Sexual Education Resources that Influenced me in Becoming a Sex Therapist By: Zanna Haney M.A., LPC-Intern, Supervised by Heather McPherson M.A., LPC-S, LMFT-S, CST 

One of the questions I often get asked is why I decided to become a therapist, and even more so why I decided to become a sex therapist. 

How I became a Sex Therapist

There are a variety of reasons, including some experiences from my own life. However, if I had to choose one statement to sum it all up, it would be to help others decrease their sexual shame and accept and embrace the unique person that they are. This is not always an easy task, as it wasn’t one for me either. However, I found that finding a community within the Sexual Health Alliance (SHA) really helped me to begin that work. Through trainings by SHA, I was introduced and influenced by a number of resources that helped me along that journey.

Influential Sex Therapy Books

Some of the books that influenced me at the beginning of my decision to become a sex therapist was: 

  • Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski
  • Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture by Dr. Chris Donaghue
  • Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex and How to Get It by Marty Klein. 

These books were the foundation for me when beginning my education and expansion of understanding of sexual health and sex positivity. Come as You Are is a great resource for women and anyone that is in a relationship with a woman. It’s a great book that helps people understand the process of arousal. A distinct message that I took away from the book was the concept of spontaneous versus reactive arousal. We live in a society that glorifies spontaneous arousal, but not only that, it’s the only version of arousal that is really ever depicted in the media. Therefore, many people, are surprised to hear that there is even a such thing as reactive arousal, and that it’s very normal, especially among women. In addition, another concept that stood out to me while reading Come as You are and Sexual Intelligence was the dual control model, which focuses on the distinction between sexual excitatory and sexual inhibitory processes (aka: accelerators and breaks). Sex Outside the Lines was a book that resonated with me significantly. It’s a book that looked at sex in a way that I had never been introduced to before. It helped decrease the shame that I had experienced regarding my own sexuality and helped me realize that it wasn’t me that was the problem but rather a society that demonizes authentic sexuality. This is a concept that influences me greatly in the work that I do as a sex therapist. 

Additional Advanced Sex Therapy Books

As I continued to expand my mindset and educate myself on sexual health and sex positivity, I added a number of additional books to my collection, including:

  • Modern Sexuality: The Truth About Sex and Relationships by Michael Aaron
  • Rebel Love: Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, and Have the Best Sex of Your Life by Dr. Chris Donaghue
  • The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families by Elisabeth Sheff
  • More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Frank Veaux and Eve Rickert
  • The Myth of Sex Addiction by Dr. David Ley
  • Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity by Nico Tortorella
  • The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel
  • The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures
  • Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How it Can Help You Improve your Sex Life by Justin Lehmiller 

There are a number of books in addition to these that I plan to add to my collection in the future, including:

  • Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community by Laura Erickson-Schroth
  • Opening up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino
  • The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play, and the Erotic Edge
  • The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For all of us who live with disabilities, chronic pain, and illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette

I know that this is an exhaustive list, however I feel that it’s so important that we continue to educate ourselves as professionals in the field of sexuality/sex therapy. 

Anti-racism Books

As for now, I am taking a short break from reading books focused solely on sexuality and will be focusing on reading books on anti-racism. I believe that in order to continue my work effectively as a sex therapist, I must also educate myself on the reality of what is happening in the world and find ways that I can be an ally for the black community. I attended a webinar last week on racial trauma, and it reminded me that by educating myself on this reality for people of color in our country, especially black individuals, I can bring that information into the therapy room to better support my clients. I can only assume that there is an interrelation to the experiences of the black community and their sexuality, and to better educate myself on that topic, I plan to add Race and Sexuality by Salvador Vidal-Oritz, Brandon Andrew Robinson, and Cristina Khan to my reading list. 

Influential Podcasts on Sexuality Topics

In addition to books, I have found that podcasts are a new way of learning that I greatly appreciate and enjoy. With that being said, a podcast that influenced me greatly was The Love Bomb by Nico Torterello. It was actually the first podcast that I ever listened to. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend it! Currently, my podcast library includes:

  • Sex with Emily
  • Let’s Talk About It with Taylor Nolan
  • Yeah, but Are You Happy
  • Therapist Uncensored
  • Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel

I hope that some of these resources have an impact on others, as they have had on me, both personally and as a sex therapist. Happy Reading and Listening! 

Contact us to schedule an appointment with Austin Sex Therapist, Zanna Haney: 512-537-0922.

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