This article first appeared on The Online Citizen.
I am a sexologist. Since I am the only one with this unique combination of qualification and training in Singapore, there exists a lot of confusion about what exactly a sexologist does within our little city/state. Not only that, I have my share of detractors who think I am a ‘joke’, only about hype, or out to create trouble or controversy for the purpose of my own aggrandizement, etc.
I have never professed to be something I am not. Since I am 100% serious about the work I do and intend to be around for some time, here are a few common misconceptions I would like to address here:
1. I do not have a PhD. A lot of people think any degree that starts with the word ‘Doctorate’ is a PhD. My school, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, offers five different graduate degrees, including a PhD programme. I chose not to complete a PhD because I did not and probably never will pursue an academic or research-based career. What I have is a Doctorate in Human Sexuality.
2. I am not a sex therapist. While I have a certificate in sex therapy from Florida Sex Therapy Institute, I am not qualified to call myself a sex therapist. A sex therapist, at least in the United States, is somebody who has a psychology degree with a specialisation in sex therapy. In short, a sex therapist is a psychologist first, who subsequently obtains additional training in sex therapy. The training of a sex therapist and one who has studied human sexuality is different. The former looks at sexual difficulties from only the psychological (mind-based) perspective, while a sexologist addresses issues from a more holistic view (i.e. the roles and impact of the body-mind-heart-spirit). The field of sexology is not one singular discipline, but actually draws upon many disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, medicine, and the arts of understanding the various manifestations of human sexuality.
3. I am not a psychologist. (See above.) Few psychologists or psychotherapists ever get specialized training in human sexuality. The governing body for psychologists in Singapore is the Singapore Psychological Association.
4. I am not a counsellor. You may be able to cook, but it doesn’t necessarily make you a chef. Even though I have a certificate in counselling, I do not call myself a counsellor. However, I do use counselling techniques in my practice. The governing body for counsellors in Singapore is the Singapore Association for Counselling.
5. I am not a social worker. According the website of the governing body of social workers, Singapore Association of Social Workers, social workers are primarily dedicated to: assisting people to manage their problems more effectively; improving social conditions; advocating for change when change is necessary to better human lives. I only focus on sexuality and intimacy issues and the concerns of individuals and couples about these matters.
6. I am not a medical doctor. I do not issue prescriptions, give medication or prescribe any kind of drugs. I also do not carry out any physical examinations. I do possess some knowledge about the kinds of medical drugs that can help sexual difficulties, as well as know a whole lot about the types of condoms, lubrication, as well as sex toys that people can use. It might be worthwhile noting that not all medical doctors are trained about the myriad of different sexuality issues that people have, and therefore are not familiar with them and with talking with their patients about same.
7. I am not a Tantrica. Most Tantra teachers and workshops teach a small segment of the Tantric philosophy that focuses on sexuality, massage, and breathing. While I incorporate some Tantric ideas and methods into my work, I neither believe that any kind of sexual expression is the best or only method, nor insist that you adopt a new language or complicated types of breathing. I am not against tantra. I am just not qualified to teach tantra.
8. I do not call myself a sexual educator. I carry out sexual education all the time – by way of the articles I write for the media, the posts on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention through my workshops and client sessions. Since a lot of my time is spent being involved in some aspects of sexual education, why didn’t I just call myself a sexual educator? My client sessions are not always and only about sexual education, some of it involves helping them to work through a very specific sexual problem. A more accurate term for the myriad of things I do is actually sexologist. I did not pluck the term sexologist out of thin air. It is a legitimate professional title that is more commonly used in the United States.
9. I am not your mother. Go ahead, laugh. Sometimes I feel the need to point out the obvious. I am not going to nag or pester you to do your home assignments so that you can overcome your sexual difficulties and go on to have a more fulfilling life. That’s your responsibility. My role is to facilitate and support your growth in the best possible ways, not take over for you.
10.What I am. I am a specialist in the area of sexual questions or concerns. I am a board-certified sexologist by the American College of Sexologists. I am also a certified hypnotherapist, as well as life coach. I employ a combination of counselling, coaching and sex therapy methods and techniques, sometimes including them all, depending on the concern(s) the client(s) come in with.
I certainly do not proclaim to be all things to everyone. By now, you can appreciate the difference in the type of discipline as well as in the practitioner who is most qualified to help you through your own particular issue. The training of one who calls him- or herself a sex therapist, sex doctor or sexologist can vary greatly. One type of degree or work experience doesn’t guarantee that a practitioner will work for you. What is important is for you to understand what their qualifications are, and that he or she offers this information directly and completely.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.