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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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Six Sexual Health Principles to Discuss With Your Partner

I often hear stories from men and women who discover their partner has sexual secrets. Sometimes those secrets involve pornography, sometimes they involve infidelity, sometimes they involve fantasy or sexual preferences. The individuals who share these stories with me often feel betrayed because the expectations they had about the sexual agreements within their relationship were not kept. The first problem to address is that most of the time, these sexual agreements were unspoken.

I want to encourage couples to make these unspoken agreements spoken. All couples should talk about their expectations for their sexual relationship. In order to facilitate this discussion, here are six principles that constitute healthy sexuality. Spend some time with your partner and discuss each one, what it means to each of you as individuals and how it relates to you as a couple. (One word of caution, avoid having this discussion during or after sex. Those times are likely to bring with them heightened vulnerability, which if the discussion is difficult in any area, can lead to increased defensiveness and conflict. The discussion will go much more smoothly if you schedule it for another time.)

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The following 6 principles of sexual health were developed by Doug Braun-Harvey. Learn more about his these principles in his books Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction & Sexual Health in Drug and Alcohol Treatment

1. Consent

Consent in this context means that someone has given permission for something involving their body to occur. Are there sexual behaviors in your relationship that you’d like your partner to ask specific consent for each time? Are there sexual behaviors that you don’t feel your partner needs to ask first? Talk about these, and create clear guidelines to shape how consent looks in your relationship. Remember that feelings about specific sexual behaviors can change, and it’s okay to change your sexual agreements in the future.

2. Non-Exploitative

Non-exploitative means that one partner does not take advantage or manipulate the other into sexual behaviors. This includes using power dynamics to coerce the other person. Are there behaviors that one partner participates in hesitantly? Use this opportunity to talk about what those behaviors mean to each partner. If there are exploitative behaviors in your relationship, this is an area where reaching out for help with a therapist may be necessary to resolve them and set healthy boundaries.

3. Protection from STIs, HIV, and Unplanned Pregnancy

If either person has had previous sexual partners, have they been checked for sexually transmitted infections or HIV? What is the plan surrounding birth control?

4. Honesty

Are both partners able to be fully honest about their sexual history, and is there room in the relationship to honestly discuss fantasy and sexual preferences?

5. Shared Values

Creating sexual agreements are crucial for couples, and the largest part of the discussion will likely revolve around values. What behaviors fall within your value systems as individuals and as a couple? If there are value differences, can you create workable compromises? If there are value conflicts within a relationship, a professional can help explore resolutions that feel workable to both partners.

6. Mutual Pleasure

Sadly, many individuals grow up with the idea that sex is something men like and women tolerate. When this is the background, women can feel used and resentful about sex, even when they’re otherwise happy in their relationship. Breaking out of this mindset is going to be difficult if the couple has not found mutually pleasurable sexual activities. If one partner wants a specific type of sex exclusively, and the other partner doesn’t enjoy that activity, neither partner will be able to truly experience the kind of sexual relationship that is fulfilling and strengthens the relationship.

If after reviewing these six principles, you find some areas that you and your partner need help with, schedule an appointment with Alice today.  801-944-4555.

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Surviving the Bomb: First Steps After the Affair

Finding out that your partner has been unfaithful has the potential to be one of the most devastating experiences a person can encounter in his/her life.   A common and appropriate reaction, given the circumstances, is panic.  There is generally nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions, and as a result, many couples do unintentional damage before they can seek help.  This is to be expected as no one tells you what you should do in the immediate aftermath of an affair.

The main goal is to limit the destruction in the time between finding out and getting help.  Here are some crisis control tips to follow until you can get some additional help:

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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Throwing In the Towel on Your Marriage

Making the decision to stay or leave your marriage may seem overwhelming in the wake of a revealed affair or other traumatizing event.  It’s normal upon hearing that a spouse has been unfaithful to assume the marriage is over and that the love you once shared is gone forever.  Both partners may feel highly emotional and perhaps hopeless about their future together.  This is a good time to put on the brakes and slow things down.  Rushing into a life altering decision such as a divorce may actually compound the problem and prolong the hurt you and your partner are experiencing.  Before making any life changing decisions, allow yourself a brief waiting period, somewhere between 8 to 12 weeks, to think things through.  Your decision will have far reaching effects for you, your spouse, and your children.Wasatch Family Therapy Couples

Read through the following questions and share your answers with your partner, a close friend, or a therapist.

  1.  How will my life be different if we get divorced?
  2.  How will our children’s lives be different?
  3.  What first attracted me to my spouse?
  4.  What are my best memories with my spouse?
  5.  What will I miss the most about my marriage?
  6.  Down deep, do I still love my spouse?
  7.  Are my partner and I generally compatible?
  8.  Is my partner a generally dependable and trustworthy person?
  9.  Am I able to explore vulnerabilities in our marriage?
  10. Am I willing to work on my marriage?

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How Much Should I Tell My Children About An Affair?

The answer is as little as possible.  Children may require an explanation if they see or hear evidence of infidelity or if they are going to read about it online or in the media.  In some situations, talking with your children is the only way they can understand what is happening in the family.  However, children should never be told details of an affair and asked to keep it secret.  Share only with your children what you are comfortable with them sharing with friends, teachers, and relatives.  If you and your spouse are working to repair your relationship rather than separating or divorcing then it is usually better to keep the matter discreet.

Consider the psychological and emotional burden it would place on a child to overhear his mother accusing his father of loving another woman.  Imagine a father, feeling hurt and betrayed, blurting out to his children that their mother is having sex with a coworker.  Exposure to such information can create fear, confusion, and insecurity for the child.

There are times when parents do find it is necessary to say something.  For example, your children may ask, “Why are you and dad going to counseling every week?” or “Are you and mom getting divorced?”  When this happens, it is best to sit down with your children together and answer their questions simply and honestly.  Here are a few examples of age appropriate responses:

Preschoolers: “Mommy and Daddy have a problem that has nothing to do with you.  We both love you so you don’t have to worry.”

Grade-Schoolers: “What have you noticed that has made you worried?”  “Mom and Dad are having difficulty getting along, but we still love each other and want to work things out.”

Teen and Young Adults: “Yes, your mom and I are going to see a therapist every Monday night for the next few months.  I made a mistake and got too friendly with a woman at work, but your mother and I love each other and want to stay together.”

What children want to know most is that their lives will not be disrupted and that they can count on their parents to be accessible and responsive to their needs.  By limiting exposure to details, discussing fears, and constantly reassuring children of your love and commitment to them and your marriage, you create an atmosphere of safety and emotional security for your children.

For further information, a book I frequently recommend to my clients on this subject is “Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity” by Shirley P. Glass, PhD.

 

 

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Surviving The “Three-Year Glitch” in Marriage

Dr. Todd Dunn talked to KSL radio about why newly married couples are seeing small problems turn into major irritations within the first few years of marriage and how this can be avoided.

Click below to listen to the interview and read the article:

Read & Listen to Surviving the “Three-Year Glitch” in  Marriage

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