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Sex Therapist


Sex. It's the most natural thing in the world. But, for many people, it's also frightening, mystifying, and difficult to talk about, let alone engage in. Often, when people have been sexually molested, endured a sexually-related illness, or been psychologically traumatized, they are unable to react sexually. They may no longer trust others, they may no longer feel loving towards themselves. They may believe their sexual feelings are dangerous and wrong. For these people sex therapists are important, because it is these therapists who can work the clients through their problems, and encourage them to accept themselves and sex as important parts of their lives.

Sex therapists work with individuals and couples who are having trouble relating to their partners or to themselves sexually. They listen, they advise, and they listen some more. They work within the belief system that sex is good, that relationships should be meaningful, and that intimacy is a desirable goal. Sex therapists meet all sorts of people, and must be non-judgmental, non-sexist, and not homophobic. They treat emotional problems, communication difficulties, and past traumas as part of the therapy. Sex therapists try and get to the root of the problem, as well as addressing the surface issue. These may only be the result of a much bigger problem, and it is up to the therapist to uncover and treat that underlying issue.

Parents may choose to visit a sex therapist to discuss how to deal with their child's emerging sexuality. The children will most likely never see the therapist, as the therapist only advises the parents on sexual education, and how to talk with their children about protection, hetero- and homosexuality when the time comes. Sex therapists may host workshops and classes for families, school groups, and community and religious centers, giving information on everything from abuse recovery to using a condom.

Sex therapists also help people who are experiencing difficulties because of physical disabilities, illness, surgery, aging, or alcohol abuse. They may be trained in a number of areas, making them ready for any issue or complaint that may come up.
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  Interests and Skills  
First of all, sex therapists need to be comfortable discussing the sex lives of strangers openly, honestly, and in detail. Therefore, they must be professional, mature, and non-judgmental. They need to be good listeners, as well as excellent communicators. They need to have an interest in anatomy as well as psychology. They need to be skilled mediators, as they may be dealing with couples who have differing views and opinions. They need to be sensitive, tactful. respectful, and they need a good sense of moral ethics. Sex therapists should be interested in other people's problems, and, most importantly, they need to view sex as a healthy, important part of adult life.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Interview the individual client, or the client couple, to obtain relationship history and understand sexual and non-sexual patterns and dynamics
  • Help them understand their feelings and behavior through various techniques
  • Ask leading questions, in an effort to guide their thinking
  • Help each person develop healthy communication skills, so they can express themselves sexually
  • Coach them in new skills and strategies to deal with issues
  • Consult with or refer clients to other social services
  • Keep clear, confidential records of clients' progress
  • A typical day for a sex therapist will involve a lot of listening. They will listen to the client's complaints, and try to develop a diagnosis as to why their client is unhappy sexually. They will give advice, and ask questions. They will come up with strategies to help the client, and try and restore feelings of trust, comfort, and self-worth through couples' sessions, group sessions, games, role playing, and by speaking with other social service workers or physicians who may have come in contact with the individual before. They also update comprehensive reports documenting their clients' progress regularly, and stay informed about new findings in the study of sexuality and couples' therapy.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Sex therapists can find themselves working in various places, including private clinics, hospitals, community centers, and in the media (television, radio, and newspapers and magazines). When meeting with their clients, they will have comfortable offices, in which they clients feel at ease, and are able to discuss the most private of problems. They may work alongside physicians, teachers, and social workers. They usually have regular hours, with evenings and weekends off.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Sex therapists can choose to work in hospitals, clinics, and in private practice. They may choose to open their own practice after gaining experience in the other environments. Anyone working as a sex therapist is most likely qualified to move on to family and marriage counseling. There is also the option of returning to school and becoming a nurse or a doctor, or a professor of sexuality studies. Sex therapists also write books, articles, and even get television and radio shows in order to better address the sexual issues of the public at large.

  Educational Paths  
Sex therapists usually have at least a bachelor's degree in psychology, family studies, medicine, nursing, pastoral counseling, social work, or sexology, along with a course or diploma in counseling and therapy. The educational path of a potential sex therapist should cover sexual and non-sexual therapy techniques, as relationship problems and past traumas can be the main glitch in the client's sex life.

It is a good idea for sex therapists to register themselves with an association. Registration ensures clients that the therapist is a legitimate, trained counselor. Certification by these associations requires that therapists have rigorous, recognized training, so it may be a good idea to contact an association to plan your specific educational path.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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