When sex is a problem rather than a joy, where do you turn?
You may think you’re alone and unusual in your difficulties but you’d be wrong. Sex problems are common and for that reason, there are plenty of places to go. Whatever your age, whether you are straight or gay, with a partner or on your own, sex therapy is available and can help.
Why go for help? Many people ignore sexual problems, hoping that they’ll get better on their own or fade away. Sadly, sexual problems more than any other difficulty are likely to worsen if left. Talking problems through can make a surprising difference. It does demand commitment and focus, however. If you are a couple, sex therapy tends to work best when both go along together rather than on their own.
A sex therapist will keep private the fact that you saw them and what was discussed. You’d normally see someone once a week for an hour. Nothing sexual takes place during the session but you may be asked to do certain things at home. What happens is that you tell the therapist what is worrying you. You may be asked to talk about your childhood and early experiences. You may be encouraged to think about how and what you learnt about sex, your sex life together, your fears and your dreams.
The therapist would ask questions and guide you in understanding what is going on and why. You may need to talk over myths and misconceptions or the way you agree or disagree, in bed and out. Gradually, you work out and work on solutions. This may involve communicating together, trying out new ways of having sex or taking your time to please each other and relax.
Some couples come to sex therapy with high hopes of what it may offer. Others are scared, hostile or downright sceptical. In my experience, therapy has a very good chance of helping – as long as couples are prepared to work at it. According to the latest figures from Relate, 80% of couples who go through their sex therapy programme report “a marked improvement in both physical and emotional aspects of their relationship”.
How do you find a sex therapist and how much do they cost? You could go to:
- Your own doctor. Your GP may be trained to give sex therapy. Or the practice may have a counsellor or sex therapist who offers help. Alternatively, they may send you on to a therapist based nearby, at other consulting rooms or a hospital. This would be free on the NHS. However, your doctor may help you find other sources of help if waiting lists are long or there isn’t much on offer in your area.
- A family planning clinic. A counsellor or psychosexual doctor attached to your local family planning clinic can help with sexual problems. This may be free on the NHS. Find the address in your local phone book or ring the fpa’s Helpline on 0845 310 1334 or go to the website www.fpa.org.uk .
- Relate. Some Relate counsellors are also sex therapists. You’d see a counsellor to discuss whether you need relationship counselling first. The fees are linked to how much you can afford – anything from £5 to £50 a session. Your nearest centre will be in the phone book or go to the website: http://www.relate.org.uk.
- A private counsellor. You can go direct but it’s important to find one who is properly trained and accredited and has regular supervision. The British Association for Counselling can suggest one in your area. You can ring them on 01788 550899 or use their website www.counselling.co.uk. The Institute of Psychosexual Medicine is an organisation of doctors. Some will see you without a GP’s referral. Website: www.ipm.org.uk Email, firstname.lastname@example.org . Phone number: 0207 580 0631.
The Couples Counselling Network can also offer telephone counselling for the price of a phone call and may be able to refer you on to a counsellor in your neighbourhood. Their Helpline is on 08700 763376.
The British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy has trained therapists most of whom are non-medical. Email email@example.com. Website: http://www.basrt.org.uk/ Private therapy fees are negotiable between client and therapist. An hour-long session may cost from £15 to £50 or more. You’d need at least 6 to get any benefit and 10 or 12 may be necessary.