Sex Therapy vs Sexology: What’s the Difference?

Written By

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

Updated:

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Sex Therapy Vs Sexology

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Sex therapy and sexology offer help for sexual problems, but use different approaches. Understanding which one may work best starts with knowing the key differences.

Sexuality is deeply complex, involving psychological, interpersonal, cultural, and biological factors. When sexual difficulties arise, professional help can provide insight and tools to improve satisfaction and intimacy.

Two common options are sex therapy and consultation with a sexologist. There is considerable overlap between the two, but also key variations in methods and areas of focus.

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What is Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy is a specialized form of talk therapy. It is provided by licensed mental health professionals with advanced training in human sexuality and sexual functioning.

Credentials

Common credentials of sex therapists include:

  • Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT)
  • Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • Clinical psychologists (PsyD or PhD)
  • Psychiatrists (MD)

Techniques

Sex therapy utilizes techniques from models like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic approaches
  • Systems perspectives

Goals

Goals may involve identifying and addressing psychological or interpersonal factors impacting sexuality, including:

  • Communication problems
  • Mismatched desire
  • Trust issues
  • Past trauma
  • Body image anxiety

Modalities can involve individual, couples, family, or group treatment. Exercises to foster skills like emotional intimacy may be used.

Sex Therapy Vs Sexology

What is Sexology?

Sexology refers to an interdisciplinary scientific field focused on sexuality research and education. Training programs lead to credentials such as:

  • Certified Sexuality Educator (CSE)
  • Certified Sexuality Counselor (CSC)
  • Doctor of Human Sexuality (DHS)

Sexologists come from diverse backgrounds, including:

  • Public health
  • Social work
  • Counseling

They conduct sexuality research, educate others on sexual health, and provide sex coaching or counseling.

Key areas sexologists address include:

  • Basic sexual anatomy/physiology
  • Functioning of sexual response
  • Research-backed technique
  • Adjustment to health conditions
  • Exploring sexual interests

Modalities primarily involve individual coaching, couples coaching, workshops, or consultations. Exercises may involve body awareness, mindfulness, or sensate focus.

Sex TherapySexology
Talk therapy with a licensed mental health professionalInterdisciplinary field focused on sexual research/education
Addresses psychological and relational factors impacting sexualityAddresses sexual anatomy, functioning, techniques, health issues, interests
Uses CBT, psychodynamic, and systems approachesUtilizes coaching, workshops, individual or couples consultations
Goals involve improving intimate communication, desire discrepancies, trustGoals involve body awareness, sexual response, skills, health-related adjustment, interests

How to Determine Which Approach is Best

When sexual problems arise, pinpointing the contributing factors is key to selecting the most effective treatment approach.

Sex therapy may be most appropriate if difficulties seem rooted in:

  • Past abuse or trauma
  • Poor communication patterns
  • Underlying mental health issues like depression
  • Relationship dynamics

Talking through these psychological and relational contributors provides context and insights to guide growth.

A sexologist may be most helpful for concerns like:

  • Limited sexual experience
  • Lack of information on anatomy/functioning
  • Health conditions affecting sexuality
  • Interest in expanding sexual horizons

Their expertise can fill knowledge gaps, offer techniques to try, or advise on physical sensitivity and pleasure.

Some clients will benefit from an integrated approach, with sex therapy providing emotional processing first, followed by sexological coaching to increase skills and comfort.

The key is choosing support aligned with your needs and readiness level. Open conversations about goals, backgrounds, and working styles can determine which option is the best place to start.

Bottom Line

While sex therapy and sexology take different angles, both can assist with many common sexual problems. Understanding the core focus of each field helps determine which approach (or combination) fits best.

With compassionate support from a qualified professional attuned to your experiences, improvement in sexual well-being is well within reach.

Dr. Azhar Qureshi

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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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