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How to become a sexual therapist uk

A sex therapist helps people with sexual problems.

Sex therapists are qualified counsellors, doctors or healthcare professionals who have done extra training in helping people with problems relating to sex.

Why do people have sex therapy?

Lots of people have a problem with sex at some point in their life. Some people can help themselves. For others, sexual problems can cause a lot of distress and unhappiness.

A sex therapist can help people with various sexual problems, including:

  • lack of desire
  • difficulty having an orgasm
  • pain during sex or inability to have penetrative sex
  • difficulty getting or keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • premature ejaculation or other ejaculation problems

What happens in a sex therapy session?

A sex therapist will listen to you describe your problems and assess whether the cause is likely to be psychological, physical or a combination of the two.

Each therapy session is confidential. You can see a sex therapist by yourself, but if your problem affects your partner as well, it may be better for you both to attend.

Talking about and exploring your experiences will help you get a better understanding of what is happening and the reasons. The therapist may also give you exercises and tasks to do with your partner in your own time.

Sessions usually last for 30 to 50 minutes. The therapist may advise you to have weekly sessions or to see them less frequently, such as once a month.

How can I find a sex therapist?

If you have a sexual problem, it’s a good idea to see a GP first as they can check for any physical causes. The GP can refer you to a sex therapist if they think it will help you. However, sex therapy is not available on the NHS in all areas, and an NHS clinic may only offer a limited number of therapy sessions.

You can also find a sex therapist privately, which you’ll need to pay for. It’s important to see a qualified registered therapist. Look for one who is a member of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT) or the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine.

Organisations such as Relate also offer sex therapy for a fee.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Page last reviewed: 9 December 2019
Next review due: 9 December 2022

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If you have ever wondered how to become a sex therapist, it is important to understand the level of commitment, education, and practice hours needed to begin this career. Any licensed therapist can become a sex therapist. Licensed therapists include psychotherapists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, professional counselors, school counselors, or psychiatrists.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many sex-related classes that are offered in regular therapy training for licensed professionals. Usually, the basic requirements are quite low, such as taking a weekend course in sexuality. However, sex is a basic human need, and many therapy clients struggle with sexual issues so it can be helpful for any therapist to take additional sexuality training, regardless of whether or not they want to dedicate their practice to sex therapy.

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How to Become a Sex Therapist in 5 Steps

While there are 5 important steps to becoming a sex therapist, the process can take quite a while if you are starting from scratch. The length of time for sex therapy training depends on what your educational level is, and what qualifications or certifications you have completed before entering into specific sex therapy training. The requirements to complete your Master’s Degree are different for each state and can be quite involved and confusing.

The First 4 Steps in Becoming a Sex Therapist

  1. Earn at least a Masters Degree in psychotherapy, clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling or psychiatry. These degrees generally take between two and seven years to achieve, depending on which degree you decide to pursue.
  2. Meet all the requirements for licensure – these requirements are different in different states so you will need to research these based on where you live.
  3. Obtain a provisional license while you do your supervised work experience. The requirements generally include somewhere between 1500 and 4000 hours.
  4. Pass the licensing exam in your state.

The 5th Step of How to Become a Sex Therapist

The 5th and final step of how to become a sex therapist can be completed one of two ways:

Option 1

Complete an additional 60 supervised hours or take a commensurate amount of sexuality-related classes in a graduate school to complete your sex therapy training.

Option 2

Become a Certified Sex Therapist (CST). You do this by going through the training and certification process offered by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Requirements include:

  • Having an active AASECT membership
  • Reading the AASECT code of ethics
  • Having an MA degree plus two years clinical experience, or a doctoral degree plus one year of clinical experience as well as licensure
  • 90 hours of sex education coursework from accredited institutions, with specific requirements for the subcategories of the coursework
  • 60 hours of sex therapy training with specific subcategory requirements
  • Completion of the application process
  • Acceptance

Sex Counseling Certification

AASECT also offers a Sex Counseling Certification. To become an AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselor you do not need to have licensure.

You need to meet the following requirements:

  • Having an active AASECT membership
  • Reading the AASECT code of ethics
  • Having a BA degree and three years of counseling experience with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window, an MA degree plus two years clinical experience with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window, or a doctoral degree plus two years, with a minimum of 1000 hours accumulated in a 2-5 year window.
  • 90 hours of sex education coursework from accredited institutions, with specific requirements for the subcategories of the coursework
  • 60 hours of sexuality counseling training with specific subcategory requirements
  • Completion of the application process
  • Acceptance
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The Sex Coach Career Path

If you are passionate about helping people improve their sex lives and relationships but not sure if the sex therapist path is right for you, you might also consider becoming a sex coach.

