Ask The Expert: Sex Therapy

Q: We’ve been referred to a sex therapist. What can we expect?

A: Sex therapy is psychological and behavioural treatment for sexual difficulties. Sex therapists, who should be registered and members of a professional association, have training in the field of sexual relationships and the treatment of problems that occur in those relationships.

Therapists arrange for a formal assessment, often consisting of taking a detailed sexual history from the individual and his/her partner, identifying the issues and concerns raised and then developing and engaging in a treatment plan. This is usually considered brief therapy (about 12 sessions) and can consist of improving communication, education on new techniques, introducing new sexual activities and changing old patterns of sexual interactions. It can also consist of massage, meditation, breathing and touching techniques.

Some more radical sex therapists use surrogates to provide education, but there are mixed reviews on this method. Some therapists may be covered under third-party insurance programs, but most are not covered by the provincial health-care plans.

Do they help? Many clients — some data says 93 per cent — claim that sex therapy helped them and improved their relationships, but there is really no consistent research available to us at the moment.

Barry Worsfold is an adjunct professor of gerontology and teaches courses on sexuality and aging at Simon Fraser University.