What is Sex Therapy and How Can It Help You? – Jennifer Walker, LMFT
I want to give a brief background about myself before answering what sex therapy is and how it can benefit you. I’m Jennifer Walker, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). My MFT traineeship started at the LGBTQ Center in Long Beach, California in which I worked with both teens and adults to explore a range of issues within sexuality, gender identity, and sexual orientation. I enjoyed this population as often times these individuals felt shamed or rejected by loved ones, and I offered a safe space for them to explore and understand their own unique identities. A couple of years ago, I briefly moved to Connecticut and worked for a sex positive practice who was run by an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist (shout out to Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT). I had already had interest in specializing in sexuality but it was my exposure to sex therapy clients that pushed me to seek further knowledge and training. My initial MFT training only provided one brief course on Human Sexuality and so I knew seeking out further education and training was essential.
I am currently working on my certification with the Sexual Health Alliance (SHA) to become a SHA-certified Sex Therapist. I enjoy this work because it has become clear to me that many individuals within our society (myself included!) did not receive proper education and knowledge regarding sex and sexual health. We were taught about risks such as pregnancy and STIs, and for the most part, that was about it. Most of us were never taught the benefits or anything positive related to sex. Our experiences with sex are often kept quiet, hidden and rarely discussed, which leads to a lot of feelings of shame, insecurity, and guilt. My mission is to help individuals recognize that there is nothing wrong with them, and that is it okay to talk about and explore their sexuality and sex in general.
So what is sex therapy? In general, sex therapy explores the psychological aspects of sex; our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions and experiences and how it impacts or ties into our mental health. Sex therapy is also sex positive and therefore does not pathologize consensual sexual behaviors. Sex therapists have extensive training and promote understanding in human sexuality and healthy sexual behavior. Per AASECT, “sexuality is an inherent, essential, and beneficial dimension of being human.” Sexuality is just one part that exists within each of us. Problems can arise when individuals have not had enough education or understanding of their sexuality or sex in general. Cultural and societal norms can often send mixed or negative messages regarding sex. Talking about sex can often seem like a taboo for many. So when an individual struggles with an aspect of their sexuality, they often feel they have no one to turn to and suffer in silence and shame. Sex therapy is a place where an individual can come to address their issues or concerns without any judgement, receive imperative sex education and knowledge, and be able to explore the various dynamics that can encompass one’s sexuality and sexual identity.
Common reasons that people seek out sex therapy can include: desire discrepancies within relationships/sexual partners, difficulties with arousal or orgasm, performance issues, exploration of kink/fetishes, exploration regarding open/polyamorous/swinger/ other consensual non-monogamy relationships, sex education, painful sex or pain during sex, exploration of gender identity and/or sexual orientation, erotic exploration, porn usage, out-of-control sexual behavior (alternative language and view on what is typically called sex addiction, for more information on this please see this link).
Do you need to have one of these issues or reasons to seek sex therapy? Nope! As I mentioned before, sexuality is just one part of who we are as human beings. We are whole and unique individuals made up of several parts. And it is important to recognize that all our parts can be interconnected. We cannot separate the mind and body as there is a link between a person’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors and their physical health. This also includes your sexual health. You can enter therapy seeking support and guidance regarding issues such as trauma, anxiety and depression and still benefit from sex therapy as often times these issues and symptoms can impact our sexual health as well.
For more information on working with Jenn, CLICK HERE! She offers free 15-minute consultation calls to answer initial questions, determine a good fit for therapy, and to schedule your first appointment.
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