The term ‘sexologist’ can sound scandalous to some people, even in this day and age. Some people assume that a ‘sexologist’ is someone who provides hands-on guidance to improve one’s sexual skills. That assumption doesn’t merely throw the profession of a clinical sexologist into disrepute, but it also stigmatizes and shames those seeking help for relationships, sexual, and personal reasons.
Below, we provide more context into who sexologists are and what they do.
What is sexology? Who are sexologists?
Sexology is the branch of science dedicated to the study of human sexuality and sexual behavior. Those who study and practice sexology are called sexologists. It’s a clinical and scientific study, and clinical sexologists are generally professionally trained individuals and doctors. Furthermore, sexologists often focus on careers in public policy, research, and education.
Sexologists are often thought to be sex therapists. It’s understandable why people might be confused between the two professions, but they are, in fact, different. Sexologists can choose careers as sex therapists, wherein they work directly with patients to address their personal issues. However, as stated earlier, sexology is a much broader term involving research into human behavior, changing public policies, activism, and education.
How do you become a sexologist?
To become a sexologist, an individual can pursue degrees in human sexuality or sexology at the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, only a handful of universities currently offer degrees in these courses. Most sexologists come from educational backgrounds centered on sociology, biology, psychology, anthropology, public health, and other such fields that coincide with human sexuality.
Sexologists need advanced professional degrees, but the degrees don’t have to be focused on human sexuality. Some sexologists try to distinguish themselves by pursuing board certification from the American Board of Sexology or the American College of Sexologists International. To receive certification, sexologists need to commit to a certain number of hours, show relevant work experience, and meet numerous strict requirements.
If a sexologist specializes in sex therapy, they should ideally have an advanced degree in counseling, therapy, or psychology, in addition to training specific to sex therapy. Unfortunately, the field of sexology is extremely unrelated, which means anyone can technically call themselves a sexologist without the necessary background. That is one of the many reasons why sexologists aren’t always taken seriously as clinical professionals.
What fields do sexologists pursue?
As mentioned previously, sexologists can pursue numerous career paths besides sex therapy. Some sexologists choose to research human sexuality, advocate for changes in public policy, give advice on inter-disciplinary data, and, yes, a lot of them focus on sex therapy.
Sexologists who focus on sex therapy work directly with clients and patients. If they work with patients individually, they may focus on their individual concerns about their sexuality, dealing with past trauma, and interpersonal relationships. If they work with couples, they may focus on issues like difficulty with orgasms, sexlessness in the relationship, and mismatched libidos.
Clinical sexologists and sex therapists primarily focus on the patient’s sexual growth. They offer advice, education, resources, tools, and materials to help them acknowledge their sexual goals, desires, and histories. Sexologists also help clients improve their comfort zones with sex in gradual increments. They help them lead more positive sexual lives, which, in turn, improves their overall quality of life.
What does a sex therapy session look like?
There’s a strange misconception that clinical sexologists pursuing sex therapy do “hands-on” work to improve their patients’ sexual skills. That is not at all accurate. Clinical sex therapy is all talk and no action. Sessions with sex therapists don’t involve nudity or any other forms of sexual activity.
However, when we emphasize that sexologists and sex therapists don’t provide “hands-on” therapy, we don’t intend to slander sex surrogates, i.e., professionals who work with clients through sexual contact. Sex surrogacy, i.e., the use of actual sexual contact to improve a clients’ sexual skills and relationship, is a perfectly valid profession. But it’s not the same as sex therapy.
A sex therapy session looks no different from a regular therapy session. You make yourself comfortable and talk about your issues and concerns. The sex therapist will listen to your concerns and facilitate self and sexual growth through discussions, advice, sex education, and therapeutic exercises.
If they must explain something graphic, they might use a vulva or penile puppet or a diagram in a textbook for demonstration. Over time, however, they might recommend more practical techniques and homework for their clients to address their sexual issues. If you’re experiencing any issues related to sex, sexuality, or relationships, sexologists pursuing sex therapy are the ones to contact.