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AASECT Requirements for Sex Therapist Certification
The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) has established that the following education and experiential activities will meet the requirements for Sex Therapist Certification.
I. Membership in AASECT
The applicant may hold Professional, Retired or Life Membership in AASECT.
II. AASECT Code of Ethics
The applicant will have read the AASECT Code of Ethics. By signing the certification application form, the applicant agrees to be bound by the AASECT Code of Ethics.
III. Academic and Professional Experience
The applicant will have earned an advanced clinical degree that included psychotherapy training from an accredited college or university recognized by the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation and the following clinical experience. Only coursework from accredited institutions and/or AASECT sponsored or approved courses will be accepted to fulfill content requirements for certification.
A. Master's degree plus two years of post-degree clinical experience.
- OR –
B. A Doctoral degree plus one year of post-degree clinical experience.
IV. Clinical Certification & Licensure
A. The applicant will hold a valid state regulatory license or certificate for the state in which the applicant practices, in one of the following disciplines: psychology, medicine, social work, counseling, nursing, or marriage and family therapy.
B. Applicants from outside the United States will document how their equivalent certification meets or compares to the AASECT requirements for certification.
V. Human Sexuality Education: Core Knowledge
The applicant will have completed a minimum of ninety (90) clock hours of academic coursework in sexuality education, covering general knowledge in the Core Knowledge areas listed below. Of these ninety (90) clock hours of Core Knowledge, seventy-five (75) hours may be earned through eLearning. Education should be from an accredited university or college, may include some AASECT CE Credits, or be a combination of both academic coursework and AASECT CE Credits.
When documenting the ninety (90) hours, it is expected that the applicant document at least three (3) clock hours per content area listed under Core Knowledge. [one (1) clock hour = sixty (60) minutes] The remaining hours can be spread as desired among the core areas, with a maximum of twenty (20) hours in any one area. Only coursework from accredited academic institutions and/or AASECT sponsored or approved courses will be accepted to fulfill content required for certification.
Note: Coursework from a university or college does not have an expiration date. Although Continuing Education (CE) Credits have no expiration date, it is strongly recommended that CE credits be current. The Certification Committee reserves the right to request additional information about any coursework or CE credit as needed.
Core Knowledge All candidates must have knowledge of the following as they relate to sexual health and pleasure:
A. Ethics and ethical behavior.
B. Developmental sexuality from a bio-psycho-social perspective across the life course.
C. Socio-cultural, familial factors (e.g., ethnicity, culture, religion, spirituality, socioeconomic status, family values), in relation to sexual values and behaviors.
D. Issues related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity: heterosexuality; issues and themes impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual people; gender identity and expression.
E. Intimacy skills (e.g., social, emotional, sexual), intimate relationships, interpersonal, relationship and family dynamics.
F. Diversities in sexual expression and lifestyles, including, but not limited to polyamory, swinging, BDSM, and tantra.
G. Sexual and reproductive anatomy/physiology.
H. Health/medical factors that may influence sexuality, including, but not limited to, illness, disability, drugs, mental health, conception, pregnancy, childbirth & pregnancy termination, contraception, fertility, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection, other infections, sexual trauma, injury, and safer sex practices.
I. Range of sexual functioning and behavior, from optimal to problematic, including, but not limited to, common issues such as: desire discrepancy, lack of desire, difficulty achieving or maintaining arousal, sexual pain and penetration problems, and difficulty with orgasm.
