Sex Therapist. What?
It may come as a surprise to know that there is no regulatory definition, as there is with a psychologist, paediatrician or nurse. One sex therapist may have multiple advanced degrees and decades of experience, while another may lack even a single college course on the subject.
This is why it is important to choose a licensed therapist, says Neil Cannon, PhD and chair of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors, and Therapists (AASECT).
Qualifications of a Good Sex Therapist
Cannon gets more specific: “A sex therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has extensive education and training in sex therapy in addition to mental health.”
He goes on to say that a licensed therapist will have at least an advanced degree, along with training in mental health and sex therapy. Some therapists also have medical, nursing or social work degrees. Before selecting one, potential patients should directly confirm his or her credentials.
Finding the Right Fit
Your sex therapist must be a good fit for you, says New York City clinical psychologist and sex therapist Megan Fleming. “Therapy is really about a relationship,” she comments.
Most importantly, you should feel a sense of security and safety in order to open up without reservations and let the therapist help you.
What to expect after choosing a therapist:
As with any other therapist, a sex therapist often begins with getting background information about the individual or couple, along with details of the specific patient issues.
Fleming goes into detail, saying, “You’re really getting a sense of what, historically, has shaped a [patient’s] sexual map or preferences.” Fleming also says that people can come as individuals or with a partner.
As with other therapists, patients will often have “homework” assignments to complete in between sessions, which are essential personal development tasks. These assignments will be easier to complete if you have a good relationship with the therapist.
In the absence of a nationally uniform standard, potential patients will have to do a lot more due diligence in choosing the right sex therapists.
Start with AASECT recommendations, patient reviews, therapist credentials and other factors you find relevant. Most importantly, choose a sex therapist that you feel comfortable with.