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Certification FAQs & Helpful Hints
Thank you for your interest in AASECT Certification!
In addition to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below, please consult our Helpful Hints For Compiling & Completing Your AASECT Certification Application Packet for additional insight and tips!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know which AASECT Certification is right for me?
Sex education, sexuality counseling and sex therapy are separate disciplines, not levels of expertise within one discipline or field. When considering which certification for which you wish to apply, you should consider your existing field of expertise and work. Are you primarily an educator, perhaps leading workshops, teaching classes, or organizing and facilitating seminars? Are you primarily a counselor, perhaps working in a clinical or medical setting, giving specific suggestions and advice? Are you primarily a therapist, working with people in individual, partners or family sessions on various sex-related issues? Each of these disciplines requires its own set of skills and knowledge. Use these questions to guide you in your choice of application, or ask a Certified Supervisor, perhaps one that you hope to have as your supervisor, for help with this decision.
What is sex therapy?
Sex therapy is a subspecialty of psychotherapy, focusing on the specific concerns related to human sexuality. People of all ages, creeds, health status, ethnic backgrounds, whether partnered or single, may benefit from working with a psychotherapist who specializes in this area. AASECT Certified Sex Therapists use specialized clinical skills and theoretical knowledge to help people solve their sexual concerns.
In most states and provinces, sex therapy is not a separately licensed or regulated profession, just as child psychotherapy or geriatric psychotherapy is not government regulated beyond granting the basic license to practice therapy. To assure the public of highly qualified practitioners, AASECT provides voluntary certification to those therapists who have completed the rigorous certification process. Only those therapists who have met these qualifications may designate themselves as “AASECT Certified Sex Therapists.”
What are some possible reasons that an individual may need sex therapy?
There are many reasons for a person to seek sex therapy. People experiencing concerns about arousal, performance, or satisfaction are likely to seek sex therapy. Among these problems are decreased or increased desires for sexual intimacy, or in the case of a couple, mismatched or discrepant desire or interest in sexual intimacy. Both men and women can experience concerns about arousal; there are many causes and options for solving these problems. At any age, performance or lovemaking skills can be of concern, as well as concerns about orgasm and satisfaction or lack thereof.
Additionally, concerns about sexual trauma in one’s background, medical conditions that affect one’s sexuality, sexual pain disorders, concerns about gender identity or sexual orientation, and issues around sexual compulsivity or addiction are frequent concerns that people discuss with an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.
What happens during sex therapy?
The sex therapy process is very similar to that experienced with other mental health practitioners. The AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will meet with the person as an individual or with a couple in an office setting, where an extensive history of the concerns will be taken. The AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will note both the psychological and the physical components and will establish one or more diagnoses. After this, a treatment plan will be proposed, with the individual’s or couple’s involvement in its development. In some instances, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist may work closely with the person’s physician, nurse, or other therapist or counselor to establish causes and remedies for the problems.
Depending on the diagnosis, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist will educate the person or couple about the issue and discuss possible options for change. This educational process may occur through suggested reading material, through watching educational audio-visual materials, through discussion with the therapist, through attending workshops, or all of these therapeutic processes. Sometimes having more information will allow the problem to resolve. Sometimes more specific or intensive therapy will be needed.
If more specific therapy is needed, the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist may suggest a regular schedule of office appointments. Often, homework exercises to be practiced individually or as a couple in the privacy of their home, between office appointments, will be suggested. The homework may be as general as communication exercises or as specific as actual sexual suggestions, depending on the progress in therapy and the person’s level of comfort with accepting direction.
In no instances and under no circumstances will a AASECT Certified Sex Therapist observe a therapy patient/ client having sex nor engage in any kind of sexual activity with a therapy patient/client, whether in the office or in any location. To do so is a breach of ethics, and in some states and provinces is a crime. Touch and the AASECT Professional; also AASECT Code of Ethics.
Tell me more about supervision for AASECT Sex Therapy Certification.
