6 Myths About Sex Therapy That Keep People From Their Best Sex Life
Salt-N-Pepa had it right – people like to talk about sex. Sex therapists even go to school for it. But it doesn’t mean we’re perverted or attracted to our patients (sorry to burst your bubble). But when people have serious problems or need a little help getting intimacy back on track, sex therapy works.
Despite the benefits of counseling, there’s a stigma often stemming from fears or shame. That’s because as a society, we’re still working on sex positivity as a whole (getting there!). Going to therapy is one of the bravest things you can do for yourself.
That said, people love to think the worst of things going into an uncomfortable situation. These turn into expectations, then untrue assumptions start circulating. Here are the most common myths about sex therapy and why they’re untrue (and silly).
Myth #1: “You have to have a long-term partner”
Sex doesn’t always involve other people, so neither does your therapy. In fact, therapy begins with the mind (yes, even for sex). It’s where you’ll dig down into your identity, addressing trauma, habits, and communication.
This is a very personal experience that a partner doesn’t need to exist or be present for. Many clients come alone even if they do have a long-term partner or spouse. Individual therapy is a great way to work through what is holding you back from your best self.
Sexual identity and LGBTQA+
Many people use sex therapy for discovering and exploring their own sexual identity. LGBTQ-friendly counselors provide people outside of the heteronormative-cisgender box to process feelings and goals. Additionally, sex therapists can provide a recommendation letter for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
MYTH BUSTED: Sex therapy can be useful for individuals, long-term relationships, or casual relationship(s). It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, or if you’re trying to discover it.
Myth #2: “The therapist will touch you”
This is a big fat NO. A sex counselor is never going to touch you or “demo” your homework. That’s not what this is about. They’re not going to make you have intercourse with someone in front of them, either.
Our discussion-based sessions will address a lot of non-physical issues, like your thoughts and feelings. A therapist will use an approach such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to address your patterns and behaviors from the inside out.
We know it can be awkward to talk through these issues with a third party. We will never take advantage of your vulnerabilities or insecurities. Learn more about what to expect in your sessions.
Safety and privacy
Whether you come to the office or choose online couple’s therapy, our methods are compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). We won’t be secretly recording you, letting others listen in, or sending your info to anyone unless otherwise stated.
MYTH BUSTED: Your sex therapist will not touch you or have sex with you. Everything happens through talk therapy. If your therapist notes any physical concerns, they will refer you to a medical doctor.
Myth #3: “I’m the only one who has sexual issues”
Sexual dysfunction includes more than what you hear in the mainstream (think all those daytime TV ads). Most people are familiar with disorders like lack of arousal (e.g. erectile dysfunction) or pain during sex. Other dysorder types include inability to organsm and a low libido (lack of desire).
Therapists have heard everything. There’s nothing that you say or experience that can shock us. We will help you through it.
MYTH BUSTED: There is no shame in taking a brave step in your wellness, including seeking mental or sex counseling. Sex and relationship issues are more common than left-handedness, so moving past the stigma is crucial to thrive.
Myth #4: “You should wait until sex is really bad”
Do you wait until your car is on it’s last leg to take it to the maintenance shop? No, you get routine maintenance to prolong your precious possession. Your intimate life is similar (but way more important).
Don’t wait until the situation gets so bad that it has drastic effects on you and your family. You don’t need to be on the verge of a breakup or divorce to justify sex therapy. You don’t need a sexual dysfunction diagnosis, either.
Happy people can get therapy, too
Many of our clients are happy in their relationships or sexual identity but want someone to talk through their questions or next steps. That’s totally fine! Health and happiness can have room for improvement, too.
MYTH BUSTED: Counseling isn’t only for those ready to throw in the towel on their relationships or marriage. It’s even better to mitigate issues early on by learning what makes you and your partner(s) tick. Maintenance is worth the investment and potential joy.
Myth #5: “Going to therapy will cure you”
Like most medical or mental health treatment plans, nothing is “one and done.” Getting better can take hard work, introspective, and uncomfortable conversations. But it’s totally worth it.
When you go to any counselor, there’s a goal. Specific objectives for sex therapy may include:
Eliminating and relaxing distractions
Nonsexual touching techniques
Increasing or enhancing sexual stimulation
Minimizing pain during intercourse
An ongoing process (with homework)
Your counselor will be your biggest cheerleader. We know this isn’t easy. That’s why our process considers the whole person.
Beyond the physical relationship of sex, we’ll go into the “why” of your attitudes about the situation. From there, I’ll recommend homework to refocus your attention and expectations around intimacy.
Yes, there’s homework. While it may not be calculus, your take-home exercises may feel difficult and vulnerable (like asking for what you want from your partner). These are growing pains that are a crucial part of your healing and path to success.
MYTH BUSTED: Sex therapy alone will not save your marriage or relationship. However, it could give you the tools and the courage to fight for it. Counseling is an ongoing process that will sometimes require hard work and personal growth.
Myth #6: “Sex is only physical”
Last but not least, sex can be misunderstood as only physical because it is a physical act (like eating). But even a juicy cheeseburger doesn’t only give you enough calories to last until your next meal – it tastes comforting.
Sex is an emotional event, too. Even hook-ups that seem purely physical are partly emotional – you’re a whole person, not just your body parts. That’s why sex therapy often uses psychoanalysis (aka examining mental health) to get to the root of issues and behaviors.
The idea that sex is only physical can stem from false portrayals of real sex in movies and porn. It can also be a product of your own experiences or trauma. We will work through these ideas and more during your sessions.
MYTH BUSTED: Sex is a mental and physical act that involves your whole self. Emotions, past experiences, and physiological elements all play their part in your intimacy. Counseling addresses these areas to identify and work towards restorative solutions.
Find a therapist that’s right for you
Most people will have questions or be skeptical their first time trying sex therapy. That’s expected. Great professionals provide a comfortable space to explore those concerns in a safe environment.
Dr. Michael Stokes with Rhode Island Sex Therapy is a sex therapist who has heard it all. He is ready to answer your questions and open to appointments that fit your lifestyle and calendar.