When you have a low sex drive, therapy may be part of the solution. A sex therapist can help whether your sex drive is due to a medical condition, arousal problems, or relationship issues.
Low libido is one of the most difficult sexual problems to treat, so curing it may not be as simple as taking a pill or using a prescription gel or cream.
Although medical treatments can help when there’s an underlying physical cause for low sex drive, many doctors also recommend going to a sex therapist to work on regaining that spark.
Here’s how to set realistic expectations for what you can achieve with sex therapy.
When to See a Sex Therapist
The first step in treating low libido is to rule out an underlying biological cause, says Megan Fleming, PhD, a clinical psychologist, certified sex therapist, and founder of the sexual health and rehabilitation program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
Low testosterone levels, depression, type 2 diabetes, and a host of other medical conditions can all contribute to a low sex drive, so it’s important to be tested (and treated) for any of those ailments.
Once you’ve done that, a therapist can help get your sex drive back in gear. If a medical condition is causing low libido, a sex therapist can help with the psychological effects of your symptoms, which can affect your mood, lead to frustration, and create relationship tension, Fleming says.
If there’s no medical condition contributing to low libido, sex therapy can help you work on your relationship with your partner and look for emotional reasons for your low sex drive.
If you’re having trouble becoming aroused, a combination of medication and sex therapy may be the best treatment, Fleming says.
“There’s no downside [to seeing a sex therapist],” Fleming says. If nothing else, working with a therapist can help your partner understand why you’re experiencing a low libido. Women, in particular, may tend to think that a man’s low libido has to do with the way she looks or what she’s doing or not doing, and her self-consciousness can add to the pressure he feels to have sex.
What to Expect From Sex Therapy
A big part of going to sex therapy is learning to better communicate with your partner. Fleming has her clients finish statements like, “My partner turns me on when …” and “My partner turns me off when …”
Fleming also teaches her clients how to hold on to desire in a long-term relationship, when it’s easy to lose a sexual connection. It’s about caring for each other, showing appreciation, and not forgetting that the brain seeks novelty and stimulation, she says. Trying out new positions and using sex toys can help you get out of a rut.
Do clients have a hard time opening up about their sex life? “Absolutely not,” Fleming says. A sex therapist should make you feel comfortable talking about this part of your life.
How to Find a Sex Therapist
In many states, sex therapists aren’t licensed or regulated, so someone with a basic therapy license can call himself a sex therapist. It’s a good idea to find a sex therapist who has gone through a certification process and has special knowledge about sexuality. You can find one by going to the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.
Also keep in mind that a sex therapist shouldn’t have sex or engage in a sexual activity with a client. In some states such behavior is even considered a crime.
What can you hope to achieve through sex therapy? “A better and more satisfying sex life,” Fleming says. And it can happen in as few as one or two sessions for some couples, while others may need up to 12 sessions or more, depending on the issues they’re having.