Best Sex Therapy Certification Programs

Modern Sex Therapy Institutes is the best overall sex therapy certification

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Sex therapy certification programs train licensed healthcare providers to work with patients experiencing sexual health concerns. While some healthcare training programs include information about gender and sexuality, most do not adequately train providers to provide sex therapy. Sex therapy certification programs teach treatment of sexual health problems to providers who are already skilled in other areas of healthcare. 

In order to practice sex therapy in most states, sex therapists must be licensed healthcare professionals. Generally, sex therapists come from a variety of fields including social work, psychology, urology, gynecology, or psychiatry. Most people who are certified in sex therapy are certified through the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), which offers a national certification process. The best sex therapy certification programs provide a clear route to a recognized certification at either the state or national level. Here are our top picks.

Best Sex Therapy Certification Programs in 2021

Best Overall : Modern Sex Therapy Institutes


Modern Sex Therapy Institutes

Modern Sex Therapy Institutes

Why We Chose It: The Modern Sex Therapy Institutes program was chosen because it is one of the few options that provide everything a student needs to be certified in sex therapy. Not only does the program provide didactic training and access to a Sexuality Attitude Reassessment (SAR), but it also offers all the necessary sex therapy supervision as part of the course fee. As supervision can be one of the most expensive parts of becoming a sex therapist, this is a big deal.

Pros
  • All inclusive program available

  • Flexibility for people who want to do supervision elsewhere

  • LGBTQ+ affirming program

  • Flexible payment options available

  • Live weekends available around the country (FL, NY, DC, IL, GA, MI, CA)

Cons
  • Live weekends require travel or extended time on video conference

  • All-in-one program means less flexibility on where and when you complete your coursework

  • They will attempt to honor your supervisor preference but can’t guarantee it

  • Prerequisites are not clearly described

The Modern Sex Therapy Institute is a complete sex therapy training program that fully prepares you for AASECT certification. The total cost for the program is between $4,800 and $8,850, depending on which components you elect to complete. The lowest cost covers just the educational models. The full cost also includes the required supervision time and the SAR.

The program is designed to be completed in a minimum of 12 months, although AASECT certification requires at least 18 months of supervision. For those who wish to take the course over a longer period, that is also possible. In addition, the program is approved for continuing education credits, so you can use courses to maintain your license as a psychologist or certified counselor. 

One of the biggest advantages of the Modern Sex Therapy Institute certification program is its flexibility. Although there are live courses available, and live supervision is required for certification, all workshops are available by webinar or via recording. Those courses may be taken asynchronously or synchronously, depending on your preference. Anyone can take individual classes, but certification is restricted to mental health professionals, students, medical professionals, clergy, and those in related fields.

Best Budget : Sexuality Training Institute


Sexuality Training Institute

Sexuality Training Institute

Why We Chose It: The Ohio Center for Relationship & Sexual Health’s Sexuality Training Institute is one of the more affordable programs out there. Although this does not offer sex therapy supervision, the program is designed to be flexible and easy to complete over the course of a year.

Pros
  • Good for people who want sex therapy training but aren’t therapists

  • Can be used for sex educator certification as well

  • Designed to be completed in just 12 months

  • Affordable

Cons
  • Does not have an integrated supervision program, although supervision may be available

  • Combination of synchronous and asynchronous training may not be a good fit for everyone

  • Online platform can be somewhat difficult to use

The Sexuality Training Institute has been getting more attention in the field of sex therapy, with a good menu of offerings for both initial certification and continuing education. The full academic program is only $5,000, which makes it one of the most affordable programs out there.

In addition, its curriculum is designed to be appropriate for individuals from various backgrounds. People with a Bachelor's degree are welcome in the training program, as well as those with graduate education. (However, they are trained as sexuality educators, which requires a clinical license to practice sex therapy.) 

