Process Of Therapy

The Process of Sex Therapy & Individual & Couples Counseling

Whether you’re searching for a sex therapist, individual counselor  or couples counselor for the first time, or a veteran therapy seeker, the process of finding a new sex therapist or couples counselor  can be tiresome and intimidating. From finding the right therapist that meets your needs to feeling stuck in your current therapeutic process, at the Center for Growth we offer a plethora of self-help intimacy tips, detailed sex therapist biographies and a clinician-operated intake line (215-922-5683 x 100) to help you make an informed decision about  therapy at any point in your journey. 


Choosing the Right Sex Therapist & Couples Counselor

Sex Therapy, individual and couples counseling is becoming more and more normalized. It’s not rare to find yourself in conversations where someone casually mentions, “my therapist recommended…”. And while it’s true that people still aren’t necessarily open about seeing a sex therapist, people are open to saying that they have hired a therapist to assist them.  Everyone struggles with anxiety, depression, shame, grief, intimacy.  Details are not relevant.  Finding a therapist often is word of mouth.  Finding the right sex  therapist or couples counselor  can be  slightly more challenging.  People still don’t talk about sex.  Choosing the right therapist is a process. 

When choosing the right therapist, it’s helpful to first check in with yourself about what you want to get out of therapy. We can give a general definition of psychotherapy, but the truth is that it’s more of a working definition. Some people come to sex therapy because they want to talk with someone  who has the expertise in resolve sexual issues, as well as someone who’s not directly involved in their lives and can provide  supportive feedback. You might be seeking out a sex therapists or couples counselor because they  might want insight into themselves over advice. As an individual you might want validation, a listening ear, or to be heard with love and empathy.  As a couple you might want help learning how to communicate with your partner so that each of you can better understand and resolve the problems together.  It can be empowering when someone who’s not a part of your social or familial circle understands you and provides reflection, so that you can better understand yourself. Or, you might come to therapy with a specific problem that you want help resolving: premature ejaculation, low sex drive, painful intercourse, childhood sexual abuse, false sexual allegations, infertility, sexual orientation, gender identity, or affairs.  You might want a more short-term, directive therapy experience to deal with a sexual phobia, or a singular sexual issue at work. Some folks come to therapy wanting to relearn habits and patterns that they’ve picked up from a traumatic childhood, or a family of origin wrought with challenges that’s left them confused about life in adulthood. Or, perhaps you want couples therapy to help improve communication and overall  intimacy in your relationship. It’s also okay if you don’t know why you want a sex therapist or couples counselor, but you’re just not feeling very well mentally and emotionally- a therapist can be a fellow explorer. 

Although  therapists are thoroughly trained through their graduate programs, rigorous training and internship programs and mandatory mentorship for licensure, therapists most people do not receive couples counseling skills, let alone sex therapy.  Assuming that you have identified a sex therapist or couples counselor with the proper training and internships, people are still people with different preferences for how they practice therapy and understand the world. When choosing the right sex  therapist and couples counselor  you will want to look for someone in a group practice where you know they have a high volume of clients with similar issues, or with internships that focused on sex therapy and / or couples counseling where all the work was video or audio tapes.  Having the right degrees, or training certificates helps too.  Maybe most importantly, once you have identified someone credible (meaning the right academic background) someone who resonates with you and the reason that you’re wanting therapy in the first place. 

When reading the sex therapist or couples counselors  bios online, what resonates with you?  Are they trained in sex therapy? Or couples counseling? If you’ve had an interest in practicing mindfulness, does your potential therapist mention that they provide that? If you are interested in understanding how trauma has affected your life and relationships, does your therapist specify that they are trauma-informed, or treat trauma? You might also get a feeling of interest when reading about a therapist, perhaps the way that they write, or how they talk about themselves and the therapeutic process feels approachable or relatable. Perhaps your sex therapist or couples counselors  shares some of your identities, like race, culture, gender or sexuality, and this is important to you when choosing the right therapist.  

