Certification FAQ

Get Answers to Your Questions about AASECT Certification


As an AASECT Certified Sex Therapy and Supervisor, I get many calls from therapists with questions about becoming a sex therapist.

You can read the AASECT requirements for sex therapy certification, plus my expert answers to the top 10 questions therapists have about certification.



Do I need to be certified in order to call myself a sex therapist?

Short answer:  No, you don’t.  However, please read on to understand more about what you need to do in order to call yourself a sex therapist.

What You Need To Do In Order To Call Yourself A Sex Therapist

The term “sex therapist” is only regulated in one state—Florida.  If you live in Florida, please visit this web site.

In the other 49 states, anyone can call themselves a “sex therapist,” but remember that your ethics code may say that you need to demonstrate “competence” in an area before you can tell that public that it is part of your practice.

What is meant by competence?  Generally, it means that you have specialized training and supervision in the new area into which you want to expand.

Competence is not demonstrated by:

  • Subscribing to and reading an academic journal that relates to the area
  • Reading books about the area
  • Attending 1-2 workshops in the area
  • Having a supervisor who specializes in the area
  • Joining a peer supervision group with members who specialize in that area
  • You just “know a lot” about the area; people come to you for advice

For the most part, therapists of all types need 1-2 years of additional sex therapy coursework plus supervision in order to claim the specialty of “sex therapy.”

Why shouldn’t you go ahead and call yourself a sex therapist?  If there is a malpractice suit or a complaint about you to your licensing board, authorities will look to see if you are competent to practice in the manner you state to the public.

In addition, if a client got involved in a legal matter and you were called upon to testify, your competence could come into question.

Finally, if a client switches to another therapist with the same specialty, and decides that you were not fully competent, you could have a complaint levied against you.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do some sex therapy if, for example, your practice is filled with couples.  In fact, you should be able to diagnose and provide basic treatment for DSM-5™ diagnoses like anorgasmia and early ejaculation.

If, however, basic treatment doesn’t help, you either need to have the training to do sex therapy outright, or you need to make a referral to a trained sex therapist.

What sort of coursework do I need in order to do sex therapy?

In part, this depends on whether you want to add sex therapy to a specialty you already have, like substance use, or if you want to earn sex therapy certification.

If you want to add sex therapy to a specialty, then 24-30 clock hours of education at the post graduate level should be adequate.  You could, for example, attend The Buehler Institute sex therapy intensive training or the 2-part distance learning program.  You would also want supervision to work with complex cases or to determine if a referral is needed.

If you want to be a certified sex therapist, you will need 150 clock hours of education in multiple areas, which are listed both on the AASECT website and as part of the year-long Buehler Institute training.

Where can I take sex therapy coursework?

Many major cities will have sex therapists who may occasionally give workshops, thought a single workshop would not be considered adequate to declare competence.  There are several sex therapy training programs scattered throughout the United States, including Florida, Texas, Michigan, and now, with The Buehler Institute, California, that allow you to take the full range of coursework.

You can also choose to take just the coursework that you need.  You can look through the AASECT requirements and determine where you either don’t have any coursework or where you feel you are weak.  Then you can either find a conference that is offering such coursework; take a course online; or even attend a module that you need through a training program such as offered by The Buehler Institute.

What about supervision?

If you have been licensed for less than 10 years, AASECT requires that you have 50 hours of supervision, half of which can be obtained in a group format.  A group can have no more than four members to ensure individual attention.

If you have been licensed for more than 10 years, then you will need just 25 hours of supervision to get AASECT-certified.  Again, half of those hours can be group.

AASECT certified sex therapists can provide supervision only if they are themselves certified as a sex therapy supervisor.  This means that they have been certified for three years and have, themselves, undergone supervision to be a supervisor.  (Hope you are following me here.)

Dr. Stephanie Buehler is both an AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist and a Certified Supervisor.  She supervises both therapists and Certified Sex Therapists who want to become Certified Supervisors.

If you are quite new to sex therapy, it is advised that you first take coursework, then do individual supervision for several sessions before you take group supervision.  While there is comfort in numbers, it is helpful if you first understand your strengths and weaknesses before you join group.

Already know a lot about sex therapy?  In practice 10 years or more?  Then you have more leeway in choosing to do group or individual supervision first.

How long does it take to get certified?

On average, it takes 18-36 months.  AASECT discourages people from doubling or tripling up on supervision in order to get certified sooner.


What about case work?
You will need to conduct 300 hours of sex therapy with a varied population.  Read AASECT guidelines here.


What is a SAR, and why do I have to take it to get certified?

SAR stands for Sexual Attitude Reassessment and it is a unique experience.  The SAR, which must be a minimum of 10 hours for AASECT certification, is a workshop in which participants will learn about their attitudes, values, and beliefs that they hold regarding their own sexuality and that of others.  Most SARs use sexually explicit material to help participants confront their countertransference, or feelings, about sexual material.  However, no one is forced to watch material if it goes against their values.

There is a SAR before every AASECT conference, in addition to other AASECT providers around the country.  The Buehler Institute also offers a SAR; to learn more and to register, click here.

Should I only attend AASECT approved training?

No—but remember, if you go to a workshop on a sexual topic that is not approved by AASECT, you can only count half the value of the units. That is, if you take a 4-unit training that is APA but not AASECT approved, it will count only as two units of credit. Thus, it is to your advantage to attend an AASECT-approved training program or workshop. The Buehler Institute is AASECT-approved.

Can I earn continuing education units toward license renewal?

Yes! The Buehler Institute is approved as a continuing education provider by the American Psychological Association, California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and the California Board of Registered Nursing.

Can I do part of the certification process before I get my degree and license?

Yes! You can earn all of the credits, get all of your supervision, attend a SAR, and complete all of your hours of sex therapy before you complete your requirements for a graduate degree and license. However
, you cannot apply for certification until after you have your license.