Does the future of sexual healing lie in the hands of sex therapy apps?

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sex therapy apps

Apps are becoming increasingly popular in helping to support individuals and their wellbeing and this also includes the use of relationship and sex therapy apps. Helping to build connections between partners and intimacy, these apps can be used by an individual or with a partner to help increase sexual satisfaction.

Yet even with the rise of sex and relationship telehealth in the form of apps, there are still many individuals and professionals unsure how these therapeutic apps will affect relationships and love lives. 

Sex therapy and relationship apps offer individuals and couples guided methods that can be used to enhance their sexual enjoyment and intimacy. These apps use a form of psychosexual education that can be pre-programmed, or use AI to help support the individual’s or couple’s needs. Some sex therapy and relationship apps also include some basic asynchronous support from a sex or relationship therapist.

The benefits of app-based sex therapy

While some therapists may be doubtful about the effectiveness of sex therapy apps, Sex Therapist Jordan Dixon sees how they can be beneficial for couples. “Using an app means we can have control over the work which can be done in your own time at your own pace. This can potentially be offered as a cheaper option to people which can make it more accessible than in-person therapy.” 

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It can be challenging for individuals to talk about relationship and intimacy issues in person with a therapist, and that’s where sex therapy apps could help. Dixon highlights that “for those who get nervous about sharing their problems with someone face to face, online sex therapy is a good option for those who aren’t yet comfortable talking about sex with their therapist in person.”

Adding that, “for individuals or couples who aren’t able to find a sex therapist in their local area, online sex therapy can open up more windows of opportunity to work with therapists in different areas.” Stating how it can save money and time and make sex therapy accessible to those who couldn’t access it before. 

She also explains how having sex and relationship therapy in the comfort of your home by using an app could reduce discomfort, allow for openness, and even reduce triggering trauma. “Painful emotions can surface during and after the session, being at home means we don’t have to be in public carrying these painful emotions after.”

Certified ACS sex educator at 3Fun and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life Gigi Engle agrees that sex therapy apps can be an affordable and accessible way for many to access sex therapy, but that they won’t fully replace the benefits of sex therapy with a therapist one-on-one. “I think apps will be a crucial supplemental way to treat sexual issues, but they won’t be able to replace a therapist. We’re already using apps like these in our clinics to help with sexual function issues like pain during sex and PE [Premature Ejaculation]. 

They can be really helpful tools, but exercises aren’t the only reasons people access sex therapy. Issues are often compounded, pushed forward by shame, and need to be unpacked more thoroughly than an app can allow.”

Relationship & sex therapy apps 

Lovers is an FDA approved intimacy app: 92% of women using the app reported better orgasms, and also found that orgasms during partnered sex occurred more often. 62% of men found that they experienced better erections after using the app, with 94% of them feeling less distressed around sexual worries such as erectile dysfunction after using Lovers the app.
Blueheart is a sex and intimacy app run by psychologists, it is available as a standalone app or can be found through the Boots UK Health Hub.
Coral offers individuals and couples various methods to learn more about navigating sexual pleasure and intimacy. The app also has some of the most influential experts on board when it comes to resolving sexual discrepancies and helping people to enjoy a more fulfilling sex life. Dr. Lori Brotto sex researcher and author of Better sex through mindfulness, Dr. Ian Kerner best selling author of She Comes First, and Dr. Emily Nagoski author of Come As You Are. With such an impressive lineup of experts on board, it’s one of the most compressive sex and relationship apps when it comes to research-backed information out there.
Sex toys such as Satisfyer which can use the Satisfyer connect app can also offer psychosexual education within their apps to help individuals’ and couples’ sex lives.

Tips for using a sex therapy app

Set time aside for it, says Jordon Dixon, “if you’re on the app whilst cooking your dinner, cleaning the house, kids are screaming and you’ve got loud music on….it may be hard to apply ourselves fully and can hinder our progress. I invite users to think about what they need so they can absorb the information offered.”

Engle agrees with Dixon saying that “just like with regular therapy, you’ll need to schedule a time to use the app together as well as commit to spending about 15-20 minutes a day on the exercises provided.”

Don’t use it as a replacement for actual therapy, Engle states, “think of it as a helper, not a replacement. It can be easy to use, keep you motivated, and offer well-planned exercises so you see better results. Just remember that an app has limitations in what it can provide.”

A couple of conversation tips for talking about sex therapy apps with a partner:

Don’t just talk about it once, but keep up communication around using the app with a partner over the period you intend on using it, “having an open and ongoing conversation about why you want to use one and agreeing to both commit to it is crucial,” says Engle.
“Pick the right environment and time to approach the conversation with your partner about sex therapy. Explaining what you feel you need from it and how you think it will benefit you and the relationship is a good start. It can be useful to remain curious about our partner’s answers and to see where you can meet each other”, Dixon highlights that there may be inappropriate times to start the conversation around sex therapy apps, and picking the right moment is key. For example, not late at night when you are both tired, nor during a sexual scenario. 

How successful are sex therapy apps, really?

There’s still very little research-backed evidence around sex therapy apps and how successful they are, but more and more individuals as well as therapists are claiming how beneficial they can be to support individuals and couples experiencing sexual and intimate discrepancies.

Amongst possible privacy concerns that can occur with any app that collects personal information, there are other factors to consider when choosing an intimacy and sex-based app that may lead to it having a higher success rate for you. 

Apps are designed by humans, and often it is these humans who influence what information is shared on them, which can lead to social and cultural differences in how the app sees intimacy and sexual pleasure when compared to how the user sees sex and intimacy. 

While the apps are acting as a form of psychosexual education, excluding or overly focusing on certain cultural or social beliefs around sex and sexuality could mean that individuals outside of those cultures are minoritized and information on the app just isn’t there or suited for their needs.

Not all sexual difficulties or concerns will be included in apps too, and some may lack the capacity to refer to other services the individual may need. As some of the communication via the app is pre-programmed, AI-formed, or asynchronous, those in crisis may find themselves stuck when needing support that goes beyond the app’s capacity. While the apps aren’t designed for such crises and often advise individuals to seek alternative support, some may not know their needs until they start unraveling pieces from taking part in the app’s activities.

At the end of the day, sex and relationship therapy apps are basically the modern versions of intimacy tips and trick cards and games, helping couples and individuals learn more about their bodies and intimacy needs through technology. The approach isn’t new, it’s just gone digital with some additional features, and is unlikely to replace personal sex and relationship therapy.

Read Next: How Couples’ Apps Can Help Your Relationship, And How They Really Can’t

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