-DR. HEATHER S. HOWARD, Sexologist  Mind-Body Health Facilitator


This page is dedicated to answering commonly asked questions about clinical sexology. Please see the Common Questions page for additional details.


What is a sexologist?
A sexologist is engaged in the scientific study of sexuality and is interested in understanding what people do sexually and how they feel about what they do. A sexologist learns about the broad spectrum of human sexual behavior and the many factors that influence people's behavior and feelings about their sexuality. Sexologists can work as clinicians, educators, researchers, bodyworkers, historians, art curators, health advocates, policy makers, community organizers, legal advisors, etc.
Return to top

What is a clinical sexologist?
A clinical sexologist is a sexologist who offers sex counseling to help people understand and accept themselves as sexual beings and meet their sexual goals. Sexologists are sex-positive and maintain a broad perspective by taking factors such as biological, psychological, sociological, anthropological and historical into consideration when addressing sexual issues.  They use an educational approach to help clients meet their goals and are nonjudgmental, which means that they do not have any preconceptions of what a client’s sexuality “should” look like. 
Return to top

How does a clinical sexologist work?
Clinical sexologists facilitate clients’ sexual growth by helping them to identify their sexual goals and by offering education, resources, tools and techniques to help them meet those goals and ultimately manage their own sexual growth. The process entails the following steps:

  1. Helping clients to identify where they are when they arrive and where they want to be when they finish their work with a sex specialist.
  2. Helping clients to identify the factors that allow them to feel safe and those that prevent them from meeting their sexual goals.
  3. Designing and suggesting exercises to help clients to progressively expand their sexual comfort zones until they reach their goals.

This is considered “brief therapy,” which is and goal-oriented counseling. If sexual difficulties appear to be rooted in deeper issues that require intensive therapy, a practitioner will refer clients to a therapist. If he or she feels that a client requires medical attention before or during work with a clinical sexologist, the practitioner will do his or her best to provide a referral. 
Return to top

What types of sexual concerns can a clinical sexologist help with?
The following are common concerns that a clinical sexologist helps individuals and couples address:

  • Finding satisfying sexual activities after surgery, a health crisis, ongoing health challenges or limited mobility
  • Maintaining intimacy and satisfying sexual activities during pregnancy and parenthood
  • Feeling abnormal (in terms of sexual behavior, fantasy, capability, physique, etc.)
  • Feeling uninformed or misinformed about sex
  • Feeling inexperienced
  • Feeling unskilled
  • Feeling ashamed of sexuality or sexual desires
  • Feeling negative about one's body
  • Discrepant desires between/ among partners
  • Sexual orientation identity (straight, gay, bisexual, etc.)
  • Sexual relationship structure (monogamous, polyamorous, polysexual, open, swinging, etc.)
  • Infidelity
  • Negotiating kinky relationships
  • Gender identity
  • Lack of or reduced desire or arousal
  • Difficulty maintaining arousal
  • Erectile difficulty
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Ejaculatory control difficulties
  • Fear of or aversion to touch, intimacy, penetration or pain
  • Unconsummated marriages or relationships
  • Difficulty identifying satisfying activities for both partners
  • Difficulty communicating sexual needs and desires
  • Lack of Intimacy
  • Sexual trauma or sexal abuse history
  • Finding satisfying sexual activities after surgery, a health crisis, ongoing health challenges or limited mobility 
  • Sexual compulsion
  • Seeking resources (including finding like-minded people)

I (Dr. Heather Howard) have helped clients to address all of the above issues, and have coordinated care with medical and mental health practitioners in offering support. I also work with pelvic and sexual pain conditions. For a more complete list of the medical diagnoses I specialize in, please see the Conditions Addressed page.

I offer sex education and sexual enrichment programs for individuals and couples who want to improve or enhance their sexual relationships. Some common goals include recapturing lost sensuality; adjusting sexually to life changes such as health challenges, menopause, change in relationship status, or motherhood; and becoming comfortable with one's own or a partner's sexuality.
Return to top

What kind of training do you have?
Sexology is currently an unregulated field, which means that people can call themselves sexologists without earning credentials in the field. When searching for a sex counselor, it is important to ask what kind of training a practitioner has in the area of human sexuality. Board certification by the American College of Sexologists or the American Board of Sexologists is one indication that a practitioner has completed a course of study in the science of human sexuality that includes an experiential component. AASECT certification indicates that a practitioner has completed a course of study or continuing education in human sexuality as well as obtained supervised experience as a sexuality professional.

I have a PhD and MPH in Human Sexuality, as well as certificates in sex education and clinical sexology from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS). I am board certified by the American College of Sexologists (ACS), and am certified as a sexuality educator and counselor through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).

My training consisted of studying the many facets of human sexual behavior and participating in experiential courses to learn about my own beliefs and feelings about those behaviors. This training has prepared me to work with a broad range of sexual issues and the awareness gained by experiential courses enables me to confront my personal biases in order to maintain a nonjudgmental space for clients. My doctoral research explored the relationship between sexuality and pelvic pain and the potential for sexuality to be a part of the treatment program for pelvic pain. For additional biographical information, please visit the About the Founder page.
Return to top

How does clinical sexology differ from sex therapy? How do I choose a practitioner?  
Like sexology, the sex therapy field is unregulated in all states except Florida, which means that people who have licenses to practice therapy can call themselves sex therapists without additional training in the area of human sexuality. Licensed mental health providers who have substantial training in the field often seek sex therapy certification by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).

A sex therapist is trained in psychology and may have taken few or many courses in human sexuality; a qualified sexologist has taken many courses in human sexuality and views sexual behavior from a biological, psychological and sociological perspective. Sexological training alone does not qualify someone to practice intensive therapy and psychological training alone does not qualify someone to practice sex counseling.

Techniques used by clinical sexologists and sex therapists can be similar, but sex therapists are therapists first, which means their approach to addressing sexual issues can be very different. To determine if someone is qualified to help you with your sexual concerns, ask about their training and approach to treating sexual concerns and ensure it is empowering, non-judgmental and sex-positive.
Return to top





"I always thought the purpose of sex was to please a partner. It usually hurt, and I didn't get how my friends liked it or why they made a big deal about it. I was avoiding sex more and more and it was a problem in every relationship. My therapist kept telling me to call Dr. Howard to figure this out. When I finally went to see her, I learned so much about my body the first time we met, that I was a little angry no one told me that stuff before. Why was my body was such a mystery to me? I've seen Dr. Howard 4 times now and I finally had my first orgasm (and second and third) last week and want to tell the world that I GET IT now! I didn't really believe I ever would, so thank you, Dr. Howard, for telling me what I needed to hear every time I doubted myself. I am still learning about what I like and relieved that you are there for me with ideas and encouragement."

-Female client
still in clinical treatment, Corte Madera

      © 2009-2017 H. Howard. All rights reserved | 415.683.3231 | info@sexualrehab.com