Going to see a sex therapist is as normal as going to any other healthcare professional. If you break your leg, you go to the leg specialist; if your sex life feels broken, you go to a sex specialist.
But what exactly is sex therapy? If you haven’t been, it's highly likely your picture of it is informed by tv, movies or what you’ve seen online. So we’re here to tell you what it’s really like.
Sex therapy is for anyone who needs help overcoming or understanding something that’s going on in their sex life. Sex therapy helps you gain an understanding of your sexual wants, needs, and desires. All the while helping you to get comfortable communicating with sexual partners.
Quite often, your regular doctor or therapists who haven’t specialised in sex therapy may not be equipped to advise or help you as well as a sex therapist can when it comes to a sexual issue, and they may refer you to one. You can however also access one without a referral. If you have troubles with your sex life, have things to get off your chest and work out then sex therapy may just be for you.
Read on to learn all about the compassionate and research-based guidance a sex therapist can give you, as well as the range of psychological, physiological, and cultural factors that interact to affect your sex life.
Sex therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy. It builds on the foundation of traditional talk therapy to encompass a wide range of sexual topics, including sexual anxiety, erectile dysfunction, difficulty achieving or maintaining arousal, challenges communicating with your sexual partner, and much more.
Sex therapists believe sexuality is an inherent and essential dimension of the human experience. They emphasize sexual freedom of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and healthy forms of sexual activity.
Sex therapists use a non-pathologizing approach when addressing sexual concerns. This means that any problems you face are treated as solvable situations rather than untreatable diseases.
Sex therapy gives you the space to consider and analyze the sexual experiences you’ve had over the course of your lifetime, your current sexual experiences, and your priorities for future sexual expression.
In the same way you look after your physical health by eating well and exercising, and your mental health by attending traditional therapy, sex therapy gives you the chance to be intentional about an aspect of your life that is crucial for your overall health and well-being.
For those without fulfilling sex lives, sex and intimacy can be a source of anxiety or emotional discomfort.
Sex therapists help you work through the psychological factors owing to sexual dysfunction by addressing underlying concerns, such as stress, anxiety, trauma, or confidence issues.
When you see a sex therapist, you learn to: communicate openly and honestly with your partner, find the root of sexual issues or challenges, and move towards an empowered, happy, and fulfilling sex life.
Sex therapy sessions differ greatly from person to person. They depend on the concerns and issues you want to work through and what questions you want to be answered.
You can go alone, or together as a couple. Whatever your issue, if you’re in a relationship, it’s often advised to go with your partner from the start. Studies by Dr Laura Vowels, chief researcher at Blueheart show that sex therapy is more effective when both partners are involved.
Most sessions will start with you giving a thorough rundown of your sexual and relational history. This helps your therapist understand where you are currently, and the situations and interactions that brought you here. Don’t be shy here, the key is to be honest. It can be difficult talking about sex but this is a safe and confidential space for you to speak your mind. Throughout your journey in sex therapy you will learn ways to get better at talking about it too, so don’t worry if you find things hard to put into words initially.
Next, you will talk about why you decided to come to sex therapy. You might then start outlining your goals with the sex therapist.
Some examples of questions they may ask you include: what do you want to better understand about your own sexuality? Are there factors holding you back from exploring sex in a curious and empowered way? What challenges do you face in your current sex life?
Once your therapist has a good idea of where you are and where you want to be, they’ll help you to start moving in the right direction.
As well as the above you may practise a SFW version of a touch activity they may wish you to try. For example, ask you to try stroking your arm, to get the idea and then later try this in different areas in private.
You will be asked to do ‘homework’ outside of the session, which will mean putting the activities the therapist has set into practice, privately at home. Sex therapy is most effective when you can be honest at all times, and most importantly - do the work that is set for you.
During your initial session, make sure you feel safe with the therapist. Are they easy to talk to? Do they answer your questions even when you aren’t sure how to word them? It’s crucial to have a strong therapeutic alliance or professional rapport with any therapist, but especially the one you plan to talk to about your most intimate and vulnerable moments!
A session is typically an hour long, but this is simply a tradition to fit neatly into schedules and for ease of booking. There is actually no scientific or therapeutic reason why an hour a week is better than, for example, doing little and often instead, as you may do with digital therapy.
There is no set time for sex therapy, like any therapy, there are no quick fixes but if you do your homework and stay honest and open, you will progress and overcome your problem.
The Blueheart treatment plan for libido issues is usually around 6 months, but people can feel free to take as long as they like. It all depends on your motivation and how well you stick to the plan.
