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What is Sex Therapy?
Separating Fact from Fiction

Understandably, many people wonder what sex therapy is and how it works. There are a large variety of sexual health professionals and that can make it even more difficult to discern what is a legitimate field of study and what is a just someone who thinks they know a lot about sex. The most prominent professions within sex therapy are: sex therapists, sexologists or clinical sexologists in addition to those that have their degrees in psychology, human sexuality, social work, counseling and the medical profession. Degrees of this kind can lead to professional roles as a practitioner and/or a researcher.

Here we will review the different therapeutic professions in the field of sexuality, what types of issues you can address within sex therapy and where you can get a referral to a reputable sex therapist.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

Copyright © Holistic Wisdom, Inc.

Types of Sex Health Professionals

Sex Therapist Licensing

A reputable sex therapist will provide their credentials upfront for you so that you can easily see what their educational background consists of and how they can help you. If they do not reveal to you what degree they have, what school they went to or their professional experience you may want to avoid their services. Examples of degrees specifically in human sexuality.

The only state that provides licensing for sex therapists by law is Florida. Therefore, it is not possible to find a state licensed sex therapist in another state unless they are licensed under a different related professional degree such as psychologist, physician, social worker or counselor. There is however, an organization that nationally certifies and verifies professional education in the field of sexuality called the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT.org). Researchers of sexuality typically affiliate with their sister organization which is the Society for Scientific Study of Sexuality (SexScience.org).

Below we will review what some of the more common types of sexual health professionals are and what their qualifications are when it comes to providing assistance to their clients-

What is a Sex Therapist?

Sex therapy can take many forms, however, legitimized sexual therapy is typically provided by a clinician in the field of psychology, counseling, medicine or social work. They can also be a sexologist.

What is a Sexologist?

The study of sexology typically blends a variety of educational components together which includes such studies as psychology, biology, statistics, medicine, sociology, epidemiology and in some cases criminology. Official boards for a sexologist include the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists and the American Board of Sexology in addition to AASECT.

What is a Sexpert?

A sexpert is nonacademic, self given title that indicates that they are knowledgeable about the topic of sex. There is no educational requirement for this title. If you work with a sexpert, you should determine other forms of education they have had to discern if they are actually qualified to address your needs. There are many organizations that like to use the term sexpert to provide a collective title for those who are professionals in the field of sexual health. For example, the sex toy manufacturer California Exotic Novelties has a Sexpert Program where they ask a variety of professionals in the field to review their products and provide feedback to them about it before it is offered for sale to the general public.

What is a Sex Surrogate?

A sex surrogate can have a varied amount of education in the field of sex and engages in physical relationships with their clients to help them achieve a sexual goal. More established sex surrogates have some sort of professional certification in the field of sex education, psychology, or counseling. This is not considered a traditional form of sex therapy as a clinical sex therapist does not in anyway have sexual relationships with their patients nor is there any nudity involved.

What is a Sex Educator?

There are no formal qualifications, certifications or licensure to be called a sex educator. One can simply refer to themselves as one or take something as basic as a sex education workshop. However, some sex therapists also teach and refer to themselves as a sex educator and therefore, they can also be highly educated and qualified in the area of sexuality. Therefore, if you work with a sex educator, you should determine what level of education they have had to determine if they are actually qualified to address your needs.

What Does a Sex Therapist Do?

Sex therapy can address a broad spectrum of sexually related issues. Below are examples of topics that sex therapists can address-

Sexual Preference Concerns Sexual Identity Confusion
Physical Disabilities Impacting Sexual Functioning Healthy Sexual Development in Children
Sexual Addictions Medications that Impact Sexual Ability
Aging and Sexual Performance Relationships & Intimacy
Sexual Abuse & Rape Issues Low or Absent Libido
Chemical Addictions & Related Sexual Issues Dealing with Mental Illness & Sexuality
Sex Education Body Image Issues
Sexual Incompatibility for Couples Sexual Dysfunction in Men & Women
Sexual Exercises & Enhancers Porn Addiction
Extreme Fetishes that Cause Harm to Self of Others Sex Offender Treatment

Legal Accountability of a Sex Therapist

The legal accountability of a sex therapist will vary based on their degree and certification requirements. For example someone with a degree in social work has the option of not just becoming a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) but also obtaining credentialing. In order to practice and be covered by insurance a social worker (with a masters - MSW or doctorate - DSW) would have to be licensed with the state. Becoming credentialed is simply further verification of education, supervision and experience.

There are also other licenses for degrees based on laws of each state and even just for basic professional counseling without a degree. For example in the state of Colorado there is a law that requires anyone that practices any form of mental health therapy professionally to take and pass the State of Colorado's Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam. This exam covers the legal system pertaining to the professional behavior and legal accountability of the therapist.

What Happens in Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy is very much like traditional therapy except that it focuses specifically on sexual issues. The same rules regarding therapy apply. Sex therapists do not fix problems rather they assist you in providing you with insights, education and resources to help you address your concerns. They provide a safe, confidential place where you can define sexual challenges and review healthy options to address those as well as provide assistance for relationship issues.

Why Choose Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy is a more specialized form of therapy that can provide an intensive focus on the core issues of sexual challenges. It provides a nonjudgmental arena that can help you to fully embrace your sexuality and share it with your partner(s) in a healthy manner. Just as you would go to see a specialist in the field of medicine for a specific issue, those who wish to address sexual issues are best served by qualified sexual therapists.

To find a sex therapist in your area utilize the AASECT.org database for a referral and then research them to discern if they are right for you. You may also request an initial phone consultation to review if they are a good match for your sex therapy goals.


NAASAS Certified

Sexual Business Certification

When it comes running a sexual health business there are many professionals that are in the dark even if they are quite qualified in the field of sexual health. Understanding legalities, sexual product functions, the dangers of toxins in some sex products and even how to navigate an adult natured business within the adult industry can be challenging. Professionals can obtain certification for these matters through the National Association for the Advancement of Science & Art in Sexuality (NAASAS.org).

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