Everybody needs a little psychological maintenance now and then. Whether, you’ve got relationship problems, family issues or situational stress, most people will find themselves in need of a good mental health professional at some point in their life for issues related to sexuality.
What kind of therapist should I see?
There are a variety of disciplines: Psychologists, Psychiatrists, LCSWs (licensed clinical social workers), MFTs (marriage and family therapists), Clinical Sexologists/Sex Therapists, Board Certified Counselors, and some RNs (registered nurses) have training in mental health.
That being said, when you are presenting with an issue related to sexuality make sure you find someone with experience and training in sex therapy or clinical sexology. Realize that most general mental health professionals only get a few hours of training in human sexuality and may not be prepared to hanlde your presenting problem. As therapists we all have our own biases and unless you find a therapist who has gone through specific sex therapy/clinical sexology training, their biases might affect your treatment.
How do I find a sexuality therapist?
The best way to find a “good” sexuality therapist is of course through word of mouth – a friend or family member who has had a positive experience with an established counselor or therapist. But seeing as how sexuality and mental health are both carry social stigma, this may not be possible. Most people just aren’t comfortable enough to discuss their therapeutic experiences – which is unfortunate.
If you have mental health benefits through your insurance, look for sex therapy as a specialty or you can cross reference those names with the online lists above.
How do I know I have found the right therapist?
The single best piece of advice I can give is to have a brief (five to fifteen minute) phone conversation with the therapist BEFORE you go in. Any decent therapist should be willing to do this. Ask them their qualifications, what they specialize in, if they see many clients with issues similar to yours. Feel out if they have similar values to you around communication and relationships.
It is very important to assess if you have chemistry with the therapist. I use the term “chemistry” in a very broad way. It simply means that you feel you could have a positive therapeutic working relationship. This may involve a certain amount of intuition on your part. Most clients benefit from a therapist that shows compassion, understanding, non-judgment and an ability to confront you on tough topics when needed.
Also, and this should go without saying, but your therapist should emphasize confidentiality. They should address their confidentiality practices with you in person and they will have some paperwork for you to fill out that should mention it. Do realize that all counselors and therapists have a duty to report harm to self and others – confidentiality does not apply in these cases. Otherwise, you should feel completely safe and free to say whatever you need to in order to heal.
Once you get into a session, even after the initial phone screening that once in person, you may not feel workable chemistry with the therapist. Sometimes you can sit this out for a session or two until you feel like you are getting into some effective strategies. Sometimes, it’s obvious you may need to try another therapist. If it does not go well in the first couple of sessions do not be afraid to try someone else. It may take a therapist or two to find the right fit. Do not get discouraged.
How am I going to pay for services?
This is a huge issue for most people when they decide to enter therapy. If you have mental health benefits on your insurance, refer to your provider directory and look up therapists with a sexuality specialty, or when you call to talk to prospective therapists, ask if they have a sliding fee scale. Sometimes a therapists sliding fee scale can be just as reasonable as your mental health benefit co-pay.
Most therapists do not want it to be a hardship for you to see them and will want to come up with a reasonable fee that both covers their time and overhead while motivating you to come in to get the help you need.
If you are going through your insurance always find out the specifics of your mental health benefit is (co-pays, number of sessions allowed) before scheduling, so there are no surprises.
No one really WANTS to go to therapy. We all experience natural resistance when it comes to getting help. Let alone struggling with the fallacy of “stigma”. More and more people though, are taking the leap and finding the courage to improve their lives through sexuality therapy. Ultimately, if therapy helps you be a better partner, parent, human being — it can’t be the wrong thing to do.