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How to Become a Sex Therapist: A Quick Guide


A woman considers how to become a sex therapist.

Have you ever wondered how to become a sex therapist? Its not surprising, as around 17% of adults in Western countries report some sort of struggle with intimacy, and the demand for sex therapists is increasing.


When people have struggles with sex or intimacy, it can result in psychological problems, or can have adverse effects on relationships.


To establish or regain a thriving relationship with sex, many people turn to the professional help offered by sex therapy. This article will cover the basics about what is a sex therapist, how to become a sex therapist, and will address the range for sex therapist’s salary.


What is a Sex Therapist?


Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals who help clients examine and overcome challenges with regard to their sex lives, by talking about sex. A sex therapy session can be particularly rewarding. Participating in sex therapy can be the first time someone has the opportunity to dive deeply into a better understanding of themselves and their sexuality, in a non-shaming and non-judgmental space.


Part of the job of a therapist is to diagnose and treat sexual problems or sexual disorders, and help individuals and couples get more curious about their sexual behavior. A Certified Sex Therapist can help you dive into important topics like sensate focus, sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and how sex realties to your mental health.


Sex therapists do not engage in any physical contact with their clients.


Working in this profession requires specialized training and continuing education. These steps can include licensing and obtaining a set number of training hours in the field.


Sex therapists help clients who struggle with gender or sexual identity, body dysmorphia when it relates to sex, sexual trauma, mismatched sexual desire in couples, sexual dysfunctions, exploring kink or polyamory, compulsive or problematic sexual behavior and much more.


How to Become a Sex Therapist


Each state has different requirements for credentialing mental health counselors and providers.


Prior to becoming a Certified Sex Therapist, a clinician must be licensed as a mental health provider, within the states(s) they wish to practice. These general guidelines can help you begin a career as a counselor or therapist, before pursuing American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certification.


Earn a Master’s Degree


No matter where you live in the United States, the education level for this sexual health profession is often a minimum of a master’s degree.


The career requires advanced education because sex therapists help people navigate sexual issues and sexual functioning, in addition to their mental health. They rely on advanced concepts in psychology to address human sexuality.


If you’re looking to become a sex therapist, look for a masters degree program in the field of psychology or some type of mental health field. Clinical social workers, other counselors and marriage and family therapists can pursue a path toward becoming a sex therapist.


Consider a Doctoral Degree


Many people are entering the mental health profession. The vast majority of those professionals will already have a master’s degree or higher. A more advanced degree can increase your chances of being successful in the field of human sexuality and sex counseling, though it is not necessary.


Doctoral programs in the field of mental health provide in-depth training and exposure to complex situations that involve the intersection of mental health, sex and intimacy.


Having a “Dr” before your last name helps clients feel more confident in their abilities as a therapist. Many universities offer doctoral-level programs in psychology or counseling. Higher levels of education also allow you to bill more per session.


Obtain a License


Licensing requirements for mental health providers to practice therapy vary by state. Most states require mental health professionals to obtain some sort of license. To learn more about this step, speak to your graduate school and contact your state’s licensing board to ensure you are prepared, as each state has different requirements.


As you prepare for the certification requirement, consider taking additional online courses to prepare.


Additional Education + Training


Now that you have a license to practice therapy, you can focus on specialize in sex therapy. To become certified as a sex therapist, an additional 90 hours of education is needed, related specifically to human sexuality. This can be an exciting time and can open your eyes to so many dimensions of the human experience, you had never considered.


Sex therapists also have a minimum of an additional 50 hours of supervision, on top of what is required to secure their license as a psychologist, therapist, social worker, or counselor. Some certification programs require what is known as a Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR), to help sex therapists confront biases about sex.


Essential Skills for a Sex Therapist


As you pursue your education and training, keep in mind that sex therapists rely on these important skills and treatments when helping relationships.

  • Knowledge of family therapy practices
  • Therapeutic activities
  • Careful listening
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication abilities
  • Critical thinking
  • Social Justice
  • Trauma Informed Care

Work Environment + Sex Therapist Salary

The majority of sex therapists work through a private practice that specializes in sex therapy. Sex therapists often do so to treat specific types of clients. Sometimes, these professionals work for larger organizations, nursing homes, or outpatient facilities.


Salaries range widely across the country for sex therapists, but on average, they stand to make between approximately $84,000-$117,000 annually. This can change based on their education,  credentials, geographical location, other sources of revenue, and the number of clients seen.


Therapists with a doctoral degree stand to earn considerably more. Additional revenue can be earned through teaching, consulting, writing, etc. and sex therapists are highly sought out for their expert opinions.


Learn More About Sex Therapy


Now you know how to become a sex therapist. Following the steps outlined in this article can help you jumpstart your career in this rewarding field. As in other mental health fields, sex therapist salaries are on the rise. For more information about working as a sex therapist, explore working at Modern Intimacy.


Interested in finding a sex therapist? Modern Intimacy can help, if you are located CA, CO, FL, IL, or NY. Schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist (CA, FL, IL + NY), Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT III trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on TikTok and IG @drkatebalestrieri and the Modern Intimacy team on IG @themodernintimacy.



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