Is your intimate life a mess? Or do you have asexual problem you’ve been keeping to yourself for so long, that it’s directly affecting your ability to feel good about life and yourself? Psychosexual therapy is for you.
What is ‘psychosexual therapy’?
Put aside any worries from sensationalist stories you have seen in the media about a person watching you have sex. This is not at all what a licensed psychosexual therapist, aka ‘sex therapist’, does.
Psychosexual therapy is talk therapy that focuses on discussing and troubleshooting issues with your intimate life, and exploring the connections between mind and body.
It can be emotional or psychological blocks that affect your ability to be intimate, called ‘psychosexual disorders’.
Or it might be a physical or medical issue that has made your sex life different, confusing, or difficult.
Of course psychological and physical reasons for sexual issues are often related and intertwined. For example, a long-term illness might have left you feeling less desirable. But being less desirable makes you feel depressed. And depression also affects libido.
I have a sex life, but I’m unhappy. Do I need help?
Sexual issues don’t have to be just about the mechanics of sex. They can be about desire, or arousal, or even about identity and communication.
Does my partner have to come to sex therapy with me?
Not at all. You can go with a partner or partners, but you can also go by yourself. One-on-one psychosexual therapy is a chance to delve deep into your thoughts and feelings around sex, intimacy, and your body.
What sorts of things are okay to talk about in a sex therapy session?
Anything. They are your sessions. You might want to discuss things like:
sexual function and performance
your ideas and beliefs about sex, gender, and your body
And you can of course talk about things that are not directly related to sex. If you had a hard week and want to talk about it, then talk about it. Intimacy is intricately connected to how we feel about ourselves in general.
Cultural issues can mean you were raised with ideas about sex, gender, and intimacy that now present problems for you. Perhaps you were misinformed, or raised with superstition and lack of sexual education.
But it’s really just a physical issue, how could talking help?
Yes, in cases like Peyronie’s disease, age-related erectile dysfunction, and hormonal issues, it is a physical issue. And you do need to talk to your GP, who might suggest medication.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from psychosexual therapy. These kinds of problems can cause psychological distress and relationship issues. Without support you can spiral into low self-esteem, guilt, and even loneliness.
Despite our society being modern in so many ways, honest conversations about sex and intimacy are not as common as they could be. Being able to say anything and feel safe, accepted,and understood can be a tremendous relief.
“My sexual issues are too weird to tell a therapist”
Therapists are not judgmental and they have heard it all. They deal with clients with all sorts of issues and preferences. They are there to listen and help, not judge your orientation, gender choice, or what types of relationships and sex interest you.
“But my problem is really minor”
If something about your sexual life is upsetting you, then it matters.
And often, what seems minor can be more convoluted than it first appears. For example, a sudden lack of interest in sex can end up related to a new job that has lowered your self-esteem, or suspicions your partner is cheating that you haven’t been able to bring yourself to admit to. It’s only when we gather our courage, make that appointment, and start talking that we identify what is really upsetting us.
“Just talk to your partner”
It’s the advice the magazines give. And it might work… if you and your partner both have high end, similar communication skills. But if you are having sexual issues and they have been dragging on for some time, then that’s unlikely.
Psychosexual therapy can also be about learning how to communicate what’s upsetting you, and your wants and needs, in a productive way that others can hear and respond to.
And they are properly trained and qualified. Here in the UK, a sex therapist needs to have taken a post-graduate diploma in psychosexual therapy, and finished their hours as a trainee under supervision.