How Does Sex Therapy Help Address Erection Problems?

Erection problems can affect self-esteem and the quality of the couple's relationship. In these cases, sex therapy offers good results. Find out what it consists of.
How Does Sex Therapy Help Address Erection Problems?

Last update: 24 March, 2021

Erection problems are one of the most common sexual dysfunctions in males, and also one of those that cause the most problems in the relationship and personally. It’s not uncommon for such difficulties to arise sporadically or occasionally.

However, when a man can’t achieve or maintain an erection in most of his sexual encounters, we’re faced with a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction. In these cases, sex therapy is one of the most effective interventions.

Erectile dysfunction (or impotence) can be primary or secondary depending on whether an adequate erection has never been achieved or if, having had sexual intercourse without difficulty at first, problems then begin to arise. In addition, it can have both physiological and psychological origins. In either case, a psychotherapeutic approach can be of great help.

What does sex therapy consist of?

A couple suffering due to erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common sexual problems in men.

Sex therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying, and intervening in, the different problems that arise in intimate relationships. Thus, it can help both men and women of any age to improve the quality of their sex and love life.

In general, sex therapy addresses dysfunctions present in any of the phases of sexual response, including desire, arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. But, in addition, on many occasions, it also involves the couple, emphasizing the social and relational aspects. In this way, it offers a more complete solution.

How does it help to address erection problems?

Erection problems can have an organic cause. That is, they may be the result of diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, or nervous system disorders), medication, or hormonal disturbances.

However, in many cases, it’s erroneous beliefs and emotions such as fear and anxiety that trigger the dysfunction. Thus, sex therapy provides tools to the individual in question in order to reduce the impact of these variables.

Even in cases where there’s a physiological origin, the psychological approach is relevant in order to learn how to deal with the difficulties and improve self-esteem and the couple’s relationship. Therefore, the best choice may be to combine intervention with drugs and sex therapy.

Strategies for addressing erectile problems with sex therapy

Sex therapy may include a variety of strategies to address erection problems. However, an assessment of the individual case is necessary in order to identify the root factors. In this way, the intervention can be more personalized. However, professionals generally employ the following techniques.


Psychoeducation consists of providing information to both the patient and their partner about sexuality. The intention is to give them a better understanding of the human sexual response and what physiological and emotional factors may be contributing to the dysfunction.

In addition, this strategy is also helpful in dispelling myths and false beliefs about sexuality that can lead to guilt and shame and prevent them from enjoying healthy relationships.

Cognitive restructuring

Rigid thought patterns have a major influence on the inability to achieve an erection. Thus, beliefs such as: “I have to achieve an erection always and quickly“, “My value as a man and as a partner depends on my sexual performance“, “I’ve had erection problems before so I’ll always have them” are often held.

This type of thinking produces enormous anxiety that leads to erectile dysfunction. Therefore, cognitive restructuring focuses on identifying these thoughts and replacing them with more flexible and realistic ones.

Sensory focus

A man and woman looking lovingly into one another's eyes
Stroking and focusing on the sensation is one of the therapy recommendations for erectile dysfunction.

Many men with erectile dysfunction have what’s known as performance anxiety. This term refers to the psychological pressure experienced during sexual intercourse due to the desire to satisfy one’s partner.

The excessive focus on pleasing his partner causes the man to disconnect from his own emotions and bodily sensations and, therefore, he doesn’t enjoy the encounter.

Thus, sensory focus consists of prescribing to the couple a series of encounters in which intercourse is forbidden. During these encounters, they must caress one another in turn and try to connect with their own sensations and those of their partner.

Initially, the therapy excludes the genitals from this caressing session, but includes them at a later date. In any case, by eliminating the possibility of intercourse, the pressure is reduced and both can focus on enjoying and feeling.

The effectiveness of sex therapy for erectile problems

There are other strategies such as systematic desensitization and couple bonding that make the intervention more comprehensive. However, anxiety reduction and belief modification are the pillars of sex therapy in this case.

Generally, these are short or medium-term interventions that offer good results. After therapy, not only does erectile dysfunction improve, but the patient’s self-esteem and the satisfaction of both partners also increases. For the same reason, cognitive-behavioral techniques are the most commonly employed.

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