Forming a relationship with a therapist takes time. Once you start working with your chosen therapist, it will take some time to get to know them, and build trust with them. However, you should feel comfortable with your therapist, and like they “get you.” This might come in the form of feeling understood, or that the person is actively working and succeeding in understanding you. Personality and compatibility matters, don’t be afraid to “shop around.” Sometimes it takes meeting with a couple different therapists to determine who feels right when choosing the right therapist. At the Center for Growth, we offer the ability to try different therapists within our network. We want people to feel like they have options so that they have a better chance at having a successful experience in choosing the right therapist. 

Searching for an Experienced Sex Therapist, Individual and Couples Counselor

At The Center for Growth, all therapists, intern therapists included, are trained or being trained as “generalist therapists”, meaning they can treat anxiety, depression, life struggles that aren’t related to mental illness, like change, transition, relational issues, time management struggles and more. Generalists understand different therapeutic modalities, and how to apply them. For example, a generalist may know how to use methods from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you understand how thoughts can lead to feelings and behaviors. Generalists may want to stay generalists, or build their knowledge in a specific area and begin to specialize in that area. 

More often than not, the longer a therapist practices, the more they find their niche, or their area of expertise. You might find that a generalist therapist is more than qualified to assist you in your life’s struggles, or you may have worked with a generalist and found that you need someone more adept at treating your specific issue. 

Some examples would be finding a therapist who specifically offers sex therapy, or therapy for erectile dysfunctions, painful sex, orgasm problems, low sex drive, fetishes, poly people, gender issues, Searching for an experienced therapist might include looking at therapist biographies on varying websites in your area, and perhaps looking at their resume/CV to look at past experiences. When searching for an experienced therapist to help you through an eating disorder, you may look at their past experience and see if they’ve listed that as an area of expertise, or if they have work experience with that specific population. At the Center for Growth, we are a unique practice with therapists specializing in everything from anxiety, grief, depression, shame, sexual orientation, gender identity,  baby loss. disordered eating, to sex therapy, couples therapy, to narcissistic abuse recovery. You can check out our self-help tips authored by therapists and get to know their niches through their writing, and what they choose to write about.  You can look at their youtube page, instagram and even their facebook page. With the invention of the Internet a lot of information about your therapist is available online.

When therapists specialize in a particular area, they want you to know about it, because it’s often work they’ve learned how to do over time, and work that sits close to their heart for a multitude of reasons. If it’s not clear what someone specializes in, it’s likely they are a generalist,  and in the case of sexuality issues, proceed with caution.  Sex therapy is a speciality that the average therapist is not trained in.  

Getting the Most out of Therapy

You have to feel comfortable with your therapist if you are to be getting the most out of therapy and in this case, getting the most out of your sex therapist. If you feel like you and your therapist are a good fit, and you are in good hands, then you are likely well on your way to building a trusting relationship with your therapist. Getting the most out of therapy requires a trusting, respectful relationship with your therapist. You should like your therapist, and if you don’t, you should look for someone who will be a better fit. 

That being said, differences with your therapist can be grist for the mill, or opportunities for learning. It’s okay to call out your therapist for doing something you don’t like, or to correct your therapist if they get something wrong. A skilled therapist will be able to receive this feedback well, and you get the experience of self-advocacy. Your therapist should also check in with you, making sure the relationship feels okay for you. Things like gender differences, racial differences and cultural differences between you and your therapist might also come up- this is perfectly normal, and again, can be opportunities to strengthen your relationship and gain skills in talking about differences, as long as you feel safe enough to do so. The burden to keep things safe, boundaried and secure is on your therapist. 

Another way to ensure you are getting the most out of therapy is to tell your therapist the truth about what’s really going on with you. Lying to your therapist, or omitting information does not allow your therapist to fully conceptualize what’s going on with you, and then they can’t help you based on all the data. Of course, trust has to be built and felt in order for you to get the most out of therapy and share openly. Sharing openly with your therapist is a way to practice sharing openly with other people in your life. This can help chip away at things like shame, isolation and even depression. We all need to feel seen, heard and understood. Also, remember therapy is YOUR time, and there are benefits in coming to therapy prepared, although you don’t have to do that if it’s not your style. Don’t be afraid to “run the room”, and direct your therapy, focusing on what you want to focus on. Your therapist should help empower you to put yourself in the driver’s seat. 

