11/05/2012 12:30 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Do You Need a Sex Therapist?

How does a sex therapist work with your medical doctor?

When people encounter a physical problem, they often discuss it first with their family physician. Those doctors often refer to specialists who have focused training and expertise. Sex therapists are one of these specialists.

On the other hand, sometimes people approach sex therapists with sexual dysfunctions, not realizing the connection between their sexual problem and their physical health or medications.

When medical professionals and sex therapists work in concert, they can provide their patients the best possible outcomes to their particular issues.

How does this happen?

With a simple form called a Consent for Release of Confidential Information, your busy doctor can refer you to a sexologist trained specifically in issues regarding sexuality, and vice versa.

What your physician cannot realistically be expected to know about sexual behaviour and performance, your sex therapist does know; what your sex therapist cannot know about disease and pharmacology, your doctor does. With their collaboration, you receive the best possible care for this most delicate and important issue. And, yes, your confidentiality is always ensured.

What does each do?

Your physician will diagnose or eliminate physiological causes of sexual performance problems and will also work to maintain your peak level of health despite sexual side effects of treatment.

Your sex therapist works together with you and your care provider to maximize your sexual function within the context of your relationship while minimizing the effects of sexually-debilitating diseases and their treatments.

How do I begin the process?

Most physicians get only a smattering of training in how to approach their patients about personal issues, and they are often subject to the same embarrassment their patients feel regarding sexuality, so neither of you broaches the subject.

Be bold. Tell your doctor you have sexual concerns you would like to discuss. That should be sufficient. They'll know how to determine if your problem is purely body-oriented. If not, ask for a referral to a sex therapist.

Or if that doesn't feel comfortable, you can begin by calling a sex therapist first, and if the issue is medical in nature, s/he can refer you to a doctor. Again, collaboration is optimum, but not required.

Does my partner have to come to sex therapy with me?

You will decide what works best for you. Your sex therapist will help you understand your physical limits and potentials, how to adjust your personal behaviour to fit and, if you wish, will help your partner understand and accommodate any necessary changes.

This period often leads to newfound closeness in couples. Sometimes it proves to be a silver lining to an otherwise confusing and anxious situation.

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