Sex counseling, also known as sex therapy, is a practice offered by a licensed therapist who has done additional study in the area of sex or sexuality. While the term sex counselor may be slightly more inclusive than sex therapist, they are often used interchangeably.

People reach out for sex counseling when they want to improve their sex lives.
They may have had a setback in their sex life, a fight with their partner, or very little experience in sexual situations. Trying to heal from a history of sexual trauma that is negatively affecting their sex life is also a frequent reason to seek treatment. Sex counseling can be useful for both single people, and those in relationships.

What is a Sex Counseling Session Like?

Sex counseling takes place in a typical therapy office. In individual or couples sessions, you speak candidly about your sexual concerns with the counselor. A typical sex counseling session will last between 50 and 70 minutes. In ongoing sessions, your sex counselor would ask you questions about your personal history, including your family, your relationships, your sex life, and your childhood.

Depending on their educational background, a sex counselor will analyze this information to better understand your sexual concerns and help you understand yourself (and your partner) better as well. A sex counseling session might not always only focus on sex – since sex is also an expression of other relationship issues.

Relationship and Marriage Counseling vs. Sex Counseling

Sex counseling is a broad term that encompasses professionals with a variety of backgrounds. While many couples seek marriage sex counseling or relationship counseling when they identify their sex lives as an issue, professional counselors may not always have any specialized training in the area of sex in the way a dedicated sex counselor does.

Many couples find that relationship or marriage counseling helps them connect and communicate better, but their sex lives doesn’t always improve.

Sex counseling on the other hand helps couples work on their relationship in broader ways – and still focus on their sexual connection. It can help couples who have already identified their sexual problems, or couples who are unsure if their sex lives could be improved.

What is the difference between a Sex Coach and a Sex Counselor/Sex Therapist?

There are several differences between these professional fields, centering on degrees and education, general length of client therapy, and approach.

To be a sex therapist or sex counselor, you need to have a degree in psychotherapy, psychology, theology, social work, or medicine. These degrees are not required to be a sex coach. However – the training a sex therapist or sex counselor receives in their degree programs only includes a small amount of instruction around sexuality. They can augment this with additional sexuality training, such as acquiring another degree or with dedicated training courses. A sex coach gets certified through specialized sex coaching training and generally studies additional therapeutic methods.

Sex therapy / sex counseling sessions are often a longer, more in-depth process than sex coaching since you will take a deeper dive into the childhood underpinnings of your challenges around sex. Sex therapy is often particularly helpful to those who have unresolved trauma or higher levels of dysfunction. A sex therapist may give you homework that you will come back and report on in the next session.

The difference between a sex coach and a sex counselor / therapist also shows in the  approach, which ranges greatly within both professional fields. In general, sex coaches are more focused on the present and future and giving their clients tools for change. A skilled sex coach will know how to do a pointed sexual history in order to get at an underlying issue that may need some context to be properly addressed. Some sex coaches, like Somatica coaches, have different physical boundaries than traditional therapists. They may chose to include certain forms of touch in sessions, either between coach and client, or client and their partner, to help resolve the issues at hand.

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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).