As a certified sex therapist with a doctorate degree in Psychology, Dr. Patricia Littwin is in a league of her own. With advanced education and training specific to sex therapy and all that entails, her credentials exceed that of marriage counselors, social workers, and other therapists people often see for sexual issues or dysfunction. Her approach to successful sex therapy is based on extensive training in all aspects of sexuality, and she works with people of all ages. “Other therapists might focus mostly on communication, boundaries, and feelings,” Dr. Littwin explained, “but it generally goes way deeper than that. I’m the only certified sex therapist and World Professional Association for Transgender Health therapist in Iredell County, meaning that I am trained in the emotional, psychological, and relational aspects of sexuality where we can experience difficulties, as well as physical dysfunctions that need to be addressed. Medical and mental problems are entwined. With erectile dysfunction, for instance, we might consult with a urologist to get medical issues functioning, but you could be experiencing performance anxiety. Whatever is going on, I can help you explore your sexual concerns and learn to make changes to improve many aspects of your life.”
Dr. Patti, as she is affectionately known, is a smart, friendly woman with a big sense of humor. She knows her stuff and wants to share it so her clients feel better about themselves and their relationships. I was impressed with her ability to make sex something easy to talk about. She is non-judgmental and encouraging—people feel heard, understood, and accepted.
WHAT IS SEX THERAPY?
Dr. Patti’s positive outlook about sexuality helps her create a safe setting for conversations about sex. “It’s talk therapy, like any other mental health counseling,” she said. “I lead by example…I’m not embarrassed to say words that aren’t often said—I want clients to feel comfortable so they can speak freely and candidly. It helps to be a little bit of Dr. Ruth, a whole lot of the Fockers, with a kick of Dr. Patti thrown in!”
Self-help books, talking with friends, or Googling key words can only do so much, and certainly won’t do anything very well. Your sex life deserves so much more than a DIY or a let’s-us-do-it-ourselves approach. Working with a certified sex therapist sets the stage for actually resolving issues that relate to you, your partner, and sex. And, when it comes down to it, we all have issues.
“Just like you wouldn’t go to an optometrist for a spinal injury, you don’t want to go to a therapist who isn’t trained in sex therapy. My clients have issues of desire differences, sexual disorders, dysfunction, and trauma, LGBTQ issues, gender issues, sex addiction, polyamorous relationships, kink, fetishes, and BDSM lifestyles. I see people of all ages, from children to seniors, of any background or sexual orientation, with a wide range of sexual concerns,” Dr. Patti continued. “Other mental health issues that arise from sexual problems are addressed. These can include anxiety, stress, anger, depression, self-harm, communication issues, infidelity, separation, and divorce. A healthy approach to sex can heal a lot of unhealthy conditions.”
Getting to the “why” of an issue and not taking it personal when working through it are critical. No couple has the same level of sexual desire and this can cause hurt feelings. By understanding why—perhaps it’s stress or a physical condition—you can resolve your differences around desire.
What sex therapy is not: touchy-feely, taking off clothes, or physical interaction. You will always feel comfortable with Dr. Littwin.
“I also have specific training in gender therapy,” Dr. Littwin told me. “Gender dysphoria is a strong, persistent feeling of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s assigned gender. Each transgender person has a unique personal journey. It isn’t all about surgery, sexual orientation, wanting to dress different, or changing into a different person. What’s most important is that young people find support and help with a professionally trained gender therapist, so that they’re not hurt, or they don’t begin to hurt themselves.” Gender or sexual issues can be resolved with the right specialist. If you think your child might be gay or transgender, getting bullied or bullying themselves or others, are harming themselves, or are suicidal, please make an appointment with Dr. Littwin for an evaluation, the sooner the better. Counseling for kids and parents can be very effective.
COUNSELING FOR VETERANS
Dr. Littwin is a US Army veteran. She has first-hand experience with the trauma of rape while in the military and a unique perspective on returning vets who are victims of sexual abuse. Veterans often don’t want to go to the VA with their issues, because it might have been a superior who hurt them. They feel more comfortable with Dr. Littwin, since she understands what they have been through, sexually and otherwise. Many who return from combat have injuries or stress-related illnesses. Some develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or deal with prolonged grief over the loss of battle buddies. They may suffer a moral injury—guilt, shame, and anguish about their wartime participation. Dr. Littwin can help vets build the healthier, happier life that is possible.
WE’RE ALL SEXUAL BEINGS
“I work with the full spectrum of human beings,” Dr. Littwin said with a smile, “as long as their sexual behaviors are safe, consensual, and they are of age. I get referrals from school counselors, gynecologists, urologists, rehab centers, families, and friends. The list of conversations about sexuality we need to have is long, and my greatest hope for everyone I see—whether it’s teens acting out sexually, couples challenged with infertility or miscarriage, couples who’ve lost their attraction or desire, older couples who might be using menopause as an excuse to stop being intimate, people in poly lifestyles or non-traditional relationships, sex addicts, people with spinal cord injuries or disabilities—is that they enjoy the best sexual experiences for them, not for anyone else, and that they are comfortable with their sexuality and become great sex partners.”
BUILDING A TOOLBOX
Successful sex therapy means you don’t need to go back into therapy. To get to that stage, you need tools that help you build on strengths and eliminate negativity, tools you can use on your own, when you’re home between sessions and after you’ve completed therapy. “I really believe in homework,” Dr. Patti explained. “Working at home privately helps couples achieve their goals together, and new skills mean they’ll be able to work things out if something comes up in the future. I have 100% success with my clients, and when they get there, I exit them from therapy.” The toolbox is filled with techniques and exercises that couples can use if needed. Tools can include ways to develop commitment, listening skills, enhance intimacy, and blending (not to ever compromise). These tools help couples practice new skills and kindle the relationship, because relationships are like campfires—they’ll go out with lack of attention.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
If you’re thinking about counseling or therapy, it’s likely there’s something going on that needs attention. Sexual issues really aren’t that different than anything else—you just need to be willing to do the work with someone who can really help, someone who knows her stuff. Find out if Dr. Littwin would be a good match to work with you. It could change your life in a positive way.
Reach out to Dr. Patti by email at: