We’re finally living in a world where the concept of seeking therapy to support your mental health is no longer a taboo, although the coupling of therapy with another time-honored taboo — sex — is still stigmatized. That’s why it made headlines when actress and America’s Got Talent judge, Julianne Hough and her NHL star husband, Brook Laich, came clean about their decision to seek the help of an online sex therapist to enhance their sexual chemistry.
After two years of marriage, Hough took to her husband’s podcast, How Men Think, to share that she had noticed something didn’t feel right between them in the sex department — not the faintest of admissions. “My curiosity has saved my life, and honestly our relationship many times,” Hough said during the podcast. “Instead of just accepting it for how it is, let’s look into something.” And look into something she did.
Hough found an online test that claims to help couples rediscover their “intimate blueprint.” Her results showed that physical touch was her most important need in a relationship, while her husband’s revealed he was all about the visuals.
Sex therapist, sexologist, and marriage and family therapist for adameve.com, Jenni Skyler, PhD, applauds the couple for seeking out tools to better their relationship before the going gets tough. “I think Julianne and her hubby are extra wise for choosing a sex therapist because most of us are trained in marriage and family therapy first and foremost, with additional training in sexuality,” she tells GLAM. “This means we can more comprehensively and comfortably address both emotional and sexual intimacy, helping a couple build a sustainable and erotic toolbox for the longevity of their relationship.”
And according to Dr. Skyler, everyone can benefit from sex therapy. “What makes us human is our unique capacity to have sex for pleasure,” she says. “Our sexuality — meaning our sexual orientation, our gender, our biological sex, our fantasies, fear, and beliefs, our social constructs of sex — are all complex and woven together in a tangled tapestry.” She explains that most people can benefit from sex therapy as a means to better understand their sexuality and any potential sexual blocks — or to simply discover tools on how to stay erotically and emotionally connected for the long haul.
Sex therapy is all about tapping into your sexual needs and desires, and being able to communicate those to a receptive partner, adds Diana Sadat, sex therapist, clinical counselor, and founder and clinical director of the Allura Centre. “It is about helping couples feel more connected and like sex is a bonding act rather than something that harms their relationship,” she says.
Interested in learning more? Here are some of the ways your relationship might score a boost from sex therapy, according to experts.
You’ll become more comfortable talking about it
It being s-e-x, of course. In fact, if there’s one thing sex therapy can do for your relationship, it’s giving you the know-how and ability to have an actual conversation about your sexual needs and desires. “When we are given permission to have these intimate conversations, it somehow makes it easier to have them at home,” says Marissa Nelson, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. This is important because, as a recent study pointed out, talking about sex with your partner significantly increases sexual satisfaction.
You’ll learn to become more playful
After years – or sometimes just months — of having sex with the same person, it can become stale. Sex therapy can help a couple become more open with each other, forget expectations, and begin to feel what happens when they let go of any pressure, explains Sadat. This allows both individuals to tap into sensations that feel good and natural.
You’ll shift your focus on pleasure
Experts agree that sex should be about pleasure, even (and especially) if you’re in a monogamous relationship. “Partners are here to enhance and add to pleasure, but it is important that couples learn to have more ownership of their bodies and their eroticism,” says Nelson. “Sex therapy helps each person understand what is erotic and seductive to them, how to better please themselves, and how to have more control and agency over their sexual life.”