For a couple to seek out a fulfilling sex life is natural and healthy. After all, the frequency at which couples have sex is associated with happiness, as physical and emotional intimacy are essential parts of well-being. Although research shows that married couples have sex approximately 56 times a year, it’s not always the amount of sex that is the underlying problem.
Sexual challenges such as low libido, lack of interest, sexual dysfunction, low confidence, inability to reach orgasm, and other factors can cause rifts in an otherwise happy relationship. Intimacy therapy, often known as sex therapy, may be helpful to couples and individuals hoping to overcome their intimacy challenges and improve their sexual satisfaction.
What Is Intimacy Therapy?
Intimacy therapy is a form of professional talk therapy that allows couples and individuals to openly discuss and explore their feelings about their sex life. It’s designed to help clients address various physical and psychological factors impacting their sexual satisfaction. The therapist will focus on personal, psychological, medical, and other interpersonal issues with the couple and individually with each partner.
The exploratory process supports the improvement of sexual relationships as couples begin to acknowledge their subtle and often ignored or unnoticed emotions. It also provides the opportunity for couples to manage those feelings that may be uncomfortable to discuss more effectively.
Despite what Hollywood movies may have you believe, an intimacy therapist will not suggest a threesome to spice things up, force you to reveal your past sexual escapades to your spouse, or shame you for your sexual issues. Everyone keeps their clothes on during the sessions and the therapist does not teach sexual positions or show anyone how to have sex. The ultimate goal of intimacy therapy is to support couples to overcome roadblocks in their physical and emotional relationship for a happier relationship and a more pleasurable sex life together.
Is Intimacy Therapy Right for You?
It is common for both men and women to experience sexual dysfunction. Studies show that 31% of men and 43% of women have experienced some sort of sexual dysfunction throughout their lifetimes. Yet for those experiencing a sexual problem, often the last thing they want to do is talk about it.
If shame is keeping you from seeking professional help, know that sexual health is a vital part of overall physical and emotional well-being. Intimacy therapy is intended to get to the bottom of any sexual issues and reverse them. Many couples have discovered the enormous benefit of the guidance of a sex therapist.
If you are questioning whether intimacy therapy is right for you, start by analyzing the parts of your life most affected by your emotions. If your emotional health and quality of life are significantly impacted by your sexual dysfunction, then it is a good time to see a sex therapist. Similarly, if you are having trouble communicating with your partner or feel a lack of intimacy, this serious personal concern necessitates a sex therapist to resolve your needs.
How Intimacy Therapy Works
Similar to any other type of psychotherapy, intimacy therapy treats one or more conditions by talking through fears, worries, anxieties, feelings, and experiences. Couples work together with the therapist to find coping mechanisms for dealing with issues, resulting in a healthier and more enjoyable sex life.
The initial session will be either one partner at a time or the couple together. But it is imperative to understand that the therapist is there to guide both individuals through challenges. They are not there to take one partner’s side or to persuade either person. With each session, your therapist will encourage and nurture the skills you need to better manage and accept the concerns obstructing sexual fulfillment. Intimacy therapy, like all forms of talk therapy, is both supportive and educational. It is meant to encourage change by providing comfort and assurance.
If your therapist suspects that the dysfunction you or your partner are experiencing is caused by a medical concern, they may suggest you reach out to your physician. Your therapist and doctor can work together to find signs and symptoms contributing to greater sexual issues. After each session, you and your partner will likely be given “homework” to do before your next appointment. These assignments are simply opportunities to remember and utilize what you have discussed with your therapist.
Who Provides Intimacy Therapy?
Sex therapists typically have a graduate degree and licensure in the mental health field. They also have advanced training in sex therapy and certification by a professional organization such as the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).
These therapists can conduct sessions in person or online. Some teletherapy platforms, including those providing marriage counseling online, can connect you with an experienced relationship counselor that also has sex therapy certification. With studies indicating that half of the adults experience sexual difficulties, there is no need to feel alone or ashamed in seeking out help. There are professionals out there who can help you lead a satisfying and healthy intimate life.
- Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E. (2017). Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(8), 2389–2401. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0953-1
- Simons, J. S., & Carey, M. P. (2001). Prevalence of sexual dysfunctions: results from a decade of research. Archives of sexual behavior, 30(2), 177–219. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1002729318254
- National Coalition for Sexual Health. (2021, December 15). New Survey Finds More than Half of Americans Report Sexual Difficulties – National Coalition Launches New Guide to Address Sexual Concerns and Increase Pleasure. https://nationalcoalitionforsexualhealth.org/media-center/press-releases/national-coalition-launches-new-guide-to-address-sexual-concerns-and-increase-pleasure