We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: signs that sex therapy could help your sex life.
Q: I read the article about signs your relationship could use sex therapy. But what about when you’re single? I’m not in a relationship right now, but I’m interested in going to sex therapy to learn how to orgasm, but I'm not sure if that's what a sex therapist actually does.
A: Thanks for writing in! Of course, sex therapy is not limited to couples only. In my sex therapy practice, I generally like to treat sexual issues as couple issues, to avoid making one person feel like they’re “at fault” or “to blame.” But we all have our own unique struggles with sexuality, and you don’t need to be in a relationship to explore those dynamics. Here are eight signs that you could benefit from individual sex therapy.
1. You Want To Learn How To Orgasm
You’re not alone in wanting to learn how to orgasm! This is one of the main reasons my female clients work with me. Sex therapy can dispel the myths about female orgasm, help you learn what to expect, and teach you how to find the kind of stimulation your body likes. Is there any more fun goal than that? One of the myths about sex therapy is that sexual things happen in the office — this isn't the case. You just talk about sex, and are given exercises to try on your own when you're at home.
2. You Experience Performance Anxiety
The main reason my male clients work with me is because they’re having difficulty getting or staying hard, or struggling with orgasming too quickly or not at all. But performance anxiety isn’t limited to men. A lot of women feel anxious about orgasm or being “good” in bed, or struggle with body confidence. They might also feel an immense pressure to orgasm, or worry that they're "taking too long to come."
A good sex therapist can help you build confidence in your sexual skills and develop new techniques, but also help you recognize that sex is about so much more than “performance.” Sex therapy can help you learn tips for managing anxiety in the moment and staying mentally present during sex, which are just as important as sexual technique.
3. You’re Questioning Your Sexual Identity
Are you bi-curious? Are you wondering if you might be gay? Do you feel uninterested in sex? Or not at home in your gender? Sexuality and it's relation to gender is complicated, and many of us struggle with our sexual identities. Sex therapy can help you sort out your feelings and find a way of identifying yourself that feels authentic.
Please note that there are a small number of therapists out there who perform “gay rehabilitation therapy.” These backwards-thinking bigots claim that they can “turn” gay people straight. This kind of therapy is offensive, dangerous, and of course ineffective. An ethical therapist will never try to “rid” you of your sexual identity.
4. You Don’t Know What You Want
A lot of people struggle with identifying their sexual desires. You may be ashamed of what you want or feel conflicted about your desires. Or you simply may not know what actually feels right to you. Sex therapy can help decrease shame and help you embrace your desires.
A good sex therapist can give you exercises to help you explore and experiment, and find the things that feel good to your body. Part of feeling more comfortable with your desires is learning to ask for what you want. Sex therapy can help you come up with specific phrases for talking to a partner about your desires.
5. You Want To Process Your Past
A huge percentage of women and men in this country will experience sexual abuse at some point in their lives. Abuse can destroy your sense of safety, your interest in sex, and your trust in other people. Abuse can be incredibly difficult to process on your own, so I highly recommend getting support from a therapist. Trust me, you can learn how to enjoy sex again and feel safe in your own body.
Even if you haven’t been abused, you may have had experiences in your past that have created a strained relationship with sex. For example, you may have struggled with asserting your boundaries or you may have made decisions you’re not proud of. Sex therapy can help you understand these experiences, learn how to move past them, and create a sex life that feels right for you.
6. You’re Embarrassed By Or Ashamed Of Sex
Sex is an uncomfortable topic for the vast majority of people. We’re taught by our parents, cultures, and religions to feel ashamed of our bodies and our desires. Sex therapy can teach you to label and consciously let go of the beliefs that are getting in your way. It can help you develop more comfort with your body. It can also teach you how to manage nagging embarrassments that might pop up.
7. You Experience Sexual Pain
Sexual pain is an issue that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. An overwhelming number of women feel pain or discomfort during sex. Sex therapy can help you get at the root of what’s causing the pain. Sometimes the solution is as simple as using lube or changing your technique. If there are medical causes for your pain, a sex therapist can hook you up with competent medical professionals like physical therapists or OB/GYNs, and work as a team in coming up with solutions.
8. You Just Want To Enjoy Sex More
I get a lot of emails for this column, and one of the themes that I see over and over again is that people just aren’t having much fun with sex. Whether it’s due to past experiences, performance anxiety, or just plain boredom, so many people out there don’t enjoy their sex lives. The most basic goal that I set out to achieve with my clients is to help them feel more present, engaged, excited, playful, and free during sex. Even if your sex life feels pretty decent already, it can always be fun to learn more and just have the space to talk about sex with a professional!
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