Written by Amanda Gleason, MFT
Sex counselors, sex and intimacy coaches, sex and sexuality educators, sex therapists...what is the difference between them, and do I need one?!
We have all experienced relationship problems, but rarely do people take the time to reflect on how human sexuality, physical contact, or how their sex lives impact them. Struggles with intimacy are very common. The good news is that they’re also treatable. Sex and intimacy coaches are trained professionals that can help you navigate these issues and enjoy your sex life again.
Keep reading as we break down everything you need to know about certified sex coaches so you can make an informed decision. We'll begin by tackling the basics of what sex coaching is and who is a certified sex coach. Then we'll learn about credentials for sex coaches and why this is important. Next, we'll dive into what you can expect from a sex coach, and what the process may look like for you.
Sex Coaching 101: Understanding the Basics
"I'm struggling with sexual and emotional intimacy; I don't feel connected to my partner."
"We have sex problems because of our differing sexual desires after having kids."
"I want to be a better lover; my partner doesn't enjoy sex."
If you've ever suffered similar relationship or sexual problems before, you know how difficult it can be to talk to someone. These are a few examples of issues that sex coaches face on a regular basis. Sex coaches focus on your relationship goals, helping you develop a stronger emotional connection with your partner, and work as your co-creator to address personal sex issues.
What is a sex coach?
A sex coach can come in a variety of forms. However, most sex coaches work with a person to achieve their personal sex goals, whether that involves developing emotional intimacy, creating a fulfilling sex life, developing a better understanding of sexual anatomy, or even tackling issues such as performance anxiety.
What's in a name?
Sex coaches can also be go by sex and intimacy coaches (or intimacy coaching) or sexuality coach. Some sex coaches also provide relationship coaching and go by relationship coach. Some coaches combine their work such as relationship and sex coach or sex and intimacy coach.
Sex coaches are sex-positive, and work to create a safe space within the clinical experience so that their clients achieve the personal growth they desire. Discussing sexual issues can make a person feel embarrassed or uncomfortable; therefore, sex coaches strive to create an environment of non-judgment and understanding.
The goal may be to guide or teach individuals to be (their version of) better lovers, with control of their sex lives or a better idea of sexual satisfaction. Sometimes this includes defining intimacy or having the courage to discuss their deepest desires. A coach teaches a person how to regain control of their sexual experience.
What kind of credentials do sex coaches have?
Sex coaches can have a wide range of education and experience. Currently, there is no regulation for any type of coaching. Some coaches come with years of clinical and hands-on experience, a graduate degree, and a license to practice therapy or counseling. Other coaches may have a bachelor's degree or no degree at all. Some coaches are members of national associations or are certified as a coach.
However, it is important that a sex coach understand basic human sexual health and sexuality. The coaches at Atlanta Therapeutic Collective all have advanced graduate degrees and/or additional certifications in human sexuality, human sexual health, and sexual and relationship issues. Many of our coaches are a trained and licensed therapist with sex therapy training. Several of our coaches are also certified sex therapists and hold membership in the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.
Anyone may refer to themselves as a sex coach or sex counselor, so be sure to inquire about degrees, credentials, and experience. Check out Atlanta Therapeutic Collective's coaching and sex counseling services for more information about our sex coaches!
Sex coaching is not sex therapy
There is a difference between a sex therapy and a sex coach. A sex therapist is licensed therapist trained to provide intensive mental health treatment. A licensed therapist holds a master's degree in therapy or mental health counseling. A therapist can provide coaching skills to clients though a coach not licensed as a therapist cannot provide therapy.
Sex therapy often treats sexual trauma or PTSD, abuse, high conflict couples or relationships, or medical conditions impacting sexual functioning or relationship satisfaction. These conditions can not be treated in coaching.
Sex therapists will use evidence-based research to address underlying concerns. Therapy involves building emotional regulation and processing traumatic events while sex coach teaches a comprehensive sex education and sexual skills to create change.
