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Ethics of Sex Therapy

When speaking of and working with a topic that is often considered taboo, with a wide  variety of behaviors that can push the boundaries of one's personal comfort, it can feel difficult to understand our ethical role. This course brings clarity to that question, not only through examination of the ethical guidelines set down by AASECT, but also through case examples and analysis.

History of the Discipline of Sex Therapy

Sex Therapy has known many major players, from Freud to Kinsey to Masters and Johnson. This course tracks the evolution of the field as well as looking at the pioneers of sex therapy and their contributions to the practice as it exists today. Full of fun media and interesting facts, this course is sure to be much more interesting than your high school history class. 

Pornography and Masturbation

Part of the the course addresses the taboos, harmful aspects, and benefits of pornography in modern culture and in sex therapy. We explore individuals' and couples' relationship to porn, including discussion of feminist porn and the evolution of pornography throughout the decades.

Part two delves into the connection we have with our bodies and sexuality via masturbation or self touch. The course dives in to the consequences of a lack of exploration of self touch in childhood and examines the multitude of reasons that shame has been such a major player in people's relationship to masturbation. The healing and therapeutic qualities of self touch are explored at length.

Social and Cultural Aspects of Sexuality in Families

How you were raised, where you were raised, and familial, societal, and religious messaging around sex play a huge role in one's sexual development and approach toward sex. This course explores the impact of these dimensions, looks at current societal attitudes as well as others, discusses sex-positive parenting, and teaches students methods for working with, and either strengthening or healing from the social and cultural aspect of sexuality.

Health and Medical Factors

Although anxiety can account for the vast majority of sexual dysfunction, the medical or biological origins of sexual difficulties cannot be understated. As clinicians, it is imperative to have knowledge of the major biological contributors and an understanding of the impact of disease, illness, surgery, and medications on the sexual functioning of the individual. 

Range of Sexual Functioning

Society has often given us very rigid guidelines for what represents healthy sexual functioning, and many of these guidelines confuse play for performance. This course examines the vast array of sexual play and representations of healthy sexual functioning alongside sexual dysfunction (such as rapid ejaculation and sexual pain). This course will be focused on pleasure and play as a central concept in the enactment of sexual activity.

Substance Abuse and Sexuality

Substance abuse can have a profound impact on one's relationship to their body and bodily sensations. This course looks at the consequences, both short- and long-term, of substance abuse on one's sexuality and sexual functioning, as well as examining the implications for more positive treatment modalities for therapeutic substance abuse treatment that does not exclude sexuality.

Disability and Sexuality

Sex is so much more than penetration, and yet, as a society we seems to have a very narrow script for what sex is and should be. We believe that a more expansive definition of sex, including a much more lengthy menu of pleasurable sexual behaviors, in necessary and beneficial in working with people of all physical and mental abilities. This course teaches students ways in which we can work with our clients to rewrite their sexual scripts, introduce new or different routes to pleasure, accomodate potential physical factors and obstacles, and move individuals toward the sex they desire. 

Sexuality and Spirituality

Some people describe sex as transcendent, an experience that takes them outside of themselves. With increasing societal exposure to practices such as tantra, the idea of spirituality as an inextricable component of sexuality has become ubiquitous. Some find that connection to be positive and fulfilling, while others find it tied into feelings of shame and guilt due to religious dogma or childhood upbringing. This course explores the spiritual connection with sexuality; how it's evolved, how to strengthen its presence, and how to heal from spiritual wounds related to sexuality.

Erotic Fantasy

Erotic fantasy plays a very important role, not only in providing a safe place for the ongoing development and exploration of one's sexuality, but also in working through various aspects of everyday life and struggles of the past. In this sense, fantasy is not only fun, but healing. This course looks at erotic fantasy as a mechanism for growth and therapeutic treatment, in addition to discussion of its place in the context of the couple.

Sex Toys

Sex toys are devices can be used simply for fun or to enhance sensation and erotic experience, but for some they are a necessity in their route to pleasure. It is our obligation as therapists to stay informed and up to date with the latest in the wide variety of sex toys on the market. This course explores the vast world of sex toys as well as their usefulness with sexual difficulties.

Research Methods

What is sex research? How do we study sexuality? What does sex research have to say about how we do therapy? Applications of sex research will be described using a variety of models and perspectives. 

Cybersex

How has technology changed the way we "do" intimacy? How has it influenced one's relationship to their own sexuality and their partner's? How does cyber sex enhance and/or hinder sexual expression? This course will provide exposure to various cyber sexuality venues and the latest in technological advancements expanding this arena.

Pedophilia

This course introduces students the vast array of theory and perspectives concerning the development and/or origins of pedophilia. The course exposes students to voices from those who have been outspoken around pedophilia, both those within the community, and those who advocate for a new approach to therapeutic treatment. Treatment modalities, their controversy and evolution, are explored at length.

Desire

Students will explore the complexity of desire, including the role personal factors, relationship dynamics, and medication/diagnosis can play in its absence. The effectiveness and limitations of medications such as Cialis, Viagra, and Flibanserin are explored and their role and influence on our current view of desire as a society is scrutinized.

Becoming a Sex Therapist

This course integrates the entirety of the course material while emphasizing aspects of the person of the therapist. Role play, case analysis, and self reflection assist in developing a sense for who each individual is as a therapist, their personal style, and the level of comfort and ease they bring to their work with clients. This course challenges each student to critically reflect on their development as a sex therapist throughout the duration of the program.

