Sex Therapy

The Insider Scoop: What Really Happens in a Sex Therapist's Office

I chose to study about sex therapy for a couple of reasons; my own brokenness and the brokenness of others. I truly believe that God can cover our hurts and imperfections and allow us to rest in the peace that through Christ we are redeemed. While, I’ve written before about what you might learn in sex therapy, I thought it would be helpful to also explain the basic process here.

Small disclaimer: It takes quite a bit of time and work to actually get certified as a sex therapist. I’m doing my certification through the American Board of Christian Sex Therapists, but I’m not completely through the process. I’ve already been told that my application has been approved, and I’m just waiting for my certification to be delivered. And…disclaimer over!

The DEC-R Model

The process of sex therapy can be explained through the acronym, DEC-R: Dialogue, Education, Coaching, and Referral. This isn’t a linear process. You’ll likely notice that we move from one domain to the next quite fluidly, going back and forth to each one until you’ve finished the process of therapy.

Dialogue:

Part of my job is to make the entire process of talking about sexual issues easier. Most people find it quite difficult to share their concerns or disappointment about their sexual lives with their spouse. I work with a couple to create a safe place to speak about sex. 

As I create the safe space for exploration of sexual topics, I also set up boundaries. There are proper and holy ways to talk about the gift of sex. Front and center of our conversations will be Christ and a respect for the boundaries we have in Scripture. We will not talk about sexual issues or concerns in a voyeuristic manner. Instead, remember that as we talk we are also working in a sacred space.

Education:

The education portion of this model has to do with education from both a biological perspective and a spiritual perspective. Many times, couples come to therapy with little understanding of their physical bodies, how the reproductive system works, the love-making cycle, or the differences between a man’s and a woman’s sexual response cycle. Add to that the fact that few churches speak on sex (outside of ‘don’t before marriage’ and ‘do after’), few couples understand God’s design for sex. We’ll spend quite a bit of time just focusing on God’s design for sex and learning what Scripture teaches.  And, we’ll also talk about skills regarding intimacy.

Coaching:

Most of the time, when a couple comes for sex therapy, they’ve already spent more than a few hours searching the internet for advice and tips for a better sex life. They may have also bought a few books and tried to work through some exercises on their own.

But typically, couples need a bit more explanation than can be found on a popular blog or a research article. They need someone to teach them certain exercise or help them to understand the purpose in implementing new behaviors. In other words, couples often have some skills, but are having some difficulty truly committing themselves to improvement. Your therapist can walk along beside you as a coach – training you and encouraging you.

Referral:

You can just about guarantee that if you come to counseling you’ll receive some type of referral. Sometimes this is a referral for a doctor, psychiatrist, urologist, gynecologist, or even your PCP. I’m going to make sure that if there are any physical or emotional issues for you that we are taking care of that while we work directly on the sexual relationship. Part of sex therapy is treating the entire person, so referrals are an integral part of the process.

Hopefully, in reading this you’ve learned that sex therapy doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating process. If you’re finding that online searches haven’t been helpful enough for you to work on the sexual issues in your marriage (dissatisfaction, different levels of sexual desire, affair recovery), it just may be time for you to seek out more help.

If you believe you may be a good fit for sex therapy and you are interested in making an appointment, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have during our free 20-minute consultation. We’ll also determine together if we would be a good fit for working together. If you’d simply like a few tips for increasing your marital intimacy, sign up for my free guide, Becoming One.

Whatever you decide, my prayer is that God will bless your marriage and your sex life!

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is an educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a licensed psychologist at her private practice in Norfolk, VA. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at BeFullyWell.com.