What is Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy can be surprisingly confusing to people. Why exactly would people seek the help of mental health professionals for help with their sexual problems? Many of the sexual issues that people want help with include symptoms that people view as problematic. These can include issues with erections, a lack of physical desire, and problems with orgasm. Typically when we deal with physical symptoms, we go to our doctors and they prescribe us with something to help reduce the symptoms. In fact, a lot of people who want sex therapy have already done this. So it makes sense that people are puzzled when they are given a bunch of work to do around communication, emotional identification, stress management, self-esteem, etc. It’s difficult to see how it all relates.
In the olden days of sex therapy, the focus of helping people was primarily focused on humans as biological beings. The idea was that we are physiologically wired to need sex. So if the physiology could be fixed, then sex would just sort of happen. Although this seemed promising, the success didn’t last in ongoing research. Later people found that there were several factors that influenced how people functioned sexually.
What causes sexual dysfunctions?
In 2018, I conducted a study where I interviewed several therapists about what was actually causing dysfunctions? Needless to say, I got a myriad of responses. I ended up categorizing these responses to help synthesize the information. There were 7 basic categories of what caused sexual dysfunctions: cultural, emotional, physical, mental, experiences, developmental, and relationships. You can see, physical was only one of the root causes. What is even more complicated is that there is rarely one root cause. These categories tend to interact and influence each other. For example, you can feel certain emotions about your relationship and thus struggle with a physical symptom like erectile dysfunction.
If that sounds complex, it’s because it is. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I have seen in people who are trying to make changes in their sex lives is fighting to simplify what is complex. Those who just accept that it’s complex set themselves up to better enjoy small successes. Others who fight and feel that sex should be easy or just happen naturally continue to have ongoing problems.
Our society teaches us that sex should be easy. So when it’s not, you’re likely to fall into a shame trap. Recognize that this is BS.
What sex therapists will do to help.
Sex therapists want you to step away from the BS. Rather than focusing on how sex should be, it’s much better to begin by enjoying it as it is. Then you have a foundation to build on. When you get caught up in comparing your sexuality with the sexuality of others, you’re not likely going to be successful. This includes focusing too heavily on penetration and erections. Look, you can have a goal of moving towards a sexual experience that you want to have. But you need to also have insight into why that’s important. And if you’re insistent on only one specific sexual experience, you’re getting too rigid. I can tell you that this was a common example of a mental root cause of ongoing sexual dysfunction. See how we can get in our own way?
Opening our minds isn’t just about succeeding in fulfilling a fantasy. It’s opening our minds to the possibility of accepting how things are now. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your goals. What it means is that you don’t have to be on a miserable, unfulfilled journey along the way.
Sex therapists don’t only help you focus on the goal, they help you appreciate the journey. They’ll push you to work on communication to help your relationship, mental work to help you identify sources of insecurities, and even help you resolve past wounds. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re in the Dallas area and you’re looking for a therapist to help you with your sexual relationship with others or yourself, please feel free to contact us today.