Interview with James Wadley

What led you to become a sex therapist/counsellor?

During my undergraduate education, I spent time researching children’s toy choices and gender identity.  After getting my Master’s degree in School Psychology from the University of Kentucky, I enrolled in University of Pennsylvania’s Human Sexuality in Education program to further my studies. The program was geared toward teaching and research. I completed an AAMFT approved clinical post-graduate certification program at Thomas Jefferson University/Council for Relationships.  I think what led me to pursue sex therapy and counselling is:

  1. My passion for doing sexuality research, education, consultation, advocacy and clinical work.
  2. The personal and professional opportunities that have been available to me which I can now extend to others.  I am privileged, fortunate and blessed to be a part of this wonderful field.  

What are the most common problems encountered by a sex therapist?  

Some sex therapists may not understand the systemic impact of their work. We help individuals, couples, and families move beyond sexual dysfunctions or relational challenges, the implications of this are helping restore, affirm and possibly enhance the visibility of the authentic human experience.  Our clients are able to leave us with accurate medical information. They are liberated and capable of teaching and learning from one another about the continuum of sexuality. Their empowerment allows them to have better relationships with themselves as well as with the person/people they may be attached to.  

The other problem with some sex therapists is that they may have a limited understanding of the business aspect of the field.  I honestly believe that all of us want to help others feel better about themselves and their relationships but some of us have difficulty attaching a resource value to the professional service that we provide.  I think our field has a long way to go to create safe spaces for sexuality professionals to talk about acquiring and managing resources.  

When should people seek out a sex therapist?

People should seek out a sex therapist when/if they have a question, challenge, or relational concern related to sex.  A sex therapist is can provide medically accurate information and address some of the systemic challenges that may impact healthy sexual functioning.  From a sex-positive perspective, sex therapists can help clients manage their feelings about sexuality and assist them in negotiating their affective, cognitive, behavioural response within their relationships.  

What’s your advice to a young man or woman who is new to sex?

Talking about sex and sexuality between couples and among family members is very important.  Too often, sex is considered a taboo or romanticized subject that should “just happen naturally.”  Talking about sex, boundaries, consent, desire, values and sex/relational history should all be discussed openly with people who are considering intimacy with another person or with themselves.  

How has the internet changed/impacted or benefited your work?

The internet has made the world much smaller and more accessible. Writing, speaking, teaching and clinically serving clients/students/constituents is much easier than it was about 15-20 years ago.  There is a preponderance of information available and networks that all of us can refer to for medically accurate information. My job is to take the information and operationalize and translate it such that people can understand.  The internet has allowed me to transform my practice and business such that I am not pinned down to any one location.  

For many people, sex is highly intimate and often difficult to talk about. How do you overcome that obstacle in your practice?

For all of my clients, we have conversations about having conversations about sex. This preliminary work allows my clients to feel safe and comfortable talking about topics that they weren’t able to address before coming to see me.  At the end of the intake session, I always send them three videos that help them think about how to make the conversation about sex less difficult.  

Relationship safety:

Can you share some of the successes you’ve experienced as a Sex Therapist? How has sex therapy changed the lives of your patients?

Sometimes my clients don’t know that I am a sex therapist until we start talking about sexuality related issues.  I don’t always use the brand “sex therapist” because I maintain a general practice where I see people with various issues.  The success comes (no pun intended:-)) when my clients return for follow up sessions and share that they were able to have sex or be intimate after several months/years of no contact.

As an advocate for people of colour, what message do you have for others to become self-reliant and how a community plays a major role in this?

There is an African maxim that contends “I am because we are.”  While self-reliance is essential, it is significantly important for people of colour to be able to rely on each other as well as our allies.  Learning, sharing, and growing together has allowed people of colour to contribute to the field of sexology in a myriad of ways that have not always been recognized across the greater landscape.  I think it is important for black and brown communities to be intentional about supporting one another reach so all of us can be successful. If all of us are successful, then our communities will be successful.  

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