The Sexuality Training Institute offers a combination of synchronous online and in-person training with asynchronous online modules. That works well for people who want the convenience of studying on their own in combination with opportunities to learn face-to-face, whether that’s online or in-person. Individual courses are available as well as the full certificate program for people who have started training elsewhere, need continuing education to maintain their certification, or are just seeing if sex therapy is a good fit.

Best for a Master's Degree : Widener University


Widener University

Widener University

Why We Chose It: We chose the Widener graduate program in Human Sexuality because it's one of the few programs that allows you to work towards sex therapy certification while also getting a graduate degree that will lead to professional licensure. This is a great option for individuals who know that their goal is to be a sex therapist before they start graduate school. The Widener program is also unique in that it offers two pathways to clinical practice: a dual degree program in Social Work and Human Sexuality, and a School Counselor program based on a Master's in Education in Human Sexuality.

Pros
  • Most courses are available on weekends, so people can keep their jobs while working towards a degree or certificate

  • There is a fully online option for the Master's in Social Work

  • Widener has a long history in teaching human sexuality

Cons
  • On-site classes are in Chester, PA, making the program less accessible for students who are not coming from the east coast

  • The Master's programs are expensive at about $860-$900 per credit hour

The Widener Human Sexuality program is one of the oldest and most established programs training human sexuality professionals. It is designed to be completed by people who are currently working. As such, courses are held on regularly scheduled weekends, both online and in person. In order to be eligible for the standalone certificate program (which costs about $14,000), students must be medical providers, clergy, or otherwise trained in counseling. 

One of the unique things about the Widener program is that human sexuality training can be completed at the same time as a graduate degree in counseling, either in social work or school counseling. This makes it one of the few sex therapy certification programs that are suitable for people who have not yet embarked on their journey towards professional licensure.

However, before choosing a clinical degree, it is important to make certain the training you receive will meet your needs. Social work is one of the more flexible clinical degree programs but tends to have relatively low pay. School counselors with a Master's in Education may have more restricted options for practice.

Best for Christian Practitioners : Institute for Sexual Wholeness


Institute for Sexual Wholeness

Institute for Sexual Wholeness

Why We Chose It: We chose the Institute for Sexual Wholeness because it overlaps with mainstream sex therapy, but draws from a biblical framework.

Pros
  • Affirming option for people who want to center Christianity in their practice

  • Does not require a graduate degree

  • Intro classes are available in GA, KY, MI, and TX

  • Classes can be taken as part of a graduate degree

Cons
  • Focus on biblical Christianity and may not be LGBTQ affirming

  • Does not satisfy AASECT requirements for certification

  • Advanced classes only available in Atlanta

  • Students must apply to Richmont Graduate University

There are not many programs that cater to Christian therapists seeking sex therapy certification, and aspiring sex therapists who are religious Christians may find that many AASECT-based certification programs are not a good fit for them. Christian sex therapists are board-certified through a different organization: The American Board of Christian Sex Therapists. While many of the techniques they use are the same as for secular sex therapists, the goals and philosophies can differ.

Christian sex therapy and Christian marriage and family therapy tend to focus strongly on maintaining heterosexual marriages. They also explicitly include biblical teachings. This can be invaluable to Christian therapists working with Christian clients, who may find more socially liberal training incompatible with their religious ethics. 

The Institute for Sexual Wholeness offers classes at Richmont Graduate University and charges about $717 per credit. That also means that sex therapy certificate students can pursue a graduate degree in counseling at the same time. Richmont offers degrees in mental health counseling and pastoral care.

Best for Medical Professionals : University of Michigan


University of Michigan

University of Michigan

Why We Chose It: The University of Michigan Sexuality Education Program is one of the few certificate programs that offers a track specifically for medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and physician assistants. It is also one of the few programs to provide Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) continuing educations for physicians. Social work and AASECT contact hours are also available.

