Why sex therapy? First, sex therapy can be used to treat a variety of sexual health-related issues, from premature ejaculation to painful intercourse and erectile dysfunction. Because ED may be caused by psychological issues, it can be adequately addressed through therapeutic means. Read below to find out what approaches sex therapists may use and how to find a sex therapist in your area.
“Sex” and “therapy”. Did you just feel a knot tighten in your stomach? If so, you’re not alone. People have very strong opinions about both, and the thought of combining the stigmatized topic of sex into therapy may seem daunting. However, sex therapy doesn’t have to be scary.
Just as we seek out personal trainers for physical health and counselors for psychological well-being, people also can find professionals to assist in improving their psychological and sexual well-being through sex therapy. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) echoes this sentiment in their philosophy, stating that “individuals should be supported in seeking and finding opportunities to pursue a healthy and happy sexual life of their own choosing.” They advance this notion by empowering sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists through education efforts.
What Does the Research Say?
Sex therapy may be appropriate for a variety of sexual health-related issues, including erectile dysfunction. According to the Mayo Clinic, sex therapy may focus on:
- Concerns about sexual desire or arousal
- Concerns about sexual interests or sexual orientation
- Impulsive sexual behavior
- Erectile dysfunction
- Ejaculating early (premature ejaculation)
- Difficulty with sexual arousal
- Trouble reaching orgasm (anorgasmia)
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Intimacy issues related to a disability or a chronic condition
- Concerns regarding past unwanted sexual experiences
Sex Therapy and ED
Sex therapy can be appropriate for erectile dysfunction because ED has links to both physical and psychological factors, like depression, the latter of which can be addressed through therapeutic means (Perelman and Watter, 2016). Therapists can help men identify personal and relationship characteristics that may be contributing to their ED. For instance, if depression is indicated as the main cause of ED, a therapeutic technique called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be an effective treatment option (Perelman & Watter, 2016). Similarly, if a man experiences ‘performance anxiety’, a nearly 35-year practice called sensate focus may be appropriate.
The Sensate Focus Approach
Created by renowned sex researchers Virginia Johnson Masters and William Masters, sensate focus practice instructs individuals to avoid judging or evaluative thoughts (is this good, bad, boring, exciting?) and to focus on physical touch itself. For a brief introduction to sensate focus therapy, click here.
What about Viagra?
As mentioned above, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors. If the cause is physiological, such as a condition that affects blood flow (high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis), then Viagra may work effectively to counteract these effects to reduce ED. If you think your ED may have physiological and psychological roots, talk to your doctor and a sex therapist about enhancing the medication’s effects through talk therapy.
Considering Sex Therapy?
Though the phrase erectile dysfunction may feel stigmatized and have shame attached to it, it should be viewed as any other health-related issue people experience, whether physical, mental, psychological, etc. Research shows that ED may be linked to psychological issues like depression and anxiety and thus may be addressed through sex therapy. Find a sex therapist in your area.
Perelman, M. A., & Watter, D. N. (2016). Psychological Aspects of Erectile Dysfunction. In T. S. Köhler & K. T. McVary (Eds.), Contemporary Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction (pp. 29–43). Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31587-4_3
Sensate focus. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/sensate-focus.pdf
Sex therapy. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/sex-therapy/about/pac-20384613
Vision of sexual health. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.aasect.org/vision-sexual-health
Zakhari, R. (n.d.). How to Cure ED, Fast: Weighing Sex Therapy, ED Pills, and Other Options for Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved from https://blog.zencare.co/how-to-cure-ed-fast/