If you’re approaching therapy with a partner, or multiple partners, there are specific things you can do to be  getting the most out of couples therapy.  Most relationships need work, but some of us struggle to chart out the path towards a healthy relationship. Getting the most out of couples therapy starts with making the choice to attend and connecting with the right couples therapist. Issues like conflict, infidelity, infertility and baby loss can affect your relationship. Perhaps you’re in a polyarmous relationship and you need guidance to help you manage communication, or lifestyle changes.  It’s important that you tell your therapist the truth about what you’re presenting to couples therapy with. Getting the most out of a couples therapy will require you to be honest and vulnerable, but your therapist will help facilitate that process. 

When it comes to getting the most out of sex therapy, it starts with finding a therapist you feel compatible with. Sex therapy is a valuable tool that can create massive changes in your life. Imagine having someone to help you get more comfortable talking about sex and building a fulfilling sex life with your partner(s). Imagine healing sexual trauma and feeling comfortable and open to receiving pleasure in your own body. Getting the most out of sex therapy starts with recognizing that sex therapy is a brave step towards reclaiming sex and sexuality. Perhaps you need concrete information about desire, arousal and how you and your partner’s body works. Sex therapy can not only facilitate conversations that are outside of the norm, or what you’ve been taught in “sex ed”, but sex therapy can also give you and your partner ways of practicing the material learned in therapy on your own time. Many people find freedom in opening up a dialogue about sex, because it’s not all that common to have the words to describe what we need and feel. Getting the most out of sex therapy starts with understanding you are headed towards a journey that has the potential to change ane ignite your life. 

Although therapy can be a private matter for some, it can also be helpful to tell your loved one(s) that you’re seeking treatment. It can be helpful for a partner to know you’re in therapy, so that they can be supportive of your journey. If you are going through changes because of therapy, it can also prepare them to welcome and understand the changes in your behavior. Perhaps after therapy, you find yourself craving some alone time. It can be helpful to clue your partner into what’s going on. You don’t have to share every aspect of your therapy session, your level of discretion is up to you, however, talking about therapy with your partner can sometimes create rewarding, deep and intimate conversations about how you’re growing together, and perhaps even as a couple. 

Getting the Most out of Virtual Sex Therapy, Individual or Couples Counseling

Teletherapy has made sex therapy and couples more accessible to folks who would have otherwise lived too far away to have access.  There aren’t many of us out there.  And in general many people have  been opposed to going into an office for sex therapy treatment, or for people who just didn’t have the time to do so. Within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for therapy grew as people were stuck inside with themselves, their spouses and/or their families, roommates, etc. Virtual therapy is here to stay, given that some people prefer it at this point, and other people live geographically far from therapists that may be centrally located in densely populated areas. 

Getting the most out of virtual sex therapy requires privacy.  This could mean that you set yourself up with a comfortable space in your home where sex therapy can take place. You might put on comfortable clothing, grab a cup of coffee or tea and receive therapy from the comfort of your own residence. But it’s really up to you, some people benefit from putting the kids to bed and hopping on a call with their sex therapist, and that alone allows them to get the most out of their virtual therapy time. The convenience of virtual therapy is unprecedented.

Getting the most out of your virtual therapy experience also includes working on your verbal skills with your therapist. This is especially true if therapy takes place over the phone only. In order to get the most out of virtual therapy, you have to get comfortable learning to use words to describe your thoughts and feelings because body language is not as much a part of the equation.  A skilled sex therapist is also going to be teaching you how to communicate with others using non verbal techniques.  After all sexual intimacy is frequently not about words.  But with that being said, sex therapists use words to communicate their ideas to their clients. We not take our clothes off, nor do we have sex with you. We use talk therapy to teach you the needed skills to have good sex. 

