I often tell my clients, “Don’t forget to recommend me to your friends and family!”. Not surprisingly, this suggestion is often met with a bit of laughter. The good work I do in sex therapy is not likely to be recommended by word of mouth or even discussed with anyone but very close friends. Most of the clients I see for sexuality concerns are referred to me by other professionals such as gynecologists, urologists, pelvic floor specialists, other therapists who are familiar with my work.
So, how do you select a sex and relationship therapist wisely from the internet? Not an easy task as in many states, anyone can claim to be a “sex coach" or "sex therapist” and purchase an ad or use other methods to get you to their website. Here are some suggestions for selecting a sex therapist:
- Ask if they are licensed. They may be a psychiatrist (M.D.), a psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D), a clinical social worker (LCSW), a Master’s in Counseling (Licensed Professional Counselor), or have a related degree such as a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family therapy (M.A. or MFT) or Pastoral Counseling. Someone who has at least a Master’s Degree but is not yet licensed should have their status noted on their website. If you are not sure, check with the Missouri Department of Professional Registration to verify their licensing status. Sometimes practitioners advertise themselves as a “sex coach” or “sex educator”. A sex coach, sexuality educator, or sexuality counselor can assist with some sexual difficulties, but those labels do not assure licensed status.
- Check their education. Their degree should be granted from an accredited university. A minimum of a Master’s Degree is recommended.
- Make sure they are specialized. to be a well trained sex therapist, candidates should have specialized education and training in assessment and general psychotherapy (in order to address common issues such as anxiety and depression), in relationship skills and couples counseling ( most couples need some assistance with communication and other relationship skills), as well as specialized sexuality and sex therapy training and experience, hopefully resulting in certification by an organization such as the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) which can assure the highest level of expertise that can be objectively validated. As there are so few therapists who have completed the rigorous, time consuming and costly training and supervision required to become an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, look for someone in the process of certification under the supervision of a certified sex therapist, or at least someone whose specialty is relationship and marriage therapy who has taken seminars in sexuality and is familiar with the field. Someone who is certified in Imago or Gottman therapy or has earned an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Certification can be a good bet if they have also had some sex therapy training.
- Make sure they have experience. Obviously, someone who has specialized in working with sexuality concerns for a decade or two may have better insight and skill, and perhaps the better network of adjunct helping professionals such as specialists in infertility, etc. Look, also, to see if they have published in the field, are affiliated with sexuality organizations, and have done professional presentations on the subject of sexuality on a regular basis.
- Are they able to relate to you? One of the most important considerations is your ability to connect and feel understood by the helping professional you select. Most therapists will encourage a 5 to 15 minute telephone conversation at no cost to help you determine whether it is the right fit.
Congratulations on beginning the journey! May you find the right guide for you!