Have you ever wondered what you should or should not discuss in therapy? Most people start their therapy journey with preconceived notions about what can be discussed openly and what should be kept private.Well the answer is this: Everything is okay to discuss in therapy. Including sex.
Sex is natural.
When I am working with a patient, it never fails that they hesitate to discuss sex. This happens whether I am working with couples, individuals, or yes, even children.
“Everyone has sexual thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are integral to their sense of who they are and how they relate to the world”.-Candace B. Risen, LISW
The truth is simple. We are all sexual beings by nature, and sex is a healthy topic to discuss. Sure, some people talk about the activity of sex, but it can also be about sexual development, sexual identity, or intimacy. These are all basic needs for a majority of the population. Similarly to all basic needs, sometimes issues arise. It’s important to discuss those issues in order to problem solve.
Sex has a stigma.
So, why is talking about sex so difficult? There are several common barriers that prevent people from talking about it, especially with a therapist. These barriers include:
Sex is a very private topic for many people. Earlier generations have established social norms about sex, especially the societal hush-hush surrounding it. In other words, it is believed that it should not be discussed with others. Consequently, this prevents people from asking important questions, learning healthy ways to engage, and communicating concerns.
The way sex is portrayed in pop culture and on social media is not always reflective of reality. If we think, feel, or act differently than what these platforms deem as “normal”, we may feel guilt or shame and want to hide these pieces away.
Therapist comfortability with the topic
Some patients worry that their provider will feel uncomfortable or awkward when discussing topics relating to sex. This can be enough to deter them from bringing it up.
Sometimes people have difficulty discussing the topic because of their age. Perhaps they are young, and worried their provider will pass judgement. Or maybe they are older, and embarrassed about lack of experience or physical challenges. Another factor could be the age difference between the provider and the patient. This can feel intimidating for some.
Similarly to age, differences in gender between patient and provider can feel awkward, which might prevent people from bringing it up. In addition, patients with non-binary gender identities might hesitate to open up about their sexual preferences out of fear of judgement.
Above all, if you find yourself having questions, concerns, or curiosities regarding sexual identity or intimacy, therapy is a safe environment to explore those. Providers are trained and prepared to discuss thoughts and feelings about this topic, and they want to help people gain clarity and confidence in this area.
Sex is healthy!
So how can a therapist help when it comes to sex and mental health? A therapist can educate people on healthy relationship skills, including sex, because it is healthy! They can also help people identify, process, and challenge existing thoughts or beliefs about what is “normal”. In turn, this can improve intimacy and decrease feelings of embarrassment for patients and their partners.
Who should talk about sex?
You might wonder who should be discussing sex in therapy. Well, the answer is everyone!
There are many benefits to exploring this topic with a provider. For example, being able to discuss sex leads to:
- healthier and more satisfied sex lives.
- a clearer sense of sexual identity and preferences.
- greater aptitude for vulnerability and builds honest communication skills.
- more clearly identified boundaries and ability to enforce those boundaries.
Talking to Kids
There are even benefits to discussing sex with children. While this often falls into the existing stigma of this topic being inappropriate for children, it can actually be better in the long run.
- You will become a primary source of information for your child.
- You can make sure accurate information is being provided to your child.
- Children who talk about sex with their parents are more likely to wait until they are able to make healthy choices.
Sex is a very broad and complex topic. There can be a lot to unpack. If you would like help understanding, processing, or learning how to speak to your kids about it, contact us today!