Getting the most out of virtual therapy also includes practical steps like ensuring you have good internet or cellular connection. Ensuring you are satisfied with sound and video, so that you can feel less distracted. At the Center for Growth, we use a virtual platform that can be used on your phone as well as the computer.  If possible, but not required, we do encourage clients to sign up for regularly scheduled appointments until the situation has been resolved. By creating a ritualized time and space, we find that clients are better able to get the most out of their experience. 

Our Approach to Sex Therapy, Individual and Couples Counseling, 

At the Center for Growth, we offer a variety of therapists with different backgrounds, specializations and experience levels. However, we are particular in terms of who we have on-board, wanting to ensure our clinicians provide the absolute best service possible. We are a family here, clinicians care about each other, and we often meet to exchange ideas, skills and insight. Although every therapist is different, and you can explore the depths of a therapist’s approach via their detailed biographies, our overall approach to therapy is that we practice in a person-centered manner. We look at the individual in their life, in their environment and we base therapy off of what you want us to help you with. We respect your values, your beliefs, your identities and your individual definition of what would make a happier, more fulfilling life. We believe that people are meant to grow and live a full, meaningful and authentic life, and we understand that means something different depending on who we’re talking to. 

At the Center for Growth, we have experienced, specialized therapists. Our therapists carry reasonable caseloads, so we are not overly stressed, lacking time and bandwidth for our clients. Our therapists are accessible and you can reach each and every one of us directly through calling and secure messaging. Our approach to therapy is to be accessible to our clients, so that your experience feels personal.  In addition to expert therapists, we offer a robust internship program, with intense mentorship being the cornerstone. The benefit of working with an intern therapist is that it’s more cost effective, and you’re also receiving a well-mentored therapist who has so much support and expert insight at their fingertips. Our approach to therapy is providing options for people to choose from, and making sure you are satisfied with services. 

Lastly, we offer affordable group therapy experiences that can fit almost anyone’s budget. We offer unique groups like:  Herpes Support Group, Sex Compulsion Group, Narcissistic abuse recovery groups, HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) support groups, chronic pain support groups, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) support groups, and more. Our approach to therapy is that we want everyone to be able to access help.

The Beginning of Therapy 

The beginning of therapy is all about building trust with your therapist. Even though the therapeutic relationship is a relationship with professional boundaries, it’s still a relationship nonetheless, and it can take a little time to build trust. The beginning of therapy is about introducing yourself, outlining your history and exploring goals, all the while, building trust and assessing whether or not you feel like your therapist “gets you.” The beginning of therapy can be jarring for a first-time therapy goer, and still, for a veteran therapy-goer, because you’re meeting a new person and telling your story again. However, the beginning of therapy is also an opportunity to practice social skills, sharing yourself with others, expressing your feelings and needs clearly and getting to know your goals. 

The beginning of therapy is a big step, and we understand it’s taken a lot to get here. Even considering therapy is an act of recognizing that you might benefit from some help. It’s a radical act of self-care to acknowledge that you need help and support. In the beginning of therapy, your therapist will take their time getting to know you, and do what’s called an intake assessment. In the beginning of therapy, it’s vital to get some information from you like your mental health history, family history and more. We also want to know what makes you, you. What are your strengths, and what are you suffering with? These are some of the questions asked in the beginning of therapy.

Intake Appointment 

An intake appointment is typically the first appointment you will have with a therapist. Although therapists practice differently, generally speaking you can expect certain questions to come up during an intake appointment. It’s important to note that although an intake can be detailed, it will still take time for your therapist to get to know the full depth of your answers. For example, if you state that you have trauma in your childhood, your therapist might ask you for some information during your intake appointment, but it would take time and trust to talk about the whole story. 

