By Karen Butterfield
Saying the word “sexuality” doesn’t make Union therapist Monica Houttuin blush.
Part of the reason is because she grew up the daughter of a urologist, in a “sex-positive” home, which is the type of atmosphere Houttuin hopes to provide her clients.
Houttuin is an area couples and family therapist, who recently received specialty training and national certification in sexual health therapy from American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).
“Sexuality is an integral part of who we are. It serves many different functions in our lives,” she said, adding that those over the age of 55 are an important age bracket.
Houttuin, MSW, LCSW, has a private office, Counseling Rediscovering Connections, in Union.
She has been a therapist for more than 20 years and is a member of the International Society for Sexual Medicine, the American Association of Sex Educators/Therapists and the National Association of Social Workers.
Houttuin said that in more than 20 years of counseling, she realized that there was no specialist in the area to assist individuals, families and couples with issues relating to sexuality.
“It bothered me that when I had a couple (or person) interested in this type of therapy, I would try to refer them somewhere, but I couldn’t find anybody,” she said.
Houttuin is the only therapist with the certification in Franklin County. She provides therapeutic services to clients over the course of their lifespan. Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy, Houttuin noted.
Sometimes, people don’t even realize they’re looking for a therapist with her certification, she said.
“Usually in a relationship there will be one person who is more interested or who has more desire and there’s always a lower desire person. People usually try everything they know to build up the romance . . . but then it still just doesn’t work, something is not right.”
Often, couples will seek out couple’s counseling, but a couple’s counselor can’t automatically help clients wade through sexual issues.
“Believe it or not, this is harder to talk about than money. This is harder to talk about for a couple than anything because everyone is afraid they’re going to offend their partner,” Houttuin said.
And, if a person is going through a life change, such as with chronic illness, they’re often afraid of embarrassing their doctor or specialist by asking those types of questions.
Illnesses tha might affect a person’s sexual health can range from heart disease to incontinence, dementia, fibromyalgia, mental illness, STD and more.
Houttuin said that while she offers sexual health therapy, it’s not automatic. If a person or couple is interested, Houttuin will see each partner separately for a sexual health assessment.
“If you’re going to work on sexual health, it covers the biological, the social, the emotional and the psychological parts of a person’s sexual health,” she said.
She said it’s important that if a person has a concern that they ask their doctor and keep asking until they understand what is normal and what to expect.
There are many misconceptions about sexual health that can often be difficult to navigate.
“There are some normal changes that happen as we age, but that doesn’t mean we lose interest in our sexuality,” she said.
Houttuin works with medical professionals to assist patients in navigating the difficult path to adaptive sexuality during medical issues.
She continues to educate area therapists and medical professionals by speaking locally to groups such as National Association of Social Workers, St. Louis Urology Association and St. Louis Wound and Ostomy Nursing Association.
A speech by Houttuin titled “New Sex-pectations,” highlights the difference between sexual health and aging versus chronic illness.
Houttuin earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and her master’s degree in clinical social work with a specialization in mental health from Washington University,
She trained for her specialization in sexual health education and sex therapy at the University of Michigan.
Houttuin can be reached by email at email@example.com, or by phone, 636-583-7738.