Patrick B. McGinnis, PhD, LMHC

Psychotherapy, Sex Therapy, Couple's Counseling, Addictions Counseling, Psychological & Psychosexual Assessment and Polygraph Testing


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What is Sex Therapy?


Sex Therapy is a professional and ethical treatment approach to problems of sexual function and expression. We recognize that it is the right of individuals to expert assistance with their sexual difficulties. Sex therapy is the focusing of specialized clinical skills on helping men and women as individuals and/or as couples to deal more effectively with their sexual expression.


Why is Sex Therapy Necessary?

The importance of sexual function varies from individual to individual, but for many it is closely tied to their concept of self identity. For these, problems in sexual function may lead to devaluation of self, "I cannot feel good about my sexuality, so how can I feel good about myself?" We are also in a time when relationship and family units are quite vulnerable to dissolution. Regardless of the structure of the intimate relationship shared, sexuality serves a valuable function for most couples. It becomes an expression of caring, not only for the partner, but for oneself. It can become a powerful bonding element in a relationship. Dissatisfaction with the sexual relationship and the loss of shared intimacy may lead to negative feelings and attitudes which are destructive to the relationship. Many relationships end because of unresolved sexual differences and difficulties.


Who Goes for Sex Therapy?

The sex therapist works with a wide variety of problems related to sexuality. People seek help with such problems as:  


Male Sexuality: Erectile dysfunctions, Premature ejaculation, Delayed ejaculation, Performance pressures, Declining desire, Virginity/shyness, Penis size concerns, Negative body image, Sexual or gender identity, Compulsive sexuality, Paraphilias (voyeurism, exhibitionism, other sex offending, alternative sexuality and fetishism).


Female Sexuality: Arousal dysfunction, Orgasm (multi-orgasmic or pre-orgasmic), Vaginal pain during intercourse, Virginity/shyness, Negative body image, Sexual or gender identity, Compulsive sexuality, Paraphilias (voyeurism, exhibitionism, other sex offending, alternative sexuality and fetishism), Menopause issues.


Special Sexuality Concerns: Aging, Handicaps and disabilities, Post-surgical effects of prostate and testicular cancer, Impact of medications (such as high blood pressure and anti-depressants which often block sexual response), illness, surgery, or alcohol or drug abuse.


Couples Sexuality Issues: Increasing the passion in your marriage, Enhancement of arousal, Touching for pure pleasure, Developing intimate communication skills, Desire discrepancy (one partner desires sex more than the other), Healing from infidelity.


The Dating Scene: Developing winning social skills, Confidently navigating the dating game, Making good partner selections, Social shyness/inhibition, Self-defeating relationship behavior, Getting started after divorce or widowhood.



Are There Limitations?

As with any therapy for personal or behavioral difficulties, sex therapy has its limitations. Although usually brief and effective with most sexual concerns, sex therapy does not offer a miracle cure for all interpersonal problems. Success of treatment depends upon many factors, not the least of which are the nature of the problem, the motivation of the patient, and the therapeutic goals. The motivated prospective patient and/or couple should choose a therapist carefully and establish realistic goals early in the counseling.


How Does One Know if a Sex Therapist is Qualified?

One must realize that with any new field, a variety of definitions and expectations will exist for a time, and that a wide variety of people will claim expertise in accordance with their own definition of the field. Fortunately, Florida law states that any person holding himself out as a sex therapist must be a licensed mental health professional who has completed specialized training and supervision in sex therapy. Unfortunately, not every sex therapist has the same level of competence or experience even if they have completed the minimum requirements.


Three criteria need to be met in choosing a sex therapist.


First of all, the qualified sex therapist must be skilled in providing counseling and psychotherapy, and be licensed in a mental health profession. This background in the behavior sciences is essential to the understanding of the total individual and to the planning of an individualized treatment program. Licensing ensures that the therapist has completed a minimum requirement of training, internship, and years of professional experience under supervision.


Secondly, the therapist must have a sound knowledge of the anatomical and physiological bases of the sexual response and must be able to demonstrate extensive post-graduate training specifically within the areas of sexual function and dysfunction, sex counseling, and sex therapy.


The third requirement is that the sex therapist have expertise in relationship counseling. That is, the sex therapist should also be a skilled marital, family and/or group therapist. In order to work effectively with sexual problems, the sex therapist must be able to work effectively with non-sexual relationships as well. Sexual behavior does not occur in a vacuum - it occurs within a relationship! The total relationship must, therefore, be accurately evaluated and treated.


What Can I Expect in Sex Therapy?


First of all, you can expect to be talking explicitly and in detail about sex. One cannot solve sexual problems by talking around them. Neither can one gain new sexual information unless clear, direct instruction is given.



Second, you may expect to be offered the opportunity to add to your knowledge by reading selected books and/or viewing clinical films designed specifically for use in sex therapy. You should not, however, do anything which you do not understand, and you must reserve for yourself the right to question the purpose of an assignment. Every assignment, task, or experience presented by the therapist should fit into an understandable and acceptable treatment plan - and you have the right to question the procedures. It is your right to decline or postpone acting on the suggestions of your therapist until you are ready to do so.



Third, you should expect your sex therapist to be non-judgmental in giving and receiving sexual information. While you might expect to be challenged and confronted on important issues, you should also expect to experience a respectful attitude toward those values which you do not which to change.



Fourth, you will not be asked to disrobe in the presence of your therapist. Sexual contact between client and therapist is considered unethical and is destructive to the therapeutic relationship. Neither will you perform sexually with your partner in the presence of your therapist, even though the talk, material and the assignments must, by the nature of the problem, be specifically sexual and at times bluntly explicit.



Finally, you should feel that you are heard and adequately accepted for who you are. That is, you should not feel that you have been stereotyped in any other way that interferes with your sense of unique identity. You should feel that you are being treated as an individual, not as a category.


Sex therapy is a dynamic approach to very real human problems. It is based on the assumptions that sex is good, that relationships should be meaningful, and that interpersonal intimacy is a desirable goal. Sex therapy is by its nature a very sensitive treatment modality and by necessity must include respect for the client's values. It must be nonjudgmental and non-sexist, with recognition of the equal rights of man and woman to full expression and enjoyment of healthy sexual relationships.



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