As a place we can, at least in theory, talk about anything, it seems natural that sex would come up in therapy at some point. Even the most well-meaning therapists may inadvertently shy away from sex-related conversations, though, and some may even have negative attitudes toward sex. With how complex and sensitive the topic of sex and sexuality can be, how do you go about finding a therapist who will be sex-positive?
What Is Sex Positivity?
Sex educator Allena Gabosch describes sex positivity as “an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation.” Unlike the feelings of shame and stigma many of us are taught to internalize about sex, sex positivity emphasizes pleasure, that sex can be a perfectly healthy thing to want and participate in, and that it can be beneficial to talk about these things openly.
Although they are independent of sexual activity, gender and sexual orientation are often included in sex positive conversations as they can influence the kinds of sex we like to have. Thus, sex-positive spaces are typically affirming of all genders and sexual orientations.
What Is a Sex-Positive Therapist?
Although there is no universal definition of sex positivity, we might describe a sex-positive therapist as a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about sex and sexuality, and views them as natural parts of being human that can be openly discussed without shame or judgment.
In my work, having the space to discuss personal topics like fantasies, turn ons and turn offs, interests, or intense vulnerable feelings is often a new experience for clients. For some, the option to speak so openly and honestly is a freeing experience. For others, it may feel overwhelming or uncomfortable. Both experiences (and everything in between!) are valid, and the goal is to meet you where you are and go at your pace – just knowing the space is there to share if you want it can be helpful.
Sex-positive spaces are typically affirming of all genders and sexual orientations.
How Can working with a sex-positive therapist Help?
Better Understand Your Sexuality
Sex-positive therapy can provide space for you to explore your sexuality – your relationship to and ideas about sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Sometimes this can also include an educational component about topics such as kinks, fetishes, fantasies, safer sex options, consent, and pleasure.
Even the most well-meaning therapists may inadvertently shy away from sex-related conversations, and some may even have negative attitudes toward sex.
Work Through Stigma
Regardless of our cultural or religious background, most of us grow up learning that sex is taboo in some way. Talking about sex openly, finding it pleasurable, sex with someone of the same gender or with more than one partner, or having it outside of a monogamous marriage are examples of common social taboos when it comes to sex. The stigmatization and shaming of those who are interested in exploring sexuality, intimacy, or pleasure can be very distressing. Therapy can be an excellent place to unlearn the stigma and shame we’ve taken on and associate with topics related to sex. In addition to a sex-positive therapist, for some it may be important to find a polyamory-competent/friendly therapist too.
Explore Sexual Health
Sexual health is a term typically applied to the physical health aspect of sex – are you getting tested for STIs regularly, using any safer sex practices, etc. We can also use it to talk about the mental and emotional parts of sex. This might include communicating desires to your partners, understanding your body, or managing feelings of stress or anxiety related to sex.
How to Find a Sex-Positive Therapist in nyc
Here are a few ideas for finding a therapist who will be sex-positive:
Ask for Recommendations
If you have friends, relatives, coworkers, or neighbors who have seen therapists they enjoyed working with, they may be able to recommend someone to you. This can be a great way to find a therapist you can trust.
Check Out Online Directories
Specialized directories, such as National Coalition of Sexual Freedom, Manhattan Alternative, and Inclusive Therapists, provide a way to find therapists who are knowledgeable about a variety of sex-related concerns. Many of these directories allow you to filter your search based on what is important to you. Searching by criteria such as geographic location, knowledge of a specific topic, or gender of the therapist, can help you find a sex-positive therapist in NYC.
Do Your Research on Sex-Positive Therapists
Before making an appointment with a therapist, it can be useful to do some research and get a sense of whether they may be a good fit. A professional website, articles or blogs they’ve written, or a social media presence can begin to give you an idea of the person’s values and how they think about topics important to you.
Therapy can be an excellent place to unlearn the stigma and shame we’ve taken on and associate with topics related to sex.
How Do You Know If You’ve Found a Therapist Who is Sex-Positive?
When meeting a therapist for the first time, it can often feel like you’re in the hot seat being asked so many questions. This is also an opportunity for you to decide whether you even want to continue working with that person, though. Asking questions can help you better understand how the therapist thinks about sexuality, sexuality, and other topics. When seeking a sex-positive therapist, potential questions to ask may include:
Sex-positive therapy can provide space for you to explore your sexuality – your relationship to and ideas about sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
“Are you sex-positive?”
Definitely the most direct and straightforward way to go if you’re trying to find a sex-positive therapist in NYC. How a potential therapist discusses sex and sex-positivity can give you a good sense of whether or not they are a good fit for you.
“How do you feel about the sexual empowerment of people who aren’t cisgender, straight, thin, able-bodied white guys?”
The sexual fulfillment of marginalized groups has long been deprioritized in the US. People who aren’t cisgender men often face additional and unique challenges around sex and sexuality. Many still believe women shouldn’t want or enjoy sex, have more than one partner in a lifetime, or do certain things during sex. Transgender and gender nonconforming people are having their right to exist debated in many parts of the US, meaning discussion of their sexual empowerment and fulfillment is typically swept aside. Fat folks and people with disabilities are, more often than not, forgotten in conversations about sex, pleasure, and empowerment.
A sex-positive therapist will ideally recognize your right to freely enjoy sex without shame or judgment as fundamental.
“How comfortable are you talking about sex during session?”
Not all therapists will feel comfortable discussing sex in a session, and their discomfort can get in the way of your therapy. You’ll want to be sure the person you’re speaking to is both knowledgeable and comfortable enough to work with you. The therapist’s response to your specific concerns will give you insight into whether they will be able to support you.
“Do you have experience working with LGBTQ+ clients?”
While not a guarantee, previous experience working with LGBTQ+ clients or providing LGBTQIA+ affirming care can be an indication that someone is sex-positive. Openness to working with people outside of heterosexual and cisgender norms often means being open to discussing other aspects of sexuality as well. If you hold any of these identities, it can be especially important to ask a potential therapist about their experience to ensure they are competent to work with you.
“Do you agree with using “sex addiction” as a diagnosis?”
The idea of “sex addiction” is, contrary to popular belief, quite controversial. As someone who works from a place of sex-positivity, I find it quite stigmatizing and shaming. If you’re unhappy with the quantity or quantity of your sexual experiences, I find it’s more useful to explore what you’re unhappy with, the kinds of experiences you’d like to have, and how I can support you in having a more pleasurable, fulfilling sexual experience.
Openness to working with people outside of heterosexual and cisgender norms often means a therapist is open to discussing other aspects of sexuality as well.
Take the First Step to Sex Positivity
You deserve a judgement-free and safe sex-positive space.
The stigma and shame many of us experience around sex is extremely harmful. Even if we want to embrace our sexuality more fully, how to do that in the face of such sex-negative beliefs?
Exploring sex and sexuality can be liberating, scary, and everything in between. As a sex-positive therapist in NYC, my main goal in sex therapy is to create a space that feels comfortable and affirming for you so that we’re able to explore your concerns.
In our work together, my clients often share that they appreciate the openness with which they can discuss uncomfortable or taboo topics. Being able to share and explore these things in a supportive space can lead to transformative personal growth. If you’re looking to get connected to a sex-positive therapist, I invite you to book a complimentary phone consultation with me today.
Your Turn: Are you looking for a sex-positive therapist in NYC? Have you ever worked with a sex-positive therapist? How did it compare to your previous experiences in therapy? Share in the comments below.