Why Sex Therapy?
Don’t only weird people with major issues see shrinks? And a sex-therapist?! I mean, things must be really bad to resort to that! Hi, I am one of several highly competent sex therapists in Denver Colorado and I am here to let you know that going to see a sex therapist is neither cruel nor unusual.
The reality is, we live in a sex-negative culture in the United States. Sex-negativity is an attitude that categorizes sex and everything that has to do with sexuality as being shameful and unsavory. Sex therapy helps people look inwardly and re-assess the values they might still be perpetuating from a conservative upbringing, religious past, or simply by virtue of living in communities that didn’t value sexual empowerment. We all experience the effects of messages reinforced in our community like “sex is a private matter, you just have to figure it out” or “sex is something that causes harm, be careful” or “are you some sort of pervert?”. By and large with the exception of few geographic pockets, the United States of America is very conservative and skittish when it comes to sexuality which is why sex therapy is so valuable as a resource. Can you remember the last time you were in a room full of people (not kinksters, obviously!) where you were able to candidly talk about sex longer than a sentence in passing and not have the room go into some sort shame-induced silence or a quick change of topic? This is often the case sadly, not only with strangers, but with those closest to us, co-workers, loved ones, family, and friends. Sex-therapy is a room where all topics are welcome and where you can safely talk about what is on your mind and what is (or not) going on in your sex life. Sex is a basic human need along with water, food, and air. At some point, we all have to eat, drink, and/or fuck (be that with ourselves or another). Whether you are opening up your relationship to polyamory/swinging, finally mustering up the courage to ask your partner to peg you, or working through deep-seated trauma, you deserve skillful and compassionate support on our journey. Sex therapy is a great way to receive just that and more. So, what does support look like anyways, does talking about your problems really make them go away? Yes and no. Sex therapy offers a safe space for you to explore your experience and get clear on what you want as well as don’t want in your life, the other part, are you taking that clarity out into the world and starting to live your sexual truth and vibrancy on a daily basis, both inside and outside of the office.
Sex therapy helps you unveil old messages you still might be carrying around from your childhood without even knowing it like “sex is a bad thing to want more (or less) of” or “sex is something that is “dirty” and “wrong” or “your desires are shameful and should be kept secret or you will be known for the pervert that you are.” In sex therapy, we work at letting go of these outdated messages so you can more fully and unapologetically be your true self and figure out stands in your way from achieving your full sexual potential. Sex therapy is an excellent tool for singles, poly folks, and couples alike! I like to think of it like car insurance, yes that is right I said car insurance! You do not wait until you get into a car crash to drag your half-burnt body into the office on all fours (unless you are into that of course). You want to build the support you need into your routine so that when you feel deflated and knocked down you have systems in place to keep you from falling hard. Sex therapy is not just for when things are bad. Sex therapy is also great as a way of maintaining or deepening the quality of your sex life!
Sex therapy is a relatively new specialization within psychotherapy now readily available to the public. Lucky you for being born in this day and age! Historically people would go to see local priests to talk about their struggles with “unusual” sexual behavior or desires, cases of infidelity, and concerns around harmful past sexual encounters. In certain tribes/communities, people would also go seek the guidance from a medicine woman or doula who would, in turn, give them advice, herbs, and/or perform rituals meant to free them from an assortment of bad spirits/curses. Fast forward now to the 21rst century where sex therapists are also people that you can go to help solve your sexual concerns and quarries. The reason sex therapy is a great modern-day alternative (although the priests and medicine women still exist and certainly serve their purpose) is that you can now work through your sexual concerns without the bias and often harmful influences of religiosity or superstition. My approach to sex therapy is informed by up to date anatomical, neuroscientific, psychodynamic, and attachment-informed therapeutic techniques. All that to say, you are not going to find yourself going home with a bible or bag of herbs. Your most vulnerable and intimate concerns around sex and intimacy will be handled without utmost care and competency by a good sex therapist sending you home with profound realizations, increased self-awareness, and guidance on how to become more (not less) of your sexually authentic self. And this is important because the goal of sex therapy is to have you leave the office feeling increasingly clear on how to move forward in your life, not feeling judged and confused or relying on a roll of the dice for a change in circumstance.
So what do the statistics say when it comes to how many people could use the help of a sex therapist over a lifetime? Let’s take a look at what the research says in terms of how prevalent issues are when it comes to sexual “dysfunction”, infidelity, and nonconsensual sex (just to name a few). Over a lifetime research has shown that at any given point 5-10% of women may experience inhibited orgasm, 4-9% men may struggle with erectile disorder, and 36-38% will experience premature ejaculation (Simons & Carey, 2001). On the topic of infidelity, the longest standing research called the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted annually since 1972 by the University of Chicago asked a representative national sample about infidelity and over the past 37 years results have been consistent. Every year, 10 % of spouses admit cheating, 12% of them being men, and 7% of them being women (“General Social Survey, 2016). When it comes to nonconsensual sexual behavior and assault the numbers are sadly quite high, every 92 seconds another American is sexually assaulted, and 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted) (Department of Justice, 2018). Sexual assault does not only affect women, with about 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1998). Finally, increasing Americans are identifying as kinksters or non-monogamous, two identities that to this day continue to hold a lot of misplaced stigma and judgment. Such identities are often the source of an immense amount of shame or strife when it comes to being accepted by their communities and families.
Sex therapy in this way is not just for statistical outliers, it is a place most people at some point in their life or another will find a much-needed solace. Sex therapy offers a safe place to find healing and support for very impactful life experiences.
Sophia Lou. O’Connor, MA, Ph.D (Cand)
Psychotherapist | Trainer | Educator
Tel: (720) 935 2706