The question is frequently asked – What is a Sexologist? What qualifications do you need to be
a Sexologist? There is further confusion between what differentiates a Sexologist to that of a
Sex Therapist. The following synopsis aims to clarify these differences.


Sexology is the general term for the scientific study of human sexuality and sexual behaviour.
The people who study this field, are generally referred to as Sexologists.
Some people think Sexologists and sex therapists are one and the same. There is a difference
with reference to Sexologists who choose to pursue a career as a sex therapist by working
directly with patients in a clinical setting, whilst others may explore careers such as
researching sexual behaviour, or sexual health. Additionally these persons may choose to
become a sex educator helping in expanding sexual knowledge in the general public domain,
or a medical doctor specialising in sexual health and treating diseases associated with sexual
behaviour, like sexually transmitted infections and other physical symptoms. Lastly another
group of individuals working in Sexology are able to act as public policy activists regarding
sexually related issues, such as legalising prostitution, LGBTQI&A rights and building on the
general rights of marginalised individuals allowing everyone to have fulfilling sexual
How do you become a Sexologist? A small number of Universities in the world offer degrees in
sexology, or human sexuality at undergraduate and post graduate levels. It is common that
people who do choose to pursue the academic process to become Sexologists, have
educational backgrounds in disciplines such as sociology, psychology, biology, medicine,
public health (nursing) or anthropology.
Sexologists generally have a master’s or doctoral degree, although some individuals have
another type of advanced professional degree. Although a board certification is not required to
call yourself a Sexologist, many students in this field seek credentials from professional
organisations such as the American Board for Sexology, or the International Society for Sexual
Medicine. To be certified, you typically need to show a relevant advanced academic degree,
relevant work experience in the field and completion of a certain number of training hours.
These requirements however may vary based on the certification.


Sexologists who are also sex therapists work with clients, either individually or as a couple, to
improve and address problems and aspects contributing to distress in their sexual functioning.
This might include sexual education for couples who may experience problems such as
mismatched libidos, difficulties reaching fulfilling orgasms, sexless relationships, sexual trauma
and other issues specific to personal problems regarding sexual identity and problematic
sexual behaviour like pornography addiction.
Sex therapists should have specific qualifications such as an advanced degree in either
psychology, psychotherapy or counseling, and specific courses in sex therapy training and
clinical experience. Unfortunately, these terms are not currently regulated, so anyone is able to
call themselves a Sexologist or a sex therapist. It is good practice when you are looking for
someone to help you in this area, to check their qualifications first.

Do not expect any physical contact during a sex therapy session with a Sexologist!
People sometimes think that a sexologist would do ‘hands-on’ work. This would be regarded as
unethical conduct within the profession and is defined as such by the professional boards
situated under the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA). An HPCSA registered
practitioner can be charged by the HPCSA, in the event of unprofessional behaviour.
Therefore it is rather a matter of “All talk, No action”. This would clearly differ from being a sex
surrogate, which is a different profession all together by involving actual sexual contact with
Thus, if you are in need of, or you are interested in consulting with a certified Sexologist or
professional sex therapist, the SASHA website would be able to direct you to a list of
professionally qualified Sexologists and sex therapists in South Africa.

Source : Dr Eugene Viljoen