Working as a Sex and Relationship Therapist

Working as a Sex and Relationship Therapist

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As she was working toward a doctorate in psychology, clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Galbreath Brewer took a course that changed the course of her career. The course was one of the first to be offered in sex therapy.


"I was very lucky that I was able to take a year-long course from two psychologists who had actually studied with and gone through the Masters and Johnson program in St. Louis," Brewer says. Started by William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Masters and Johnson research team led the world in human sexuality research and stayed on the cutting edge of the field.


While Brewer works with clients with a wide variety of problems, it was this course that led Brewer to specialize in the sex and relationship therapy side of psychology. "I think some people think of sex therapy as being a separate profession itself, but of course it’s not. It’s a specialty under other professional licenses," she says.


The most common problem that Brewer sees with her clients is low sex desire in both men and women. "Different desire in frequency is a major issue in most couples [I see]," Brewer say.


This different desire can change from couple to couple, though. "There are couples that have very frequent sex and are quite happy with that two, three, four times a week. As long as both are happy with that, they can have a very good relationship," Brewer says. "And then there are couples who maybe have sex once a month. If they’re both very happy with that and the quality of it is hot, they can have a very good relationship."


The problem comes when the two people in the relationship want different frequencies. One might be happy with the frequent sex first mentioned by Brewer, while the other would rather have that once-a-month sex night. When this problem arises, the key to unlocking the solution is communication, Brewer says.


Rather than discuss the different desires, many couples will allow the problem to spill over into other areas of their relationship. "Typically the spouse who is not as interested sexually as the other will pull back and emotionally disengage and perhaps stop being as physically affectionate because of their fear that any kind of affection is just a cue that they’re supposed to be sexual," Brewer says.


This lack of communication eventually can sever all physical parts of the relationship. "When they stop being affectionate with each other, then certainly other issues can come up and they start feeling more distant from each other," Brewer says.


To solve the problem before it starts or at least before it causes too much destruction to the relationship, couples must use direct communication. "Couples get so used to giving each other these nonverbal messages, and that can be very risky," she says. So instead of implying a feeling or expecting a partner to interpret your words and actions, you must be open, honest and direct with your words.


Through this communication and other exercises she uses with her clients, Brewer has witnessed almost immediate changes in her clients. "Change can happen very rapidly, so it’s very satisfying to see," she says.


For more information about Brewer and her practice, Ashland Psychological Services, call (513) 861-8365.




Photographer: Linda Palacios

Model: Dr. Barbara Galbreath Brewer

Location: Ashland Psychological Services