pretty immune to blushing.
MYTH: “Sex therapy is only for people with really serious problems.”
This myth is patently untrue.
The vast majority of people who seek sex therapy are simply looking to have better sex. You’re never going to get to a point in your life where you can sit back and say, “well, I’ve solved that whole sex thing. I’ve absolutely perfected how to do it and I never have to think about it again.”
Sex is sort of like exercising or learning how to play an instrument; you can practice and get to the point where you’re really good (or really buff), but there will forever be more ways to improve.
Sex therapy can be useful to those who consider themselves sexual connoisseurs, as well as those who consider themselves sexual novices, and everyone in between.
Even if you do feel like you have a sexual problem, there’s no reason to feel shame. We each have issues that we struggle with, and seeking help shows that you value yourself.
MYTH: “If my partner and I have to go in for sex therapy, it means our relationship is doomed.”
True, some couples do wait to come into therapy until things have gotten very tense.
Even so, taking that step to ask for help is a huge sign of strength. Most of the couples who come in to see me care deeply about each other, and have generally happy and well-adjusted relationships.
Sex is complicated and tricky, and it can trip all of us up sometimes. Needing to talk something through for a couple of sessions is not a sign that your relationship is imploding.
Sex therapy can help you and your partner learn how to have more frequent, more connected, and more pleasurable sex. There’s nothing “doomed” about that!
Any other myths you’ve heard? Questions you’re dying for the answers to? Call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to schedule a consultation.