In the broadest sense, a sexologist is someone who studies or researches sex. However, the term sexologist is also used to describe someone who works in a private or group practice. They are engaged in helping people resolve sexual issues and challenges, much like a sex therapist – though there are some differences.
What Are the Differences Between a Sexologist and a Sex Therapist?
- Different degrees: A sexologist generally has an advanced degree such as a masters (MA), professional doctorate (DHS), or doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Sexuality Studies.A sex therapist has one of many potential psychology degrees, such as a masters degree (MFT, LPC), a professional doctorate (PsyD) or a Ph.D. in psychology or clinical psychology. In addition to their psychology degree, a licensed therapist should have taken additional training in working with and treating sexual issues specifically. Clinical social workers can also become sex therapists.
- Certification vs. licensure: While a sexologist will often be recognized through some kind of certifying body such as the American Board of Sexology (ABS) or the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), a practicing sex therapist is required to be licensed by the state in which they are practicing.
- Different focus of work: Sexologist usually works directly with sexual issues in a short-term, focused format. Sex therapists on the other hand work with their clients on the deeper psychological issues. These might contribute to sexual dysfunction, such as historical traumas or phobias.
What Does a Sexologist Do?
There are a variety of sexologists – each with a different approach and method. You can get a better idea of what a sexologist is offering their clients by the specific title they have.
If someone has the title of sexologist, they are studying sex and sometimes teaching about it in an academic setting, like a school or university. Their goal is to conduct research that furthers the understanding of human sexuality.
Some of the most famous sexologists include William H. Masters who worked with his assistant, Virginia E. Johnson, on pioneering research about sexual dysfunction and treatment. Alfred Kinsey studied and chronicled the wide variety of sexual behaviors humans participated in.
Sexologists research and study subjects like sexual arousal, sexual dysfunction, sexual behaviors and choices, and sexual identity. They may also explore and analyze how people make choices regarding their own sexual health, including sexual decision-making around condom use. These studies often help guide policy and community education around STDs or pregnancy.
While sexologists study sex, clinical sexologists apply what has been learned from sexological research directly to their clients to treat sexual concerns and issues.
A clinical sexologist will usually work in private practice, seeing clients in their office, and addressing whatever sexual concerns may be inhibiting them. These type of sexologists generally favor talk-based methods. They offer clients videos to watch or give them homework, which they then report back on in the following session.
An example of a clinical sexologist would be a certified Somatica Sex and Relationship Coach who has gone through both the beginning and advanced Somatica Trainings and has taken the certification exam. By completing the required training, they can additionally also apply to the American Board of Sexologists for additional certification.
Because Somatica is a dual-modality (sex and relationship) certification, beyond helping clients with sexual issues, Somatica coaches can also help clients with issues regarding relationship challenges, which can often be an underlying cause of sexual dysfunctions such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and low desire.
What differentiates somatic sexologists from other types of sexologist is the use of hands-on approaches in their practices. These methods can vary widely and include teaching the basics of sensual touching on a client’s hand or arm, all the way to offering therapeutic erotic massage where genitals are touched.
A somatic sexologist may also be a clinical sexologist, as they talk with their clients through sexual issues, but bring touch into their therapeutic offerings.
Some people – who have not engaged in any kind of sexological study or certification – offer “sexual healing”. Be beware though that often, these practitioners do not have any proper sexological training.
There are a number of practitioners who can be considered somatic sexologists, including Certified Somatica Practitioners, Certified Sexological Bodyworkers, and Tantric Sexologists. Each of these practitioners however differ in their approaches and boundaries with their clients. These are the differences:
Certified Somatica Sex and Relationship Coaches
Certified Somatica Sex and Relationship Coaches are both certified sexologists and somatic sexologists. Somatica coaches help their clients have thriving sex lives and relationships by teaching them the most effective experiential tools for emotional and erotic connection.
In terms of boundaries, Somatica is a clothes-on practice. Two-way touch is used as one of the many options to help clients learn how to give (and receive) sensual touch, and practice with seduction.
Coaches can also help their clients relax into receiving pleasure and resolve performance anxiety. They do not touch their client’s genitals, however, they are able to help their clients with all different types of sexual dysfunctions, especially low desire, erectile dysfunction, early ejaculation, and pelvic pain.
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Certified Sexological Bodyworkers
Sexological bodyworkers can also be certified sexologists. The practice of sexological bodywork is based on the belief that a combination of breathwork and erotic stimulation can take a client into an altered state of consciousness where personal transformation around sex can happen.
The method includes breathwork, erotic massage, pelvic release methods, scar tissue remediation ,and masturbation coaching. Sexological bodywork offers one-way touch – from practitioner to client – in order for the client to focus on their own growth, as opposed to learning about intimacy with others.
A tantric sexologist is someone who has studied tantric practices, in combination with advanced sexological training.
To become a tantric sexologist, you need advanced sexology training, or need to have received training from a clinical sexologist (with an advanced degree in sexology or human sexuality studies). In addition, you need to engage in full tantric training – a method that honors the cultural heritage and ancient esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Many westerners who have taken trainings call themselves “tantric practitioners” – but they have likely reduced tantra to its sexual practices and do not include or honor the full tantric tradition.
Tantric sexologists can have a broad range of boundaries – anything from only practicing with the energetics of sex, to having both practitioner and client naked and exchanging full body or genital touch. Some of these practices may or may not be legal, depending on the country in which they are being practiced.
Are Sexologists Doctors?
While some sexologists hold doctoral degrees or Ph.D. and can legally use the title doctor, they are not medical doctors.
There are some exceptions however: Charles Allen Moser is a pioneering professional with both an M.D. and a Ph.D., and was part of the creation of sexual medicine.
The Somatica Institute salutes brave trailblazers like Moser, Kinsey, Masters and Johnson for their important work in expanding and deepening the study of human sexuality. It’s thanks to their intrepid groundwork that we have been able to build the Somatica Method and pursue our mission of educating the world’s best sexologists.
Discover the proven scientific and philosophical foundations of our unique method in The Science Behind Somatica article.