J. Sexual exploitation, including sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.
K. Cyber sexuality and social media.
L. Substance use/abuse and sexuality.
M. Pleasure enhancement skills.
N. Learning theory and its application.
O. Knowledge of professional communication skills used with clients, students, and colleagues.
P. History of the discipline of sex research, theory, education, counseling, and therapy.
Q. Principles of sexuality research and research methods.
VI. Sex Therapy Training
The applicant will have completed a minimum of sixty (60) clock hours of training in how to effectively carry out (do) sex therapy with patients/clients whose diagnoses include the ‘Psychosexual Disorders’ described in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. Of these sixty (60) hours of Specialty Training in Sex Therapy, thirty (30) hours may be earned through eLearning. The remaining thirty (30) hours (non-eLearning) must be in-person learning [synchronous eLearning does not apply for these remaining thirty (30) hours]. Part of this training may be acquired through graduate level training, practicums, internships using graduate transcripts documenting field work/internships and applicant’s curriculum vita. Training will also occur prior to or during the the AASECT supervised clinical work. Practicum experience should emphasize trainings focused on skill development, case review, role play, demonstration and watching videotape.
It is strongly preferred that applicants complete an academic (college or university) program in Sex Therapy or a comprehensive Sex Therapy Program or complete AASECT approved Sex Therapy Training Institutes. Applicants must document at least three (3) hours in each content area listed below, with a maximum of twenty (20) hours in any one content area of A – G below:
A. Theory and methods of sex-related psychotherapy, including several different models.
B. Techniques of sex-related assessment and diagnosis of the ‘Psychosexual Disorders’ described in the current edition of the DSM.
C. Theory and methods of approach to intervention in relationship systems experiencing sex and intimacy problems.
D. Theory and method of approach to medical intervention in the evaluation and treatment of psychosexual disorders.
E. Principles of consultation, collaboration, and referral.
F. Ethical decision-making and best practice.
G. Exposure to treatment of clinical sex therapy cases through direct observation, demonstration, case review, or role-playing. eLearning cannot be applied to Part G. Applicants must be very clear in their documentation as to how they gained exposure to sex therapy cases.
Note: The difference between the requirements V and VI is that the education requirements in V are directed at general knowledge about human sexuality, while the training requirements in VI are directed at specific skills in sex therapy. The two categories of requirements are sufficiently different, and documentation is necessary in each.
VII. Attitudes/Values Training Experience
The applicant will have participated in a minimum of ten (10) clock hours of structured group experience consisting of a process-oriented exploration of the applicant's own feelings, attitudes, values and beliefs regarding human sexuality and sexual behavior [e.g., a Sexuality Attitude Reassessment (SAR)]. Such training may not be personal psychotherapy or an academic experience in which the primary emphasis is on cognitive information. It is strongly recommended that this experience occur early in the applicant's training to be most beneficial. The applicant must have been an attendee in the SAR and not been functioning as a facilitator or co-facilitator in any capacity.
It is strongly preferred that the SAR be AASECT sponsored or approved.
The applicant will submit, in English, a one page comprehensive statement of his/her professional philosophy and goals of sex therapy, including how the SAR affected that philosophy.
VIII. Clinical Experience, Field Work, Internship, or Professional Training Experience
Effective as of January 1, 2015, the applicant will have completed a minimum of providing three hundred (300) hours of AASECT supervised clinical treatment of patients/clients who present with sexual concerns. Clinical experience will include, but is not be limited to, the diagnosis and treatment of psychosexual dysfunctions (diagnoses included in the ‘Psychosexual Disorders’ of the current edition of the DSM). It is expected that the applicant will function as the sole or primary therapist with patients/clients. This clinical experience will have exposed the applicant to a variety of the listed psychosexual disorders and will have included therapy with patients/clients of both genders and with couples. This supervised experience must be started only after the applicant is enrolled in graduate school.
Note: Supervised clinical work is the crux of AASECT Certification. It is in the therapy milieu in which competency is demonstrated.
The applicant shall have completed a minimum of fifty (50) hours of supervision with an AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy.
Individuals beginning supervision toward AASECT Sex Therapy Certification must be members of the organization at the time the supervision contract begins.
All supervisors must prepare and submit to the AASECT office a supervision contract for each sex therapy supervisee prior to commencing individual or group supervision. Contracts between a supervisee and certified AASECT Certified Supervisor must be pre-approved by the Practitioner Supervisor Certification Committee. All contracts should follow the format presented under AASECT Guidelines for Supervision and include all the documents required for contract.
