How to choose your ideal sex therapist
“I write about sex because it often feels like it’s the most important thing in the world”
Jen Winterson, author
7 steps from Google to booking in
Let’s assume, as you’re reading this article, that you’re considering finding a sex therapist to help you with the physical, emotional, or mental side of your intimate relationship(s).
Before we jump into the 7 points, let’s clarify what Sex Therapy is – and isn’t.
1. Let's talk about sex
Sex Therapy is a form of talk therapy used to address issues involving or related to sex.
Qualified Sex Therapists may be certified as Therapists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Counsellors, or other (mental) health professionals. Sex Therapy tends to be a Post Graduate level training so the person will have already trained in something else.
Sex Therapists don’t have sex with you or demonstrate intimate activities themselves or on you.
2. Qualifications & accreditation
If you want someone who is clinically trained and qualified, check the registers. The main Sex Therapy accrediting bodies in the UK are COSRT (of which I’m a student member) and the IMP. In the US, you’ve got the AASECT. All have a “Find a Therapist” feature on their website, which allows you to search by specialisation and geographic area.
When you find someone you like, don’t be afraid to ask about their training, qualifications, and insurance. There are various training routes available to sex therapists but all require a combination of hundreds of hours of academic and clinical training.
Remember, you’re letting this person into your head, heart, and sharing your most intimate secrets. You are 100% entitled to vet them thoroughly.
3. Specialist areas
If you’re looking online, this still leaves hundreds of people. So how do you choose?
Let’s consider two key aspects:
- who the therapist says they specialise in working with
- if you fit into that population.
Most sex therapists specialise in one or two areas, such as sexual compulsion, older couples, sex workers, physically disabled people. They may operate in a specific geographical area, which is important if you want to see someone in person.
For example, in my practice in Oxford, I specialise in working with atypical and extraordinary people. This includes LBGT+, kinky, polyamorous, and neurodiverse people.
What population groups do you belong to? Do you want a sex therapist who shares your religion or cultural background, or does their training matter more than lived experience?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it more about whether your views on sex and relationships are compatible.
3. Your normal vs their normal
This usually requires a bit more research, such as reading their professional profile and looking at their website.
Some therapists will only discuss sex with people in heterosexual marriages because they see “normal” sex as some sort of whack-a-mole with a penis jabbing at a vagina like a toothpick in an inflamed gum. (I may exaggerate a little!)
Often, but not always, the more conservative sex therapists will also be the least sex positive and the most medicalised (assuming physical problems require medical solutions).
Remember that, technically, paraphilia – which includes same-sex sex, BDSM, and kink – is still classified as a mental health problem, alongside paedophilia and necrophilia (that’s fucking kids and corpses). Do you want to work with someone who tells you that tying up your girlfriend makes you mentally ill?
In contrast, there’s a growing body of sex-positive therapists. They will be more open to help you with a variety of issues and their idea of “normal” sex is likely to include anal, oral sex, multiple partners, toys, and some kink.
If you have this kind of specific requirement, use these keywords in a Google search and then check the therapist’s qualifications and accreditations.
5. Watch out for rainbow-washing
I wish I didn’t have to add this point, but given what friends and clients have told me, I feel I have to.
You can’t assume that an LGBT+-trained therapist or someone who is LGBT+ themselves, will be receptive to, and supportive of, your particular sexuality or sexual preference.
This isn’t the place for horror stories, but I’ve heard heart-breaking accounts of same-sex therapists being dismissive, rude, and abusive to trans and intersex clients. A good resource for LGBT+ therapists is the Pink Therapy Register.
This problem can also occur with supposedly kink-friendly therapist. For example, if consensual blood play are your thing, you want to check your new therapist won’t pathologise this or even report you to social services.
In my unpopular opinion, I’d go as far as to say that it’s very unlikely you’ll receive the guidance and support you need as a polyamorous person from someone who has only experienced monogamous relationships. Personally, I feel some experiences need to be shot through the heart not just hypothesised in the brain.
6. What really matters to them and you?
It’s time to put on your deerstalker and dig a bit deeper into the professional identity of your possible therapist.
Take a look at their website:
- What’s your gut response? (Do you like the colours and look?)
- What words stand out at you?
- What topics do they write about?
- Do you get a sense of connection with their style of writing and presentation?
- Do they have a sense of humour and does it appeal to you?
Remember, you get to choose someone that feels right to you.
Again, there’s no right or wrong here, it’s about seeing if this therapist’s values, ideals, and interests align with yours.
7. Pricing and policies
With so little sex therapy available through public healthcare (if at all in your country), the chances are that you are paying for this yourself. So cost becomes a consideration.
If you’re in the UK and use the NHS, you’ll need a referral from your GP to receive 6 hours of free sex therapy. Relate offers low-cost sex therapy.
Generally, sessions are 50 minutes and weekly. I’ve seen prices from £40 – £300 per session, with most around £60-£160 ($80 – $210 USD). For comparison, my fees are £87 for individuals and £107 for couples. Many therapists offer some free or low-cost support as well, so it’s worth asking about that if you’re struggling financially.
While each person and issue is unique, I suggest being prepared to see a sex therapist weekly for a minimum of 3 months.
Very occasionally, there are some quick-fix solutions, but usually, sexual trauma and relationship problems are highly complex and have long-standing origins. They require a significant time to process, release, and integrate.
In terms of practicalities, make sure your schedule and your prospective therapist’s align. For example, I see clients Monday – Thursday, 9 am – 7 pm. This means my Australian clients see me in their evening and my American clients see me in their morning. If you’re only available on the weekends then make sure your prospective therapist is available then too.
If you want to see someone face to face, make sure you factor in travel time and costs, and that their facilities meet any accessibility needs you may have.
These practicalities might seem boring and obvious, but they can make or break a (therapeutic) relationship.
Now there’s only one question left to ask yourself…
This might sound ridiculous, but would you trust this person with your dog/child? What I mean is, do you actually like and trust this person?
To recap, you’ve already checked their qualifications, insurance, and accreditation. You know that they work with people like you and that their values and interests overlap with yours. You’re confident you can afford their services and meet them at a time that’s convenient. Now it’s time to listen to your gut or heart. Do you want this person in your life? Trust yourself and your instincts.
If you’re considering working with me, you can click the button below for more details. If we’re not a good fit, I’m happy to offer alternative professionals.
I hope this article helps you find your ideal Sex Therapist!
In response to this article lots of clients said it helped them create a shortlist but then the were stuck. So rather than lengthening this one, I’ve written another with 5 ways to ensure you find a therapist who really gets you.