How to Become a Sex or Psychosexual Therapist
Becoming a Psychosexual Therapist
The society often receives calls from people wishing to know how they can become a psychosexual or sex therapist. The society also hears about people who practice as a psychosexual therapist and have limited or no specific training. In the following section we outline the steps to becoming a psychosexual therapist.
How are Psychosexual Therapists Different to Other Forms of Counsellors/Therapists?
Psychosexual therapists are specifically trained in sexuality topics and psychosexual therapy. As you read through the information below you begin to identify this point of difference.
The members and accredited members of the Society of Australian Sexologists come from a variety of backgrounds. One of the requirements for becoming a psychosexual therapist is that you have training in appropriate cognate discipline. This is one of the criteria for accredited status – accredited members must be eligible for:
- Registration with the Australian Health Professionals Regulatory Authority (AHPRA), or
- Be a member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA), or
- Be a member of Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) member association, or
- Be a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), or
- Equivalent professional body deemed appropriate by the Accreditation Sub-Committee.
The Society of Australian Sexologists Ltd recognise the following disciplines:
- Nursing and Midwifery;
- Occupational Therapy;
- Counsellors and Psychotherapists; and
- Social Workers
So the first stage to becoming a psychosexual therapist is a qualification in one of these areas, followed by postgraduate studies in psychosexual therapy/sexology.
Training in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Although counsellors and psychotherapists, receive specific training in this area – this is not the case in the other disciplines. People who are registered with AHPRA as Psychologists, or members of the ACA or PACFA Member Association will meet this requirement.
To achieve accreditation status, a Member must have minimum training in counselling and/or psychotherapy. The minimum requirement in this area is the equivalent of four semester units or equivalent to a qualification at a Graduate Certificate level.
Psychosexual Therapy-Specific Training
To be a psychosexual therapist you will need to have had training in applying counselling/psychotherapy in psychosexual therapy content. This training needs to include topics/skills in the following areas:
- Communication skills training in a sexological context (interpersonal micro-skills, report writing);
- Professional practice issues in psychosexual therapy (including sexual history taking, self-awareness/self in the therapeutic context, referrals, professional development, ethics, law); and
- Counselling issues in psychosexual therapy.
It is possible for some of these topic areas to be covered in general counselling training (ethics, law, professional development, awareness of self). There is a requirement for minimal training in these areas in psychosexual therapy. The Curtin University Masters of Sexology and the University of Sydney Masters of HIV, STIs, and Sexual Health (Sexual Health Counselling Stream) address this content (See below for more information on these courses).
Training in Psychosexual/Sexological Topics
As noted earlier, training in psychosexual therapy or sexological topics is the point, which distinguishes a psychosexual therapist from other counsellors or therapists. Topics to be covered in training to become a psychosexual therapist include:
- Overview of the discipline of sexology (including historical and contemporary approaches to psychosexual therapy and sexuality research);
- Socio-Cultural Aspects of Sex, Sexuality, and Gender (including sexual and gender diversity/identity, spirituality/religion, ethnicity/race, ability, sexual subcultures);
- Sexual Function and Dysfunction (including diagnosis, testing/assessment, intervention);
- Sexual and reproductive anatomy and physiology (including models of sexual response cycles);
- Developmental sexuality across the lifespan;
- Knowledge of sexually transmitted infections and safer sex practices;
- Knowledge of atypical sexual behaviours (including rape and sexual assault, paraphilias, and fetishes);
- Familiarity of current research in psychosexual therapeutic and sexuality-related (broad) research.
It is possible to receive training in these areas through workshops and professional development activities. The University of Sydney and the Curtin University courses also cover these topics.
Values and Attitudes in Sexuality Training
Counsellor’s or therapist’s attitudes and values play an important role in their practice. People who have been trained specifically in counselling and/or psychotherapy (whether undergraduate or postgraduate) receive training in self-awareness and the self in therapeutic context. Training in values and attitudes to sexuality is an extension of this, specifically focused on the sexological/psychosexual therapeutic arena.
Values and attitudes training develops a therapist’s understanding of their own values and attitudes towards human sexuality and an understanding of topics many people are uncomfortable exploring. Although we may not agree with a sexual practice we need to be able to support people who engage in a non-normative sexual practices.
Values and attitudes training is offered regularly to members as a continuing professional development activity and is also embedded in the Curtin University and University of Sydney masters programmes.
It is necessary to have some experience in counselling people. When a therapist seeks Associate Accredited status, this experience need not be in a psychosexual therapy context. To achieve Clinical Accredited status a therapist is required to have extensive experience in psychosexual therapy provision.
Training Courses Available in Australia
There are private providers of professional development courses in psychosexual therapy. These may meet some of the requirements for accreditation. It is best to check with the provider and ask how their content maps to the accreditation requirements.
Masters of Sexology – Curtin University
This course is designed to provide specialist knowledge and skills in the area of sexology. Students will examine recent research that deals with the biological, psychological and social aspects of human sexuality, and also study various research methods.
Masters of HIV STIs, and Sexual Health (Counselling Stream) – University of Sydney
The Master of HIV, STIs and Sexual Health (MHSSH) ) – Counselling stream is a focused stream preparing graduates with the skills and attributes required to be a sexuality counsellor, psychosexual therapist, or a sexual health counsellor. The MHSSH is a global first in the provision of an inter-professional, multidisciplinary, research-intensive coursework degree that meets the needs of Australian and international students working in a range of disciplines related to HIV, STIs and sexual health, including sexual health counsellors, physicians, sex therapists, nurses, public health professionals and laboratory personnel. The Program provides a seamless pathway to research candidature via the Master of Philosophy component.
The Program is offered by the Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre (WSSHC), part of Sydney Medical School, at the University of Sydney.
- Recent graduates in psychology, counselling, education, occupational therapy, rehabilitation therapy and social work who are interested in pursuing a career in HIV, STIs and Sexual Health counselling and therapy.
- More established professionals (such as nurses, therapists, counsellors, social workers, teachers, general practitioners) wishing to gain greater knowledge and understanding in these areas.
- Professionals who deal with HIV, STIs and Sexual Health issues as part of their professional roles (such as marriage and relationship counsellors, clergy, journalists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation counsellors) and who wish to gain greater knowledge and understanding in these areas.