While listening to the latest episode of Intimate Judaism, a podcast co-hosted by Rabbi Scott Kahn and certified sex therapist Talli Rosenbaum, a very important thought came up for me. Often, during my work as a couples and intimacy therapist, I wonder, “If this couple would have been directed, advised or counseled differently earlier in their marriage, would they be struggling to the same extent?”
As Talli mentioned in the podcast “Painful Sex and Vaginismus: It’s Not Your Fault,” we sex therapists don’t get the simple cases. Our clients are usually more complex, and issues surrounding vaginal pain and marital relationships very often become even more complex as time passes and preliminary treatments fail.
In order to avoid prolonging the marital stress that accompanies vaginal pain, I believe it is of extreme importance to find the right address for help early on. But how does a couple, often young, inexperienced and now in crisis, know how to navigate the field of sexual and mental health? This is a very important question in the mental health field in general and with sexual health in particular, as it is a very private topic.
My advice is to begin by conducting extensive research. There is so much information about practitioners available online. You can look people up and check their credentials quite easily. In addition, anonymous posts in relevant Facebook groups can be very useful for getting personal recommendations in your area.
You can find certified sexual health therapists through ITAM (The Israeli Association for Sexual Therapy) and AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists). Support is also available from the NVA (National Vulvodynia Association) and Shlema (vulvodynia support). Although working with one of these therapists doesn’t guarantee a successful experience, the individuals affiliated with these organizations have earned professional certifications and have had their credentials vetted. Working with a certified professional can lead to a better outcome for you as a client.
My second piece of advice is to go with your gut. Although sexual well-being is a private topic and a bit of discomfort is normal, if you call a practitioner, or have a meeting in their office, and you feel more than a bit uncomfortable, trust yourself. This may not be the right person for you.
After all, you are the expert on you.
Be assured that there are trained, professional sex therapists who help people every day with whatever sexual health challenges you’re facing. I encourage you to reach out to one of us to get the support you need.
Feel free to email me with any thoughts or questions at Abby@jewishintimacy.com