Over a year ago, my first blog explored board certifications and training to legitimately allow a therapist to call her or himself a sex therapist. Since then, an increasing number of counselors and therapists have claimed to be sex therapists on a variety of websites, with little to no basis in reality. This is highly questionable ethically. Unfortunately, the person with a problem has to spend time checking each therapist’s credentials to see if that therapist is in fact a sex therapist.
I recently discussed this problem in my keynote presentation at the Washington Mental Health Counselor annual meeting. Some counselors seemed unaware that a sex therapist needs a board certification to be a REAL sex therapist. Others affirmatively nodded to my point that no one should call themselves a sex therapist unless they are certified by one or more national clinical sexology or sex therapy boards. Fortunately, most therapists are ethical and do not mislabel their training, certification and scope of practice. It is the remainder who need to be scrutinized and sanctioned, when appropriate.
The four national boards include The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), The American Board of Sexology, The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists, and The American College of Sexology. The gold standard for certification is AASECT–this association requires the most training and the highest standards to be a sex therapist. I am certified by all four boards. Beware of those who claim to be sex therapists or clinical sexologists, but fail to list where their certifications come from (the only four credentialing organizations are in this blog), and also beware of those who use membership in AASECT as a credential to be a sex therapist. Unless the therapist is board certified by AASECT, they cannot use AASECT to claim they are a sex therapist.
As I stated in Part One (my first blog, August, 2011), those seeking a sex therapist should not be fooled by listings on Psychology Today, Google, Google AdWords, Bing and other therapist websites. In the past year, I have noticed counselors who have a license who have absolutely no credentials as a sex therapist who falsely claim to be sex therapists, or to do sex therapy, or who imply they are sex experts because they offer real help for all sexual lissues. Other examples are counselors who say they specialize in sex therapy, or claim to be sex therapists because they deal with sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is one issue for a sex therapist, but a practice limited to abuse does not qualify the therapist as a sex therapist.
Sex coaches help fine-tune sex (with good to no real credentials), but they are not sex therapists. When you check some of their websites, some appear to be trained, but it is rather apparent that others are essentially doing sex therapy without a license or certification. Another misnomer is that those who claim to do “Christian Sex Therapy” are necessarily sex therapists at all. Again, unless they have a board certification, they are not leglitimate sex therapists.
Others are working on a license and/or a board certification as a sex therapist, and yet they claim to be sex therapists before they are fully licensed or board certified. All of these therapists have to list their current credentials in their disclosure statements, but their website home pages often make it appear they are already credentialed as sex therapists, when they are not. Some who are not yet board certified or fully licensed have attractive websites that make it appear they are more credentialed than they are. Some in the process of becoming board certified charge more than some who already have board certifications and full licenses! We all have to start somewhere, but there should be truth in advertising–not just in a disclosure statement.
I called Psychology Today to voice my displeasure with their policy to accept whatever a counselor says they are qualified to do, and they said they had no way to check out counselors. Really? But they are making more money listing more and more counselors and giving them their meaningless green arrows, implying they are certified by Psychology Today!
Similarly, those who state they are “sex addiction” counselors are not sex therapists unless they are board certified as sex therapists. (See my blogs on the semantically incorrect concept, “Sexual Addiction”). Lacking honesty, it is left to the consumer to do her or his research on each therapist’s credentials. If a therapist does not list their license and their board certifications, ask them to verify them.
Finally, Florida is currently the only state that legally requires that a sex therapist be properly trained and certified so they qualify for a license as a sex therapist. Sex therapists in Florida cannot practice without this license. I predict that more state legislatures will eventually follow suit, but this will take a long time. In the meantime, buyer beware!