Atlanta Therapeutic Collective, a private practice in Atlanta, provides both sex therapy and coaching services. Decide which option best suits your needs and reach out to book your appointment!
What to expect from the sex coaching process
The process of talk based sex coaching may look different for everyone! First, don't compare your coaching experience with anyone else's experience!
A sex coaching session can range from covering basic general sex ed to sexual practices and sexual skills to an understanding of sexual issues like premature ejaculation, sexual desire, or how erotic massage can enhance a relationship and improve sexual experiences.
The first session sets your coaching experience up for success! First, you and your coach will discuss goals for coaching and create a coaching plan with specific outcomes. Next, your coach will begin to use their knowledge and expertise to guide you through a personalized coaching process that is meant to meet your specific and unique needs as an individual.
What happens in a sex coaching session?
Once you create your coaching plan and set your goals, it's time to start making change happen!
Many sex coaches start with sex education or address common sexual problems or relationship issues to first validate that your concerns are real and most likely common!
Next, sex coaches will provide tools or suggestions for you to use at home in order to meet your goals and improve your sexual experiences!
Most people don't receive a comprehensive education on human sexuality. Therefore, in order to increase your sexual intelligence and improve your sex life, we must understand sex including how our bodies work and how our partner's bodies work. Understanding sex also means understanding how medical conditions, medication, and life events intersect with our sexual experience.
If you are like many people, the sex ed that you received in school (if you received any at all!) was probably clinical and abstinence-based. In other words, most school based sex ed teaches the negative aspects of sex and tells children not to have sex or "bad things will happen."
Learning about sex with a coach is fun and creative! Our sex coaches will often use different styles of media, art, video, books, and workbooks to teach individuals about sex. Our sex coaches also create a safe environment for clients to ask questions about sex.
Let's take a look at one model that sex coaches use:
The PLISSIT model
This model was created for the purpose of improving sexual conversations by professionals sexuality educators/providers and their clients/patients. It normalizes sex and intimacy conversations and allows for a comfortable way to approach the topics desired. PLISSIT stands for:
Permission- The sex coach will work to give the client permission to discuss issues by normalizing and creating a safe, sex-positive environment.
Limited Information- The sex coach will give specific and limited information about the client's concerns and related information.
Specific Suggestions- Once a full evaluation or assessment has been conducted (verbally) with the client, a sex coach will offer suggestions based on their issues.
Intensive Therapy- If required, the coach will refer clients to a higher level of care, which would likely be a certified sex therapist who is trained and educated to handle more serious mental health issues.
Sex coaching only involves the steps listed in the PLISS portion of PLISSIT. You can see that it is led at the client's pace, with a focus on education. Now this doesn't sound too intimidating, but what does a sex coach do with it?
Who can benefit from working with a sex coach?
All are welcome!
Sex coaching can benefit anyone interested in improving areas of their sex life or intimacy by expanding their knowledge or exploring their sexual energy. Due to the nature of the process being catered to the client, a sex coach can see a person of any gender, race, or sexuality. Sex coaches should be aware of differences that these factors can cause for individuals, and should make sure to carefully consider cultural differences or minority groups who have faced marginalization when it comes to sexual health education.
Sex is for everyone, sexual health matters, and anyone interested can benefit from working with a sex coach.
Sex coaching can help you put your sexual wellness first
Now that we are better informed on what a sex coach is, what credentials they might have, and what happens during a session, let's reiterate how it can help you personally.
Whether you want to give more attention to your dating skills, be a more hands on-on partner, or dive into what intimacy means to you, we encourage you to consider first taking a sex-positive approach. This is especially true for those who feel sexually marginalized or carry shame associated with their sexuality.
Sexual health professionals work to establish a safe place and use their knowledge to work alongside you and advocate for your wellness. If you feel your questions and needs can be met by speaking with a sex educator or coach, they can provide you with education specific to you, a safe place to explore your sexual thoughts or desires, and can help you reach your intimacy or sex goals!