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How do I Become a Sex Therapist?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are a number of paths to take to become a sex therapist, a therapist who specializes in issues pertaining to human sexuality. Sex therapists can do everything from counseling couples to help them through a difficult period to helping people cope with fetishes. Many regions of the world lack formal certification for this specialty, which means that it is up to the therapist to seek out appropriate training and qualifications.

A candidate will first need to study in a program that is designed to provide licensing to work in the mental health field. A sex therapist may be a licensed psychologist, marriage and family counselor, psychiatrist, pastoral counselor, clinical social worker, or nurse. Many have master's degrees in the mental health field, and some pursue doctoral work. Post doctoral work is strongly recommended for those who want to work in the research environment.

A handful of schools offer specific courses in human sexuality that are designed for people who want to become a sex therapist. These schools use a mental health certification program as a backbone, with a heavy emphasis on sexuality. Students who do not attend these programs should plan on taking as much coursework in human sexuality as possible while they pursue their degrees so that they have extensive training in their area of interest.

After graduation, it is usually necessary to complete a set number of hours of work in a clinical setting to be certified as a therapist. For example, someone with a master's degree in clinical social work might need 2,000 hours to get a certification from the government. For people interested in sex therapy, this clinical work should take place in a setting that offers this type of treatment, under the supervision of a therapist who has agreed to act as a mentor.

As a general rule, once a person has been certified as a mental health professional by the government, it is possible to offer services as a sex therapist. Many people in this field, however, choose to belong to professional organizations, such as the American Association of Sex Counselors, Educators, and Therapists (AASECT). Membership in a professional organization helps therapists to keep up with developments in the field, and it also means that they have completed minimum educational requirements. Patients may opt to seek out a therapist who belongs to a professional organization so that they are guaranteed a basic level of experience and standard of care.

PracticalAdultInsights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PracticalAdultInsights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By unnikamparth — On Feb 17, 2014

I am working not only a school teacher, but I am also working as a massage therapist/sex therapist. In India, we are using several methods to solve sexual problems: counseling, sex therapy and massage and even use herbal medicines to solve several sex related problems.

By anon219965 — On Oct 04, 2011

Sammy G, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about as evidenced by what you said about this profession. Let me enlighten you as to why someone would actually want to be a sex therapist, more specifically, my own reasons for wanting to enhance my clinical training by obtaining certification as a sex therapist.

In the past, I have worked as a domestic abuse and rape crisis advocate. I have a B.A. in Psychology, a Master's degree in Clinical psychology, and am presently working towards licensure for private practice. I am currently employed by a state approved agency and work as a therapist providing therapeutic services to both children and adult populations. I provide individual, couples, group and family counseling to families who are involved with the Department of Family and Children's Services. This includes children who are in the foster care system. I assist these individuals in working through issues related to being victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

That being said, these traumas often have negative effects on these individuals' lives (both children & adults), including anxiety, depression, development of unhealthy interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and they often exhibit poor communication skills, and have symptoms of PTSD.

Unfortunately, a history of sexual abuse/trauma may led to an individual (child or adult victim) having negative/unhealthy views about his/her body, have low self esteem, and hold negative ideas about sex and intimacy (not just the physical act of sex). Victims of trauma may also not be able to engage in sex/sex acts which may impair their relationships and it is not uncommon for them to avoid any type of intimacy all together. Therefore, wanting to become a sex therapist has nothing at all to do with having difficulties in my own personal relationships or sex life, but is more about serving the needs of individuals and helping them to led healthier, happier productive lives.

The certification as a sex therapist will serve as a type of specialization in counseling in treating issues related to sexual dysfunctions (which once again is not just about the act of sex, but also related to difficulties with intimacy, depression, anxiety, and/or poor communication, etc).

