While sex therapy may seem taboo, professionals in this psychological field help to mend marriages and make the most out of relationships. According to the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists, professionals who work in sex therapy typically have a graduate degree in an area such as therapy, health care or education, along with specialized training in sexuality. If you're interested in joining this field, you'll need classes in therapeutic techniques and human sexuality.
One person's sexual norms may seem completely off the wall to another's individual tastes and beliefs. That said, sex therapists must typically take coursework that helps them understand the social and cultural contexts of sexual behaviors. For example, San Francisco State University's Master of Sexuality Studies requires all students to take socio-cultural foundations of sexuality as a theory course as well as a class in sexual cultures, sexual identities and sexuality in historical perspectives. Classes such as these help the beginning sex therapist to better understand the client's problems and issues in references to culturally accepted norms and attitudes.
As a sex therapist, you'll need to assess, diagnosis and help to treat disorders and dysfunctions that prohibit proper sexual function and the ability for adults to engage in meaningful sexual relationships. For example, the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists Doctor of Philosophy program requires students to take classes in the clinical treatments of both male and female dysfunctions as well as managing sexual traumas, the impact that illness and disability have on sexuality and gender identity disorders. These classes, and similar courses, provide the knowledge and skills a clinical sex therapist needs to treat clients who have issues that are roadblocks to a healthy relationship.
It Won't Shock You to Know
Before becoming a sex therapist, students need to leave any notions of taboo or naughty behaviors at the door and step into the world of human sexuality. All therapist programs in this field require students to take courses in sexuality and the various facets of sexual practices. For example, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality offers classes in human sexuality that include subject matter in communication, fantasies, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism and other aspects of the sexual spectrum. Completing coursework in sexuality helps the trained sex therapist to better understand the client's needs, issues and problems as well as healthy vs. unhealthy practices and behaviors.
Doing a Diagnosis
Treating a client's sexual issues means first diagnosing problems. While not every client will have an actual "disorder," knowing the difference between off-beat -- but still perfectly normal -- sexual behaviors and true problems is key. The Jefferson School of Health Profession's Master of Family Therapy, with a specialization in sex therapy, requires students to compete class content in diagnosing sex-related issues using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as well as using current research to inform professional practice.
- American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists: How to Become a Sexuality Educator, Sexuality Counselor or Sex Therapist
- San Francisco State University: Department of Sexuality Studies, Graduate Student Guide 2012-2013
- American Academy of Clinical Sexologists: Academic Catalog 2014
- Advanced Study of Human Sexuality: Courses at IASHS
- Jefferson School of Health Professions: Master's Degree in Family Therapy, Sex Therapy Track
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