Sex Positive Therapy: An Empowering Approach

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Ava Cheng


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Sex Positive Therapy

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Sex positivity has become an increasingly popular concept in recent years. The basic tenet is that all consensual sexual expressions are healthy and should not be shamed or stigmatized.

Sex positive therapy applies this philosophy to the counseling setting with the goal of helping clients develop positive views of sexuality.

What is Sex Positive Therapy?

Sex positive therapy is a therapeutic approach that embraces sexuality as a normal, healthy part of human existence. The key principles of sex positive therapy include:

  • Accepting all consensual sexual behaviors and orientations
  • Providing accurate sex education and information
  • Helping clients overcome shame related to sex and sexuality
  • Empowering clients to explore sexual desires and experiences

The goal is to take a holistic view of clients as sexual beings and give them support in developing positive, ethical sexual lives.

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Roots in Sex Positivity Movement

Sex positive therapy has its origins in the sex positivity movement, which promotes the idea that all consensual forms of sexual expression are equally valid.

  • This movement developed in the 1960s and 1970s in response to traditional and often repressive sexual norms.

Sex positive therapists take the principles of the sex positivity movement and apply them directly in counseling individuals and couples. This allows clients to discuss sexual concerns without fear of judgment.

Differs from Traditional Talk Therapy

Sex positive therapy marks a notable shift away from how sexuality has been traditionally addressed in talk therapy settings. In many forms of counseling:

  • Discussions of sex were taboo
  • Therapists made moral judgments about client sexual behaviors
  • Sexual issues were seen as symptoms of other problems

Sex positive therapists adopt a different, sex-affirming approach by directly discussing aspects of sexuality and working to normalize desires.

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Key Techniques Used in Sex Positive Therapy

Sex positive therapists employ a variety of techniques tailored to each client’s needs in developing sexual wellbeing. Some key techniques include:

Providing Accurate Sex Education

Many clients lack basic knowledge about sexual anatomy, health concerns, and important topics like consent. Sex positive therapists focus heavily on filling those educational gaps as needed.

This helps empower clients to make informed sexual choices.

Information may be provided through discussions, educational materials, referrals to other professionals, and other means.

Exploring Sexual Desires and Experiences

A major part of sex positive therapy involves exploring clients’ turn-ons, fantasies, and sexual history without judgment.

  • This helps clients better understand their sexuality, overcome shame, improve intimacy with partners, and more based on the client’s reasons for therapy.

Common exploratory techniques include fantasy sharing, erotic mapping of the body’s pleasure points, and reframing past negative experiences into opportunities for growth.

Overcoming Sexual Shame and Anxiety

Sex positive therapy helps many clients work through debilitating feelings like sexual shame and performance anxiety. This is done by identifying root causes, challenging inner critic thoughts, reframing sex as natural, and developing assertiveness and other coping skills.

Techniques like sensate focus exercises, which encourage non-penetrative sensual touch, can reduce performance pressure. Therapists also help clients set reasonable goals for overcoming sexual issues step-by-step.

Common Sexual Concerns AddressedCommon Techniques Used
Low desirePsychoeducation
Performance anxietySensate focus
Pain during sexMindfulness
Compulsive behaviorsCognitive reframing
Trauma recoveryExposure therapy
Table: Common issues addressed in sex positive therapy and techniques used for treatment

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4.5 (7,108+) FROM TRUSTPILOT

Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 33K licensed professionals

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Subscriptions as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

✓ 20% off your first month through Therapy Helpers

Benefits of a Sex Positive Approach

Adopting sex positive principles in counseling provides many benefits that extend beyond just sexual functioning. Research shows sex positive therapy can help:

  • Increase intimacy and connection between partners
  • Reduce risky sexual behaviors
  • Develop positive body image and self-confidence
  • Improve communication and trust in relationships
  • Embrace one’s complete identity, orientation, or gender presentation

The judgment-free setting empowers clients to be vulnerable and honest in working through complex sexual and relational issues. This facilitates deep therapeutic work that promotes growth in multiple facets of life.

Sex Positive Therapist

Finding a Sex Positive Therapist

If you are interested in exploring sex positive therapy, look for practitioners who specialize in it or identify their approach as sex-affirming. Be sure to ask about:

  • Their specific training and experience with sexual issues
  • What sex positive principles guide their practice
  • Any specialty areas like gender and sexual diversity

You can search psychology and counseling professional directories for therapists using keywords like “sex positive”.

Many mental health professionals today incorporate elements of sex positivity without actively branding themselves this way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to determine if a therapist’s values align with this framework.

The most important thing is choosing someone you feel comfortable being completely open with around sexuality. The right sex positive therapist can guide you to profound healing and growth in your sexual and emotional life.


  1. Cruz, C., Greenwald, E., & Sandil, R. (2017). Let’s talk about sex: Integrating sex positivity in counseling psychology practice. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(4), 547–569. This paper discusses integrating a sex-positive approach in counseling psychology, emphasizing the belief that sexuality is a universal aspect of human experience. Read the paper here.
  2. Burnes, T. R., Singh, A. A., & Harper, A. J. (2017). Sex positivity and counseling psychology: An introduction to the major contribution. The Counseling Psychologist, 45(4), 470–487. This introduction to a major contribution on sex positivity in counseling psychology explores how societal values of shame and fear relating to sex impact individuals and therapy. Read the paper here.
  3. Brotto, L. A., Chivers, M. L., Millman, R. D., & Albert, A. (2016). Mindfulness-based sex therapy improves genital-subjective arousal concordance in women with sexual desire/arousal difficulties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(8), 1907–1921. This study examines the impact of mindfulness-based sex therapy on sexual arousal concordance among women with sexual desire/arousal difficulties. Read the paper here.
  4. Neves, S. (2022). The religious disguise in “sex addiction” therapy. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. This paper critiques the influence of religiosity in “sex addiction” therapy, particularly in the UK, suggesting a covert presence in the field. Read the paper here.

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About the author

Ava Cheng

Ava Cheng

Hey there, I'm Ava Cheng—an inquisitive soul originally from Hong Kong now based in Singapore. As a physiotherapist, I have a passion for understanding women's health and the crossroads of medicine and psychology. Living in the heart of Singapore, I'm on a constant journey to explore the latest trends in these fascinating fields. The human body and mind never fail to amaze me, and I'm determined to unravel their mysteries one discovery at a time. Let's embark on this intellectual adventure together! Social

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