The DNA of a Couple vs the DNA of a Couple’s Therapist

holding-handsWhen couples think of the skills needed to keep their love vibrant, they often think of having good communication, high emotional, social and sexual intelligence, good conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and a strong alignment of values and interests.  If we did not grow up in a family emulating these qualities for us,

we often have to learn them for ourselves through asking others, reading books, attending workshops and going to therapy.

Finding a Therapist

When things go awry in our intimate relationship and we are in need of a good couple’s therapist, what do we assume they have in their training? We may assume they have training in the areas we want strong in our relationship.  But do they? How many training programs train in all of these areas of couple dynamics … conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, sexual health and sexual intelligence?

Actually very few … if any.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy accredits graduate programs in the United States with rigorous training requirements in family and couples therapy.

However, sexuality is often omitted.

Or at best, one class is required. One class! All other psychology, psychiatry, social work and counseling programs in the United States either do not train in couple dynamics or train far less in couple dynamics and sexuality. USUALLY BOTH!

False Advertising?

Let’s also ask ourselves how many therapists out there treat couples but did not study couple dynamics or how to treat issues of sexuality and intimacy? Actually far too many.  I recently looked through the listing in my area on Psychology Today and was appalled at how many therapists graduated from programs I knew did not train in couple or family dynamics, and did not train in sexual health. All of these people also did not have an AASECT certification in sex therapy, even though they listed themselves as doing couples therapy and sex therapy.

Why Does this Matter?

When you live in a culture like ours that has very little formal comprehensive sex education, and that has an economy driven by the commodification of bodies and sex, you have many people, therapists included, with skewed ideas of sexuality, sexual function, and sexual health.  These ideas are underground and unexamined.  This is coupled with a dearth of adequate correct sexual knowledge and information that clients need.  I have heard far too many stories in my career from people who have found their way to my therapy room after several bad experiences with therapists claiming to know what they were doing.

These well-meaning therapists only made the situation worse while wasting precious time and money, and causing more pain and heartache

book cover

The Beauty in Couples Work Lies in the Beauty in Intimacy

The Northwest Institute on Intimacy helps seasoned therapists become more skilled in sex therapy and spiritual intimacy. We offer training to become an AASECT certified sex therapist and sex therapy supervisor. We believe all couples therapists should feel confident in their ability to walk into all areas of a couple’s life and facilitate their growth and development – including sexual and spiritual intimacy.

One of my students wrote in a paper once,

People actually put the beauty of sex in sex.

“The more a person can bring their erotic selves and soothe themselves in it, the more ability they have to be known and the more integrated they become. And lucky for those of us [therapists]eager to learn more, ­reading about sexuality is not just about treating dysfunction, it is about waking up to the present, asking, “What is going on here, right now, and beneath the surface? What underlying issues are here? What dynamics are showing up between the couple? What does the dysfunction mean to them?” Every couple is a sensual couple and it is important that all therapists keep this in their minds as they sit with clients.”

Northwest Institute on Intimacy

It is this wisdom, this kind of awareness, presence and integrated knowledge, that sets apart a well-trained Certified Integrated Intimacy Practitioner; someone who is trained in individual, couple, family, sex therapy and spiritual intimacy.

Certified Integrated Intimacy Practitioner

When you are looking for a therapist who can support you in crafting the relationship you desire, ask if they have training in individual, couple, and family therapy.  Ask if they are AASECT Certified as a Sex Therapist. Ask if they have training in Spiritual Intimacy.  Or better yet, search for your therapist on the Northwest Institute for Intimacy website, where you cannot be listed unless you have training in all five of these areas.



If you are a therapist seeking more training in sexual health and spiritual intimacy, here is a quote from a fellow therapist after her training:

Sexual dysfunction is a doorway to depth, if you’re willing to walk into it with couples, seek support and consultation, and dive into your own sexual depths in your personal life. It is your birthright to know deeper intimacy and pleasure and it is the heartfelt desire of many of your clients to experience that delicious nourishment as well.

You can learn more about ongoing training at the Institute here