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Ask A Sex Therapist: What does a sexologist do and when should I see one?

IMAGE VIA LAURA MIANO

WORDS BY LAURA MIANO

“It’s very cool and it’s very complex.”

Laura Miano is a sex and relationship writer and sex therapist based in Melbourne. Her mission is to help those with sexual concerns as well as support individuals who might like to enhance their sex lives beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

“What does a sexologist do and when should I see one?” – Sexology Curiosity

Hello Sexology Curiosity,

Great question! Since I first shared that I was pursuing sexology, I’ve had to explain and clarify exactly what it is. While it’s been around for more than 100 years, little is still known about what sexology entails and what working in the field is all about. I might be biased, but I think it’s the best job in the world! So as a sexologist, let me take you on a tour of my job.

To begin with, sexology is a field of study that draws from a number of other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, medicine, endocrinology and more. It’s the study of human sexuality that takes a holistic approach in understanding a person’s sexual and erotic functioning. As a sexologist, I understand that your sexual system is totally interconnected with every facet of your life.


For more sex advice, head on over to our Life section.


It doesn’t just switch on behind closed doors, in your bedroom, like a ship in the night. Contrary to what our culture might have taught you, your sexual system is on all the time, engaging, interacting and scanning your environment – every, single, day! Sexology gets this. It’s very cool and it’s very complex.

That’s why the academic hurdles to become a sexologist aren’t a walk in the park. I didn’t do 2500-word essays almost every week of my masters for no reason (wow, trauma!) For this reason, I recommend looking into your sexologist’s credentials as there can be a few cowboys out there – the industry is new and unregulated. It’s always good to do a background check. Generally, look out for a post-graduate degree in human sexuality.

So, what does a sexologist do? Well, they can wear many different hats – working in research, in clinical settings where they conduct sessions with a client or clients, and in education where they might run lectures or workshops. There’s also plenty more that a sexologist can do, such as writing articles (hi!) or working in media.

Some sexologists work closely with the sex toy industry too, as our expert knowledge lends itself quite well to an industry built on pleasure. I said I love my job; well, this is why! Between seeing clients, writing articles, setting up my own sex toy store and educating people through Instagram and in the media, I’m a busy but happy lady.

Now that you know what a sexologist does, you might be wondering how a sexologist might help you. This is where sex therapy comes in. Sex therapy involves 50 to 55-minute sessions where you can discuss your sexual concerns or curiosities with a sexologist in a judgement-free space.

As many clients I see haven’t had an opportunity to open up with anyone in as much detail as they do with me, offering a safe, inclusive and supportive space is absolutely paramount. And what people see a sexologist for will be totally varied; from sexual dysfunctions like vaginismus, erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia, to sexual concerns such as intimacy issues, sexual anxiety or overcoming a history of sexual trauma.

People might also see a sexologist in the absence of any issues too. In these cases, it might be to better understand their erotic identity, to talk through new sexual acts or exploring non-monogamy, to learn more about their bodies and their pleasure map, or to simply receive normative and accurate sex education.

When you see a sexologist, they will assess why you’ve come to see them by asking relevant questions about your sexual history, your autoerotic behaviours (i.e. masturbation), your past and present relationships and how you might have formed your understanding of yourself as a sexual being, to name a few.

They will also assess your mental and physical health, and inquire about your general lifestyle factors like diet, social connection, exercise, work circumstances and more. When you take a holistic approach, there’s a lot to cover!

Once your sexologist has an understanding of your circumstances, they can make a treatment plan and address each relevant factor that might be contributing to your issue.

You can expect to learn more about your thought processes and how they influence your feelings and behaviours, you might learn techniques to help overcome challenging beliefs about yourself, and you might be given mindfulness tips to quieten negative or irrational thoughts.

You might do a few exercises in the session to assist with all of this. While a lot of the work happens in these sessions, the majority of the work happens at home, in your own space. Sex therapists give a lot of homework.

These might be sexual activities, games or conversations you should explore with your partner, trying mindful masturbation or erotic self-touch, using mindfulness techniques during sexual experiences, exploring erotic activities outside of sex, or putting restrictions on certain behaviours like orgasm, penetration or genital touching to help broaden your sexual repertoire – just to name a few!

And, if some of you were wondering, yes clothes stay on, and nobody has sex in sex therapy. It’s just like seeing a psychologist – you, sitting across from your sexologist, talking. If you think you might benefit from a hands-on approach, the amazing work of sex surrogates or sexological bodyworkers might be the right direction for you. Feel free to Google your nearest one.

If sex therapy sounds like what you need, you might like to make a few considerations before you do. Are they LGBTIQA+ friendly? What are their specialisations? Do they operate under a trauma-informed framework? Are they inclusive of sex workers and alternative forms of relating? If these are important to you, take the time to look this up.

And while we are discussing finding the right sex therapist, let’s direct our attention to your beliefs about sex therapists too. Many people think that we are these wild, uninhibited, boundary-free sex-freaks. This is not necessarily the case, and simply points out our culture’s bizarre relationship with sex – “Obviously if someone studied sex, they must be totally unhinged!”

Uh, uh, slow down bb. If anything, sexologists might be more boundary-aware than the average person, as they have the knowledge and conceptual understanding of how to honour one’s true sexual self. Maybe that makes them more sexually explorative, maybe it doesn’t. I wouldn’t know, every person’s sexuality is different!

If you’ve read my spiel and you’re now thinking ‘Wow I need to see a sexologist, I don’t blame you. We aren’t given enough sexual tools or knowledge in our development, so whether you have a concern or simply want to grow as a sexual person, a sex therapist can really help to fill that cultural gap.

To find the right one for you, either turn to the internet or if you like the sound of my work, you can contact me via email or Instagram. It could be a low-key life-changing experience. Personally, I couldn’t recommend it enough!

See the other instalments in our Ask A Sex Therapist series here.

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