Health care providers and/or licensed mental health therapists can often help people address their sexual concerns, which can lead to a better sex life. Here are some guidelines to help you decide where to start: 

  • If you think your concern is rooted in physical causes, it might be best to start with a health care provider.
  • If you think your concerns are rooted in emotional, mental health, faith-based or relationship issues, you might want to start with a therapist.
  • For some people, working with both a health care provider and a therapist is the best option.

Health Care Providers. If you think your sexual concerns are caused by physical factors, which could include illnesses, chronic conditions, or medications, you might start by seeing a health care provider (HCP).

  • Your first stop could be a primary care provider, such as a family doctor, internist, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or physician assistant. These providers are trained in general medicine, and to care for the whole body.
  • You could also start with a specialist who focuses on reproductive health, such as an obstetrician/gynecologist or a women’s health practitioner for people with a vulva/vagina or a urologist for people with a penis. 
  • Health care providers can help diagnose sexual concerns and recommend treatment options that might include medications, exercises, devices, surgery, and/or referral to a sex therapist. 

Sex Therapists can help you work through a variety of sexual concerns that might be standing in the way of a pleasurable sex life. They can address issues relating to sexual function, sexual feelings, relationships, partner communication, and sexual trauma.

Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals – such as marriage and family therapists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists -- who have specialized training in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns. 

  • When looking for a therapist, you should ask about their education, license, and any specialized training or education they received related to sexuality/sex therapy.
  • Therapists should have a graduate degree in mental health, such as psychology, counseling, or social work.
  • They should have a license to practice mental health, and
  • They should have additional training in sexuality. This training may be accompanied by a certificate in sex therapy from a national professional organization, such as AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists). You can find AASECT certified therapists in their online directory.

Sex therapy is TALK therapy, and there is NO physical contact with clients in the office or elsewhere. In other words, everyone will keep their clothes on.  

  • Typically, a sex therapist will listen to your concerns, ask about your sexual history and experiences, help you figure out if the problems are psychological, physical or both, and create a plan to improve sexual functioning.
  • They will recommend practical, problem-solving techniques and various resources.  If they think your problem might be caused by physical factors, they will also refer you to a health care provider.  And, they can coordinate care with your medical provider.
  • Usually, sex therapy is short in duration, and involves a limited number of sessions. But, therapy could be provided for a longer period of time, based on the client’s needs. 

General, Family, and Marital Therapists. While they may not be trained in sex therapy, these therapists can help you address relationship issues such as communication, intimacy, and trust. Also, they can help you manage mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, that could interfere with your sex life and relationships. In addition, they can provide counseling to people who have experienced sexual violence, and other types of abuse and/or trauma.