Sexuality is a fundamental part of human identity and expression, yet many people feel nervous or uncomfortable with this aspect of themselves, and may even find talking about it taboo. Sex therapy is an increasingly popular discipline within the fields of psychotherapy and counseling, in which trained, licensed counselors help people to work through their issues in a safe, professional setting.
As with all graduate programs, students pursuing a degree in sex therapy should choose a program based on how well it coincides with their interests, and how well the faculty's specialties line up with their own areas of concentration. Widener University offers the only accredited doctoral program in Human Sexuality Studies in the United States at its Center for Human Sexuality Studies. The university is based on an ethos of service to others, and the doctoral program specifically seeks to create "pracademics," as it calls them, who would be at ease either counseling or researching. The center also examines human sexuality among different age groups, including older people.
Thomas Jefferson University
Thomas Jefferson University and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals offer training for a wide variety of health professionals. Students pursuing a Master's Degree in Family Therapy can choose either the family therapy track or the sex therapy track. The sex therapy track includes education in everything from the history of sexuality and gender to practical safe sex practices. The course heavily emphasizes supervised clinical practice, in which the student will play the role of a counselor for a real patient, with a professor observing. Students are also required to complete exercises in which they reexamine their own attitudes towards sexuality, in order to avoid any biases affecting their counseling.
University of Rhode Island
The Center for Sexual Health at the University of Rhode Island offers a master's program in Couple and Family Therapy. Like Thomas Jefferson University, the program includes extensive supervised clinical practice, which is available to the public at an affordable rate. The Center for Sexual Health is a fairly new project, and one of the founders is 2006 Arizona State University Ph.D. Dr. Tiffani Kisler. Some of Kisler's own work includes research on the impact of new media on interpersonal and sexual relations, particularly among young people who are just making the transition to college.
Other Paths to Licensing
One does not have to pursue a graduate degree specifically focused on sex therapy in order to become a sex therapist. Many with pre-existing master's or doctorates in psychotherapy have gone on to become sex therapists by receiving further post-graduate training. The organization that most commonly oversees certification as a sex therapist in the United States is the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Many graduate programs were designed in collaboration with AASECT. Those who seek certification must become members of AASECT, agree to be bound by their code of ethics and, if they did not complete specialized graduate training, must complete a minimum of 90 clock hours of sexuality education. These hours may be from either an accredited college or university or from the continuing education courses offered by AASECT itself.
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