To put it another way, the add-on certification of sex therapist to a clinical counseling degree is analogous to a medical doctor who decides to specialize in cardiology, plastics, orthopsychiatry, pediatrics, urology, etc. You get the idea. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of an individuals possible motives for wanting to specialize in the treatment of sexual disorders/dysfunction. If not, perhaps doing some actual research on this type of training will improve your knowledge and expand your viewpoint on this profession.

Also, those individuals who choose to be counselors/therapists do not do so because of selfish motives, such as wanting to have an advantage over others. As a matter of fact, this profession is one that requires actually the opposite, requiring the therapist to be attentive, patient, empathetic, and to distance themselves from their own personal problems. All of which are not characteristically qualities a selfish individual exhibits!

It takes an emotionally stable individual to do this type of work, and those who are not most likely are not very successful in their careers and probably have very few clients.

By anon180138 — On May 25, 2011

Sammy, that's really stupid. You could say the same thing of any profession, "I'm scared of people who want to be bakers because they like flour! Oh my gosh, maybe...maybe they're fat!"

People want to be therapists for the same reason they want to be social workers or doctors. They want to help people. I'm interested in being a sex therapist because in seeking therapy in my own life for bipolar disorder I found that many many many therapists were complete jerks about me being gay. I thought, "You know. I can do a better job than these 'professional therapists'. I can talk to people about being gay or being strippers or fetishists and not pathologize them and make them feel worse than they did originally."

It seems to me that you're projecting your own issues with sexuality on other people who just want to help others.

By NightChef — On Oct 20, 2010

As a patient of a sex therapist I have to tell you that they were able to help me extremely well. While it did take me two different experiences with other sexual therapist, I did finally found someone who can help me with my problems.

It is important that when you do look for a sexual therapist that she finds somebody so comfortable talking about the most private of things with. Doing so will help ensure that you have found somebody who is truly interested in helping you solve whatever issues that you were coming to that person with. Trust me, these people want to help you and only when you open up to them completely and allow them to diagnose your situation fully will they be able to find the proper solution to restore sexual health for you.

By fitness234 — On Oct 20, 2010

After becoming a medical doctor and going through all the proper education and timely years spent studying about the human body and its medical conditions, I have found that I now want to become a sex therapist. The reasons for this are simply because sexual gratification is so important to people in their daily lives and maintaining a healthy body and attitude.

this transition was not difficult as the medical field is very similarly related and actually I think my experience as a true medical doctor can help people with the physical aspects of their sexual health.

It is often the case that an issue someone is happy with sexual health and when they desire sexual therapy, there is often an issue with physical function as well. For instance when men desire sexual therapy is often hard for them to diagnose why they are having erectile dysfunction.

This very embarrassing subject can be difficult to discuss but I can assure you that doctors are properly trained as well as sex therapist to answer your questions in difficult matters such as this.

By summertime — On Oct 20, 2010

I think that the obvious thing when someone wants to become a sex therapist besides the education that they need to how to properly help people with sexual issues, if they also need to have real world experience in sexual interaction. Without this real world experience, it would be hard for anybody or any doctor to be able to properly diagnose the issue that human is having.

It is hard to measure personal experience in the sexual sense. The subjective nature of what is sexually experienced person would need to have in order to properly identify other people's sexual disorders is a very hard characteristics to judge.

Despite this difficulty in being able to identify whether or not a person would become an excellent sex therapist, I do think that our medical schools are capable of educating students well enough so that they can help people in a legitimate sense to overcome their sexual issues.

By sammyG — On Oct 20, 2010

It disturbs me that some people would actually desire to become a sex therapist. I think my reasoning behind this year for certain people wanting the position so bad is similar to the way that I feared police officers that want to carry around a gun in public. These types of people are signing up to the job specifically for the reasons that they have a certain advantage in these roles.

While some people would call a police officer's desire to carry around a gun a power trip, it is not always the case but one could generalize such an assumption. So what I think about someone who wants to become a sex therapist, I have to wonder what issues do they have their own personal sex life that would make them want to become a sex therapist for other people.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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