WomanLab aims to be a hub of information for women, partners, and providers about how women can preserve and recover their sexual function. We want to provide you with knowledge about self-care strategies that you can do at home AND about the experts and specialists available to assist you in addressing any problems or concerns you may have. We’re going to do this by highlighting specialists and debunking common misconceptions through a series called, “Ask the Experts.”
We’re going to start with sex therapy. When? Right now.
WomanLab works closely with Shirley Baron, PhD and Amy Siston, PhD, two awesome women who are licensed clinical psychologists. Dr. Baron is an AASECT certified sex therapist and Dr. Siston has specialized training in sex therapy. Both Drs. Baron and Siston have experience working with women with and without a history of cancer.
So: what is sex therapy?
Sex therapy is an evidence-based subspecialty of psychotherapy that focuses specifically on concerns related to sexuality. Sex therapists treat individuals and/or couples who are experiencing problems with desire, arousal, performance, satisfaction, or pain with sex . Therapists can also treat individuals and couples who have a history of sexual trauma or abuse, individuals facing sexual orientation issues, and/or sexual behaviors that are causing distress. Your therapist may ask you about your mood, how you cope with distress, what supportive resources you have available, and questions related to your sexual health.
Certified sex therapists are mental health professionals who have advanced training required by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). (More information below on how to find a therapist!)
One question that we are asked a lot is, “what is the difference between sex therapy and pelvic physical therapy (or women’s health physical therapy)?” Sex therapy addresses sexual problems by using psychotherapeutic approaches (that’s a fancy way of saying they focus on the “mind” component of sexual health). Pelvic physical therapy focuses more on the “body” component – pelvic physical therapists work with individuals to address physical and muscular issues that may be affecting sexual function. Stay tuned for more information from WomanLab’s pelvic physical therapy experts!
What can I expect in sex therapy? Do I have to have a partner? do i have to bring my partner?
First, we want to stress: no sexual activity of any kind happens during sex therapy sessions!
Sex therapy sessions are very similar to other mental health counseling sessions. Your therapist will first get to know you either by yourself or with your partner (if you have one). If you have a partner, you don’t have to bring them along, but it can often be helpful to include both partners! Your sex therapist can help you if you want to engage your partner but aren’t sure how.
Your therapist will work on a treatment plan with you and will suggest a schedule of regular therapy appointments. At your appointments you’ll receive “homework” exercises to practice alone and/or with your partner at outside of your sessions. Homework may be general (e.g. working on communication with your partner) or may involve more specific instructions and exercises.
How can I find a sex therapist?
The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) is a nonprofit professional organization that provides certification for sexual health practitioners. AASECT offers a “Locate a Professional” tool available on its website that provides specific information about providers’ location, role, and sex therapy certification. Some providers even list information about their philosophy! Look for a certified sex therapist who has a graduate degree and certification conferred by AASECT.
Will my insurance cover sex therapy?
Some insurers will cover all or part of sex therapy. However, Dr. Shirley Baron, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist who works closely with WomanLab, recommends that women call the therapist’s office before you contact your insurance provider. The therapist’s office will be able to provide guidance about what, exactly, to ask your insurance provider. It can be tricky to navigate the insurance question, but be sure to use your therapist’s office as a resource.
If your insurance doesn’t cover therapy, talk to your therapist. They may be willing to adjust their fees or work with you on a payment plan.
PsychologyToday provides information about insurance types accepted by some mental health professionals.
Sex therapy is simply another resource out there for anyone seeking help for sexual function concerns. Sex therapists can work with women of all ages, with or without a history of cancer, to address these concerns.
Interested in learning more about sex therapy? Check out these videos featuring our own Drs. Shirley Baron and Amy Siston!