Sex therapy

OK, so we all know that sex is something that should come naturally, but what if it doesn't? What if it's not working properly, or it is, quite literally, a pain? Here's what you need to know about going to sex therapy.

couple in therapy

"It's about this big, isn't it love?"

Counselling and therapy have become much more popular options in recent times, but if you have a sex problem, then you most likely need to see someone who specialises in sex and/or relationships therapy, rather than someone who is a general counsellor. Or, if the problem may be caused by an underlying medical issue, you’ll need to see your GP.

Finding a sex therapist

Talking about sex is embarrassing. It shouldn’t be, but of course some GPs aren’t very good at dealing with more personal issues. So, if you have a good relationship with your GP and know that they are easy to talk to, then start with your own doc. But if you’re going to be too embarrassed to talk to this person, or you think that they might not be experienced enough, your best bet is to go to someone whose specialty is sexual medicine.

The obvious places to go for free, expert help are: Brook Advisory Centres (if you’re under 25); Family Planning Clinics; or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics, which are usually found in large hospitals. There are also psychosexual units in hospitals in some parts of the UK, staffed by doctors and therapists. Unfortunately, they do not exist everywhere – and where they do, there is usually a waiting list. Your GP can tell you more.

Online sex therapy

If you’re nervous about seeing a sex therapist in person, online sex therapy can seem like a good alternative. It’s easy to find a sex therapist offering online therapy through Google, but bear in mind that they won’t be free, like they would at a Brook centre or through the NHS. What’s more, they may be less equipped to help if you’re suffering from a medical issue, rather than a psychological one.

What sorts of sex problems are medical?

  • Things that hurt – like a tight foreskin or a vagina that feels taut and uncomfortable if intercourse is attempted;
  • Erectile Dysfunction or impotence – In young people this is usually about performance anxiety, but there is always the possibility that it is being caused by a medical condition, such as diabetes;
  • Rashes, allergies etc – Also discharge from a penis or vagina or if it hurts when you pee;
  • A penis that is bent;
  • Premature Ejaculation – This can often be helped by a non-medical counsellor, but one possible treatment is to take an antidepressant, which slows down the sexual function, and you’d need to see a doc to get these.

Other common sexual problems

  • Inability to reach orgasm (come);
  • Lack of interest in sex;
  • Issues with gender identity;
  • Relationship problems.

Sex therapy counselling

These sorts of issues can be sorted by a sex therapy counsellor – rather than a doctor – at Brook, Relate or a family planning clinic. There are also private sexual and relationships therapists who are highly trained in sex and relationship problems and they usually belong to an organisation called the College for Sexual and Relationship Therapy (COSRT). If you’re going for online sex therapy, make sure your counsellor is a member so you know they’re a certified sex therapist.

Sex therapists can treat these sexual dysfunctions

  • Erectile Dysfunction so long as it’s definitely not caused by a medical condition;
  • Premature Ejaculation if you want a non-medical approach. For instance, some counsellors will teach you and your partner the Masters and Johnson grip. This sounds painful, but isn’t. But by learning to grip the penis in a certain way while you are having sex, you can train yourself to last much longer before you come.
  • Pain during intercourse – particularly in women, so long as the problem is psychological rather than medical.

Need more help?

Next Steps

  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Relate offers advice on the most common relationship problems here.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015