Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals who specialize in sexuality counseling, and who work with individuals or couples. They often have specialized training in the field of sex, and are certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). Many insurance companies cover the cost of therapy sessions with a sex therapist, but it is important to check with your individual insurer before you decide to go to therapy.
Speaking about intimate personal matters like sex with a total stranger can be uncomfortable for many people. Nevertheless, sex therapists understand that these conversations are necessary to help their clients overcome challenges they face. They are trained to be empathetic and understanding in their approach, and may have experienced similar concerns as their clients.
Some common issues that clients face include general anxiety about sex, difficulty with sexual arousal, problems with achieving and maintaining an erection, and poor sex-related communication in their relationships. The therapist works to address these concerns through talk therapy, using exercises and other tools to help their client change their thinking and behavior.
Whether the therapist sees an individual or a couple depends on the nature of their issue. In cases where an individual is struggling with vaginismus, for example, sex therapy will focus on systematic desensitization, where the patient is instructed to gradually insert graded vaginal dilators over a period of weeks. A sex therapist will also help the patient to replace negative thoughts and feelings around their condition with positive ones.