Yes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective tool in the treatment of sexual dysfunction.
CBT is a short-term talking psychotherapy technique that targets the patient’s beliefs about a problem and his or her behaviors related to that issue. Patients can develop new ways of thinking about the problem and consider effective coping strategies and behaviors.
The American Psychological Association describes CBT in this way:
CBT is based on several core principles, including:
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
- People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.
Sometimes, CBT is used to treat a sexual problem directly, like orgasm difficulties or premature ejaculation. The approach can also be used to help other issues that affect sexuality, such as relationship conflict, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorders.
Some people attend CBT sessions alone. Others go with their partner or participate in a group setting. Therapists usually assign homework for patients to apply at home.
One new developing trend in CBT is video-based therapy. This method allows patients to attend sessions at home, at their convenience, with more privacy. Many patients are more comfortable with this structure.
Adding mindfulness to CBT is another current trend. Mindfulness involves keeping a sharp focus on what is happening in the present moment. For example, couples who are mindful during sex pay close attention to the sensations of their partner’s touch or the sounds of their partner’s breathing. Staying mindful keeps a person’s mind off distractions that may get in the way of satisfying sex.
In December 2019, a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discussed the role of mindfulness in CBT for women with orgasm problems. A group of 65 women received either general CBT or CBT with a mindfulness component. The researchers found that orgasms improved in both groups, along with desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, and sexual satisfaction. The women tended to feel less sexual distress as well.
Read more about the study here.
If you would like to try CBT, talk to your doctor about a referral. Your doctor might also suggest a full checkup to see if other health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease, could be affecting your sexual function.
See these links to learn more about sex therapy:
American Psychological Association
“CE Corner: Sex therapy for the 21st century: Five emerging directions”
“What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Adam, Françoise, PhD, et al.
“A Randomized Study Comparing Video-Based Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy With Video-Based Traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in a Sample of Women Struggling to Achieve Orgasm”
(Full-text. Published online: December 6, 2019)
“Cognitive behavioral therapy”
(March 16, 2019)
Martin, Ben, Psy.D.
“In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”
(Last updated: June 19, 2019)