While you will still need training, this focused pathway can take a much shorter amount of time and get you started on a career right away. Sex coaching is a growing, high demand field.

Additionally, if you are already a therapist and want to work with people around their sexuality but do not want to go through the full certification process, you might consider joining a sex coaching training. If you are a hands-on, embodied learner, an experiential sex coaching method like the Somatica training might be appropriate for you.

Even if you cannot use all of the tools you learn in your professional practice, you will have your own deep transformation and a much better way to connect with clients around their sexuality and intimacy issues. In some states, you can even have separate practices as a sex coach and as a sex therapist. You can check this out by contacting your certifying board.

You enjoy individual and couples counseling, but you notice that intimacy continues to present as a problem in most of your sessions. If you are open to learning new clinical skills to help these clients consider becoming a certified sex therapist. Marriage and family therapists, social workers, and licensed counselors have the option of studying sex counseling.

Sex therapy is a great field to study if you are interested in helping individuals and couples explore intimacy in their lives. Through a sex therapy certification program and supervision, you will be able to help individuals on a deeper level. Here are five things you need to know if you want to become a sex therapist.

1. What is sex therapy?

Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy that addresses a client’s psychological, emotional, and physical problems in relation to sex or intimacy. Sex therapists address issues around sex and intimacy versus avoiding them in the clinical setting.

There isn’t anything deviant or inappropriate in regards to sex therapy. There is no physical contact with clients. Think of sex therapy as you would any other clinical strategy to address a client’s issue. For example, sex therapy exercises are used to help a couple who is struggling with sexual dysfunction.

2. Your clinical background will help you

You are already a trained clinician, so you bring many benefits to your clients. Training to become a certified sex therapist can help you be a better clinician. You may find that your current clinical style evolves as you learn new sex therapy exercises and approaches.

As a licensed mental health therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist, or licensed social worker you already know the ethics involved in working with individuals. Your understanding and ability to provide the best clinical care will be enhanced as you train to be a sex therapist.

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3. Sex therapy certification

To be the best clinician possible and to ensure you follow ethical guidelines, obtain certification in sex therapy. Many clinicians list online that they practice sex therapy, but have no training or certification.

Sex therapy certification will ensure you receive proper training, supervision, and that you are working within your scope of practice. There are many programs in-person and online that offer certification.

Florida is currently the only state that requires clinicians to be certified if they state they practice sex therapy. Obtaining certification can ensure that you are providing the best care and may protect you if a legal problem arises with your client.

4. Working with Clients as a Certified Sex Therapist

Both individuals and couples seek sex counseling. Often individuals will reach out for a session before bringing in their partner. Other times the couple will seek help together. You will use your clinical skills in helping the individual and couples determine the best approach.

You may provide services outside of the typical office setting. Many trained clinicians offer online sex therapy whether through video or phone. If you have interested in alternative settings, make sure that you are practicing within your legal guidelines between states.

5. How to Become a Sex Therapist

The final thing you need to know is how to become a sex therapist. Find a program of study that works with your schedule. Since there are in-person and online programs, compare their schedules to ensure that it will work for you. The typical sex therapy training program is 12-18 months. Be sure to look at reviews of the program and speak to other clinicians who have completed the training. You will receive feedback from past students that will help you make the right decision on which program to choose.

Entering this program of study is a commitment to both course work and supervision. The supervision process is similar to what you experienced when obtaining your licensure. Your supervisor is someone who is a trained sex therapist who will work through case presentations, vignettes, and challenge you to grow.

Your interest in becoming a sex therapist shows that you want to grow and challenge yourself as a clinician. There are many individuals and couples that you will be able to help with your study as a sex therapist. Be sure to network or connect with others in the field so you can have support through the process. You will make a great sex therapist if you continue to keep the need of the individual first and meeting them where they are in their growth.


Dr. Kristie Overstreet is a clinical sexologist, certified sex therapist, licensed professional clinical counselor, author, speaker, and consultant. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology, Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Addiction Professional. She has over 12 years of clinical experience specializing in sex therapy, transgender healthcare, relationships, and helping counselors build their private practice. She is president of the Therapy Department, a private practice that provides counseling, training, speaking, and consulting services across the United States.  For more information about Dr. Kristie’s work visit