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Sexual Wellness

All the Different Kinds of Sex and Relationship Therapy

| 02/13/2020

sex and relationship therapy Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

What exactly is “sex therapy”? Is it just a subset of “couple’s therapy”—or that totally separate? All the different types of professionals for intimacy and relationships can be dizzying, so we enlisted some help. We talked to Moushumi “Mou” Ghose, the owner and director of Los Angeles Sex Therapy and a licensed marriage, family, and sex therapist.

Ghose tells us there’s “lots of overlap” between these categories. “Sexuality is often intertwined with intimate relationships, and relationships are often intertwined with sexuality,” she says. “Some sex therapy can focus simply on the symptoms of sex and sexuality,” but more often than not, the two are quite related.

There are a lot of professionals you can go to if your sex life or your relationship—or both—are in need of some TLC. Here is the breakdown.

Sex Therapy

A form of psychotherapy or mental health therapy that focuses on sexuality, intimacy, and relationships. Can address a variety of issues including mismatch of needs with your partner, low desire issues, trauma recovery, and anorgasmia.

Relationship Therapy

Logically enough, “relationship therapy often focuses on the dynamics within a relationship,” Ghose says. “This may be with a couple, with the family, or even with an individual.”

There’s a focus on communication and understanding yourself in relation to others. Many therapists are trained in some form of relationship therapy, such as Imago therapy or John Gottman‘s relationship therapy.

Hands-On Intimacy Coaching 

This focuses on the physical aspects of sex. This will most likely be with a sex coach, a surrogate partner, a sexual embodiment worker, or tantra worker.

Somatic Sex Therapy

A form of psychotherapy that focuses on “the bodily symptoms in relation to the mind,” Ghose says. Integrating both talking and touching, it’s a more holistic form of psychotherapy and is gaining more popularity in the mental health community. It can be done alone or with a partner.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy 

Rebecca Rizzo, a physical therapist with a concentration in pelvic floor physical therapy, defines it as “a rehabilitation service providing specialized care to both male and female patients to help them manage conditions related to the pelvic floor.” Pelvic floor issues can cause pain and discomfort, and when they do, “it creates a barrier to [a] relationship,” Rizzo says. “Many times, patients are just craving a more gentle touch to help reduce their pain symptoms.” 

Through treatment sessions and education, pelvic floor physical therapy helps to educate patients on “self-love of their own bodies, exploring [their partners’] bodies, and the intimacy of contact.”

Honorable Mention: Other Types of Sex Professionals

There are many bodyworkers that provide healing, such as dominatrices, tantra workers, yoni massage therapists, and sex educators who do body, sex, relationships and intimacy-related healing—but they may or may not call themselves “sex therapists,” per se. The kind of professional help you seek out will depend on what you’re looking for: Better communication in your relationships? To explore BDSM? Help with coming back to your sexuality postpartum? There are humans who do it all. AASECT (the American Association of Sexuality, Educators and Therapists) is a great resource to start your search.

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