More people than you’d imagine! It can feel like a unique, niche thing that only people who must be really open about sex go to. When actually, millions of people all over the world are going through sexual problems. The majority of people will experience at least one sexual dysfunction in their lifetime.
The truth is, sex therapy is for anybody with a sexual issue that’s causing distress or anyone who wants more from their sex life. You don’t have to be at boiling point to start either. It’s very easy to put it on the bottom of your priorities, but why wait until things get really bad, if you can start doing something about it now? Sexual challenges can impact your emotional health and your quality of life, and if that isn’t important - what is?
Knowing when to see a sex therapist can be difficult. If you’re stuck wondering if you should go or not, take a look at the following statements:
If any of the above sound like you, it’s a good idea to see a sex therapist. You’re in the right place.
Your GP or doctor will be able to rule out any physiological factors, so they are the best first port of call if you think you may have a problem with sex. After anything physical has been ruled out or addressed, it’s time for the sex therapist to come onboard.
Often, it is both a physiological and psychological problem, so even when the physiological factors get taken care of, you might need therapy to get back to where you used to be.
If something is holding you back from being fully comfortable with your body, sex or your partner, sex therapy will help you get to the bottom of it.
Once you’ve outlined your main concerns, your sex therapist will work with you towards a happy, healthy sex life. They help you to reframe these challenges into solvable, finite situations. This can be refreshing to hear when you’ve been feeling stuck for a while.
If you find it difficult talking to your partner about your concerns, a sex therapist helps train you to communicate openly and clearly so that your needs and wants can be better understood and, in time, better met.
You also might work on your relationship with touch and your body. You won’t do anything sexual or get nude in the room with the therapist, these activities will be given as ‘homework’ to take away with you. You’ll then reflect on them with the therapist and possibly your partner in the next session.
Beyond building confidence and new communication skills, a sex therapist is trained to assist with various sexual problems. These include:
These issues aren’t uncommon, but rarely receive the attention they need and deserve. In many cases, these problems are caused by phase-of-life shifts and heavy stressors.
These are some common stressors which may trigger or exacerbate a sexual problem:
Sex therapy helps you work through these stressors and lessen the impact they have on your life. Many people think these factors just mean you have to live with the change in your sex life, and that just isn’t true. Sex therapy can help with all of these.
It helps you pinpoint the factors contributing to the issues to reduce their impact and to (finally!) have a satisfying sex life.
If the issue isn't physiological, then yes! Always ask your general practitioner’s advice first to make sure you don’t have an underlying medical condition.
While they cannot treat them, sex therapists have a greater than average understanding of the physiological processes that impact human sexuality. Performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction, can be dealt with from a place of knowledge and consideration.
Sex therapy can help with erectile dysfunction for a person with a penis who experiences erections during sleep, with normal results on their blood test and physical exam, and who is in good health overall.
It can also assist those whose erectile dysfunction stems from stress caused by work, financial trouble, relationship conflicts, and poor communication between sexual partners.
Like any type of talk therapy, sex therapy gives you the space to talk through and gain insight into your concerns, experiences, worries, and feelings.
Your sex therapist will work with you to develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage your responses to future sexual issues and to learn how to talk with your partner about these concerns.
Remember, sex therapy is only as successful as you allow it to be. Most of your progress depends on how motivated you are for change and how frequently you practice the techniques your therapist teaches you. You gotta do the work!
There are no “marks” for therapy, so you don’t need to lie and say you’re doing better than you are! Honesty and vulnerability are uncomfortable at times, but they are necessary if you want to grow and improve your sexual relationships.
Keep in mind that results and progress also depend on the coordinated care you receive from other medical providers. Sex therapists, GPs, gynecologists, urologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, and regular therapists all unknowingly work together to get you fully functioning and satisfied.
Many couples find that attending sex therapy together helps them to progress faster than when they attend individually. A 2021 study conducted by Blueheart’s Laura Vowels confirms this is the case. Talking about sexual problems together helps you feel united and connected.
Dissatisfaction with the sexual aspect of a relationship can lead to feelings of resentment and disappointment. Couples sex therapy helps solve sex problems that are negatively impacting the overall intimacy in the relationship.
Your sex therapist will ask you what issues or concerns you have in your sex life and work with you to move past them. They facilitate healthy and open communication and encourage you to explore different ways of approaching intimacy.
Couples sex therapy is great for couples who experience different levels of sexual desire. Discrepancies in desire can leave one partner feeling unwanted while the other feels broken or ashamed. Sex therapy helps couples work together to find a healthy compromise on their differences.
Unfortunately, many marriages end due to unresolved sexual differences and challenges. Seeing a sex therapist with your spouse can help fill in any communication gaps, and address physical and emotional concerns holding either of you back from enjoying intimacy.
