Sex Therapy: Training Beyond the Norm
By Devin Grenley
Sex is in our lives whether we like it or not; that’s the truth. We either have sex and talk about it, or we aren’t having sex and we’re talking about it. Or we think about it, but can’t talk about it, or want to talk about it but are too ashamed to. Sex has dominated the media; everywhere we turn we see some reference to sex, whether that be desire, enhancement, lust, or intimacy. So why is it then, that it is still so incredibly taboo to talk about?
Sex is taboo? It’s like I’m saying something completely revolutionary. As therapists, we should see no topic about the body and mind as off limits in our offices. The one person who is designated to keep confidentiality and talk to you about anything and everything your heart desires, your therapist, is not always fully trained in the entirety of your body and mind. Did you know that? As a couple’s therapist, before becoming trained in sex therapy, I took one Human Sexuality course in my graduate program (and my program was known as one of the more comprehensive programs). What? Only one? And yet, I talk about sex every day of my life. As therapists, I believe we do a disservice to our clients and to ourselves by treating half of a person rather than their full sexual and intimate self.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I see the world as relational. I work with individuals, who happen to be in relationships. And I see individuals who are in multiple relationships. And I see individuals who aren’t in relationships but are dating. And I see individuals who are scared to date. And I see couples who are in relationships who are also dating. The thing is, there is not a single client I have ever seen, that has NOT brought up sex, intimacy, or sexuality. So please tell me, how can we effectively treat any population without being trained in the full mind, body, and spirit? The answer is, you can’t.
The best trained and most effective therapists that I know, are Sex and Intimacy Therapists, and I am going to tell you why.
Sex therapy is not just a treatment of symptoms; sex therapy is an all-encompassing treatment of our bodies. We are trained to look beyond symptoms, beyond just the medical, and search for the whole. We are taught to treat based on the psychological and organic parts of a being, rather than the splitting of the mind and the physical body. Sex, inherently, is an act of melding these two parts of ourselves; our sexualities are biological, and yet they are relational, and both intertwine with one another with every move we make.
Often times clients believe sex therapists are those who only treat sexual symptoms; however this is not the case. We are not here to simply treat a dysfunction; we go much further than that. We ask ourselves, how does a specific sexual dysfunction affect the relationship? What has this person been told or taught about their sexuality as a child? How does this affect their lifestyle, their confidence, and their love for themselves? How does this inhibit them to interact with those around them? As Sex Therapists we are taught to dig deeper.
Sex therapists make a difference. Humans are social beings, and therefore their problems stem from these interactions. If therapists are not competent in dealing with problems that are affected by every part of a person, how can they effectively treat someone? Sex therapists work with their clients on all of their presenting issues, that stem from and are directly affected by social values and attitudes surrounding sexuality. Sex therapist’s challenges beliefs and attitudes about sex. There is not a single person I have met that did not have a question about sex, sexuality, or intimacy. I believe the most holistic treatment, is one from a sex and intimacy therapist.