Supervision hours accrued prior to or without a contract on file in the AASECT office will NOT count toward certification. Applicants whose supervisor does not submit supervision contracts in advance to open a file will have their applications rejected.
The proposed supervisor is responsible for formulating and submitting the contract/plan to the AASECT office.
The goal of supervision will have been directed toward the improvement of professionalism by emphasis upon the enhancement of clinical skills and the continuation of the educative process. The presentation of sex-related case materials utilizing direct observation or audio/video is encouraged. Cases selected for supervision should be, as much as possible, followed from the beginning to the end of the clinical process.
Supervision can take place in either an individual or group context, with group supervision accounting for no more than 50% of the supervision hours. Individual supervision means one-to-one supervision.
Group supervision, to be most effective, should contain no more than four (4) supervisees per individual supervisor and, where possible, should be extended beyond one (1) hour. If two (2) supervisors meet together to do group supervision, they may have five (5) - eight (8) supervisees in the group. The time that each group meets should be equivalent to one (1) hour per supervisee. [If there are four (4) supervisees, the group should then meet for four (4) hours.] Each supervisee will be awarded however many hours the group meets as that many hours of group supervision. [If the group meets for three (3) hours with three (3) supervisees, each supervisee will be credited with three (3) hours of group supervision time.] Supervision sessions are not permitted to last for more than four (4) hours per session.
Supervision must occur over a period of no less than eighteen (18) months to twenty-four (24) months. Total hours per month may not exceed six (6) hours.
An applicant with a minimum of ten (10) years of post-degree clinical experience in sex therapy (including working with couples), will require twenty-five (25) hours of supervision (50% percent of which is individual supervision) and an endorsement of clinical skill history by an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.
Questions about supervision arrangements should be directed to the Practitioner Supervisor Certification Committee Chair via the AASECT office. The following examples do not meet the supervision requirements:
A. Personal psychotherapy or counseling.
B. A process that is primarily didactic, such as a workshop or seminar, in which the primary focus is teaching rather than the raw data of the supervisee's clinical practice.
C. Management and/or administrative meetings with an organizational director or executive.
D. Peer supervision.
E. Co-therapist supervision.
F. Supervision from a family member or significant other person.
G. Supervision from a colleague with whom one is involved in a partnership.
X. Application and Approval Process
To submit by mail:
In addition to the appropriate application fee ($300), which is non-refundable, the candidate will submit one (1) copy, in English, one-sided (no binding or staples) of the following:
A. Completed formal AASECT Sex Therapist Certification Application, signed and dated.
B. Copy of official transcript. Transcript may be scanned into the application and does not need to be in a sealed envelope (Item III).
C. Copy of license, certification, or proof of membership in one (1) of the approved disciplines or professional organizations (Item IV).
D. Official transcripts, attendance certificates, syllabi, etc., documenting ninety (90) hours of education in the designated Core Knowledge areas of human sexuality (Item V).
E. Official transcripts, attendance certificates, syllabi and other credible evidence documenting sixty (60) hours of training in sex therapy that includes the designated areas of focus (Item VI).
F. Official documentation of participation in a structured group experience focusing on sexual attitudes and values e.g., a SAR (Item VII).
G. Endorsement form letter(s) from supervisor(s) certifying a minimum of three hundred (300) hours of clinical experience providing services as the sole or primary therapist for patients/clients with diagnosed ‘Psychosexual Disorders’ as determined by the current DSM.
H. Endorsements must be received from the following persons on the appropriate forms:
1. An AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy attesting to the applicant's supervised clinical work.
2. A professional colleague who can comment on the applicant's professional responsibilities, professional ethics and overall ability as a sex therapist.
3. A character reference from someone outside the applicant's immediate work setting, from someone who has known the applicant for a minimum of two (2) or more years (example: former teacher, former employer or employee, clergy member, someone with whom the applicant has had a working relationship). Do not use family members or significant others, relatives, personal friends, business partners.
