Different kinds of professional help

You can find general advice about seeking help for sexual issues here. In this section we focus on the different kinds of help that are available.

There are many different kinds of professionals who work with sexual issues. Here are a few of the main ones:

  • Therapist/Counsellor: Therapists and counsellors are trained to work with mental health problems and general struggles that people are having in life by talking with them over a number of – usually weekly – sessions. This should include sexual difficulties. However, some therapists and counsellors have much more training and experience in this area than others, so it is worth checking this and finding somebody who specialises in this area if it is the main thing that you want to address.
  • Sex therapist/Psychosexual therapist: These professionals are specifically trained in these areas and are likely to be familiar with the psychological aspects of sexual difficulties as well as relevant medical aspects (e.g. related health problems and available medications). However, if you see a sex therapist it is worth checking that they will also talk with you about the rest of your life and not just focus on sex. Sexual problems are often related to other things that are going on.
  • Sex coach: This is quite a broad term to cover professionals who are not therapeutically trained but who can work with people to improve their sex lives or address sexual problems.
  • Sex educator: Like sex coaches, sex educators are not therapeutically trained, but are experts in research and theory about sex, and experiencing in educating and advising people about sex. They may work with groups only or offer one-to-one education as well.
  • Touch-based professionals: Most therapists, counsellors, coaches and educators will never touch their clients. However, there are some practitioners who are trained specifically to help clients in ways which might involve touch. Medics and nurses can touch patients – with their consent – in order to determine whether there are any physical problems. Some sex coaches, body workers and somatic therapists use form of touch or massage (for example to work with emotions, to help clients to explore their own bodies, or occasionally to work directly on sexual sensation). As with other professionals it is important to find out in advance about whether touch might be involved and how, and what training, experience and recommendations the professional has.
  • Sexual surrogates: A sexual surrogate is a professional who, in addition to providing sex education, may have physical and/or sexual contact with clients in order to help them with their difficulties.
  • Sex workers: Sex workers are people who work in the sex industry. Generally they aim to give clients sexual pleasure rather than working in any kind of therapeutic way, and they mostly do not have any training in therapy, sexuality, or coaching. However, some people find that seeing a sex worker is a useful way to explore their sexuality or to talk with somebody who has expertise about sex.
  • Support groups: There are also support groups available for people dealing with various issues – including sexual issues. Such groups might be led by a coach, therapist or educator, or they might be led by somebody who has been part of the group for a long time, or have no leader. As with any kind of professional, it is important to shop around for a group. If you join a group it is important to make sure that it includes people that you feel safe enough around, that their way of understanding things makes sense to you, and that the guidelines about things like confidentiality are clear.

There are other things besides seeking help from a professional that may be helpful when dealing with sexual issues:

  • Helplines can be a good place to go if you’re in a crisis, for example: Samaritans, MIND, SANE. Volunteers on helplines are generally less trained than professionals and are unlikely to have expertise on sexual issues, but they can help you to find more specialist help and can be really good if you are in a crisis or just need someone to listen.
  • There are all kinds of other approaches that you might find useful which aren’t based around talking: for example art therapy, drama therapy and nature therapy are just a few.
  • Mindfulness and meditation can be useful approaches to apply to sex and there are many groups and workshops where you can learn about these.
  • There are sex specific groups, workshops and events such as those which draw on tantra or yoga to help people with their sex lives.
  • There are many self-help books about sex which you can read. Many of these contain similar exercises to those used by professionals. We’ve included some of these on this website. If you are self-motivated then you can try these yourself, although many people do find seeing a professional for a few sessions helps them with that motivation.
  • Some people find writing about their issues useful and keep journals.
  • Many find talking with friends useful, if they have someone they feel comfortable opening up to about these issues.

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