Pros
  • Internationally respected university

  • Hybrid training including both online and remote

  • Lots of different types of continuing education credits offered

Cons
  • Program cohorts tend to fill up somewhat quickly

  • Requires in-person travel to Michigan

  • Supervision not provided

  • Completed as a cohort model, so less flexible

The University of Michigan program is relatively affordable at roughly $5,990 and is a good option for people with diverse professional backgrounds. Unlike most sex therapy certification programs, participants complete this one as a cohort. This means that the students who start the program together stay together throughout the entire year they are enrolled. While some people prefer more flexibility, for others, the cohort model is a great way to build a network of friends and colleagues. 

The Michigan program has historically been offered as a hybrid option but will be online through at least the end of the 2021-2022 cycle. Whether online or in-person, training is designed to take place in six to eight weekend or week-long intensives over the course of the year. This gives students the opportunity to engage in intense instruction with time for study and practice in between sessions. It is a particularly good option for individuals who need to participate in ongoing continuing education as part of their professional licensure.

Best LGBTQ+ Affirming : South Shore Sexual Health Center


South Shore Sexual Health Center

South Shore Sexual Health Center

Why We Chose It: South Shore Sexual Health Center is one of the only programs to explicitly seek out cultural, sexual, and disability diversity in both its teachers and its students.

Pros
  • Unique and interesting elective options, in addition to core courses

  • Tuesday evening schedule allows students to plan ahead

  • Affordable at roughly $40 per credit ($120 for three credits) for online courses

Cons
  • Synchronous classes mean that participants have less flexibility

  • Supervision is available, but purchased and arranged separately

  • Hybrid classes may feel less engaging for online than in-person students

South Shore Sexual Health Center is explicitly affirming of people of all sexual and gender identities as well as individuals of different relationship styles and orientations. It is a research-driven training program and offers opportunities to learn about topics such as cybersex from a sex-positive perspective. Since training is offered at a consistent time, it allows individuals to plan out their schedules in advance (although it may make attendance difficult for those who work evening hours).

The sex therapy certification program at South Shore Sexual Health Center costs about $5,500 for a full year and is designed to be completed in 18 months (academic courses are offered over a 12-month period). While SAR and supervision are available through South Shore, they carry a separate cost and must be registered for separately. This is useful for individuals who have supervision elsewhere or have already taken a SAR. However, it does add an additional cost for those seeking to complete the entire process at South Shore. 

Best in NYC : Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy


Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy

Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy

Why We Chose It: The Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP) offers a unique opportunity to grow as a practitioner. All certificate students are required to take part in a year-long seminar in sex therapy where they will see two to three sex therapy patients from ICP. Students can also take courses in other ICP programs to learn more about family and couples therapy and gender and sexuality.

Pros
  • Provides students with patients to grow their practice

  • Highly affordable program

  • Flexible coursework options

Cons
  • Program is located in NYC and requires in-person classes

  • Program takes at least 2 years to complete

  • Does not fully satisfy requirements for AASECT certification

Based in New York City, the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy is a long-established and well-respected institution offering certificate programs in a variety of specialty fields. Although its sex therapy certificate is relatively new, it is known as an affordable place to get high-quality education in clinical topics.

The certificate program is unique in that it provides access to patients with whom participants can work to build their skills in sex therapy. In most programs, participants must find their own sex therapy patients, which can be difficult when they are just starting out. While the ICP does not fulfill the full set of requirements for AASECT certification, all components can be used towards AASECT certification.

The total cost for the program is around $3,500 and is designed to be completed in two to four years. ICP is a non-profit that offers sliding-scale care, as well as care covered by insurance. This allows it to keep its costs down compared to for-profit programs. Participants must have a New York State license in order to see patients at ICP.

Final Verdict

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists is the professional body responsible for certifying most sex therapists in the United States. For professionals interested in certification, it’s important to choose a program that either provides AASECT continuing education credits or is at an accredited academic institution. That’s less important for those who want to just add some new tools to their therapy toolbox. 

Sex therapy certification programs should provide healthcare professionals with the training and experience they need to effectively address sexual health problems in their specialty. Picking the sex therapy certification program that’s best for you means having a good understanding of your goals. If you need a master's degree, then look for a program where you can study sex therapy at the same time as you work towards licensure. If you don’t, pick a program that fits your interests, location, schedule, and budget.

