What is Sex Therapy and How Does it Work? - Handel Behavioral Health
HBH Treatment & Therapies

What is Sex Therapy and How Does it Work?

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Two painterly figures are embracing each other in a painterly atmosphere of organic light bubbles with fuzzy colors of maroon, red, orange, yellow, and blueish white. Thin and subtle intersecting red laser like lines are woven within. Working through issues in Sex Therapy provides such a warm and loving approach to intimacy.

Understanding and embracing your sexuality empowers your relationship with yourself and your partner or partners. If you’re curious about your sexual desires, how to improve your sex life, or work through any sex-related anxiety or trauma, but don’t know where to start, you are not alone. Most of us have important questions to ask about our sexual health, but are too afraid to seek answers. 

This is where our team of trained therapists at Handel Behavioral Health can help. Our therapists in our offices around Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, Natick, and across Massachusetts will offer professional, compassionate, and healing guidance to address all your sexual concerns. 

 Your therapist will help you process erotic conflicts, overcome shame and heal from emotional trauma, address issues related to sexual performance, and help you discover your sexual wants and needs. 

To learn about what sex therapy is, and what a typical session with one of our therapists at HBH involves, please read on. We can also be reached by phone at (412) 343-4357.

What is Sex Therapy?

Sex therapy isn’t all about intercourse or improving performance, it’s an all-encompassing approach to intimacy. We’ll explore trauma around touch, LGBTQI issues, sexual functions and disorders, intimacy and desire issues, and learn how to embrace our sexuality to empower our relationships. 

Krista Lawrence, Pre-Licensed Professional at HBH

Sex therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy which builds on the foundation of traditional talk therapy to address a range of sexual topics, from sexual anxiety and difficulty achieving arousal, to challenges communicating your sexual desires with your partner. 

Just like any form of psychotherapy, sex therapy will help you gain insight of what’s going on in your sex life, from a psychological perspective. Any mental health conditions that might interfere with your sexual wellbeing will be addressed during treatment. 

Sex therapists know that sexual health is an inherent part of the human experience, just like eating well and getting enough exercise. As you work with your therapist, you will find freedom to explore your sexual thoughts, desires, and fantasies.

What Can Sex Therapy Help With?

Sex therapy can help you work through a variety of challenges and concerns related to sex, including:

  • Stress or anxiety around sex: working through any sexual concerns or anxieties that interfere with some aspect of sex. 
  • Lack of desire or separate desires: you or your partner(s) might not feel as much sexual desire as you want to, or you may not experience the same frequency of desire. 
  • Challenges with sexual arousal: if you find it difficult to feel sexually aroused, or you experience orgasm faster than you want to. 
  • Challenges related to sexual orientation or gender identity: if you’re struggling with any part of your sexual orientation or gender identity, these aspects can affect your sexual life. 
  • Painful intercourse: Painful intercourse can interfere with your sexual life. 
  • Body image or self-esteem issues: Working through issues around physical appearance and sex appeal, which can challenge an individual’s sense of self-worth and sexual satisfaction. 
  • Exploring new sexual activities: You and/or your partner might be curious to explore new sexual desires or non-monogamy. 
  • Feeling stuck or unsatisfied sexually: You might find yourself stuck in a rut and not sure why, or you might be interested in exploring new sides of your sexuality and not sure where to begin.

How Important is Sex in a Relationship?

Your sex drive is an inherent part of your biology, but it is also a fundamental part of any relationship: sex creates a deeper sense of commitment, affection, and trust. Beyond the intercourse and performance, sex allows you and your partner(s) to be emotionally and physically exposed and vulnerable. 

Sex is the ultimate, most intimate experience that people can share. Beyond just the intercourse and performance, sex intensifies the physical, emotional, and spiritual connection between partners.

-Krista Lawrence, Pre-Licensed Professional at HBH

Positive sexual interaction with both partners creates positive feedback loops. Sex can encourage partners to express satisfaction with each other, helping partners to feel safer, closer, and more in tune with each other.

What Does Sex Therapy Involve?

Sex therapy, like any psychotherapy, will differ depending on the patient and their concerns. Most therapists begin the session with getting a thorough picture of the patient’s sexual history: this includes familial and societal messages that affect their sexual functioning and preferences, body image, and relationships. 

The following techniques are used widely by therapists for their effectiveness: 

Sex therapy is talk therapy. Cognitive-behavioral treatments are the most effective methods to treat sexual dysfunction: providing factual information can help us restructure the way we think about our past sexual experiences and concerns. 

I view therapy as a talk out loud journaling session, where we’ll work through situations together by processing our thoughts and feelings out loud. I like to be very organic in whatever we’re working through, and I always try to create an open and non judgmental space. 

-Krista Lawrence, Pre-Licensed Professional at HBH

Your therapist might help you utilize mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and body-scan meditation, to address sexual dysfunction. Mindfulness, applied to sex therapy, helps us notice what is happening inside of our bodies and encourages us to be compassionate to our physical sensations.

  • Sensate Focus 

Sensate focus is a mindfulness technique used in sex therapy with a partner or partners, to help reduce anxiety around sexual interactions by slowing down and calming down the process of intimacy. Partners are instructed to explore basic touch sensations over a series of weeks, deconstructing the previous ways in which they’ve engaged in physical touch and sexual interaction. 

I’ll suggest the use of massage, deep breathing, tapping, and touch to help the client bring awareness to their whole body. People put so much pressure on achieving pleasure in their genital area, but we want to find pleasure within the whole body.

-Krista Lawrence, Pre-Licensed Professional at HBH

  • Sex Therapy Exercises and Homework 

Sex therapy sessions are informative and educational, and often provide techniques to help the client understand and feel more fulfilled with their sexuality. Clients might receive homework exercises, such as relevant reading or videos. 

How to Schedule An Appointment?

Working with a trained therapist at HBH who believes that sexuality is a fundamental part of the human experience, you will explore sexual freedom of thoughts, fantasies, and healthy forms of sexual activity. Now is the time to find freedom and empowerment with your sexuality! 

The process of sex therapy gives the client permission to feel empowered with who they are and how they function within their body. We want to take the pressure off intercourse and performance, and focus on being in tune with the body.

-Krista Lawrence, Pre-Licensed Professional at HBH

To schedule an appointment with one of our trained therapists at HBH in our offices around Amherst, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Natick, Franklin, and across Massachusetts please contact us today at (413) 343-4357 or request an appointment online.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting, nonprofit communications, and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Nettie believes in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

Krista Lawrence Headshot

Krista is an experienced therapist who believes that there are no broken people, and that we have what we need inside us to ask the difficult questions and find the honest answers. Krista's work as a case manager, group therapy facilitator, and family therapist in outpatient and residential substance abuse settings informed her to listen to the content of what's being said, and find the deeper meaning within the patient's words. More About Author →