There are many different kinds of professionals who help people with their sex lives, so it can be hard to decide who best to turn to.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it is vital to shop around. You wouldn’t take the first plumber listed in the yellow pages, and similarly you shouldn’t stick with the first sexual health professional you spot. You need somebody who:
- You can develop a good rapport with and trust (research has found that this is by far the most important thing in determining success)
- Has an approach which makes sense to you
- Is affordable and practical for you to see them for as long as necessary (if attempts are made to get you to commit to more money or time than you are able this is a bad sign!)
It is worth making initial contacts with a few people and figuring out which one works for you. Some offer cheaper initial appointments in order for you to assess this, or you could ask for an email exchange or phonecall.
The kinds of things you might want to ask include:
- What experience they have in working with people like you and issues like those you have. It might be particularly important, for example, that they are familiar with your culture, religion, sexual identity and practices, health problems or disability.
- What education and training they have (it is fine to check certificates).
- What kind of supervision and support they have.
- What contract you would have with them (Will it be confidential? Are they insured? How many sessions will it likely be? How does any payment work?)
- What their approach is and how that works in practice.
- Whether you will be easily able to keep checking in about whether it is working for you, and to move on to somebody else if it isn’t.
There are different ways of finding a professionals which you might want to consider. Here are a few:
- You can visit your GP (General Practitioner doctor) and ask them to refer you to either a professional who works at the practice, to an IAPT professional, or to a clinic that specialises in the issues you’re dealing with.
- You can find a voluntary service that offers the kind of help that you’re looking for. For example, free and low cost counselling is available through some of the main mental health charities (like MIND), relationship charities (like Relate or One plus One), and LGBT organisations (like Pace, London Friend or the LGF).
- You can find a private practitioner yourself. In order to do this you could look them up in a phone directory or online, or there are lists of recommended therapists on the BACP, UKCP, COSRT, and Pink Therapy websites which you can search for specific issues or geographical location. Asking around to find out who other people you know have found useful can also be a good route, although of course they still may not be the best person for you.