Supervised clinical work is the crux of AASECT Certification. It is in the therapy milieu in which competency is demonstrated. Once you have attained the required academic and clinical practice criteria, you will need to obtain hours of supervised clinical practice offered by an AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy. You must have a signed contract, approved by AASECT, with an AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy prior to begin counting the hours toward supervision. You will need a minimum of 50 hours of supervision, unless you have been a practicing clinician for at least 10 years. In that case, you will only need a minimum of 25 hours of supervision. A listing of AASECT Certified Supervisors of Sex Therapy is available here.
What training and/or education is required to become an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
To become an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, one must have a minimum of a Master's Degree in a field leading to independent licensing or certification in a mental health profession that includes psychotherapy training. Among these degrees are psychiatric nursing, social work, divinity, professional counseling, family and marriage therapy, physicians with psychotherapy training, and psychology. Many also choose to complete Doctoral Degrees in these or other fields as preparation for this profession.
Additionally, one must complete a number of qualifications for AASECT Certification. In general, one needs a combination of (1) Sexuality Education (a minimum of 90 hours) in Core Knowledge Areas of Human Sexuality; (2) Specialty Training (a minimum of 60 hours) in Sex Therapy; (3) attendance in a Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) seminar/workshop (minimum 10 hours); (4) documentation of field experience (a minimum of 300 hours providing therapy) and approved supervision (a minimum of 50 hours) in Sex Therapy with an AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy; and (5) AASECT membership and adherence to the standards of the AASECT Code of Ethics.
For a complete list of the requirements and for the AASECT Sex Therapist Certification Application, click here.
What courses should I take in college or graduate school to prepare for a career as an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
You should focus on courses that give you a broad basis in the humanities, in biological sciences, and in psychology and sociology. Obviously, if your school offers any courses about Human Sexuality or related topics (gender, relationships, etc.), take as many courses as you can.
In addition, you should learn as much as you can about your own self and your capacity to set aside your own judgments when responding to the needs of others. An AASECT Certified Sex Therapist is first and foremost a good psychotherapist, so you want to also take as many courses as possible which will help you become a psychotherapist.
What are some approaches to education and/or training toward AASECT Sex Therapist Certification?
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 Institutes (Summer and Winter).
Many potential AASECT Certified Sex Therapists obtain some of their specialty training through attendance at AASECT conferences and institutes, and other AASECT Approved or Sponsored workshops offered in various locations. This piecemeal approach is best when combined with a more comprehensive program. Face-to-face supervision with an AASECT Certified Supervisor cannont be used toward the required Human Sexuality Education or Sex Therapy Training hours of the Sex Therapist Certification Application.
On a typical day as an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, what do you do?
This varies depending on the setting (hospital, clinic, private office) and the type of practice (individual therapy; group therapy). In general an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist might see five – nine appointments of 50 minutes length each per day. Usually there is a mixture of individuals and couples. Although every client is different and every sex therapist has her/his own style, a typical AASECT Certified Sex Therapist first will conduct a thorough assessment of a client or couple and develop a treatment plan. The focus of therapy with the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist is almost always on a sexuality issue initially. However, the therapist will be able to determine how much to focus on sexuality issues and when to focus on non-sexual issues. Sometimes a great deal of other work may need to be done, like treating depression or stabilizing the relationship, before the sexual concerns can be addressed.
What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful as an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
An AASECT Certified Sex Therapist needs to feel comfortable with their own sexuality and have enough experience in the field of mental health to be able to respond to a wide variety of sexual and non-sexual mental health issues. It is important to keep an open mind and avoid judgments. The AASECT Certified Sex Therapist should be up-to-date on the current treatment modalities and research related to sex therapy and seek help and supervision when needed. If the AASECT Certified Sex Therapist has had traumatic experiences in the past, these should be dealt with before attempting to help others with similar problems. An AASECT Certified Sex Therapist has a good understanding of their own values and is able to understand and respect the values of their clients, even when the values are not the same; moreover, he/she also follows the ethics of their profession.
What part of being an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist is the most satisfying?
Perhaps the most rewarding part for the Sex Therapist is working with an individual or a couple who wants change to occur, is accepting of the guidance and recommendations made, and takes responsibility to follow through with the treatment plan outlined for them, so change can occur.
What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible about becoming an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
Any entry-level job that gives you opportunities to treat a wide variety of mental and physical health problems would be ideal for learning. While you are still in school it is also very valuable to get experience working in student health centers, family planning organizations, support organizations for sexual assault, rape, HIV/AIDS, other STD-type clinics, and crisis support centers.
