I often get asked both from prospective clients and colleagues in the field how seeing a specialist in sex therapy can assist in resolving sexual difficulties.  This is a very important question and cuts right to the heart of the psychotherapeutic process.  In order to give a more complete, yet concise answer, it’s important to briefly trace the history of psychotherapeutic practice in general, and sex therapy in particular.

The practice of psychotherapy as we know it can be traced to the late 19th century and Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Even though Freud had his own influences and some professionals were speaking of concepts related to the unconscious at that time, he was the first to really propose a comprehensive theory of the workings of the unconscious process, identifying such structures as the ego, id and superego. As psychoanalysis developed the focus was on interpretation and insight; however, since Freud was basing his theories on a very limited subset of the population of turn of the century Vienna, the problem was that these techniques proved to be unsuccessful with many clients that he did not account for.  In the mid 20th century, Aaron Beck and his cohorts started looking at the role of cognition (thoughts) in human misery and, combining this research with techniques developed by behaviorists, introduced cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is at this time, with the pioneering work of Masters and Johnson, that sex therapy as a separate discipline was born. Masters and Johnson saw the act of sex as a purely behavioral process and incorporated behavioral techniques of graduated exposure to sexual arousal. […]