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Sex Therapy FAQs

Sex therapy is one area of mental health that doesn’t always get talked about.  Many individuals feel hesitant to bring up sexual concerns with their therapist, waiting until later in the therapy process to introduce the topic.  Others misunderstand what sex therapy is, and continue to struggle on their own. 

What is sex therapy?

Sex therapy is therapy to improve sexual functioning and treat sexual dysfunction.  Sex therapy can be done in individual and couples therapy. 

What happens in sex therapy?

Just like other areas of therapy, in sex therapy, the therapist will complete an intake process with the client to gather information on the nature of the problem and begin to create a treatment plan.  This plan might include goals about visiting with a medical doctor to rule out or diagnose medical issues.  

Is sex therapy safe for my value system? 

Just like other areas of therapy, your therapist is trained to be respectful of and work within their client’s values system.  If you have any concerns that the content of sex therapy might not fit within your values, talk to the therapist up front.  Talking about our sexuality with a therapist can be a new experience, and that might feel uncomfortable, but therapists want to make you feel as safe and at ease as possible. 

Will the therapist take sides?

The therapist’s job is not to prove one person right and one person wrong, but to explore the history and nature of the concern.  The therapist will help the couple or individual explore their beliefs and values surrounding sex, identifying and helping to shift harmful or inaccurate beliefs, and provide resources and educational materials. The therapist will create a safe, supportive environment as the clients create new, value congruent, healthy patterns of behavior. 

What can a sex therapist help me with?

A sex therapist can provide support, education and hope in creating sexual wholeness.  They can work with a broad range of sexual issues.  Desire discrepancy (where one partner has a higher or lower libido than the other), problematic sexual behaviors (particularly compulsive, or what are sometimes referred to as addictive behaviors), LGBTQ issues (orientation concerns, transitioning, or parenting), trauma, infidelity, “sexless” marriages, orgasm concerns, ED/premature/delayed ejaculation, painful intercourse, polyamory, kink, pornography concerns, or resolving spiritual/sexual conflicts. 

If you have been struggling with an area of your sexuality or sexual relationships, but have been hesitant to talk about it, schedule an appointment with Alice at 801-944-4555 today.  Sexual health is an important aspect of good mental health, and you do not need to suffer alone when there is hope and help available.

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Pushing Buttons

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I recently took a trip and stayed in a hotel with many floors. Of course, many floors mean an elevator with many buttons! During one of my visits to the elevator stood a 4-year-old child and his mother, inside the door, discussing the “buttons,” and where they went. I entered and smiled at this toddler’s curiosity as two other individuals entered. As the door closed, the boy began pushing all of the buttons! I looked to see the responses of the other passengers: one man shrugged, while the other gave earnest looks of annoyance. The mother clearly was embarrassed, and she quickly moved the child  away from the buttons.

I couldn’t help but think about how this can be a metaphor of how people “push buttons” in relationships. “Pushing buttons” means to intentionally bring up topics that will leave an emotional sting and often brings about negative emotions of the receiver. This response happens almost instantly, and the intention may be the most irritating part.

I’m sure we can all think of moments that we have experienced where someone has “pushed our buttons.” What were the feelings you felt in that instant? Anger? Embarrassment? Disgust? Perhaps you had wished the floor had opened so you could jump in? It often takes a person who knows us well to be able to push our buttons with such preciseness. There’s no one that can do it quite like family; parents, siblings, children, and spouses are the best button-pushers!

In her book “Daring Greatly,” social researcher Brené Brown suggests that the reason these close relationships pack so much power is because of the attachments we have to one another. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This dynamic of close relationships can get buttons pushed in ways that less intimate relationships can do.

The question that is often asked in therapy is: How do I avoid it? While there are people who are button pushers, there are ways to avoid having these annoyances grow and become destructive. There will always be someone standing nearby willing to embarrass, annoy, assume power over, or just be a mean tease. The antidote is perspective (which can be hard to do when someone has just taken a concerted stance against you!). Here are 10 tools to help you gain perspective and soothe your emotions in the moment:

  • Chew on a piece of ice
  • Take a time out
  • Talk to your Higher Power
  • Imagine a place of peace
  • Use powerful coping thoughts: “It’s OK to feel this way.” “So what?” “This sucks, but it will pass.”
  • Squeeze the handles of arm of the chair 5 times.
  • Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
  • Write your name in cursive with your toe, while you’re seated with legs crossed. (Don’t laugh, it works!)
  • Count your breathes
  • Use your 5 senses: Notice what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.

For the mother in the elevator. . . good job taking 50 deep breathes, as the elevator stopped at each and every floor!

To schedule an appointment with Andrea, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

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The Worst Feelings in the World and How to Get Rid of Them

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Have you ever had that awful pit in your stomach, a wash of discomfort throughout your body, or incessant thoughts that you just can’t seem to get out of your head in the middle of the night? I believe we all have, but it can be difficult to identify or explain what those feelings are.

Really powerful emotions (both positive and negative) are often very difficult to describe. We sometimes just don’t have the words. Having the words can enhance a positive experience or bring comfort to a difficult one.

I have spent the last several weeks reading Brene Brown’s books I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t) and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown is a self-described shame researcher/story teller who has helped bring understanding to very difficult emotional experiences. She said that the four most common difficult emotions that people experience are embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and shame. Brown illustrates that knowing the differences and definitions of these four experiences makes all the difference in how we interact with them and move through them effectively. Let’s start with the definitions:

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Ask A Therapist: Anger Issues Due To Childhood Abuse

Q: I have acknowledged the fact that I have an anger problem, but I have not been able to find a way to deal with it. When I get angry I scream, curse, and get verbally abusive with the person that I am angry with. I have broken objects by throwing them across the room or by simply breaking them myself. I have injured myself by punching and kicking walls and random objects. Whenever I try to control my anger I feel light-headed, weak and shaky. After my anger passes I feel frustrated because I couldn’t control myself and break down in tears.

I have seen a therapist before for my anger issues and it only helped me for a couple of days before I was my old self again. While in therapy the therapist handed me a paper with a list of questions, one of the questions being; “have you ever been sexually abused?” I answered no, even though I experienced sexual abuse as a child. When I was 7 I started being abused by a close family member, it lasted until I turned 11 1/2 years old (when I started puberty.) I have never told anybody about it because I feel embarrassed and ashamed of the fact that the abuse lasted for so long. I know that the abuse was not my fault but I find myself constantly blaming myself for it because I never told anyone about it. I’m now 21 years old and I am afraid that I will hurt someone due to my anger. The relationships that I have been in before have not lasted long due to my anger and I’m tired of not being in control of my emotions.

I am seeking advice for what I should do to try and resolve my problem. I know that by talking about my abuse with someone I might be able to let the emotions that I have locked inside out, but I know that I will never be able to talk to someone about it due to the embarrassment that I feel. So I’m kind of at an edge here. Any type of advice would be helpful and greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Click the arrow below to listen to the therapist’s response…

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To find a therapist who can help resolve your abuse issues click Find Help.  Please visit www.malesurvivor.org for more resources to heal from male childhood sexual abuse.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

*This is my first Ask the Therapist AUDIO response. What do you think? Like it, hate it? Let me know your thoughts.

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