Sexual Conditions Health Center
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Sex Therapy & Other Counseling
In this article
If sexual issues are preventing true closeness between you and your partner, you may want to consider some form of therapy.
If the problem is a lack of knowledge about sex, your health care provider or a sex therapist can teach you (and your partner) about the sexual response cycle and the elements of sexual stimulation. Armed with this new knowledge, many couples can go forward on their own.
Psychotherapy can help a woman identify problems in her life that may be expressed as sexual problems.
- For some women these problems are fairly clear, including past sexual or other abuse, rape, or traumatic sexual encounters.
- For others, the problems may be less clear-cut, involving unresolved emotional issues or dissatisfaction with other areas of life.
- In either case, the therapist usually focuses on resetting the woman’s attitudes toward sex.
- The goal is to get rid of old attitudes that get in the way of enjoyable sex, establishing new attitudes that increase sexual responsiveness.
If the problem relates to your relationship, couples counseling is recommended. (You don’t have to be married to go to a “marriage counselor.”)
- The couples therapist is trained and experienced at helping couples recognize, understand, and solve their problems.
- First, the counselor explores the relationship to find the trouble spots.
- The counselor will recommend exercises and activities that will improve the couple’s communication and trust.
- If that can be accomplished, often the sexual problem can be solved more easily.
A sex therapist may take couples therapy one step further by focusing on the couple’s physical relationship. After identifying the couple’s attitudes about sex and the sexual problem, the sex therapist recommends specific exercises to refocus the couple’s attention and expectations. Specific objectives may include any of the following:
Learning to relax and eliminate distractions
Learning to communicate in a positive way what you would like
Learning nonsexual touching techniques
Increasing or enhancing sexual stimulation
- Minimizing pain during intercourse
Sex therapists often use what are called “sensate focus” exercises to treat sexual problems. The exercises start with nonsexual touching and encourage both partners to express how they like to be touched. The goal is to help both partners understand how to recognize and communicate their preferences.
Sex therapists can recommend exercises to help with vaginismus, a condition in which intercourse is impossible because of involuntary tightness of the vagina.
- One successful technique is the use of Kegel exercises. Many women are familiar with these from their childbirth education classes. Kegel exercises involve voluntary contraction and relaxation of the muscles around the opening of the vagina. Women do this instinctively when they need to urinate at an inconvenient time.
- Some women have been helped by using dilators to relax the vaginal spasms. A small dilator is placed in the vagina for 10 minutes, then removed. Larger dilators are used over time to train the vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises may improve the chance of success with this technique.
Group therapy or a support group may be very helpful for a woman. There she can discuss her problems with others who share them. Women often gain insight and practical solutions from these groups, as well as a greater confidence from knowing she is not alone. Couples groups also can be very helpful if both partners are willing. A sex therapist usually recommends such a group if he or she thinks it would be helpful.