There is a lot of confusion about who is qualified to treat sexual problems and relationship problems. Those seeking help have to wade through Google and Psychology Today listings to try to find an appropriate therapist. Just because someone is given a green arrow by Psychology Today does not prove that the therapist is qualified at all.

Most sex therapists are also couples counselors, but some sex therapists lack training and experience to address basic communication and relationship issues. An AASECT certified sex therapist is prepared to help with sexual problems, but not all of them are skilled at couples counseling.

Couples and marriage counselors are prepared to deal with relationship issues, but unless they are also board certified in sex therapy, they rarely have the training to deal effectively with sexual issues. Unfortunately, many marriage and family counselors attempt to solve sexual issues without the preparation it takes to do so. A marriage or couples counselor may have had a course or a workshop in human sexuality, but this is not enough to fully help those with the vast array of sexual problems.

I would be rich if I had $20 for every new couple who come to me to solve sexual and relationship problems who first went to a marriage counselor with little to no real help. Unfortunately, I have to spend valuable time and energy undoing the advice given by the marriage counselor. Mostly, the advice is based on the counselor’s own biases, which is not at all scientific or logical.

There are ethical issues here. No one should go beyond their scope of practice to treat problems. They should refer out if they are not prepared to do a great job. I refer out when someone needs a psychiatrist or another professional so I can completely address the presenting problems. The team approach makes the most sense. I coordinate the effort so the head knows what the tail is doing. Too often professionals working with a couple or an individual fail to coordinate with other related professionals.

As a sex therapist and a couples’ counselor, I take an evidence-based approach to improve sexual relationships. Unlike many couples’ counselors, I do not believe in sexual addiction, and there is no diagnosis for this supposed condition. It absolutely amazes and saddens me to see the lack of evidence supporting those who claim one can be a “sex addict.”

As a qualified couples’ counselor I see some without any sexual problems, and I see those who have serious sexual concerns. There is no reason to see two therapists for couples work and sexual issues. A properly trained and experienced couples’ counselor who is also a sex therapist is the way to go.

Given what I have just explained, those seeking help need to be thorough in their search for an appropriate therapist. I would never recommend seeing a counselor or therapist who does not have a clear and developed website explaining exactly how specific concerns are addressed, and the nature of training and experience that therapist has.

It is also critical to peruse reviews from clients and fellow therapists. Without reviews, how could a couple or a person choose the best therapist for their specific concerns? Google business reviews and Health grade reviews are usually helpful. Yelp also has reviews, but their system is biased toward including negative reviews, and some reviews are not listed by Yelp. The reasons are totally unclear.

Most therapists—including myself—are willing to meet with you prior to making an appointment. This can also help. Buyer beware!

To learn more about couples counseling click here.