Become a sexologist
The Society often receives calls from people wishing to know how they can become a sexologist who delivers psychosexual therapy or sexuality education. The Society also hears about people who practice as a sex therapist or sex educator and have limited or no specific training.
The members and accredited members of the Society of Australian Sexologists Ltd come from a variety of backgrounds. In the following section we outline the steps to becoming a qualified sexologist in Australia.
Training in sexological or psychosexual topics is the point which distinguishes a sexologist from other counsellors, therapists, educators, and healthcare professionals. Topics to be covered in training to become a sexologist 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 Curtin University courses also cover these topics.
Values and attitudes in sexuality training
A sexologist’s attitudes and values play an important role in their practice. People who have been trained specifically in counselling/psychotherapy or education (whether undergraduate or postgraduate) receive training in self-awareness and the self in therapeutic and educational 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 practitioner’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 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 experience in counselling or educating people. When a member seeks Provisional Accredited status, this experience need not be in a psychosexual context. To achieve Clinical Accredited status a practitioner is required to have extensive experience in psychosexual therapy or sexuality education provision.
Find out more information on becoming a member of the Society of Australian Sexologists Ltd.
Find out more information on accreditation as a Psychosexual Therapist or Sexuality Educator.
Psychosexual Therapy - specific training
Although counsellors and psychotherapists receive specific training in that discipline to be a psychosexual therapist you will need to have had training in applying counselling/psychotherapy in psychosexual therapy context. 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)
- 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 and the University of Sydney masters programs address this content.
Sexuality education - specific training
Sexuality Educators are specifically trained in sexuality topics and the delivery and facilitation of sensitive material which might be challenging for participants. It is particularly important that this work is trauma-informed and inclusive.
Sexuality education is the instruction of issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, protective behaviours, human sexual anatomy, sexual development, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, pornography, identity, and media. Sexuality education that covers all of these aspects is known as comprehensive sexuality education. Common avenues for this education might be to individuals, groups, or organisations such as parents or caregivers, school programs, and public health campaigns.
Accredited Sexuality Educators are required to have completed a minimum number of hours of facilitation along with ongoing mentorship/supervision to ensure best practice.
Although teachers, health promotion and healthcare specialists may receive specific training for their profession, to be a sexuality educator you will need to have had training in applying sexological concepts in an education context. This training needs to include topics/skills in the following areas:
- Communication skills for training in a sexological context
- Professional practice issues in child-focused and adult-focused education methods and principles
- Promoting inclusion and sex positivity as foundational to the acquisition of sexual knowledge and skills
- Understanding healthy sexual development across the lifespan using an ecological model
- Navigate cultural and ethical issues in practice
- Curriculum development based on current evidence in both sexuality and education
It is possible for some of these topic areas to be covered in generalist professional training (teaching, ethics, gender studies, nursing, public health). There is a requirement for minimal training in these areas in sexuality education. The Curtin University and the University of Sydney masters programs address this content.
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.
The Curtin University Sexology teaching and research program was established in 1978, by Professor Rosemary Coates. Since this time it has continued to lead the way in Sexological education and research in Australia.
Housed within the School of Public Health, the department has collaborative links with local, state, national and international programs in health promotion, therapy, epidemiology, education and evaluation, research, policy development, and human rights advocacy. The School of Public Health provides world-class facilities for teaching and research, and an ideal environment for student learning.
There are several postgraduate courses to choose from, Graduate Diploma in Sexology, Master of Sexology, and PhD.
In both the Graduate Diploma in Sexology and the Master of Sexology we use a modern tuition pattern incorporating multiple platforms for teaching. Each unit has a specified teaching platform, some are taught in a weekly pattern during semester (external studies available) and some are taught as Block intensives. This means that students do not need to relocate to Perth to engage with our courses, but they will need to travel once per semester (if studying full time) for a one week intensive Block taught unit.
Graduate Diploma in Sexology
This course is a 1 year full time course (part time study available). It is designed to provide you with specialist knowledge and skills in the area of sexology. You will examine recent research that deals with the biological, psychological, and social aspects of human sexuality.
You will be provided with a comprehensive background on sexology, an in-depth review of sexual and reproductive public health issues, an introduction to forensic sexology, and an opportunity to explore sexology from cultural perspectives. Additionally, you will review your attitudes and values in a sex-positive environment.
Master of Sexology
This course is a 2 year full course (part time study available). It provides individuals with specialist knowledge and skills in the area of sexology. Graduates should have a comprehensive knowledge of recent research examining the biological, psychological and social aspects of human sexuality.
It is anticipated that on completion of the program, graduates will be able to integrate this specialisation into their professional discipline, and be conversant with the key aspects of sexology as a public health issue. Complementary study in research methods is included.
Graduates have established careers in the fields of sex therapy, sex education and consultancy, child and elder protection, sexual health policy development, human rights, disability, cyber-safety training, health promotion, youth work, academia, medical management, risk management, forensic assessment, group work, sexual research, cross-cultural work, international programs, population management, organisation management, and many others.
Master of Science in Medicine (Sexual & reproductive Health – Psychosexual Therapy Pathway)
The Psychosexual Therapy Pathway provides specialist training in psychosexual therapy/sexual health counselling/clinical sexology/psycho-sexology. Students explore human sexuality from psychosexual therapeutic perspective. The Master’s program is an eight-unit sequence and consists of two core units of study, four pathway-specific (psychosexual therapy specific) units of study and two electives. There are also options for alternative exits at Graduate Diploma (six units of study) and Graduate Certificate level (four units of study). Students will study variations in sexual function, sexual and gender diversity, HIV and STIs, as well as issues pertaining to ageing and sexuality, disability and sexuality, forensic aspects of human sexuality. The Psychosexual Therapy Pathway has been designed and developed to meet the sexological-related accreditation criteria for the Society of Australian Sexologists, ASSERT NSW, and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT)
The Psychosexual Therapy Pathway is not a medical oriented program. It is grounded in psychosexual therapy and is one of the suite of pathways in the University of Sydney’s Postgraduate Program in Sexual and Reproductive Health. The Postgraduate Program in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) provides a diverse and inter-professional curriculum suitable for Australian and international students interested in the range of disciplines related to HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Sexual and Reproductive Health.
Globally, the challenges of SRH including HIV/STIs, infertility and unintended pregnancy continue to be a significant public health issue. Challenges to sexual function and wellbeing also impact on the health of individuals. Comprehensive prevention and treatment of SRH issues require a thorough understanding of the psycho-social contexts in which they occur as well as the biological and diagnostic aspects of sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.
The Postgraduate Program in Sexual and Reproductive Health enables students to address these challenges through a range of units, with an option to choose one of four distinct pathways (STIs and HIV, Psychosexual Therapy, Reproductive Health and Infertility, and Public Health).
Compulsory and stream specific units of study provide students with foundational competence in these areas, while a wide range of electives creates the opportunity for students to further explore areas of interest. The inter-professional and multi-disciplinary structure encourages students to develop effective collaborative approaches to employment in a variety of healthcare settings.
The Postgraduate Program in Sexual and Reproductive Health is designed to provide the maximum professional relevance, flexibility and choice. All units of study engage the current evidence base and encourage critical engagement with the evidence. To facilitate the best educational and professional outcomes from their studies, each student is advised to discuss their unit of study choices with a Pathway Coordinator before the commencement of each semester. The Postgraduate Program in Sexual and Reproductive Health provides opportunities for students to transition to higher degree research candidature.