Sex Therapists As Parents (See “Sex Education”)

What kind of individuals become sex therapists?

Sex Education, a new Netflix series, stars Gillian Anderson as Jean, an “extremely forthright” sex therapist (Vulture) who “overshares” with her son Otis (Asa Butterfield), a teenage virgin. He tries to turn this to his advantage by “counseling” his classmates regarding sexual matters.

Is Anderson’s character typical of parents who are sex therapists? An unusually high comfort level with sex talk, surely; weird parent-child boundaries, best not to generalize.

One individual who’s commented in the past on having a sex therapist mom is Tom Cutler (The Guardian).

Her straightforwardness on the topics of sex and what can go wrong with the sexual psyche led me as a boy to view the subject first as intellectually interesting and, second, as perfectly normal, in all its incredible variety. As a consequence, my own son has been brought up in an unembarrassed household where sex questions have always been answered in plain words, and often with a laugh, for if sex is not a funny subject then what is?

Another “survivor” is Lola Maltz, whose one-woman show in New York, “My Mom Is a Sex Therapist,” was derived from her own personal experiences. From a Broadway World description: “…Lola plays multiple characters, including her Mom, a sexually voracious alter ego, and the full cast of a lesbian safe-sex PSA…” Unfortunately, I’ve found no deeper info than that.

What about the actual practice of sex therapy? Clinician Isadora Alman emphasizes, for one, that “there is no personal touching in the office” (Psychology Today). And Dr. Nagma V. Clark‘s Psych Central article offers the following summary:

Sex therapy is appropriate for both individuals and couples interested in overcoming a sexual issue or interested in improving their sexual connection.

Mismatched desire in a couple is the most common reason for couples to seek sex therapy. Other reasons include premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, not being able to orgasm, the impact of aging on sexual pleasure, and overall dissatisfaction with the sexual relationship.

People who are not in relationships can also benefit from sex therapy. In fact, you don’t have to be in a relationship or need your partner to attend sessions, in order for you to get the most out of sex therapy.

What kind of educational and professional background do sex therapists have? From Alman:

While no state to my knowledge offers a license for this specifically, a sex therapist must have some sort of advanced degree, Master’s or Doctorate, and be licensed as a psychologist, counselor, or social worker. He or she has advanced training and is usually affiliated with at least one professional organization such as the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists or the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

One well established—30-plus-years—sex therapist and sex educator is Sallie Foley, who was interviewed by Brad Waters for Psychology Today. Regarding her enjoyment of her work:

What keeps me going every day is that combination of head and heart. Being present to witness people change as they become more empowered to take their journey into their own hands. It’s a commitment to knowing that change requires a presence and a connection.

Sex is different for all of us. One of my favorite writers, Margaret Nichols, who is a sex therapist in New Jersey says, ‘We’re all queer.’ We’re as different in our interests in sex as we are about food and that makes this work very interesting.

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