What opportunities for advancement are there as an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
Opportunities for advancement depend on the setting where you work and the kind of professional experience you have. Some AASECT Certified Sex Therapists have had opportunities to start a sexual health clinic at a major teaching university and to teach medical, nursing, and other students. Others have opened their own clinics, written famous books, and become spokespersons for new products. Some write articles for professional journals, for popular magazines, and for newspaper columns. One of the most direct opportunities for advancement might be in an academic setting, with research and writing as the measurable criteria. For the entrepreneur, private practice has many benefits.
How do I find an AASECT Certified Supervisor of Sex Therapy in my area?
AASECT Certified Supervisors of Sex Therapy are listed on the website. As an AASECT member, you will have access to our Member Directory which lists everyone. You will also have access to our AASECT Listserv where you could ask for suggestions and help with locating a supervisor.
What do I need to know about submitting my application for AASECT Certification?
Please make all of your information as clear as possible for the AASECT Certification Steering Committee. This will facilitate the process of evaluating your candidacy. Copies of all supporting documents will need to be attached to the application. If you wish for the Committee to review syllabi that included course material in Human Sexuality, when the course itself was of a broader category, you should highlight such related classes.
You will need to send the application and all supporting documents to the AASECT Headquarters Office, along with the application fee. The application needs to be legible. Completing and printing it directly from a computer is strongly preferred. When the AASECT Staff has received everything from you, the application will be sent to at least two reviewers for evaluation and assessment of certification criteria. Please only submit completed applications- incomplete applications will be returned and not reviewed.
What does it mean to apply for AASECT Sex Therapist Certification ‘under special circumstances?’
If you are a highly experienced therapist, you may qualify to apply for AASECT Certification under ‘special circumstances.’ If you have been practicing sex therapy for 10 or more years, and you are recognized by your peers locally, regionally, and/or nationally as a highly competent sex therapist, you may be eligible for this expedited certification process: Sex Therapist Certification under Special Circumstances Requirements.
How often and what do I need to know about renewing my AASECT Certification?
Certification by AASECT is an honor and a privilege. Once certified, you will be required to renew your AASECT Certification every three years. In order to renew, you will have to show continuous membership with AASECT and a minimum of twenty 20 Continuing Education (CE) Credits every renewal period of three years. The credential of AASECT Certified Sex Therapist is respected by the public and helps to ensure the highest quality of practice in the field of sex therapy. Additionally, please review our Helpful Hints for Compiling & Completing Your AASECT Certification Application Packet.
What is the difference between an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and an AASECT Certified Diplomate of Sex Therapy?
In 2001, AASECT decided to accept professionals’ requests to lower the strenuous requirements for AASECT Sex Therapist Certification. The new requirements ask for a minimum of 50 hours of supervision instead of 100 hours. The new requirements also ask for a minimum of 60 hours of training in sex therapy instead of 90 hours. The title AASECT Certified Diplomate of Sex Therapy was thus established by AASECT to recognize those AASECT Certified Sex Therapists who were certified under the previous, more strenuous guidelines, and AASECT grandfathered them into a Diplomate of Sex Therapy status. In general, the practice of sex therapy by either an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist or an AASECT Certified Diplomate of Sex Therapy is quite similar.
What is the difference between an AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselor and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist?
AASECT requires sexuality counselors and sex therapists to fulfill specific and rigorous training requirements in order to become certified. AASECT Certified Sex Therapists are mental health professionals, trained to provide in-depth psychotherapy, who have specialized in treating clients with sexual issues and concerns. They are either licensed, or in the absence of required licensure, they are certified, registered, or clinical members of a national psychotherapy organization.
Sex therapists work with sexual concerns and, in addition, where appropriate, are prepared to provide comprehensive and intensive psychotherapy over an extended period of time in more complex cases.
Sexuality counselors represent a variety of professions, ranging from medicine to the clergy. Examples of sexuality counselors are Planned Parenthood counselors, nurses and other health professionals, school counselors, and clinical pastoral care and counseling providers. Counselors assist the client to realistically resolve concerns through the introduction of problem solving techniques of communication, as well as providing accurate information and relevant suggestions of specific exercises and techniques in sexual expression. Sexuality counseling is generally short term and client-centered, focusing on the immediate concern or problem.
