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Why psychosexual training courses are becoming increasingly popular

A blog by Marian O'Connor

Marian Oconnor LensCorrected

Last week I was interviewed by a student journalist whom I will call Amani.  She and her fellow students had been assigned a project on ‘The most interesting jobs’ and my job as a sex therapist, along with rocket scientist, brain surgeon and hand model,  was on the list.

I explained in the interview that I call myself a psychosexual therapist rather than a sex therapist or a sexologist, as psychological and emotional issues often come up where there are sexual problems. I could see Amani’s disappointment when  I told her this and I had to agree that mine is a less catchy title, with sex getting rather lost sandwiched between the psych and the therapy.

How sex gets lost

I was curious to know why my job was on the ‘most interesting ’ list and Amani said it was because, although people talk a lot about sex in general, the details are secret and private and it seems extraordinary that someone like me could even begin to ask detailed questions about people’s sex lives and that people would know how to respond.

Research suggests that the taboo about talking openly about sex is rife in the medical and therapy professions. Patients with cardiac issues, prostate or vulval cancer, chronic bowel problems report that doctors, nurses and therapists avoid asking questions about the effect of these conditions on the patient’s sexual relationship. At Tavistock Relationships we run a Certificate in Psychosexual Studies for therapists, health workers and others who work in the helping professions and who, while not wishing to train as psychosexual therapists, would benefit from having more knowledge and ability to talk openly about sex with their patients and clients. It has been heartening to see an increasing number of doctors and nurses attend the course, including several who work in gastrointestinal medicine. These students say that, for most people, talking about bowel problems is even a greater taboo that than talking about sex.

I have been talking so far about medical problems which might cause sexual problems, but anxiety, pain, discomfort, lack of knowledge, low self-esteem, fear of pregnancy, fear of failure, relationship distress,  all have an effect on sexual satisfaction. It does feel a privilege to have learnt the skills to be able to talk openly with clients about their sexual concerns, to have the knowledge to set homework exercises where appropriate,  or to refer clients to a medical doctor if this seems indicated.

I will learn more about the work of the rocket scientist and the hand model as Amani has promised to send me the finished article. In the meantime, sex therapist remains the most interesting job for me.

Marian O’Connor

Head of Psychosexual Training,

How do I take a training in sex therapy? To find out more vist our training page.