Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Let's talk about sex! - by Dr. Marla Cobin

We live in a culture which sensationalizes sex but doesn’t really allow us to talk about sexual difficulties.  It’s easy to tell our friends that we have a headache or need to go to the allergist, but it’s not easy to tell our friends that we have a sexual “problem” or concern and much less societally acceptable to seek “sex therapy.”  So we tend to keep sexual concerns to ourselves.   These concerns can become overwhelming, leading to shame, poor self-esteem, and anxiety while also creating havoc in romantic relationships.  And, really, the truth is sexuality is an important part of who we are and it deserves to be treated as such. 

When I was growing up, the mother of a friend was a sex therapist who worked out of her home.  My uninformed teenage self really thought that she must be teaching people to have sex, and maybe they were even having sex in her office!  When I learned, many years later, that one can actually get a degree in sexuality, I was curious, having no idea what that might entail.  I soon discovered that sex is rarely talked about in general therapy programs.  I also learned that there is quite a wide range of sexual difficulties and people need support and education!  So, I dove in with the goal of becoming someone that people would feel comfortable talking with about their sexual difficulties.  I received two Masters degrees from Widener University.  One is in social work and the other is in education in human sexuality.  I then received my doctorate in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. 

So, what is sex therapy?  Sex therapy is a form of psychotherapy focusing on sexual health.  The following are often addressed in sex therapy with individuals and couples: questioning sexual orientation, exploring gender identity, sexual trauma, sexual pain, orgasmic difficulties, erectile dysfunction, intimacy, low or high desire, desire discrepancies, masturbation, shame, guilt, and fear of sex and intimacy, etc. The list goes on.  The first goal of sex therapy is to create a safe, supportive environment where clients can talk about sexual concerns with a knowledgeable therapist.  Sex therapists strive to assist and guide the client(s) in reaching a state of increased function and health, increased awareness, and a more integrated sense of themselves and their sexuality. 

Many clients share things they have never told anyone before.  I have often been the first to hear of someone’s sexual abuse, the first to hear of someone’s struggle with orientation, and the first to hear of someone’s sexual pain or low desire.  People have so much shame around these issues that offering a space in which they feel safe enough to share and explore is incredibly rewarding.  I have seen dramatic shifts in people’s levels of anxiety, sense of self-worth, and sexual satisfaction after our work together.  It’s exciting and incredibly rewarding.  My hope is that if we can get more therapists and more clients talking about sex and sexuality, slowly the stigma will disappear and the reality of sexuality being an important part of our identity will gain recognition and encourage conversation.  It’s time to embrace our sexual selves.  Let’s talk about sex!

For more information or to schedule a session, please contact Dr. Marla Cobin at
Here’s to healthy sexuality and open dialogue!

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