Your decision to specialize in a niche clinical area is an important one. There are many areas of focus that you can choose to work in. My advice is that you work in a few areas to decide what you enjoy and more importantly, what you don’t enjoy.
As you develop your general clinical skills, you will begin to find the type of client issues you enjoy working with on a daily basis. My clinical journey led me to the field of clinical sexology. Many factors went into my decision-making process to specialize in the area. If you are considering specializing as a sex therapist, there are a few things to be aware of.
1) Your willingness to attend a training program
You have finally made it through your graduate school and your internship, so the thought of enrolling in another program may seem daunting. However, to become a certified sex therapist, you will have to complete a training program.
The amount of time to complete the training differs with each program. The typical sex therapy training program takes between 1-2 years, depending on the program. At the end of the program, you will receive a sex therapy certification. Your program will include class work, group discussion, clinical skills, and supervision.
2) Your comfort level discussing sex
Whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable discussing the topic of sex doesn’t determine how good you will be as a sex therapist. The training program you will attend will help you work through any barriers you may be experiencing.
During your training, you will learn about all human sexuality topics including sexual anxiety, sexual performance anxiety, sex therapy exercises, couples sex therapy, sex therapy techniques, and many other areas of focus. You will grow more comfortable discussing and understanding human sexuality.
3) Your ability to set boundaries
Boundary setting is essential in all clinical relationships but especially in the field of sex therapy. You will be discussing topics about sexual issues with your clients, which can be challenging at times. You may try to help them feel more comfortable, learn new approaches, or navigate around sexual issues they are experiencing.
Always establish and uphold clear boundaries. Sex therapy never includes touch, physical interaction of any form, or sex with your client. Potential clients may not know what sex therapy is. This is why you want to get comfortable explaining it and setting boundaries before you begin working with them.
4) Your commitment to continue seeking supervision
Regardless if you are a new clinician or have been in the field for many years, supervision is a necessity. Through your consideration to become a sex therapist, make sure that you are committed to continuous supervision.
Often in sex therapy work both transference and countertransference surface. If you aren’t open to continue to work with an experienced sex therapist, you may not want to pursue training to become a sex therapist. Your ability to stay connected to an experienced sex therapy clinician will be helpful in many ways.
5) Your openness to connecting with other sex therapists
In addition to having an experienced sex therapist for supervision, it’s crucial to have a community of clinicians like you for support. Whether it’s one other sex therapist that you feel comfortable talking to or many, support goes a long way. You aren’t alone in your work as a sex therapist.
There are many obstacles that you face as a sex therapist from how your community views your role to clinical questions that surface. You need someone to reach out to whether it’s to vent, work through a clinical issue, or to talk about countertransference. You will meet these support systems through your training program, or you can join a membership association such as the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapist (AASECT).
Becoming a sex therapist was one of the best decisions I have made in my clinical career. I have learned many valuable lessons about myself and helped many individuals work through issues within their lives. I credit my success as a sex therapist to having incredible mentors, supervisors, training programs, and continued education opportunities.
If you are considering the sex therapy field, be sure to reach out to experienced sex therapist as well as associations that can answer your questions before getting started. The field of sex therapy needs people like you that are nonjudgmental, compassionate, and want to help people improve their lives.
Dr. Kristie Overstreet is a clinical sexologist, certified sex therapist, licensed professional clinical counselor, author, speaker, and consultant. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology, Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Addiction Professional. She has over 12 years of clinical experience specializing in sex therapy, transgender healthcare, relationships, and helping counselors build their private practice. She is president of Therapy Department, a private practice that provides counseling, training, speaking, and consulting services across the United States. For more information about Dr. Kristie’s work visit www.KristieOverstreet.com.