Whether you have already been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED), or are having difficulties with erections and are trying to figure out what's causing them, talking with a trained and qualified sex therapist can be a useful exercise, and ultimately an important part of erectile dysfunction treatment, regardless of the cause.
What Is Sex Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction?Sex therapists are trained to diagnose and assist in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Even though sex therapy is "talk therapy," you will likely be asked to have a complete physical and your sex therapist will probably want to consult with your medical doctor (unless they themselves are a medical doctor, in which case they may offer all the services you need). Once a cause, or causes, have been established, your therapist will talk you through treatment options. Because sex therapists see so many patients experiencing erectile dysfunction, their accumulated knowledge and experience can be both helpful and reassuring.
Sex therapy itself usually involves talking in session as well as homework exercises. If you are in a relationship, it may or may not involve your partner. Sex therapists use a range of therapeutic modalities, but most are active listeners and use some aspects of cognitive-behavioral models of therapy, which focuses on how the ways we think interact with the ways we act, and how we can consciously influence both our thoughts and actions.
Most sex therapy is short term, although if it's determined that the cause is more about a relationship, what began as sex therapy could become relationship therapy or counseling, which may be a longer process.
How Effective Is Erectile Dysfunction Therapy?Unfortunately, the body of research exploring sex therapy alone as a treatment for erectile dysfunction is inconsistent and difficult to compare (both to one another and to other forms of treatment). Several newer studies have shown, however, that when sex therapy is used in conjunction with other treatments, like oral medications, the outcomes are better than oral medications alone.
One of the reasons why sex therapy may be important is that even if erectile dysfunction is initially caused by a physical factor, once it becomes a presence in a relationship, simply getting your erections back may not return your sex or relationship life back to the way it was. Changes in erectile function can bring up other issues for both partners, and having a space where you can both process your thoughts and feelings is important, and may very well contribute to your ability to have pleasurable sex in the future.
Where Do I Find a Sex Therapist?Sex therapists practice with very different educational and clinical backgrounds. A sex therapist may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, nurse, or other health care professional. In most parts of the United States and many other countries anyone can call themselves a sex therapist. For this reason it is most important that you understand the qualifications and experience of a sex therapist before you commit to a working relationship. Learn more about finding a sex therapist.
Before Looking for an Erectile Dysfunction Therapist
Any properly trained sex therapist should require you to have a complete physical exam as part of the initial assessment of your erectile difficulties. This is in part because erectile dysfunction is a known early warning sign for other potentially serious health problems, and before treating the ED, you should make sure you know what else might be going on in your body. If you're pursuing therapy as an option and your therapist hasn't recommended you get a physical exam, consider talking with your doctor as well.