Q: I’m not a sex therapist, but clients sometimes bring up sexual issues in treatment. I don’t feel competent having these discussions. What’s the best thing to do?
A: First, congratulate yourself on the fact that your clients feel comfortable enough to tell you about these issues. Many individuals and couples stay in therapy for years without ever mentioning their struggles with sex. So count this as good news!
It’s a shame that so many therapists shy away from talking about sex in the consulting room, believing that they don’t have sufficient expertise. The reality is that any well-trained therapist can help clients understand, and in many cases even resolve, sexual problems—simply by using their natural curiosity, some common sense, and a few key tools.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve been treating a young woman, Carmen, in counseling for issues related to managing stress in her life. After several months, Carmen tells you she’s begun a relationship with a new man, Scott, whom she likes very much. Several weeks into their relationship, Carmen comes into your office looking upset. She takes a deep breath and surprises you by saying, “When Scott and I have sex, I just don’t feel anything at all.”
What do you do? You could refer her to a sex therapist, but right now it’s just the two of you, and she’s just trusted you with something very intimate. Like it or not, for the rest of this session you’re her accidental…