Sexuality and Couples Therapy

What is or is not taking place between the sheets is often a window in to the couples relationship, and visa versa. It provides the therapist with a wealth of information on areas such as: the power dynamic in the relationship, comfort with intimacy and closeness, any trauma in one or both partners' history, any unresolved anger in the couple, if either partner is struggling with depression, and the list goes on. Sexuality is an inextricable component of a couples relationship, and therefore, to leave it out of therapy is to neglect one of the primary means of communication between partners and a basic need as humans. This course is designed to help clinicians understand its importance as well as learning how to include it in the conversation in a way that feels comfortable and engaging rather than awkward and alienating.

Sexual Anatomy

An in-depth knowledge of anatomy, both sexually and otherwise, is crucial in understanding sexual processes and functioning. This course takes the students through a thorough examination of the anatomy of the sexes, while exploring the biological effect of various life factors such as: negative emotional states, illness, injury, and medications

Sexual Orientation and Queer Theory

Kinsey is credited with first introducing us to the idea that sexual orientation is fluid and exists on a spectrum. Expressions of gender are equally as varied. It is for these reasons that expanding one's understanding of the current language and development of both sexual orientation and gender identity is necessary. Breaking out of the black and white, binary ways of viewing the complex and often complicated ways in which one's sexuality expresses itself to the individual and the world means breaking free of stereotypes and ignorance.

Pregnancy and Sex

As we know, pregnancy brings about a plethora of major changes to the body and mind. These changes can often be found to either help or hinder desire and the vitality of the sexual relationship in the couple. This course looks at the biological and attachment-based reasons for the fluctuation of desire that can be experienced during and just post-pregnancy as well as how to approach treatment and the restoration and/or maintenance of the sexual connection.

Working with Children, Adolescents, and Families around Sexuality

When we consider work with children, adolescents, and families, the therapeutic task becomes nuanced and complicated. The role of fathers and mothers relative to sexuality with their children is vital to their children's long term development. This course will take students through concepts of foregrounding and backgrounding in parental roles, and how this can have positive long-term results. Understanding how we might discuss father and mother involvement with their children from the perspective of sexuality can prevent eating disorders, and other pathologies, and can launch children toward effective adult relationships. This course will be based on the work that won AASECT's Patricia Schiller Prize in 2012. 

Diversity and Lifestyle: BDSM and Kink and Everything Else

There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to sex. What may sound thrilling and edgy for one individual or couple, can feel repulsive and scary to another. The same goes for how we organize our relationship or relationships. We will explore the many subcultures that exist in the sexuality community, the various forms of open relationships (polyamorous, swinging), and the means of working with these populations in a way that feels informed and open.

Sexual Trauma

Any degree of sexual trauma can serve to undermine a sense of safety in yourself, your body, your relationships, your sexuality, and the world. The body can become a dangerous place to live, and therefore sex can become confusing or scary, or both. Healing is a process of taking back your needs and desires, learning to articulate and exercise consent on their behalf, and reclaiming your body and sexuality as yours. This course dives into the intricacies of work with sexual trauma, including the introduction of a somatic (body/sensory awareness) approach to treatment.

Learning Theory and Its Applications

Each of us learns in a different way, or do we? Talking about sex confronts a person's spiritual, moral, and personal positioning. Understanding ways of effectively delivering information in order to maximize the storage and integration of the content, especially in sex therapy, is crucially and ethically important to the success of treatment and the overall arc of the therapeutic process. We can empower our clients with information, or cause overwhelm. This course helps clinicians navigate that landscape. 

Intimacy

Sex and intimacy are often conceptualized as inextricably connected. However, the extent to which they are connected can often pose problems for the couple or individual. Anxiety around closeness and vulnerability can lead to a felt sense of disconnection or "checking out" when engaging one's sexuality with a partner. This course not only teaches intimacy skills, but looks at how to treat these struggles with intimacy and closeness. The Paradoxical concept of distance in maintaining intimacy will also be described.

Sexual Compulsivity

This course looks at the relationship between anxiety and out of control sexual behaviors, as well as addressing its complex origins and the functioning the behavior may serve in the life of the individual. Implications for treatment are examined at length, using recent research and contemporary sex therapy practice. 

Professional Communication

How do we account for power? How do we facilitate discussion on the ethical issues of positioning and accountability (Tilsen, 2013)? How can we develop therapeutic transparency? How we communicate is essential to doing the work around sexuality. This course illustrates the various venues through which communication occurs: verbally, non-verbally, and electronically; in addition to discussing self-disclosure, personal vulnerability, and issues of transference and counter-transference on the part of the therapist. 

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

This course takes an in-depth look at the argument for and against the decriminalization of sex work, breaking down the different categories that exist under this umbrella, and looking to understand the feminist perspectives relative to this field. Sex trafficking is differentiated from sex work, with current facts and stats regarding its prevalence examined in detail alongside analysis of some of the major implications of treatment with those who have been victimized.

Paraphilia

Paraphilic behaviors, such as exhibitionism or voyerism, can be scary, shocking, and even traumatic. And yet, others, like sexual sadism and masochism, can be part of a fun, thrilling, and connecting experience between two consenting partners. This course explores the absence of boundaries in specific paraphilias, and the importance of boundaries and consent in the pleasure experience of others. Various treatment methodologies will be explored for those paraphilias that may be deemed harmful or deviant.