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a married couple in a therapist office discussing challenges in their relationship

Couples who experience difficulties in their sexual relationship may seek therapy to address the issue. However, choosing between a couples therapist and a sex therapist can be a daunting task, especially when the goals of the couple are unclear. While some couples therapists have specialized training in sex therapy, the two types of therapy are distinct and have different approaches to enhancing intimacy and resolving sexual issues in relationships.


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This can be a challenging situation for folks to decide but realistically, couples therapy is where most people start. Unless you have a very specific issue to work through such as an inability to maintain an erection (beyond medical reasons) or have issues with physical intimacy that are damaging your relationship. Let's start by taking a look at some of these different types of therapy that married couples may want to try so that they can strengthen their relationship and overcome obstacles to having a happy marriage.

Identifying Your Therapy Goals

Before starting therapy, couples should clearly define what they hope to achieve through the process. This might involve setting specific objectives like improving communication, resolving particular conflicts, or restoring intimacy. This process is essential to be completely honest with your partner. If you are not candid with your needs and desires then this whole process could be a waste of time since it will be misdirected.

Being clear about these goals helps in selecting the right type of therapy and measuring the progress and effectiveness of the therapy sessions. Discussing these goals openly with the therapist in the initial sessions is helpful to ensure alignment and adjust the therapy approaches as needed. This proactive planning facilitates a more focused and successful therapeutic journey.

Recognizing the Need for Help

Couples should evaluate if unresolved conflicts, communication issues, or emotional distance persistently affect their relationship and daily life, signaling the need for professional intervention.

Evaluating the Type of Help Needed

Assess whether issues are related to broader relationship dynamics like communication (suiting couples therapy) or more focused on sexual health and intimacy (pointing towards sex therapy). Discussing goals and researching various therapeutic approaches can guide the decision.

Choosing the Right Professional

Select a therapist based on their qualifications, specialization, and your comfort level with them. Consider logistics such as location, availability, and cost, including insurance coverage, to ensure the choice is practical and sustainable.

Types of Relationship Therapy

Couples therapy and sex therapy are two distinct types of therapy that may be considered when addressing unresolved relationship issues affecting sexual intimacy. Couples therapy focuses on repairing or strengthening relationships, while sex therapy focuses on resolving specific sexual issues. Couples therapy can help enhance intimacy, but it may not address some sexual issues that require specialized training in sex therapy. Sex therapy is a form of therapy that is comfortable and open in discussing sexual issues.

Here's a table discussing five common types of therapy for couples looking to improve their marriage, including sex therapy and couples therapy among others:

Type of TherapyDescriptionFocus Points

Couples Therapy

A form of therapy involvign both partners working with a therapist to discuss and improve their relationship. Communication, conflict resolution, understanding each other’s perspectives.

Sex Therapy

Specialized therapy that focuses on intimacy issues where couples work with a therapist trained in addressing sexual concerns. Sexual compatibility, intimacy issues, overcoming physical or emotional barriers.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

A structured approach based on attachment theory that aims to create and strengthen secure emotional bonds between partners. Emotional awareness and attachment, strengthening emotional bonds, trust.

The Gottman Method

Developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, this method involves assessments and interventions based on the couple's dynamic and interactions. Communication dynamics, conflict management, building love maps, fostering admiration.

Narrative Therapy

Focuses on the stories couples construct about their relationship and aims to rewrite these narratives in a more positive and empowering way. Identifying negative perceptions, creating positive relationship stories.

These therapies offer different approaches and techniques to help couples understand and resolve their issues, enhancing their relationship and improving their marital satisfaction.

It helps individuals and couples overcome sexual problems and achieve sexual satisfaction. Sex therapy within couples therapy can help with physical and emotional intimacy, lack of desire, mismatched libidos, porn use, intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, addictions, arousal or orgasmic difficulties, erectile and ejaculatory difficulties. It is an effective way to address sexual issues while enhancing intimacy and can lead to sexual healing and a more satisfying relationship.

Sex Therapy vs Couples Therapy

The selection of therapy that will work best for your relationship depends on the goals and objectives that you have. Inherantly both forms of therapy involve a couple working together, but each of these offers their own unique elements that will help achieve different goals.

Sex Therapy Goals & Objectives:

  • Address Sexual Dysfunction: Sex therapy primarily aims to resolve issues related to sexual dysfunction, which can include problems with sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain during intercourse.
  • Enhance Intimacy: It focuses on enhancing intimacy and sexual communication between partners, helping them to express their needs and desires more openly.
  • Educate on Sexual Health: Sex therapists often provide education on sexual health and functioning to dispel myths and alleviate any misconceptions or anxieties.
  • Resolve Psychological Issues: The therapy also addresses psychological concerns related to sexuality or sexual health, aiming to improve overall sexual satisfaction and relationship health.

Couples Therapy Goals & Objectives:

  • Improve Communication: The primary goal is to improve communication skills between partners, helping them to effectively discuss and resolve issues without escalating conflicts.
  • Resolve Conflicts: It aims to help couples understand and manage conflicts, finding constructive ways to address disagreements and enhance mutual respect.
  • Strengthen Emotional Bonds: Couples therapy focuses on strengthening the emotional connection between partners, fostering a deeper understanding and empathy.
  • Promote Relationship Growth: It encourages personal and relationship growth, aiding partners in adapting to relationship changes and fostering a long-term healthy relationship dynamic.

Both forms of therapy offer valuable support to couples, but they cater to different aspects of relationships. While sex therapy is more focused on the sexual aspect and related issues, couples therapy addresses broader relationship dynamics and communication.

By considering these factors, couples can make an informed decision about the best therapy option for their needs.

Benefits and Costs Of Therapies

When considering therapy options, it is important to evaluate the potential benefits and costs of each. Choosing between a couples therapist and a sex therapist comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Couples therapy helps to repair or strengthen relationships and is ideal for enhancing intimacy. However, it may not always be the best choice when it comes to resolving specific sexual issues. On the other hand, sex therapy focuses on resolving sexual issues, including physical and emotional intimacy, lack of desire, mismatched libidos, and compulsive behaviors.

One of the benefits of choosing a couple therapist who has training in sex therapy is that they can provide a comprehensive approach to addressing issues that affect both the relationship and the sexual aspect of it. This can help heal sexually while enhancing intimacy. However, the cost of seeing such a therapist may be higher than seeing a sex therapist who does not address relationship issues.

Additionally, it is important to choose a therapist who aligns with the couple's goals and is comfortable discussing sensitive topics. Overall, the benefits and costs of choosing a therapist depend on the individual couple and their specific needs.

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After leaving the corporate world, James launched a series of websites promoting men's lifestyle and travel topics. He knew though that there was something missing ...

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