Using the below P-LI-SS-IT* Model for Sexual Counseling, sexuality counselors are trained to perform the initial three steps (P-LI-SS), while sex therapists can provide all four (P-LI-SS-IT).
The P-LI-SS-IT Model for Sexual Counseling:
Permission (P): The practitioner creates a climate of comfort and permission for clients to discuss sexual concerns, often introducing the topic of sexuality, thereby validating sexuality as a legitimate health issue.
Limited Information (LI): The practitioner addresses specific sexual concerns and attempts to correct myths and misinformation.
Specific suggestions (SS): The practitioner compiles a sexual history or profile of the client:
1. Defining the issues and concerns of the client.
2. Determining the course of how the issues have evolved over time.
3. Facilitating the client's understanding of the main issues and providing options for resolution.
4. Assisting the client in formulating perceptions and ideas about sources of these concerns and developing realistic and appropriate goals and solution plans.
Intensive Therapy (IT): The practitioner provides specialized treatment in cases that are complicated by the coexistence of other complex life issues which may also include psychiatric diagnoses such as depression, anxiety disorders (including obsessive-compulsive disorder), personality disorders, or substance abuse, or by interpersonal or intrapersonal conflict.
Sexuality counselors are trained to identify situations that require intensive therapy and to make appropriate referrals.
(*Annon, JS (1976) Behavioral Treatment of Sexual Problems: Brief Therapy. Harper & Row, ISBN: 0-06-140265-6)
What are some approaches to training toward AASECT Sexuality Educator Certification?
There are two basic approaches to get training toward becoming an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator.
To begin, earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in a related field (education; health care professions), then go on to obtain further education in human sexuality and work experience in sexuality education. For example, an individual who earns a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology goes on to work as a sexuality educator in a community-based organization for four years. A less traditional example for providing education about sexuality - a medical professional works in either a male or female health and does education about sexual issues on a daily basis. As part of this work, the person receives further professional training in sexuality education from the place of employment, enrolls in several graduate human sexuality-related courses at a local college, joins AASECT and attends AASECT institutes, conferences (including a SAR), and AASECT Approved workshops to obtain continuing education, and works with an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator Supervisor in his or her area to meet the supervision requirement. In this ‘piecemeal’ approach, the individual is able to acquire the education and experience necessary to meet the certification requirements.
The other option is to attend one of the graduate programs in the United States that offers a degree specifically focused on Human Sexuality.
Students can get started early in their teaching experience by becoming involved with campus peer education groups or by working as a teaching assistant. Others choose to volunteer at local community organizations such as Planned Parenthood or HIV/AIDS related service providers.
What kinds of jobs do AASECT Certified Sexuality Educators get?
AASECT Certified Sexuality Educators work in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, public and community health organizations, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, religious organizations, public and private secondary schools, and in private consultation practices. Sexuality educators often do professional development training as well as direct education and work with many different populations, such as adolescents, parents, families, persons with mental and physical disabilities, clergy, teachers, counselors and therapists, businesses, and college students.
How do I become an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator?
To become an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Bachelor’s Degree + four years education experience (cumulative), of professional experience as a sexuality educator, in not under two years and not over five years prior to certification, or
- Master’s Degree + three years education experience (cumulative), of professional experience as a sexuality educator, in not under two years and not over five years prior to certification, or
- Doctoral Degree + two years education experience (cumulative), of professional experience as a sexuality educator, in not under two years and not over five years prior to certification.
- The 1000 hours must include sexuality education experience (including 100 student-teacher contact hours).
- 90 clock hours of education in Human Sexuality Core Knowledge Content Areas (CKAs).
- 10 hours minimum of a Sexuality Attitude Reassessment (SAR).
- 25 hours supervision of over at least 12 months with an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator Supervisor.
- Written statement of sex education philosophy.
- Agree to adhere to AASECT’s Code of Ethics, By-laws, and Vision of Sexual Health, including the policy on Touch and the AASECT Professional.
How do I find AASECT Certified members who live near me that I can talk with about the association?