Our sexuality is a natural reflection of all of who we are. When we have a satisfying sex life, we feel happy, powerful, and full of vitality. And we are healthier too – with a physiological state that promotes better mood, less anxiety, comfort, and a sense of calm. From the beginning of our lives, we learn about sex and sexuality from all we see, all we are taught, and all we experience. Ideas from our families, our friends, our religion, society, and the media shape what we think and feel about sex and about our own sexuality. Because so many different factors can affect our sexuality and our sexual expression with a partner, all of these need to be taken into consideration when a sexual difficulty arises.
Sex Therapy is a talk-based therapy that is problem-focused and therefore time limited. Since each person has their own particular set of circumstances contributing to their question or difficulty, sex therapy explores issues related to a person’s current experiences, physical health, stresses, and relationships. This is done by taking a careful history of the current issues and then tailoring a program specifically designed for that individual or couple. Sex therapy does not involve any touching or physical contact with the clients, although you may be given exercises or lessons to practice at home.
Because all aspects of who you are are distilled into your sexuality and your sexual expression, problems in the area of your sex live can be a reflection of difficulties in other areas of your life. Most sexual difficulties stem from an obvious anxiety that is felt by the person, or by a layer of anxiety that shuts a person down so that they don’t really allow themselves to feel much at all. In doing sex therapy, a person often finds that their fears are worse than the reality of life. If a person has a partner, it is usually most helpful to have both participating in the treatment, since as a couple, each is always reacting and adjusting to the other person.
Perhaps the most important aspect of sex therapy is the timing of it. The earlier that a person or a couple identifies a problem and starts to address it, the better the chance that they can work on it successfully. The longer anxiety is allowed to dig in its roots, or a negative pattern in your relationship is allowed to continue, the more difficult it is to put on the brakes and try a different path. When difficulties continue over time, the layer of anger and resentment grows, sometimes to unbearable levels. Not all couples who come in for sex therapy can find a happy solution to their difficulties, and sometimes the best path is for them to go their separate ways. This is why I am an advocate of giving people as much information as possible as to what treatment options they have available, so that any difficulties can be addressed early.
Although sex and sexuality changes throughout our life, at each stage there is opportunity for happiness and fulfillment. As with all areas of life, we should seek a balance for optimal health and pleasure. My philosophy is that a healthy sex life goes hand in hand with sound physical and emotional health. Sex therapy helps couples and individuals find the right balance in their sex lives by addressing any difficulties they may have, in a caring, comfortable, and non-threatening environment. As a sex therapist and physician, I also know that sex therapy can also be helpful for patients who are demonstrating changes in their sexual functioning due to aging or disease processes (arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc.).
Perhaps you would like to improve or enhance your current sex life. Or perhaps you would like to address a sexual dysfunction such as anorgasmia, vaginismus, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, or arousal disorder. Sex therapy should use a comprehensive approach which incorporates all areas of the person’s life – biological, psychological, and relationship factors. Each treatment should be individually tailored based on the needs of the person/couple. If you find yourself with sexual difficulties or anxieties, don’t delay in getting some assistance. The sooner that it is addressed, the best chance for success you will have. In this way you can strive towards a well-rounded and healthy life.