The applicant should clearly mark each document in their application so that the document can easily be matched with the certification requirement to which it applies. All documentation will become the property of AASECT.
Upon receipt of a complete application package, AASECT will forward the application to the Sex Therapist Certification Committee for review. If the reviewers have questions or need additional information, the applicant will be contacted. When all criteria are met and approved by Committee, the applicant will receive notification of the approval.
A. All certified members are required to comply with the ethical standards established by AASECT as expressed in the AASECT Code of Ethics.
B. Upon approval from the Sex Therapist Certification Committee, the successful applicant will receive a certificate in recognition of having met AASECT requirements for certification in the area of sex therapy. This certification will be subject to renewal every three (3) years with renewals following in three (3) year increments.
C. Each AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will be listed in the AASECT Membership Directory and will be eligible to receive referrals from the Headquarters Office and AASECT website.
D. Membership in AASECT will be maintained on an annual basis to retain the AASECT Certification status. If membership in AASECT lapses, certification will also lapse. (Click here to find the policy for re-instatement after certification lapse.)
What Counts as Credit Towards AASECT Certification?
The minimum requirements of education and training for Sex Therapist Certification are:
- Ten (10) hours of SAR.*
- Ninety (90) hours of Human Sexuality Core Knowledge**; seventy-five (75) of these ninety (90) hours can be via eLearning.
- Sixty (60) hours of training specific to sex therapy***; thirty (30) of these sixty (60) hours can be via eLearning.
*SAR (10 hours)
It is strongly preferred that the SAR be AASECT sponsored or approved.
**Human Sexuality Core Knowledge (90 hours)
It is preferred that the ninety (90) hours of human sexuality Core Knowledge be acquired via university or college coursework. Seventy-five (75) of these ninety (90) hours can be earned by eLearning.
***Training Specific to Sex Therapy (60 hours)
It is strongly preferred that applicants complete an academic (college or university) program in Sex Therapy or a comprehensive Sex Therapy Program or complete AASECT Approved Sex Therapy Training Institutes. A minimum of sixty (60) clock hours is required of which thirty (30) hours can be through eLearning.
Most individuals applying for initial certification will not have accomplished any of the items listed below. However, for those individuals who have done so, on a case-by-case basis, AASECT will consider accepting any of the following alternative mechanisms for meeting some of the ninety (90) hours of Core Knowledge.
- Publication of a sexually related book. The book must meet AASECT criteria as determined by the Certification Steering Committee. Each book = up to ten (10) AASECT CE Credits, depending on the subject, content, and length of the book, as determined by the Certification Steering Committee. If there is more than one (1) book, each book has to be about a completely different sexual related topic.
- Publication of a paper in a professional journal or a chapter in a text book. The content must be about some aspect of human sexuality, and the journal or book must meet AASECT criteria as determined by the Certification Steering Committee. Each article or chapter = up to five (5) AASECT CE Credits. If there is more than one (1) paper or chapter, each of them has to be about a completely different aspect of the sexual related topic.
- Editing of collected works, books, or journals about sexually related issues. The Certification Steering Committee will determine if the edited work meets AASECT criteria. Each edited work = up to ten (10) AASECT CE Credits. If there is more than one (1) edited work, each work has to be about a completely different sexual related topic.
- Master’s thesis about some aspect of human sexuality. Up to ten (10) AASECT CE Credits.
- Doctoral dissertation about some aspect of human sexuality. Up to fifteen (15) AASECT CE Credits.
- Designing and conducting a sexually related training or sexually enrichment program for AASECT members (sponsored or approved by AASECT). Up to a maximum of fifteen (15) hours of presentation.
- Designing and conducting a sexually related training or sexually enrichment program for a non-AASECT setting, or one not sponsored by AASECT. The Certification Steering Committee will determine whether the teaching experience meets AASECT criteria. Up to a maximum of ten (10) hours of presentation.