Compare Providers

Program Format+ Length of Program Cost Program highlight
Modern Sex Therapy Institutes Best Overall Hybrid 12-18 Months $4,800 (class only), $8,500 (with supervision and SAR) An all-inclusive program that provides supervision
Sexuality Training Institute Best Budget Hybrid 12 months $5,000 + optional SAR ($525) A flexible program for people of varied backgrounds
Widener University Best for a Master's Degree Hybrid 12 months+ $13,500+ A well-respected graduate degree program that also offers sex therapy certification
Institute for Sexual Wholeness Best for Christian Practitioners In-Person 12 months ~$7,200 Designed for people to certify as Christian sex therapists
University of Michigan Best for Medical Professionals Hybrid 12 months $5,990 Offers CME credits for doctors in a year-long cohort model
South Shore Sexual Health Center Best LGBTQ+ Affirming Hybrid 12-18 months $5,500 + SAR and supervision Program highlights the diversity of faculty and staff
Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy Best in NYC Hybrid 2 years $3,500 A unique program that provides access to patients

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Sex Therapy? 

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy designed to help individuals and couples who are experiencing sexual problems. Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals who have advanced training in working with sexual problems. Sex therapy usually involves a combination of relationship counseling and practical skill-building. 

What Do You Learn in a Sex Therapy Certification Program? 

Most sex therapy certification programs follow the AASECT certification requirements. These include:

  • 90 hours of sexuality education including on topics such as developmental sexuality, sexual anatomy, sexual function, sexual and gender diversity, health and medical factors affecting sexuality, sexuality research, and history of the discipline.
  • 60 hours of training in how to provide sex therapy to clients who have been diagnosed with a psychosexual disorder


How Do You Become a Sex Therapist? 

In order to become an AASECT-certified sex therapist, you must be a licensed social worker, mental health counselor, or other therapist; complete 150 hours of academic training (as described above) and a Sexuality Attitude Reassessment of at least 10 hours; provide at least 300 hours of AASECT supervised clinical treatment of patients with sexual concerns; and have at least 50 hours of supervision with an AASECT Supervisor of Sex Therapy, half of which can be group therapy. Individuals must be members of AASECT at the start of supervision and have a signed supervision contract. Supervision must take place over a minimum of 18 months.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Sex Therapy Certification Program?

Most sex therapy certification programs include at least 12 months of coursework. For AASECT certification, students are required to be in supervision for at least 18 months with a Certified Sex Therapy Supervisor. Therefore, it takes at least 18 months to be certified, even if the program is shorter.

How Should I Choose a Sex Therapy Certification Program? 

When choosing a sex therapy certification program, it’s important to think about your background and needs.

  • Providers practicing in Florida need to complete state certification requirements in order to work as a sex therapist.
  • You must be a licensed therapist to practice sex therapy. Therefore individuals who are not already licensed or in therapy training programs should consider a program that provides a master’s degree.
  • Supervision is required for certification. If you do not have access to sex therapy supervision through your employer, you may wish to choose a program that provides supervision.
  • Not everyone needs AASECT certification. Some providers want to have the skills to practice sex therapy but don’t feel the need to be certified. They may be able to be more flexible in their program choice. Certification is a good way to demonstrate expertise but is not required to explore whether sex therapy is a good career fit for you.

Methodology


We looked at a dozen sex therapy certification programs, and although there are other good programs out there, the options on this list were chosen for a combination of value, quality, and focus. We reviewed the course material content, cost, and what elements of certification are provided. We also looked at how long the program has been in existence and whether it offers anything.

Most programs here will help students fulfill the requirements for AASECT Sex Therapy Certification to various degrees (which will also fulfill Florida state certification requirements). The exception was the Christian sex therapy program which was included because it is important for religious providers (and patients) to have access to this type of care.

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