During your intake appointment, you can expect your therapist to ask you what you want to work on, or work through- what do you want to address in therapy? How do you want to use therapy? Because you will likely fill out a history form before meeting with your therapist, your therapist might follow up with some questions based on the answers you provided. They might ask you if you’d like to expand on something. Your therapist will ask you about your mental health history, what has worked and what hasn’t worked. During your intake appointment, your therapist will check in about how you feel, what your day-to-day life looks like, who you live with and if you feel safe within your home, your life and your relationships. Your therapist will ask you about trauma, drug and alcohol use and family history. Remember that it’s best to be honest with your therapist, because then you will yield better results from your experience. However, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing something quite yet, saying that to your therapist is a way to let them know you’re not ready to talk about something, while still being honest that there’s something more to discuss. 

During your intake appointment, your therapist might ask you questions about symptoms, to determine if you meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis. Sometimes this takes more time than just one meeting. However, if you suspect you might meet criteria for a diagnosis, or want to explore that, let your therapist know. There are formal screening tools that can be used to help quicken that process, and since you know yourself the best, this information is priceless. 

Your Family History 

Your therapist will want to gather a sexual history, including information about how your family or origin approached sexuality within the first few appointments. There are always exceptions to this, like if you need more time to talk about it. However, your therapist will benefit from knowing some basic information like who you grew up around, who you identify as your caregiver(s), and if anyone in your family has a mental health history. Did you ever see your parents holding hands? Did they have chemistry, were affairs happening? How did you get your first bra? When you had your first wet dream, did you know what it was? How old were you when you first had a crush? Who was the first person you kissed? What were your different sexual relationships like? It’s okay if you don’t know all the questions that we ask about your sexual history. Over time you and your therapist can explore different relationships with people in your family if that will aid in your treatment. 

Sharing your family history can be difficult, especially if this is your first time going to therapy. Giving your family history can sometimes feel like sacred information; feelings of betrayal and loyalty can come up if you feel you are “outing” a family member for being abusive, negligent or struggling with their mental health. Sharing your family history can be done at the pace you feel comfortable, but it’s vital to understand that this can help your therapist get to know you better, moving treatment along. And if you’re after self-knowledge, talking through your family history with a therapist can help reveal aspects of yourself that you may not have connected with your experience within your family.

Setting Goals

As you and your therapist are building trust and talking through information via your intake assessment and family history, your therapist will help you set goals for yourself. These goals don’t have to be concrete. For example, you can have a goal to explore and define your goals and what you want out of life. Or, you might have more specific goals such as: reduce my anxiety so that I can feel comfortable reentering the dating scene. Setting and revisiting goals can be like an anchor in therapy. It’s okay to go off course, but it’s nice to have something to return to. As treatment progresses, you might notice your goals change. It’s helpful and empowering to recognize your goals, and also to recognize how they might change over time. 

Another major benefit to setting goals in therapy is that you have a way of measuring what’s working and what’s not. And you have a means of tracking progress, and a common way to discuss that. Goals can also help you to realize what’s most important to you and what you value the most. How do you want your life to change? What do you want to feel more of? Less of? This is a big part of a therapeutic process. Setting goals can help you remember outside of therapy, what you’re trying to work on, and keep you connected to what matters most. 

The Process of Healing

For some folks, therapy can be a long term endeavor, for others, a shorter term process. The length of sex therapy depends on your presenting struggles, and what role you want therapy to play in your life.  Erectile dysfunctions are usually 8-10 sessions.  Low sex drive 15-20 sessions.  Sex compulsions recovery 20-40 sessions.  

Once the initial presenting problem has been resolved, some people desire to have a therapist to bounce ideas off of- to have a person who’s not involved in your personal circle who still has your back and knows you as you go through your life processes. Some folks seek therapy to find a specific solution to a problem, and once they feel they’ve found it, their therapy process is complete. Others will go through therapy to solve a problem, only to discover they have more goals they want to work on as the problem gets resolved. There is no right or wrong way of approaching the process of healing. Everyone will have a different experience. We understand that and center the person above all else. Your healing process is very much your own. Prior to choosing a sex therapist or couples counselor talks with them about their beliefs in short term vs long term therapy.  The answer can vary widely between the different therapists.  Classic sex therapy is short term work.  You know when your sex life is working again.  General issues, or early childhood wounds can take longer or require more ongoing work.