Sex is a huge part of the majority of marriages and is central to intimacy. Marriage sex therapy helps couples to navigate the stresses of married life without losing their attraction and sexual chemistry.
A sex therapist will help you rekindle lost passion, understand your spouse’s sexual needs and desires, and arm you with tools and techniques to keep the two of you satisfied and content.
If you are not a member of a couple, you can always go by yourself! Individual therapy focuses on sexual issues that don’t involve a partner. Many people with certain issues find that individual therapy is enough for them to address their concerns. Though, it’s often helpful to involve your partner if you are in a relationship, as the therapist can help them understand your problem.
Individual sex therapy often focuses on building confidence with your sexuality, working through past trauma, and practicing to verbalise your sexual desires.
You can gain insight into the factors most impacting your sex drive, satisfaction, and openness to intimacy with future partners.
Sex therapists are qualified professionals who deal with any sexual problem someone may have. They’re trained to consider and evaluate your situation. They then build a treatment plan to help you work through your challenges.
Your treatment plan might use a number of different approaches and techniques to address the biological, psychological, and social factors that affect your sex life, sexual desire, and sexual relationships.
All forms of talk therapy build a supportive and educational environment. A sex therapist works with you to achieve a deeper understanding of sex and your sexuality, gain healthy communication skills, and help you towards better management of any sexual concerns you’re facing.
Your sex therapist creates a comfortable and encouraging space for you to grow and change. In most sessions, they will give you assignments to do between meetings. These are carefully designed to help you overcome your issue or concern by empowering you with knowledge, understanding, and confidence.
Sex therapy does not involve physical contact between the client and the therapist, whether in the therapist’s office or anywhere else.
You will also not be asked to take clothes off or do anything sexual with or in front of the sex therapist. This includes face to face, and digital or telehealth sex therapy. There is no one there to watch you and give you scores out of ten, so you can breathe easy there!
Treatment plans include talking, like in regular psychotherapy, and sometimes homework exercises to practice between sessions. A sex therapist will not be involved in any type of sexual activity with you. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions before your appointment if you’re unsure. But there are some forms of sexual coaching which work slightly differently.
Sex surrogacy or ‘body work’ is designed to help a person become comfortable with and gain confidence in sex, their body, and the physical and emotional needs they have during intimacy.
This sometimes controversial approach has the potential for physical touch and intimacy during these sessions, (between the surrogate and the client) which is not what happens in sex therapy. This depends on the nature of each case and the needs of the individual.
Surrogate partners help a person to overcome physical, social, or emotional troubles when it comes to physical intimacy. These people play the role of the partner in an intimate way during a session. They can help with communication, relaxation, or even social skills. Due to the nature of this method there are credentials to ensure the sexual surrogate is following certain guidelines.
This approach isn’t for everyone and is not common practice.
A sexologist is a specialist in human sexuality. They look at your sexual behaviors, feelings, interactions, functions, and issues in order to help improve your sex life and your life as a whole.
They diagnose and help treat sexual dysfunctions or concerns such as performance anxiety, pain during sex, or low libido.
Basically, a sexologist is the same as a sex therapist.
Sexology is the general term for the scientific study of human sexuality and sexual behavior, and the people who study it are referred to as sexologists. You may think sexologists and sex therapists are one and the same. While a number of sexologists choose to pursue a career as a sex therapist (in other words, working directly with patients in a clinical setting), others explore careers like sex researcher, sex educator or public policy activist. You can also be both a sex therapist and one or all of these things. Many have such a passion for the subject they devote their lives to going the extra mile to push sex therapy into the future to become more effective, and more understood. The therapy team at Blueheart are the perfect example of this.
Online sex therapy, or digital sex therapy as it’s more commonly known, offers all the benefits of an in-person session from the comfort of your own home. It is a form of telehealth service that is more accessible than traditional in-person therapy.
Most platforms offer subscription-based services that bill you weekly or monthly.
One of the biggest problems in sex therapy, is that there just aren’t enough sex therapists! There can also be financial, time or emotional barriers such as feeling embarrassed. For individuals or couples who aren’t able to find a sex therapist in their area, online sex therapy providers are a great option to ensure your needs don’t go unmet. Online sex therapy is also a good option for those who aren’t yet comfortable talking about sex with a therapist in person.
Some work similarly to face-to-face where you will speak over video call with a sex therapist during appointments. This is a great option if you don’t want to travel to your sessions but want a similar experience talking to a real person.
