In almost every area of your life, you likely turn to a team of experts to support your education, growth and success. From lawyers, accountants and teachers to personal trainers, naturopaths and designers, we rely on professionals to provide specialized expertise, insight and support.
When it comes to sex and relationships, however, we tend to avoid seeking the support of professionals, as we’re reluctant to admit that we face challenges in the the sexual realm. Though every single couple without exception is confronted with sexual difficulties at some point in time, a minority of couples receive pre-marital counseling and an even smaller percentage receive training specifically related to sex. Research suggests that most couples avoid seeking professional support for months or even years after the onset of a relationship problem, which may explain our alarmingly high divorce rate — how can we have satisfying relationships if we refuse to seek support when troubles arise?
I firmly believe that all couples should see a sexuality and/or relationship counselor before problems arise if they have the resources to do so. Just as we take preventative measures to produce positive outcomes related to health and finances (e.g. we don’t only see doctors and financial planners when we’re sick or in debt), so too can we benefit from seeking the support of sexuality professionals to cultivate happy, fulfilling sex lives.
If you’re curious about how a sexuality professional might benefit your intimate relationship, check out my interview with sex therapist, Dr. Hernando Chaves, who sees clients at his Los Angeles practice and online.
Dr. Chaves: There are a number of reasons a person may see a sex counselor or therapist. Some of the most common concerns and topics we address include: communication around sex, sexual confidence, anxiety, relationships difficulties with sex, navigating individual sexual identity, low/high sexual desire, arousal and orgasm difficulties, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Dr. Chaves: Ask yourself if you have concerns or challenges related to your sexual identity, expression or relationship. If you experiences stress or anxiety related to sex, it may be a sign that you should seek support.
Dr. Chaves: It's uncommon for clients to come to therapy unless they have specific challenges they want to address. BUT it is wise and encouraged to deal with issues before they become problems. Some people do come to therapy to explore and process emotions and others come as a matter of self-development.
Some clients see me just once a month or every few months to check-in and maintain positive momentum — almost like a tune up for the engine to keep the car running smoothly.
Dr. Chaves: The most common issues I see in my practice include performance anxiety, erection difficulties, premature ejaculation, intimate communication and navigating masculinity.
With couples, I often work with those looking to explore open relationships (consensual non-monogamy), fetishes and BDSM.
Dr. Chaves: Sex coaches offer education, specific suggestions, advice, and support for people looking to enhance their sexuality, pleasure, or address their sexual concerns, similar to a life coach for sex.
Sex counselors offer services similar to a sex coach and typically have academic, therapeutic and/or spiritual training in counseling skills.
Sex therapists offer services similar to sex coaches and counselors and often have clinical training in therapy to work with mental health concerns, trauma, and other difficulties impacting sexuality.
Coaches, counsellors and therapist share the same goal of helping clients to boost sexual confidence, enhance pleasure and cultivate sexually-fulfilling lives.
If you think you might benefit from the the support of a sex counselor or therapist, you can search for professionals by region on AASECT’s website or contact us for assistance with a referral. We’re happy to help!
By Dr. Jess O'Reilly, Astroglide's resident sexologist