What does a sexologist do?
Updated: Apr 26
Sexology is the broad term given to people who study, educate and counsel in the field of sexuality. There are as many different ways to practice sexology as there are expressions of sexuality. They all apply neurobiological understanding within a client-led, therapeutic framework. Some sexologists are highly theoretical using talk therapy as the primary tool and others are more focused on practical, somatic (of-the-body) processes.
There is no formal minimum training requirement for someone to call themselves a sexologist. Therefore it is important to do your research and know what type of practitioner may best suit the kinds of concerns you wish to explore. Each practitioner will also bring their unique interests and experience into their practice. Some may focus on sexology through the lens of cranio-sacral work, EMDR, tantra, pelvic specialisation or midwifery and a whole range of other backgrounds and training.
A good sexologist will take the time to listen to your specific interests and offer targeted strategies for you. They will maintain professional standards in relation to confidentiality and consent-based touch - if touch is agreed to be a relevant therapeutic tool. They will be able to endorse their advice and practices with verifiable sources. Any professional therapist must also engage in regular peer-based supervision that ensures they maintain a level of accountability for their services.
These are the minimum requirements you can expect of a sexologist. What may actually happen in a session depends on what you're trying to learn and how that particular sexologist practices. I can't speak for all practitioners but I can describe more about the field of Sexological Bodywork, which is a somatic practice that focuses on embodied learning.
Sexological Bodywork has been informed by the extensive field of scientific research into the nervous system, neural and biological development and trauma (although please note, while it can support trauma recovery it is in no way a specialised trauma therapy - multi-modal therapeutic support is encouraged for more complex concerns). It involves a year-ish-long study and practice process, with emphasis on 'doing' to learn, peer review and professional supervision. In Australia, certification is issued by The Institute of Somatic Sexology (https://instituteofsomaticsexology.com/). Many sexological bodyworkers have specialised training in associated fields when they come to it. I like to describe Sexological Bodywork, in simple terms, as the place where tantra and science meet.
Sex is a physical act that is informed and affected by social and psychological impacts. Sexuality is how an individual relates to themselves as a sexual being and how they express themselves sexually in the world. The interplay of sex and sexuality can be complex, depending on life experiences and self identity. Simplifying this into increased sensate awareness enables more clarity of experience. Sexological Bodywork applies scientific research and translates it into holistic, mind-body practices which, over time, will cultivate more integrated change than just talking and theory.
Certified Sexological Bodyworkers (CSBs) focus on the client's interests and learning processes. We encourage slowing down and sensation awareness to become more attuned to what is being experienced moment to moment. Mindfulness, breathwork and body scans are a common starting point. We collaborate with you to find a clearly articulated learning intention that guides the session (which is not a goal - goal orientation can impede presence to what is). We offer a few different activities that may help unravel your interest area (learning intention) and you choose one that feels best for you, in that moment. We do the activity that is agreed on and whilst it may evolve or change depending on what comes up, it is always defined by clear communication and consensual terms.
The session may or may not include one-way touch - which means the practitioner touching you, and/or you touching you. It may or may not involve you being fully clothed or nude or anything in between, again depending on what best serves the learning intention (the practitioner will always remain fully clothed). It may or may not include genital touch (on you, if it serves you, and always wearing gloves). It may or may not include whiteboards and diagrams as learning tools. It will always encourage clear communication, be focused on your interest areas, adhere to your personal limits and boundaries and will move at your pace. CSBs all practice according to an ethical Code of Conduct to ensure a duty of care is upheld.
Some of the interests and concerns that can be explored include:
increased embodiment, sensation and presence during sex
improved communication skills - learning how to ask for what you want or how to elicit more direction/feedback from your partner/s
managing arousal and orgasm fluctuations for increased pleasure and control
normalising masturbation and encouraging new self-pleasure practices for increased pleasure range
cultivating healthy relationships with porn
developing breathing techniques that increase orgasmicity and arousal moderation
learning genital touch techniques for expanded stimulation range
anal play - how to warm up and open up to deeper pleasure
recognising how trauma may be affecting your sexuality and learning tools to help rewire
scar remediation to improve neural pathways and sensation
learning to read body signals and understanding consent and boundaries to cultivate more confidence in play
exploration of 'non-normative' expressions of sexuality
games and exercises to introduce into relationships as entry points to new connection possibilities
Like most therapeutic interventions, the more you do, the more learning and change may occur. Once-off sessions can help some specific needs however, repeated practice over time supports the body-mind to take on new experiences that can then be integrated into your life for longer-term benefits. Sessions with your therapist are reinforced and extended by home-play practices. Learning any new skill takes time and can feel clunky so allow the process to unfold and communicate openly with your therapist so they can guide you in the manner that best serves you.
Sex is at the core of the human experience. Everyone has a different relationship to sex and sexuality. Fostering positive, shame-free, pleasure enhancing practices can only improve the quality of life. Investing in pleasure is an investment in this unique moment you have in this worldly adventure. I encourage you to learn how to really enjoy it!