Don’t Take It As A Sign Of Failure
There’s a common misconception that seeing a therapist means you’re in deep water with your sex life. But the number of people seeking sexual help is on the rise, and experts agree the earlier issues are addressed, the easier they can be to tackle. You may have a specific issue you want to work through but speaking to an expert in confidence can also be beneficial for dealing with a general sense of dissatisfaction. “If you’ve tried other things and aren’t getting to where you’d like to be, it’s worth giving sex therapy a go,” says Miranda Christophers, sex and relationship psychotherapist. “Remember, you’ll be talking to someone who has spent many years studying the topic. They will have access to resources, tools and techniques and may be able to help you look at things in a different way, which could make all the difference to helping you enjoy the sex life you deserve.”
They Can Support You Through A Rut
“Sex in a relationship can be complicated,” says Caroline Lovett, psychosexual and relationship therapist. “Once you move on from the initial lust and excitement of a new relationship, things can tailor off and you can find yourself stuck. But it’s vital that we understand sex is more than positions and orgasms, and a sex therapist can help you explore that.” If you’ve been in a relationship for years and feel you have hit a rut, don’t be afraid to consider therapy, says Caroline. “Everyone always thinks everyone else is having great sex, apart from us, but this really isn’t the case. Many people are struggling with their sex lives, but it’s the brave ones that seek therapy. If you are interested in starting therapy, don’t be anxious. The overwhelming majority of first-time clients are nervous when starting a session – namely because it can feel embarrassing to talk about sex with a stranger – but we are experts here to help you.”
They Can Help You Manage Sex Post-Pandemic
“The last year has undeniably changed our sex lives,” says Caroline. “In fact, a recent study found UK adults were having less sex during the pandemic. It’s not hard to see why – being with your partner 24/7 is never going to be a good thing for your sex life. This creates no space or intrigue for sex and many of us found it challenging to find our partners sexy. It’s no wonder the pandemic was make or break for so many relationships.” Miranda says a sex therapist could be a good idea if the pandemic has wreaked havoc with your sex life. “Many people saw improvements in their sex lives during the first lockdown but less so during the second. As we slowly adjust to this new normal, I believe there will be a renewed interest in enjoying the things we like, and this includes sex, but many of us are now struggling with self-confidence and self-esteem, which can impact how we feel about sex. If this sounds familiar, a sex therapist can help you work through this.”
They Know How To Deal With Mismatched Libidos
“One of the most common issues I see couples for include sexual desire discrepancy and differing sexual interests,” Miranda tells SL. “During the first lockdown, there was a greater demand for individual therapy, but this has changed in recent months with many more couples now seeking therapy. I’ve noticed more people wanting to rekindle desire or understand why they have mismatched libidos.” Miranda says a therapist can help you understand more about your own patterns of sexual desire, thinking about what helps to create it and allowing yourself to feel it.
They Can Open Your Sexual Horizons
“A sex life can always be regained or worked on,” stresses Miranda. “If you are worried that you are in a rut that can’t be overcome, a sex therapist can help you think outside the box and see sex in a different way. We can offer ways to encourage you to spice things up – think about what makes you feel sexy and alive as a human being. Avoid getting bogged down with what others think and instead focus on what you enjoy. And if you have a partner, communication really is essential – it’s always helpful to understand what the other finds a turn-on and their sexual preferences.”
Three Big Questions…
What happens during a session?
Sex therapy is similar to other forms of talk-based psychotherapy. “Once you’ve found a therapist, your journey will start with an assessment, where the therapist will ask you what’s bringing you to therapy, your goals, and the history of the problem you’re experiencing,” Miranda explains. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked questions that go beyond your sex life too, as your therapist will want to get a complete picture of what’s going on elsewhere in your life. They may ask you about work, family issues and friendships, or even ask you about your childhood and early relationships.
How does the process work?
“There’s no set number of sessions you need,” says Miranda. “Some may just want a few while others will attend for many months or more. It is important, however, that sessions take place weekly,” she adds. Peter Saddington, practice clinical supervisor at Relate, adds that the average number of sessions needed for a sexual issue is around 15 sessions. “Sessions involve talking through your issue, and if you are in a relationship, you will have several sessions alone with your therapist, without your other half. You will also be given homework to do in your own time, and during your sessions you’ll be expected to give feedback on these tasks and how they have been managed. When your goals have been achieved, you will typically be invited for a three-month follow-up to check that progress has been maintained. If it hasn’t, your therapist can provide the opportunity for further support.”
How can you find a therapist?
A sex therapist is a health professional – either a trained counsellor, nurse or doctor – who has completed specialist training to help people with sexual problems. “If you want to find a therapist, the best place to start is the COSRT website,” says Peter. “COSRT is the UK’s only professional body dedicated to psychosexual and relationship therapists, so by accessing their directory you can search for an accredited or registered therapist.” Your GP can also refer you to a sex therapist on the NHS. “The most important thing is finding the right therapist for you,” stresses Miranda. “It’s imperative that you feel comfortable talking to them. Trust is also important, as this will enable you to fully engage with the therapy and get the most out of it.”
Here, the experts share their top pieces of advice for a better sex life…
It’s About Your Love, Not Sex, Life: “Sex is a much bigger picture than just penises and vaginas, and the importance of pleasure shouldn’t be underestimated. A sex therapist can help you dispel a lot of the myths about sex. Remember you don’t always need to include penetration – think of your sexual repertoire as a much larger buffet to choose from.” – Caroline
Lubricant Is Your Friend: “Sex shouldn’t be painful, but if it is, a tube of lubricant could be the quickest cure.” – Caroline
Focus On You: “When it comes to performance anxiety, and difficulties with desire and arousal, focus on yourself. Don’t approach sexual intimacy as if it’s a performance – you need to be in your body with the right stimulation, with your mind and emotions positively connected – to experience arousal.” – Miranda
Speak About It: “If you want to have a good sex life, you need to give yourself the time to have it and learn to communicate about what works for both you and your partner. Listening and communicating is the key. And if you do have difficulties, don’t leave it too long to seek help.” – Peter
Ease Yourself In: “If you’re not sure whether a sex therapist could benefit you, or just want to dip your toe in first, start by downloading an app – there are some great ones out there that can help with your sex life. Think Kama, Ferly, Mojo Men and Dipsea as well as the OMG YES and Jooi websites.” – Miranda
The Experts To Know
An expert in dealing with various intimacy and sexual issues, Tracey can help with everything from painful intercourse to sex addition and low desire.
A psychosexual and relationship therapist, Kate is a leader in the field – listen to her podcast, The Sexual Wellness Sessions, for an insight into her work.
Dr Amani Zarroug
Trained in various psychological models, including CBT and systemic therapy, Amani has over 20 years’ experience working with clients struggling with sexual difficulties.
Working with couples and individuals to deal with everything from trauma to sexual dysfunction, Clare will help free you from emotional blocks regarding your sex life.
Miranda has therapy rooms in Harley Street and Beaconsfield and has a particular interest in supporting couples.
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