Living with Chronic Pain
When to See a Sex Therapist
Chronic pain can negatively impact a healthy sex life. Pain can lead to sexual disinterest or even an inability to have intercourse; pain medications can cause a decrease in sex hormones; and, in some cases, chronic pain may be related to a history of sexual abuse.
Not only is sexual activity an important part of a healthy relationship, but it also has many health benefits, such as reduced stress and pain, lower blood pressure, and better heart health. To rule out any physical causes of a decreased sex drive, such as medication side effects or hormone levels, a primary care physician should be consulted.
For other issues, such as sexual desire or arousal concerns, pain-related intimacy issues, painful intercourse, or a history of sexual abuse, consulting a sex therapist may be beneficial.
What is a sex therapist?
A certified sex therapist can be found in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, marriage and family therapy, or social work. To be a certified sex therapist, professionals undergo additional training in human sexuality. Clinical training and credentials are managed by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).
How does a sex therapist help?
Sex therapists provide talk therapy in a supportive and educational environment to address factors impacting sexual satisfaction. They help individuals and couples talk through sexual experiences, worries and feelings. Sex therapists provide guidance, comfort and encouragement. They may assign homework, such as communication exercises, mindfulness techniques, and informative articles or educational videos about sexual health.
For individuals with chronic pain, sex therapists can recommend various options, such as more comfortable intercourse positions. They can also provide assistance for emotional challenges (e.g., if the partner of an individual with chronic pain is afraid of causing more or worse pain during sex, etc.).
Sex therapists can be a beneficial part of a health care team for an individual dealing with chronic pain. It is important to note that sex therapists do not have any sexual contact with clients.