Sexual therapy for couples is a short term form of therapy that usually takes place for 50 minutes on a weekly basis. The sessions are led by a therapist who is typically licensed by the state and certified by a professional organization. The number of sessions can range from five to 20. The American Association of Sexual Educators, Conselors, and Therapists does not condone or allow their members to engage in any type of sexual intimacy with their clients. Sexual therapy for couples is practiced in a theoretical sense, with couples implementing suggestions and advice in the privacy of their own homes.
As in couples therapy, two people meet with a therapist and discuss their concerns, focusing particularly on their sexual relationship. Since sex is a complex physiological and emotional process, the effects of the mind and body can be manifest in a couple's sex life. Problems with either partner's emotional or physical state can affect the sexual relationship of a couple.
Therapists specializing in sexual therapy for couples typically have a great deal of knowledge about sex, reproductive organs, and the emotional dynamic of a sexual relationship. They are also typically trained as traditional psychologists or psychiatrists but have additional credentials as sexual therapists. Only licensed psychiatrists can prescribe medication, so most sexual therapists do not treat sexual problems with medication. If a client shows symptoms of a physical sexual problem, the sex therapist refers that client to a medical doctor.
Sexual therapy for couples is designed to help couples overcome difficulties which are adversely affecting their sexual relationship. Common issues are lack of desire, difficulty achieving sexual climax, sexual intimacy after the birth of a child, and previous abuse or betrayal. There are many other issues which can be resolved through sexual therapy for couples.
There are different approaches to sex therapy. Typically, the therapist addresses the emotional reasons for a couple's problems in their sex life. In some cases, simply opening the lines of communication between two people in a safe environment helps resolve many issues. Expressing expectations and feelings without receiving condemnation from the other person can restore lost trust and relieve anxiety.
Some sex therapists do not believe all sexual problems have emotional roots, so they deal directly with the mechanics of sex. They give advice and suggestions for specific sexual acts. Typically, the couples are required to practice these suggestions at home as "homework" before returning to their next session.
Therapists sometimes use erotic images, videos, or other media in the treatment of their clients. Not all therapists believe that this is helpful, and some believe is unethical and morally wrong. Although not always the case, it is common for sexual therapists who profess to be Christian therapists to refrain from using erotic media as part of treatment.