Another option which aims to address all the aforementioned barriers is digital sex therapy app Blueheart. Created by leading sex therapists and researchers, Blueheart provides you with a quality plan to help you overcome your libido issues. Allowing you to go at your own pace, and you don’t have to speak to anyone except your partner. A therapist is on hand if you need them, but otherwise it’s a series of touch, learning and talking sessions to be done together with your partner and no one else.
A platform like Blueheart provides unmatched educational content about desire, relationships, and all things related to intimacy. We can help facilitate open, honest conversations about sex – conversations that can genuinely change your life.
Improving your sex life is a matter of getting comfortable with your body, communicating clearly with your partner, and overcoming any obstacles that prevent you from enjoying your sexual interactions.
Sex therapy improves your sex life by working through the following challenges:
By addressing these issues, you can embrace your sexual nature and enjoy being intimate with your partner. Your dream sex life is only a few sex therapy sessions away!
During sex therapy, you’ll be given exercises to do. Now, this doesn’t involve burpees, squats or laps so you can relax. Most exercises revolve around the following concepts:
Sex therapists are trained to pinpoint exactly what type of exercise will best serve you and your current situation. They often explain how the exercises help, because understanding the benefit of doing the work consistently helps you stay diligent.
Your communication exercises often involve looking at who initiates sex and intimacy, how each partner initiates it, which partner tends to have a higher desire for sex, and what structural factors contribute to satisfaction this intimate dance.
Sex therapists help you understand the mechanisms of the on and off switches of your sexual excitation system, (your turn ons) as well as the on and off switches of your sexual inhibition system (the things that put you off sex).
Sex therapy exercises help you and your partner to understand and adjust crucial aspects of your sex lives, a little at a time, to reach a happy and connected equilibrium.
Blueheart allows you to do all of these things at your own pace from home.
A lot of exercises revolve around a concept known as “mindfulness”. You may already be familiar with the concept, as it’s used for de-stressing, helping you sleep and even eating. Though it’s having it’s time in the limelight at the moment, there is science behind it and it’s been used by sex therapists and doctors for decades.
Mindfulness is a powerful technique and can be used to address sexual dysfunction such as libido problems and anxiety around sex, after all, it’s all about reducing anxiety and focusing on the here and now. Practicing mindfulness in a sexual context involves noticing what’s happening in your body in a judgment-free manner. It centers on treating yourself kindly even when your body isn’t responding in the way you want it to. This helps your mind focus on touch rather than the anxious thoughts that block your sexual desire.
A major sex therapy technique used for couples in sex therapy is called sensate focus. These exercises aim to slow down the process of intimacy to reduce anxiety surrounding sexual encounters.
Couples are instructed to explore basic touch sensations together over a period of time, working incrementally as they progress. This process helps restructure the way you think about touching each other and deconstruct your regular habits of physical touch and sexual interaction.
The goal in sensate focus is to generate a deep awareness of touch and arousal. It’s something you can do anywhere any time on any part of your body. Associating this relaxed feeling with touch will help your body and mind to relearn touch and the sexual experience. Done together with a partner, it creates a positive feedback loop which helps you to gain desire and connection.
Sexual anxiety, or sexual performance anxiety, affects people of all ages and levels of sexual experience. Feeling small amounts of anxiety is normal when it’s your first time with a partner or if you’re trying something new together.
Constant or regular anxiety around sex, on the other hand can hold you back from building intimacy with your partner.
Sex therapists will work with you to determine the root of your anxiety and help you gain control over your response to sexual situations with specific exercises.
The most effective being Sensate Focus, a technique which allows you to reduce your anxiety through focusing only on the touch and sensation available to you in the moment. This technique has helped millions of people around the world, and is available as part of the Blueheart plan.
Sex therapists help you overcome sex anxiety by giving you in-depth knowledge and answering all your questions with zero judgment or shame. They may ask you to pinpoint what aspects of sex make you feel anxious. With their extensive knowledge, you can learn about this aspect until it’s familiar to you and less intimidating.
As we’re sure you’ve found on your search travels, there are a lot of ‘sex education’ or ‘sex help’ videos around, but how do we know who to trust? One important criteria is to make sure the person who creates the content is someone who knows what they’re talking about. Are they a doctor? How much previous experience do they have or are they just somebody interested in the subject?
Sex therapists know the power of education in helping people to improve their sex lives. Many of them have begun to upload educational and informative sex therapy videos on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or on their company's own website.
Video content about sexual concerns, libido issues, intimacy advice, and communication skills all help to break down the stigma surrounding sexual education.
The professionals at Blueheart are leaders in creating and sharing sex therapy content to help you learn how to get the most out of your sex life. We offer a huge library of written, audio and video content on our website. 100% of our content is reviewed by our qualified sex therapists, so rest assured, you’ve found the right place.
