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Sex Therapy: Why Certification Matters

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Stellar Pro believes that when it comes to sex therapy, certification matters.

Most therapists have little to no training in sexuality. This includes couple’s therapists where the most common issues in couples therapy are about sexuality. You wouldn’t go to an electrician about your broken arm. Why would you go to a therapist for sex therapy who isn’t properly trained?

The field of sex therapy is expansive. From generic sex therapy needs to more niche needs like consensual non-monogamy and kink. Stellar Pro makes it easy to find a sex therapist who is certified in exactly what you’re looking for.

What is a certified sex therapist?

As more people are becoming comfortable with sex and their sexuality, the demand for certified sex therapists increases. Properly trained sex therapists will have taken additional classes on sexuality and received supervised training in sex therapy. They may also have additional certifications in specific sexual areas such as kink. They should have also explored their sexual attitudes, biases, and beliefs.

A certified sex therapist should also be AASECT certified. We’ll go into this in more depth down below.

What is AASECT?

You’ve heard us mention AASECT but what exactly is it? AASECT stands for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. “AASECT certified sex therapists are mental health professionals, trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy, who have specialized in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns.”

If you’d like to learn more about AASECT we encourage you to check out their website.

What to look for in a certified sex therapist?

Stellar Pro does all of the legwork to make sure clinicians who submit their credentials are submitting accurate information. If you have found a sex therapist who isn’t on Stellar Pro and want to make sure they are knowledgeable in the field of sex, here are some questions to ask.

– Are you certified by AASECT?

– What accredited program did you attend for your sex therapy education?

– What specific certifications in sex therapy have you obtained if any? (Ex. Kink Informed Certification)

– How long have you been practicing sex therapy for?

– Can you describe your style?

These questions will help you determine if your sex therapist is certified and what additional training they have gotten.

Why is it important for my therapist to be AASECT Certified?

A therapist who is AASECT certified will have been trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy with a specialization in sexuality. To be certified by AASECT one must have a graduate degree (PhD, MD, MSW, or MA), post-degree clinical experience, and a valid state license to practice.

Your AASECT certified therapist will have received a minimum of 90 hours of study in core areas of human sexuality and an additional 60 hours of training related to sexuality education. AASECT certified therapists must undergo up to 50 hours of direct supervision by an AASECT certified sex therapy supervisor (CST-S).

Finally, they will have undergone a Sexuality Attitude Reassessment (SAR) which is an additional 10 hours.

All of this advanced training means that you sex therapist will be knowledgeable and experienced in sexuality. A sex therapist that is not AASECT certified may not have necessarily undergone this training.

Will my certified sex therapist receive ongoing education?

Certified sex therapists should continue to educate themselves through literature, workshops, classes, etc. As times change, so does the language we use. We also learn more about human psychology which can influence how clinicians treat clients.

You can always ask your sex therapist if they have undergone any recent sex therapy training or what their plans are for continuing their sex therapy education. You might even get some book recommendations to read!

My therapist says they’re a sex therapist!

That’s awesome! But is your therapist certified or are they just comfortable talking about sex? Only in the state of Florida is a certification required to market oneself as a sex therapist. This certification must entail 120 hours of in-depth training in sexual issues and 20 hours of sex therapy supervision. Your sex therapist might be comfortable talking about sex but they may be lacking the necessary training to help you with your sexual issues.

It can also be frustrating talking to a therapist who claims they are a sex therapist or sex-positive who lacks the necessary training. A study conducted showed that one-fifth of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) clients rated theri CNM-affirming therapist as lacking the basic knowledge of CNM issues to be effective. (Schechinger, Sakaluk, & Moors, 2018). Another example is  “Luna, a single, African American/black, cisgender, heterosexual polyamorous woman: “He [my provider] thought he was doing me a favor [by telling me to become monogamous]. I guess he thought he was “dadding” me, but after that, I stopped telling my health care providers about my sexual habits.” [Vaughan et al, 2019, page 47]”. In these situations, had these individuals searched for a therapist certified in CNM they would have likely found more success in their therapy journey..

Another example we see is BDSM. BDSM relationships are simply another type of relationship. They are not inherently abusive, even though there are cases of abuse occurring. Even with the best intentions, a sex-positive therapist may not have the knowledge around BDSM relationships and may jump to the conclusion that you are being abused or try to persuade you to change you sexual lifestyle. With proper training, a sex therapist certified in kink can recognize unhealthy practices vs healthy practices while accepting you unconditionally.

Sex-Positive ≠ Certified Sex Therapist

When looking for a sex therapist you should look for a certified sex-positive therapist. But is this that different from a non-certified, sex-positive therapist? Yes! Any clinician can advertise themselves as sex-positive but without the necessary training their ability to help you with sexual matters is limited.

