Does Sex Therapy Involve Sex?

Written By

Dr. Azhar Qureshi


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Does Sex Therapy Involve Sex

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Sex therapy is a unique form of psychotherapy that aims to help people with various sexual problems and concerns. Contrary to what some may assume, sex therapy typically does not involve sexual activity between the therapist and client.

So what does this type of therapy actually entail?

Understanding Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is provided by licensed mental health professionals with advanced training in human sexuality and sexual problems. The main goal is to identify the psychological, interpersonal, medical, or other factors contributing to sexual difficulties in order help clients improve their sexual satisfaction and functioning.

Some of the most common reasons people seek sex therapy include:

  • Low sexual desire
  • Erectile dysfunction or vaginal pain during sex
  • Inability to orgasm
  • Compulsive or risky sexual behaviors
  • Issues due to past sexual trauma or abuse
  • Relationship problems affecting sexuality

Sex therapists utilize techniques and interventions aimed at getting to the root issues impacting sexuality. Sessions do not involve engaging in sexual activities with the therapist.

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What to Expect in Sex Therapy Sessions

Sex therapy sessions are based primarily around communication and education. The first session typically involves discussing the client’s sexual history, current difficulties, and goals for therapy.

The therapist asks questions in order to better understand the nature of the problem and identify potential contributing factors.

Here are some examples of what sex therapy activities may include:

Non-Sexual ExercisesEducation
Exploring emotional blocks to intimacyLearning anatomy and sexual response
Practicing sensate focus touch exercisesDiscussing healthy sexual attitudes
Improving communication skillsProviding resources for sexual skills
Processing traumaTeaching coping methods for pain

Sensate focus in particular is a very common exercise, which involves partners taking turns touching each other to help increase comfort and awareness of sexual sensations.

Other sessions entail trying out techniques, reporting back on home assignments, and troubleshooting any difficulties that arise from suggestions.

The therapist may also incorporate elements of other evidence-based modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or mindfulness.

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Does the Type of Sexual Issue Impact Treatment?

Sex therapy programs can vary substantially depending on the nature and severity of one’s sexual challenges.

More Discussion-Based Approaches

For issues stemming primarily from emotional blocks, stress, or relationship problems, talk therapy may be the central component.

Adding Medical Interventions

For sexual dysfunctions involving biological components, such as erectile dysfunction or vulvodynia, medical treatment through a doctor may be recommended as an adjunct.

Intensive Therapy for Trauma

If symptoms relate to past sexual abuse or assault, intensive trauma-focused therapy is imperative. Finding an experienced sex therapist is vital in these situations.

  • The length of sex therapy also differs among clients.
  • It may only take 6-8 sessions to resolve short-term issues.
  • However, deep-rooted or lifelong sexual problems often require 3-6 months of weekly sessions or more.

Can Partners Participate?

Sex and relationships go hand-in-hand. As such, including one’s partner is often highly beneficial. Through joint counseling, couples enhance intimacy, better understand each other’s needs, communicate desires more clearly, and learn new interaction patterns around sex.

Even for those who are not partnered, incorporating techniques for communicating about sexuality to future partners is key.

Does Medication Ever Play a Role?

For some types of sexual disorders, referral to a medical provider for a health evaluation or prescription medication may enhance outcomes.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormone imbalances or deficiencies contributing to low libido may warrant prescription of estrogen, testosterone, or DHEA.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men experiencing impotence may benefit from medications like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, or injections to enable erections.


Women who have involuntary tightening of vaginal muscles limiting penetration may use muscle relaxants or pain relief gels.

Keep in mind that most sex therapists avoid viewing lack of sexual functioning as strictly biochemical. The mind-body interaction is complex, so they integrate both psychological and some medical solutions.


What Is Sex Therapy

Sex therapy provides those suffering from sexual problems and dissatisfaction innovative paths for improving sexual wellness through assessment, education, communication skills training, sensate focus, and other evidence-based methods.

It does not entail sexual relations between client and therapist. Treatment programs must be customized to address the specific biological and psychological factors underlying one’s symptoms. Be sure to check your insurance coverage, as well.

Including one’s partner and at times drawing upon medication can further optimize sexual healing.

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About the author

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

As a physician and cardiologist, my training encompassed a comprehensive range of invasive and noninvasive procedures, providing extensive hands-on experience in echocardiography, cardiac stress testing, diagnostic catheterization, and coronary interventions. In addition, I developed skills in psychological assessments and formulating detailed case reports. This multifaceted training has equipped me with a strong foundation across cardiology, psychological studies, and documentation to support my medical research. I am passionate about medical writing and exchanging knowledge to help the global community. Social

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