When searching for a sex therapist, you want to find one that you can trust and that is well trained in your problem. Rules and regulations are different in different countries, so read on to find the right information for a sex therapist near you.
Becoming a licensed and credited sex therapist requires extensive training in human sexuality. The most common sex therapy credentials require academic coursework in the following subjects and competencies:
A certified sex therapist is often a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or clinical social worker who has undergone additional training.
Dr Katherine Hertlein
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (NV)
AAMFT Approved Supervisor
PREPARE/ENRICH Certified Counselor
Professor in the Couple and Family Therapy Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health in the School of Medicine
Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
Dr Laura Vowels
ICEEFT certified emotionally-focused (EFT) therapist
PhD in Psychology
MSc in Couple and family therapy
Postgraduate certificate in low intensity CBT
Specialist researcher in libido problems
Postgraduate Diploma in Integrated Counselling and Coaching
If you have a sexual problem, it's a good idea to see a GP first as they can check for any physical causes. They can refer you to a sex therapist if they think it will help you.
A good starting point when searching for a sex therapist in your area (if you’re in the US) is to look at this list on the AASECT website. For the UK, try COSRT or BAPC.
When seeking a sex therapist you want to make sure to find an adequately trained and certified provider. In the US, “sex therapy” and “sex therapist” are not protected terms under any current state laws. What this means is that anyone can call themselves a sex therapist without the training or credentials! Which sounds ridiculous right? So your best bet is to really research your prospective sex therapist, find out their qualifications, and interview them!
If their treatment includes the same things Blueheart does: sensate focus, anxiety reduction and education then sounds great. If they tell you that masturbation is evil and will make you go blind, stay away!
Here at Blueheart, our fully qualified team of doctors and therapists is ready to help you work towards achieving your sexual goals, communicate effectively with your partner about sex, and grow comfortable with your sexuality and sexual self.
Now you know the many benefits of sex therapy. Beyond working through issues that can be difficult or embarrassing to talk about, sex therapy gives you the chance to explore your sexual side and reach new levels of intimacy with your partner.
Download Blueheart today for 6 months of guided activities to help you overcome libido and desire issues through a plan designed by the experts especially for you. ent is reviewed by our qualified sex therapists, so rest assured, you’ve found the right place.
Sex therapy can be expensive, but the question is how much will it cost you not to do it? It could be everything. If it can solve or help manage your greatest pain point in your life you’d probably try and budget for that right?
Libido differences are one of the major reasons for divorces today, and if you can access help to save your marriage or partnership, it’s the biggest investment you’ll ever make that pays back a thousand times over.
On average sex therapy sessions can be anything from XX to XX per hour. Treatment length can vary depending on the problem, and how much the person has adhered to the sex therapist’s instructions. If you are in the UK, sex therapy unfortunately is not available in all areas from the NHS, and sessions are limited.
Money can be a barrier for many people, but more affordable options are out there. Blueheart uses all the knowledge and expertise from sex therapy at a much lower cost. You pay monthly or bi-annually rather than per hour, and can access the treatment 24/7 rather than an hour a week. See if it’s right for you here.
Individual sex therapy costs may differ from couples therapy costs. There is a growing trend for sex therapists to charge more for couples than for individual people, rather than the ‘per hour’ method. This can become a problem as sex therapy and couples therapy are more effective when both members of the couple are involved. It can actually be destructive for one person to do therapy ‘for the couple’ alone. With the barrier of money increased, this can put off partners from joining treatment at the detriment of the relationship and both people.
At Blueheart, we make sure this barrier is gone, by not charging a single penny for your partner to join you. You do it together, because we know that’s what’s most effective and best for you. We also provide information for your partner to read up on before starting to help them get on board.
Your therapist will be able to provide you with specific details once you’ve outlined your concerns and goals as a couple.
Some insurance plans cover sex therapy! Once you’ve found a therapist you’re comfortable with, ask whether their services are covered by your insurance provider. Some therapists can adjust the fees or payment plan if your provider doesn’t cover your sessions.
With the growing interest in the sexual health and sexual education fields, there are now a host of useful and interesting books about every aspect of sex and sex therapy. Ranging from anatomical accounts of what happens to your body during sex to historical reviews of different sexual lifestyles, there is a sex therapy book for everyone!
If reading is your favorite way to learn, take a look at our library of resources or here are some titles you might enjoy, hand-picked by our therapists:
Reading is empowering. If you want to gain erotic intelligence, answer burning questions about the history of sexual desire, or learn more information about sex therapy, these books come highly recommended.