Jennifer Foust, PhD, MS, LMHC
Sex Therapy Counselor
For as far back as she can remember Jennifer Foust wanted to be a therapist. She took a psychology course her senior year of high school and then began college following graduation. Unlike most undergraduates, she knew exactly what department she belonged in and immediately declared psychology as her major. Her ultimate plan was to work in the field for a few years following graduation and then begin her master’s degree.
Foust followed through on her aspirations and received her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and within the time frame she had planned. With regards to her ultimate destination in the field of psychology, Dr. Foust admits,
I had no idea at that point that I was going to get a doctorate and definitely had no idea that I would later be a sex therapist. If it wasn’t for a colleague of mine I don’t know if I would have ended up where I am.
Since you didn’t plan to get your doctorate or become a sex therapist, what led you to this specialty area?
Shortly after graduating with my master’s degree, I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague about developing a specialty in some area. I told her that I was very interested in relationships and marriage counseling. She is a sex therapist and encouraged me to go into the sex therapy field since I wanted to work with relationship problems. Sex is inevitably a topic that I would need to feel comfortable discussing, she reasoned. She also made another really valid point which was that there aren’t really that many therapists that specialized in sex therapy. I had never considered that and was intrigued and also liked the idea of making some headway in an underdeveloped field. She also encouraged me to pursue a doctorate in human sexuality (that just happened to be offered locally) rather than doing postgraduate training. Her reasoning was if you are going to pursue more education, you might as well have the doctorate to show for it. She is a very wise woman. If it wasn’t for her, I very likely would not be a sex therapist.
We introduced your educational background briefly; would you please fill in the details?
I received a bachelor’s degree as a double major in psychology and sociology from Millersville University. I was originally going to minor in sociology, but a sociology professor of mine encouraged me to double major since it was only a few more courses. I then worked for two years with individuals who had severe mental illness, both in a residential setting and in a vocational day program setting. I always knew that I wanted a master’s degree and had a dream of being in private practice. I got my master’s degree from Northeastern University and was sure that I was done with school until that conversation with that colleague. I got my counseling license and later enrolled in the doctorate program in human sexuality at Widener University. I then got my certification as a sex therapist through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.
Were you happy as a student or were you someone who couldn’t wait to enter the working world? What were some of your challenges when you were a student?
I always enjoyed school. Some classes were harder than others, but the school structure always appealed to me and I did well. By far my greatest challenge was writing my dissertation. It involved a large amount of time and effort. It challenged me to provide my own structure to work on getting it done. While my dissertation chair was very helpful, it was truly on me to finish and there were plenty of times when I just wanted to give up. I am so glad that I didn’t give up, but it was truly the toughest time of my academic career.
Most of our readers are considering a career in psychology. As a veteran in the field, what would you say to them?
I would tell people to go after what you want, but make sure that you listen to others along the way. Sometimes what others say will not impact you or will not be right for you, but don’t let that shut you off from hearing others’ thoughts. I never thought of being a sex therapist, and I was convinced that I was finished with school after my master’s degree. Had I not been open to the thoughts of my colleague, I would likely be in a much different place in my career. Also, be open to working with different populations even if you think you may have no interest. I worked with children and families at one point because that was a job that was available when I graduated from school. I wanted to work with adults, not kids. Thankfully, I found that I actually enjoyed working with kids. I don’t have any children of mine own, and my work with kids has helped me to better understand some of the challenges my adult clients have when dealing with their children.
Please finish this sentence, “When it comes to my career, I love…….”
I love when I can really help one of my clients have a big realization, or when I help them get past obstacles and they can achieve something that they really wanted in their life. There is really nothing more rewarding to me than to feel that I made some sort of difference in someone’s life. I think it’s safe to say that to the layperson the specialty of sex therapy is a mystery.
Will you comment with regards to being an expert in the field?
I wish that the specialty of sex therapy could be understood a bit better. Dealing with sexual issues is not something that is regularly discussed in many graduate programs, and society, in general, is uncomfortable speaking about sex. When I tell people what I do, many are intrigued, but some are puzzled or really uncomfortable. Some people don’t really understand how 'talk therapy' can help people with sex. I try to explain to them that it is just really like talking about anything else.
Sometimes professionals enter a career for which they do not feel suited or regret having chosen. Do you enjoy your work as a sex therapist?
I really love my work. I work with clients with a variety of different mental health issues, but I love dealing with the sexual issues. Often, it is the first time that they have been able to talk about anything sexual, and it can be such a relief for them when the person they are finally telling is not freaked out or uncomfortable. And, not only is the person comfortable with what they are saying, they can provide education, dispel myths and can actually help them overcome their sexual issues. It truly is a field like no other in that respect in my eyes. I am so thankful to that colleague because not only did I develop a specialty, which is always a good idea for a therapist, but I really love it.