Let’s take a look at what sex-positive means. A “sex-positive approach begin[s] with the assumption that a wide variety of sex practices and desires are an inherently healthy and important component of human development and connection.” “Sex positivity helps to expand the notion that sexual diversity does not only include sexual orientation identities. Rather, sex positivity represents physical wellness and the presence of safe (noncoercive), pleasurable sexual experiences and relationships.”

Nowhere in this definition does it require that the clinician be certified in any capacity. Only that they are positive around sex and understand that there is a wide variety in healthy sex practices. A non-certified, sex-positive therapist may be lacking the advanced training and expertise in your specific sexual issue to be able to help you. A sex-positive therapist may be aware of kink and polyamory but they may lack the experience around negotiating contracts or incorrectly assume that polyamory always means nonmonogamous or open relationships.

Remember, “Sex positivity, … celebrates inclusiveness and diversity in approaches to sexuality.” But being sex-positive alone may not be enough to tackle your sexual issues. That’s why you should look for a certified, sex-positive therapist.

Looking for something specific? Stellar Pro makes it easy to search by sex therapist certifications.

How do I know that my certified sex therapist is sex-positive?

A certified sex therapist should be sex-positive or else they’re in the wrong field! But it never hurts to ask your sex therapist a few questions to understand their stance on sexual issues relevant to you. Some of these questions can include:

– What training (or specific programs) in human sexuality have you undergone?

– What is your experience with consensual non-monogamy or kink?

– Have you worked with the LGBTQIA+ community?

– What does sex-positive mean to you?

– Do you support all types of sexuality, including non-sexual?

– What is your opinion on “sex addiction” and the treatment models? Do you agree or disagree with them?

Asking relevant questions can help you figure out if your sex therapist will be a good fit for you. Are there any common questions we missed? Leave a comment and we’ll add it to our list.

Do I really need a certified sex therapist? Is sex-positive enough?

It’s important to know what your options are when choosing a therapist.

At Stellar Pro we believe in highlighting clinicians’ advanced training and expertise. However, you may not feel that any of these certifications resonate with your needs. Perhaps kink is just a part of your life and you want a therapist who won’t try to change that aspect of you. Maybe you’re just tired of explaining what swinging is to your therapist and want one who already understands it. This is where finding a sex-positive therapist who is not certified might be for you.

Keep in mind, a non-certified, sex-positive therapist may not be able to help you with deeper sexual issues that may arise. While they may understand the basics of certain lifestyles, they may not be equipped to handle in depth discussions, such as contract negotiations.

If cost is the leading factor to not choosing a certified sex therapist, organizations like the Respark Foundation operate on a sliding-scale. Financial hardship shouldn’t be a barrier for finding a quality therapist. You can also call a certified sex therapists office to see if they have sliding scale payment options as well.

Finding a certified, sex-positive sex therapist is the best way to reach your sex therapy goals. At Stellar Pro we understand that not everybody is looking for those deeper discussions and may benefit more from a non-certified sex-positive therapist.

How do I find a certified sex therapist?

You’ve decided that a certified sex therapist is right for you, but how do you find one? Right here on Stellar Pro!

Stellar Pro is the only therapy directory that verifies clinicians’ advanced training and expertise. Curious to learn more about Stellar Pro’s verification process?

Once you’ve figured out what certification you are looking for or your therapy goals, Stellar Pro makes it easy to find a certified sex therapist in your area. You know that the Stellar Pro you select isn’t just self-reporting. You know that they have undergone advanced training in those areas to help you meet your sex therapy goals.

It says there are no certified sex therapists in my area.

Stellar Pro is an opt-in directory. As such, not every certified sex therapist is listed in our directory. Try broadening your search if you are looking for something specific, like CNM or seeing if there are clinicians licensed in your state for telehealth. You may find therapists who are in the process of obtaining the certification you are looking for or one that is too far away but offers telehealth.

If you’re still not having luck finding one, Google is your best resource. Search for “Certified Sex Therapist in [city]”. Remember the questions to ask them that we listed above too!

You can also suggest that they list themselves on Stellar Pro since there are no other clinicians in their area with their expertise to help others.


It’s important to find a certified, sex-positive therapist due to the level of education and training they have received in human sexuality. Certified sex therapists are uniquely equipped to handle your sexual issues to help you reach your therapy goals.

While a non-certified, sex-positive therapist might be what you’re looking for now, it’s important to understand the limitations of a clinician who does not have more in depth training and experience with your specific needs.

Ready to start your sex therapy journey? Let Stellar Pro help you easily find a certified sex therapist near you.

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