What is Sex Therapy?
Sex therapy involves the discussion of sexual concerns via assessment of contributing factors and specific treatment planning. Sex therapy never involves touch or any kind of sexual contact. You can expect the first session to include a clinical interview that examines current symptoms, general mental health history, and other background information. Subsequent initial sessions include specific sexual history taking including understanding specific sexual symptoms, duration, context, and relationship history, to name a few.
Specific objectives may include the following:
Learning to eliminate and relax distractions
Learning to communicate what you’d like in a positive way
Learning nonsexual touching techniques
Increasing or enhancing sexual stimulation
Minimizing pain during intercourse or other penetration
What Experience Do You Have Treating Sexual Concerns?
All of the therapists at IPCI have undergone additional training and supervised experience treating sexual concerns. Dr. Maria Hanzlik is one of the few AASECT-certified sex therapists in Indiana.
As part of AASECT sex therapy certification requirements, certified sex therapists are required to complete 90 clock hours of sex education in addition to 60 hours of sex therapy training. Required core competencies include ethics and ethical behavior, developmental sexuality across the lifespan, sociocultural factors, and sexual values/behavior, sexual and reproductive anatomy & physiology, problematic and optimal sexual function, medical factors that may influence sexuality, diversity in sexual expression, and sexual orientation/gender identity, to name a few.
What Types of Sexual Issues Do You Treat?
In adults, some common presenting concerns include lack of desire (wanting to have sex), difficulty obtaining/maintaining arousal, genital pain with penetration, erectile disorder, premature ejaculation, desire discrepancy, difficulty achieving orgasm, sexual concerns affected by past trauma, low sex/no sex relationships, sexual orientation concerns, gender identity concerns.
I Notice You Work with Children and Teenagers. Do Sexual Issues Ever Come Up When You Work with Children or Teenagers?
This question is something that arises from parents of potential clients from time to time. The literature tells us that humans are sexual beings throughout the lifespan, from birth to the end of life. Although not every child and teenage client will have a sexual concern, our specific sex therapy training leaves us well-equipped to address sexual issues or provide important education should the need arise during the course of treatment. Our providers are trained as generalists. That means, they received training in child development as well as child psychological assessment and therapy, in addition to training with adults, families, and couples.
There are times when we see children/adolescents from the beginning of therapy who come in with sex-related concerns including watching pornography or “sexting,” for instance. However, many times, children and teenagers who come to therapy due to issues related to anxiety, depression, or behavioral disorders have sexual concerns that arise during the course of therapy. For example, parents may struggle with how to talk to their children and teens about sex in an age-appropriate way. Children can struggle with maintaining appropriate physical boundaries. Teens begin puberty, have questions about what is happening physically/developmentally, are unsure how to navigate romantic or sexual feelings with their peers, and may struggle with sexual orientation or gender identity. During intakes with parents, prior to initiating therapy with a child/adolescent, we screen for certain sexual concerns that may arise at various developmental stages. We also have a specific conversation with parents about their family’s values related to sexuality and their level of comfort with us addressing sexual topics with their child/adolescent.
What About Transgender Populations?
As part of training in sex therapy, we obtain numerous continuing education credits in the area of transgender and gender nonconforming care. At IPCI, we work with children, adolescents, adults and their families who identify as transgender in the Indianapolis area. We follow the WPATH Standards of Care (version 7) as well as the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People (August 2015).
Please note, our services never include “conversion therapy” or a type of counseling that attempts to change one’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to that of their natal sex. This type of service has been deemed unethical by virtually every mental health professional organization and has been deemed illegal in at least 15 states as of July 2018 (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/12/upfront-conversion.aspx).
If you’d like to explore sex therapy, we want you to know that you aren’t alone in having sexual problems and that we can help. Please contact us today to see if we are a good fit for you.