Why Become a Sex Therapist? And How?
As the field of mental and relational health evolves to become more specialized, this may be the best of times to become a sex therapist. As people live longer and have a greater interest in and freedom to explore their sexual expression, the role of sex therapists has become increasingly important and sought after by individuals and couples navigating complex physiological and psychological issues. While depictions of sexuality are prevalent in movies, television, social media, and everyday discourse, often raising expectations and performance pressure, sometimes people do not have the knowledge or skills for working through their own individual or relationship issues. Some people may not have the correct (medical or other) information about sexuality, or they may believe that their sexual response should mirror the images that they see online or through other media. Sex therapists are able to help their clients by providing clinically accurate information, as well as facilitating a greater level of insight into their sexual development and functioning across the lifespan.
I must confess that when I started my journey to become a sex therapist over two decades ago, I had no idea about how expansive the field was and how each and every session with clients allows for an opportunity for learning, support, growth, and transformation. I’ve had clients reach out to me years later in gratitude about helping them confront complex and sensitive challenges that significantly impacted their relationships. The goal of sex therapy is to help clients untangle and unpack dysfunctional communication issues, struggles with vulnerability, attachment strains, significant trauma, and other barriers to clients feeling closer to one another.
If you are looking for a rewarding career that allows for individual and systemic change, the field and practice of sex therapy creates the opportunity for you to clinically support others by helping them re-conceptualize, learn about, grow, and enhance their relationships, their comfort and acceptance of their desires and their bodies, and their sexual expression. You will spend time with clients who grapple with any number of sexual health or mental health challenges that prevent them from feeling a sense of fulfillment in themselves and/or in their relationships. While most mental health practitioners have a general understanding that sexuality is the confluence of psychology, anatomy, physiology, and human development, they most likely have not have been trained in the best ways to address sensitive issues that may emerge for individuals or relationships regarding healthy sexual functioning. Unlike other helping professionals (psychologists, social workers, professional counselors, psychiatrists, etc.), sex therapists are specifically trained to explore and actively discuss with clients what their sexual response and their feelings about it are; to explore the range of intimate encounters and fantasies they engage in; and to discuss with them any systemic (e.g., family, relational, social, etc.) factors that may be contributing to their sexual or relational problems.
The nature of each clinical session varies according to the presenting issue that clients share. Clients also may come in with presenting issues that do not specifically include difficulties involving sexuality, although, on further discussion, concerns and problems with sexuality and/or sexual expression may emerge. A sex therapist is trained to incorporate an understanding of the client’s sexuality as part of their assessment and will be experienced in a variety of sensitive ways to engage clients in a comfortable discussion of issues that people often do not expect to be able to engage in with a professional.
Council for Relationships’ Post Graduate Certificate Program in Sex Therapy, where I received my own sex therapy training, is a nine-month program that runs from September through May and is designed to lead to certification as a Sex Therapist (CST) by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). Classes are held every Wednesday from 9 to noon, with options to attend in person (when COVID-related guidelines allow) and online. The program has 3 components (all of them CE eligible – please ask when applying if this is of interest):
- 90 hours of classroom instruction;
- 10 hours of SAR workshop (also CE eligible); and
- 25 hours of group supervision by an AASECT-approved supervisor, towards the 50-hour AASECT requirement
In addition, the program offers optional opportunities for individual supervision by an AASECT-approved supervisor, as well as additional CE workshops in sexology related topics. These additional opportunities, staffed by seasoned Council instructors and supervisors as well as guest speakers invited for their expertise, allow for all AASECT certification requirements to be met through Council for Relationships offerings. The collegial and supportive atmosphere at Council allows for learning an integrative model at an advanced level, as well as the creation of connections with a community of colleagues.
Theoretically rooted in principles of systemic and integrative sex therapy, this very clinically-oriented program offers practical, sensitive, and innovative approaches to addressing sexual function and dysfunction that can be impacted by a number of factors. Our faculty uses a variety of teaching modalities to meet different learning styles. What is truly special about the CFR Sex Therapy program is that our faculty invites students to think critically, sensitively, and in detail about how clinical theory meets real-life challenges for individuals and couples. Students complete the sex therapy program with confidence in their enhanced therapeutic competence and skills. Council’s Sex Therapy Program is still accepting applications for the 2020-21 academic year, which begins September 16 – get in touch with us for answers to any questions that you may have. For more information, contact the Academic Administrator, Tiffani Smoot, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-382-6680 ext. 3236.
Dr. James Wadley is Director of the Sex Therapy program at Council for Relationships.
Click here to visit the Sex Therapy Program Page. Council for Relationships offers a unique postgraduate certificate program in sex therapy. Clinical, supervisory and educational components for sex therapy certification are offered onsite in one program. The curriculum is designed for post-graduate clinicians such as therapists, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, physicians, etc. who want to expand their clinical repertoire in sexuality. Interested in applying? Complete the program application here.