Chat with Lisa Etherson | Sex Therapy Newcastle | North East Sex Therapy
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Chat with Lisa Etherson

Chat with Lisa Etherson

So what does a sex therapist actually do? I always imagined they teach people to have better sex by having sex with them

Well, there are people who have sex with clients in order to help with sexual problems. They’re called sex surrogates, which is very different to a sex therapist. A sex therapist is a counsellor or therapist who helps people to talk about what problems they are having sexually, to help them either accept or resolve their issues, just like any other counsellor would

You are the first sex therapist I’ve come across in this area, there doesn’t seem to be that many of you about. So why would someone come to you rather than a counsellor or psychotherapist?

You’re right, there aren’t that many of us in the area at all. As with lots of other specialist types of therapy, there are lots more in London but not so much in the north east. If you are having sexual problems, the benefit of seeing a sex therapist, rather than a counsellor, is that we are trained to work specifically with people, and more often couples, who are struggling with sex in some shape or form. It means we are really comfortable talking about sex and things like masturbation, porn etc. We also get trained in lots of physiology and anatomy and the physical or medical implications of sexual problems, which I feel is really important to know about to make sure clients are treated effectively. For a client, it can be quite a difficult thing to discuss if you get the feeling the counsellor isn’t all that comfortable themselves. As sex therapists, we also concentrate on the relationship and how that is affecting or has been affected by the sexual difficulty being experienced.

You must have heard some strange stuff? Care to tell us some of the more bizarre things people do?

People who come for sex therapy usually don’t have much in the way of strange sex if that’s what you mean? They tend to be very ordinary people who just have a particular problem.
Although, obviously there are some people who have a sexual fetish, which may seem strange to those who don’t. People who have a sex addiction often do quite risky things that perhaps others wouldn’t. As for wanting to share some with you, no, I think I’ll keep that stuff between me and my clients

What do you think the most common sexual problem is?

The most common issue that people come to see me for is sex and porn addiction. But if we are looking at the more common sexual problems, I’d say they would be loss of sex drive (which men ca experience just as much as women), erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. For women, it would be vaginismus.

So if thats your most common type of client that you see, do you think sex addiction is on the rise?

Most definitely. Mainly because we have the opportunity to access sex, whether that be porn or the actual act of sex itself, in a way that we have never had before. The creation of the internet certainly started the ball rolling but when smart phones and tablets appeared, this type of addiction sky rocketed. People with a sex or porn addiction usually struggle with intimacy in some form, but crave it at the same time. What the internet does, is it gives people the illusion of intimacy, without having to ever to really close to someone. For example, the internet has given us the opportunity to look for sex, in the privacy of our own homes and with much more anonymity, meaning people are more likely to so as they think there is less risk to them.

So do you see more men than women then?

I do see more men, but I think I’m quite unusual in that respect. My other sex therapy colleagues have much more of a mixed case load than me. I think this is because I see more people with sex addiction than anything else. However, it would be a mistake to think that it’s only men who are sex addicts. Many women are too but they are much less likely to come forward for help, as there is much more stigma around for women who have lots of sex than men. This is a worry for me as sex addiction is a very serious condition, which can make people feel extremely isolated and in some cases, suicidal. I’m not sure when this attitude towards women and sex will change.

In your opinion, why do you think we struggle with sex so much when its all around us?

There are so many reasons why we struggle with sex.
I actually think that the fact that it is all around us, or maybe I should say how it is all around us is the problem. We are told that if we are slimmer, prettier, can last longer, and having it more than everybody else, we are successful. We are being told a lie and most of us cannot keep up with the standards that are being fed to us in magazines, TV and films. This leads to lower self esteem which is all part of the game, as that means we will buy more of the products being touted in order to try and be more.
There are huge expectations for men and sex which are often historical, for example, for thousands of years men have been told that in order to be powerful, they need to be red blooded and virile. Women were expected to be virginal and chaste. Not all men like lots of sex and not all women are demure. Equally, if a man is acting on sexual prowess, he is often seen as a pig and if a woman is more cautious, she is a prude or frigid. So what I’m trying to say is that we are in a culture where we are sexually judged. Very few people are truly allowed to be exactly as they are. The Victorians dictated that sex and discussion of it should be taboo and we haven’t really moved away from this. We don’t educate our children adequately to talk about sex openly, so we grow into adults not really knowing how to express our sexual problems. And why would we want to admit to anyone that we are not powerful, successful or that we feel shame about our sexuality (or lack of it). I always think that anyone who comes to see me for any sexual problem is extremely brave, because they are going against the societal norm. Sex is the most natural thing to humans but we have been conditioned to bury our heads when things don’t go the way we think they should. I believe we need to talk about sex more. We need to have it, it’s so good for us, it’s part of our humanity and yet it can be one of the most difficult things we encounter.