If you have ever wondered how to become a sex therapist, it is important to understand the level of commitment, education, and practice hours needed to begin this career. Any licensed therapist can become a sex therapist. Licensed therapists include psychotherapists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, professional counselors, school counselors, or psychiatrists.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many sex-related classes that are offered in regular therapy training for licensed professionals. Usually, the basic requirements are quite low, such as taking a weekend course in sexuality. However, sex is a basic human need, and many therapy clients struggle with sexual issues so it can be helpful for any therapist to take additional sexuality training, regardless of whether or not they want to dedicate their practice to sex therapy.

How to Become a Sex Therapist in 5 Steps

While there are 5 important steps to becoming a sex therapist, the process can take quite a while if you are starting from scratch. The length of time for sex therapy training depends on what your educational level is, and what qualifications or certifications you have completed before entering into specific sex therapy training. The requirements to complete your Master’s Degree are different for each state and can be quite involved and confusing.

The First 4 Steps in Becoming a Sex Therapist

  1. Earn at least a Master’s Degree in psychotherapy, clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling or psychiatry. These degrees generally take between two and seven years to achieve, depending on which degree you decide to pursue.
  2. Meet all the requirements for licensure – these requirements are different in different states so you will need to research these based on where you live.
  3. Obtain a provisional license while you do your supervised work experience. The requirements generally include somewhere between 1500 and 4000 hours.
  4. Pass the licensing exam in your state.

The 5th Step of How to Become a Sex Therapist

The 5th and final step of how to become a sex therapist can be completed one of two ways:

Option 1

Complete an additional 60 supervised hours or take a commensurate amount of sexuality-related classes in a graduate school to complete your sex therapy training.

Option 2

Become a Certified Sex Therapist (CST). You do this by going through the training and certification process offered by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Requirements include:

  • Having an active AASECT membership
  • Reading the AASECT code of ethics
  • Having an MA degree plus two years clinical experience, or a doctoral degree plus one year of clinical experience as well as licensure
  • 90 hours of sex education coursework from accredited institutions, with specific requirements for the subcategories of the coursework
  • 60 hours of sex therapy training with specific subcategory requirements
  • Completion of the application process
  • Acceptance

Sex Counseling Certification

AASECT also offers a Sex Counseling Certification. To become an AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselor you do not need to have licensure.

You need to meet the following requirements:

  • Having an active AASECT membership
  • Reading the AASECT code of ethics
  • Having a BA degree and three years of counseling experience with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window, an MA degree plus two years clinical experience with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window, or a doctoral degree plus two years, with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window.
  • 90 hours of sex education coursework from accredited institutions, with specific requirements for the subcategories of the coursework
  • 60 hours of sexuality counseling training with specific subcategory requirements
  • Completion of the application process
  • Acceptance

If you are passionate about helping people improve their sex lives and relationships but not sure if this path is right for you, you might also consider becoming a sex coach. While you will still need training, this focused pathway can take a much shorter amount of time and get you started on a career right away. Sex coaching is a growing, high demand field.

Additionally, if you are already a therapist and want to work with people around their sexuality but do not want to go through the full certification process, you might consider joining a sex coaching training. If you are a hands-on, embodied learner, an experiential sex coaching method like the Somatica training might be appropriate for you.

Even if you cannot use all of the tools you learn in your professional practice, you will have your own deep transformation and a much better way to connect with clients around their sexuality and intimacy issues. In some states, you can even have separate practices as a sex coach and as a sex therapist. You can check this out by contacting your certifying board.

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Celeste Hirschman
Celeste Hirschman, MA is the Co-Creator of the Somatica® Method and Co-Founder of Somatica® Institute. She trains coaches in the Somatica® Method of Sex and Relationship Coaching. She has her own private practice in San Francisco, where she works with clients to have profoundly pleasurable and fulfilling lives. She has co-authored multiple academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals and is the co-author of two books, Cockfidence - The Definitive Guide to Being the Man You Want to Be and Driving Women Wild and Making Love Real - The Intelligent Couples Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion. Celeste has her MA in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University (SFSU) and her BA in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Celeste has taken the Hakomi Pro-Skills Training as well as multiple other trainings on sexuality and relationships. Celeste also has a Certification in Sexological Bodywork from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS).