Because there are no standards across the country, the type of training a sex therapist has can vary greatly. One sex therapist might be a medical doctor who had a family practice; another sex therapist might have a college degree in sociology and no formal training at all. One type of degree or experience doesn’t guarantee that a sex therapist will work for you. What is important is for you to understand what your sex therapists qualifications are, and that your therapist offers this information directly and completely.
There are at least three levels of qualification you should inquire about when considering starting to see a sex therapist:
What educational experience and background does your sex therapist have?In other words, where did they go to school and what are the degrees they received.
They may have gone to college and received an undergraduate degree (e.g. B.A., B.Sc., B.S.W). They may have medical or nursing degrees (e.g. M.D., R.N.) and/or they may have graduate degrees in psychology or social work (e.g. Ph.D., Psy.D., M.S.W.) Some sex therapists will hold no degrees from post-secondary institutions.
In terms of educational background, I would suggest that, at a minimum, you consider sex therapists with a college degree. Some people might argue with this, and there are certainly competent sex therapists that do not have college degrees. Having a college degree won’t guarantee that a sex therapist is good, but it provides some information about the type and breadth of basic knowledge they have.
What clinical training does your sex therapist have?. This refers to where they learned how to do sex therapy and where they learned to do counseling or psychotherapy. This is not the same as where they received their educational degrees. Many sex therapists will have some sort of general counseling training in addition to training in sex therapy.
In terms of clinical training, I would recommend considering a therapist who has some counseling training, and preferably one who is licensed by a state board in their area of counseling or psychotherapy.
Is your sex therapist certified or licensed by any state or national organizations?In the United States both the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists and the American Board of Sexology certify sex therapists.
In addition to this your sex therapist may be licensed by a state board in their area of counseling or therapy. For example they may be a listened marriage and family counselor, or a licensed psychologist.
It is important to ask a potential therapist where they got their sex therapy training. Once you get this information, I recommend doing a bit of research on the place they received their training. Is it affiliated with any larger organizations? Has it been around for a long time? Can you contact the organization to confirm that they provide training in human sexuality?
Of course doing all this will still not guarantee that a particular sex therapist will be good for you to work with. But confirming some facts about your sex therapists training and background can at least weed out potential con artists, and it can also let you know if there is a way for you to complain if something inappropriate happens in the course of your therapy.