As a follow up to our Insights Fall 2017 article “Sex Therapy – It is More Than Just Being Comfortable Talking About Sex”, we would like to offer further resources, training and professional association information provided by the therapists interviewed.
Three Scenarios by Dr. Pega Ren
Dr. Pega Ren provides three scenarios that are common in her practice:
The Fifteen Minute Call
“All they need is to be able to call someone they can trust to be educated, knowledgeable, and non-judgmental, and say, ‘Can I ask you a question?’” and to hear, ‘Oh, I hear this question all the time. You know what? You don’t need to worry about that. That’s perfectly okay,’ or ‘That’s true for all men, women, adolescents, whoever.’
And that’s it. That’s the therapy. And somebody’s life is changed. You don’t get that from 10 hours of training in sex, because there’s too much to know.”
The Triggered Counsellor
Pega Ren offers a hypothetical example of what might happen if a counsellor without adequate sex therapy training is triggered in a session.
“A client couple tells me that they have sex twice a year, and it’s not an issue for them, but I don’t think that’s enough. Do I encourage them to have sex more often? Do I ask them, ‘Why is that? How long has it been?’ Do I follow that branch of the tree or do I leave it alone because it’s not a problem for them? And how do I determine that? And whom do I ask?
“If the same couple says, ‘We have sex twice a year,’ and one of them says, ‘And we fight about it all the time.’ Who’s the problem in the relationship? And is it a problem of sex? Is it a problem of power? Is it a medical concern? Are they not having sex because it’s so painful for her? Are they not having sex because he can’t get it up, or he can’t come, or she can’t come? Or is it because they’re fighting so often? What if it is an enormous question to ask?
“The person who’s asking that question really has to be prepared to manage the answer. And if you don’t know, you have to be able to refer.”
“Our medical doctors are the first line when anyone has [physical] sexual issues. They are most likely to ask their doctor, who gets some training,” she says, adding that sometimes that training is her four-hour workshop, though some doctors are getting a little bit more.
“The doctors, who are just flawed human beings like the rest of us, who are not sex therapists, come to an answer–whatever the answer is–with all their own misinformation, lack of education, biases, embarrassment, and lack of knowing how to talk about these things,” says Ren. “When that same person gets to a counsellor’s office and the counsellor reacts with the slightest shift in body language indicating an ‘uh oh,’ it’s over for that client.”
For those counsellors interested in pursuing training in sex therapy, our therapists recommend looking into the following associations, training opportunities and resources.
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists: Information, resources, and training and education programs.
Society for Sex Therapy and Research: Notable as a means of exchanging ideas and research, including annual meetings and conferences.
The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality: A resource that includes a list of international educational opportunities.
International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health: A multidisciplinary, academic, and scientific organization that provides opportunities for communication and accurate information about women’s sexuality, sexual function and sexual health.
Westland Academy of Clinical Sex Therapy: Specialized sex therapy training for mental health and health care professionals, including online programs focusing on the PLISS aspects of Jack Annon’s PLISSIT model of sex therapy.
Options for Sexual Health (Vancouver): Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) workshops (3.5 days) based on the program developed by the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Human Sexuality Resources:
Behavioral Treatment of Sexual Problems. Jack Annon, Harper and Row, 1976. (The PLISSIT model)
Principals and Practice of Sex Therapy by Sandra Leiblum. Guildford Press, 4th edition, 2007. Leiblum. – The nuts and bolts of sex therapy for someone who wants to become a sex therapist.
Single Session Therapy: Maximizing the Effect of the First (and Often Only) Therapeutic Encounter. Moshe Talmon. Wiley, 1990. – Very helpful for counsellors who don’t want to be sex therapists and don’t want to cause harm.
The Handbook of Clinical Sexuality for Mental Health Professionals. Eds. Stephen B. Levine, Candace B. Risen, Stanley E. Althof. Routledge, 2016. – Each chapter is written for health professionals by a different sex therapist or sex researcher who is at the pinnacle of their career in a particular issue.
For clients and counsellors…
Guide to Getting it On. Paul Joaniddes and Daerick Gross Sr. Goofy Foot Press, 8th edition, 2015 – “It’s massive but covers almost every “how to” topic on sexuality. Good for clients and those wanting to become more confident in bed.” – Dr. Teesha Morgan
Heads Up: Increase your sexual confidence, expand your sexual repertoire, and get the real low down on oral sex. Teesha Morgan and Constance Lynn Hummel. CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016.
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Esther Perel. Harper Paperbacks, reprint edition, 2007.
Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life. Emily Nagoski. Simon & Schuster. 2015. – Understanding women’s sexuality, low libido/sex drive, body image, context, etc
OMGYES by the Kinsey Institute. – Helps women achieve orgasm through an educational format
Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities. Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams. Greenery Press, 2012.
Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. Harper, 2010.
Ethical Slut: The Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures. Janet W. Hardy. Celestial Arts, 2nd revised edition, 2009.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Tristan Taormino. Cleis Press, 2008.
More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory. Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. Thorntree Press, 2014.
Petals. Nick Karras. Crystal River Publishing, 2003. – Artistic focus on female body image and education
10 Steps: Completely Overcome Vaginismus. Mark Carter. M&L Carter, 2004.