Talking to a sex therapist

sex therapist

Consulting with a professional sex therapist may be a safe way to talk about some of the problems that you are experiencing in your relationship. It can be challenging for couples to communicate effectively. But when you add other problems such as prostate cancer, impotence, or loss of libido caused by prostate cancer treatment (and resulting depression), it can make communication more difficult.

This may be magnified if one partner is unwilling (or afraid) to talk about problems within the relationship. Sometimes working with a professional who is nonjudgmental can help couples open up and learn new ways to communicate to try to improve their relationships. These professionals can provide information or specific suggestions to help you cope with problems associated with prostate cancer, and validate that what you are feeling is okay.

What is a sex therapist?

A sex therapist is typically a psychotherapist who has been specially trained in human sexuality, and who has been specifically trained to deal with concerns that arise in the complex array of human sexual relationships. “A sex therapist can be helpful to partners and spouses dealing with prostate cancer in many ways,” says Dennis L. Detweiler, LSCSW, Certified Sex Therapist and Sex Therapist Certification Chair for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). “Sex therapists understand the unique dynamics of male sexuality and how the loss of a prostate gland can contribute to sexual concerns. For many men, prostate surgery has often led to erectile dysfunction. Sex therapists can help couples work in creative ways in their sexual relationship to maintain and recreate ways of being physically intimate.”

Many of these professionals are certified (but not licensed) by AASECT. Florida is currently the only state in the United States that requires licensing. Certification ensures that the therapist has undergone specific training, focus, and supervision in working with persons with sexual problems. AASECT members include physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, allied health professionals, clergy members, lawyers, sociologists, marriage and family counselors and therapists, family planning specialists, and researchers, as well as students in relevant professional disciplines. ASSECT also provides accreditation for sexuality educators (teachers and trainers) and counselors (such as pastoral counselors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and school counselors).

What is a sexologist?

“Sexology is the scientific study of what people do sexually, how they feel about it, and how they express their sexuality. And it’s not for us to judge that it’s right or wrong. We are here to be of assistance to those people,” says Thomas Erwin Gertz, EdD, DACS, Executive Director of the American College of Sexologists, a professional association that provides professional standards for the training and certification of sexologists, and those institutions that offer training in sexology, as well as providing recognition of the work of other professionals involved in the fields of sexology and erotology.

“A lot of times when we look at men who cannot have erections, they don’t want to touch or start something they can’t finish, and they are deprived of the benefits of touch and intimacy. In the process of shutting down, that whole intimacy is gone. We associate touching with sex; you can be touched, and it isn’t going to go through to the step to orgasm. So it’s important that people look at the sensual component and it needs to be there,” adds Dr. Gertz.

While sex therapists have to be licensed in some category that your state licenses (such as marriage and family therapy), that’s not the case for sexologists. “To become certified by the American College of Sexologists, it doesn’t matter if they are a physician, a psychologist, or a family or marriage therapist. The importance is that they have had specific training in the field of sexology and erotology and that they understand those fields and they have that training,” adds Dr. Gertz.

Why not go to a regular psychotherapist?

You certainly can, but a certified sex therapist or sexologist has to undergo extensive training that is specifically related to human sexuality. For example, a certified sexologist must have a transcript, diploma or certificate of graduation from an academic program focused on sexology/erotology; have 300 hours of academic training related to the field of sexology/erotology or documentation of two years of full-time work as a sexologist, erotologist, academician or researcher in the field of sexology/erotology.

To become AASECT accredited, professionals must have a master's degree plus two years of post-degree clinical experience as a psychotherapist, or a doctorate degree plus one year of post-degree clinical experience as a psychotherapist. The professional must also have a valid state regulatory license or certificate in one of the following areas: psychology, medicine, social work, counseling, nursing, or marriage and family therapy, or other appropriate certifications if there is no regulatory license in their state.

How can I find a certified professional?

Why can I expect when I go?

That depends upon the individual style of the therapist (you can ask about this when you call to make an appointment). The therapist will probably take a detailed history, including asking you about pressing problems or issues that are bothering you. Then he/she will perhaps begin to discuss a set of goals or interventions that are designed to help you resolve those problems.

Will insurance cover this?

That depends upon your individual health insurance plan. If you meet with a professional who is a licensed therapist (family marriage therapist) or a psychologist or a physician, if it’s covered it’s usually billed under some different category other than something directly related to sexual therapy. This is a question you should ask the therapist when you call to make your appointment, and then you can check with your health insurance plan.


Always discuss everything you read on this web site with a qualified medical professional.

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