Feature Archive

Surfing for Sex Therapy

Can you find love advice online? Yes, if you could trust it.

WebMD Feature

April 10, 2000 (Reno, Nev.) -- Shari Dawson (not her real name) was having difficulty with physical intimacy and pain during sex, but was too embarrassed to bring it up with her doctor.

Instead, Dawson found a free Internet site where the doctor posted her question and, in his answer, suggested she get in-person therapy. "The Internet got me on the right path," she says. "I wasn't scared to talk about it anymore. I went to my doctor and found out I had a bladder infection. She also put me on a long-term therapy program with my partner to become more comfortable with physical intimacy."

While the cast of television's "Sex and the City" discuss a myriad of sexual quandaries with ease, in real life, most people -- like Dawson -- will stammer through questions about such topics as pain during sex or masturbation. In fact, embarrassment can be the biggest obstacle between a sexual problem and help. That's where online sex experts can help, says Deborah Fox, MSW, a Washington, D.C., sex therapist with her own web site. "The Internet is useful for addressing sexual problems because people are able to ask questions that [otherwise] make them feel uncomfortable."

Online Roles and Limitations

Fox and other sex therapists offer their expertise online, providing educated responses to a variety of questions. They're quick to point out that this does not, however, qualify as therapy. At "Ask the Sex Doc," for example, William Fitzgerald, PhD, a sex therapist in Santa Clara, Calif., posts his answers to hundreds of questions, choosing the ones he feels are most universal.