Dr. Julie A. Johnson is the South Shore’s own Dr. Ruth. Like the popular Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Johnson is a certified sex therapist who hosts a radio show, “Sexually Speaking,” on WATD-FM in Marshfield. She co-hosts the 30-minute show at 6:30 p.m. Sundays with Beth Kelley.
Johnson said being open about sex is still taboo for some folks, so she hopes the format will prompt people to listen and learn. The month-old show allows callers to seek advice anonymously.
“Even though I’m a sexual health professional, patients are still uncomfortable with their own sexuality and discussing it,” Johnson said.
After all, she says, “sex isn’t behind closed doors anymore.”
Johnson, 33, of Kingston, is founder and director of the Plymouth Center for Behavioral Health in Plymouth, a mental health clinic where she treats sexual dysfunction and mood disorders. Johnson is also affiliated with the Boston University School of Medicine and has worked at the school’s Center for Sexual Medicine for the past five years.
The job of a sex therapist is to help patients work on relationship issues and to cope with and understand their sexual dysfunction.
That’s why Nicki, a 46-year-old sales manager, sought out Johnson. Nicki (last name withheld) said she lost interest in sex. The desire was there mentally, but not physically. Married 20 years, Nicki said she went through the motions during intimacy with her husband.
“I wanted the desire to come back,” she said. “I didn’t understand why it wasn’t there.”
Nicki said she thought maybe it was an emotional change as her only child is leaving home this fall. Johnson is helping Nicki understand why and how she lost her libido. “She’s helping me take the stigma and embarrassment away,” Nicki said. “I’m already in a place where I feel validated and comfortable. I feel like someone is really listening, educating me – and willing to take the time as a way to make things better for me.”
Johnson said she gives out practical advice on the radio from a “solution-focused, cognitive behavioral perspective,” adding that she doesn’t ask callers pertinent information about themselves.
“Frank discussions about sex are generally good as long as the facts are correct,” Johnson said.
“Adults should have an awareness of their sexuality because it is a barometer of their overall emotional and physical functioning, meaning that you can tell how a relationship is going by asking about the intimacy.”
Some callers ask about how to manage jealousy. For example, one caller had a girlfriend whose ex-boyfriend was staying with her and that was upsetting to him.
Other questions have been about receiving text messages from the opposite sex.
A swinger called about developing feelings for one of the partners she swapped with.
Others call in to interject their point of view with Johnson – or if they have had a similar experience.
Johnson, who got her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Hartford, said she has seen many people who have not been properly diagnosed.
“Helping people and encouraging them to see their gynecologist (or medical doctor) and educating them about their bodies, especially when desire, orgasm and arousal aren’t there, is crucial,” said Johnson, who’s a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.
Along with getting psychological support, Johnson said people also need to be evaluated physically. “If you don’t, you can spin your wheels for years without getting to the core issues. You don’t have to deal with them alone. Get help before it starts to affect your sense of self and your relationships.”
Johnson‘s co-host Kelley, 31, has no medical background. She is a full-time party planner and event manager at a Boston nightclub.
“I’m young, single and living in Boston with lots of various and interesting experiences in the dating world,” Kelley said. “We complement each other.”
For more information, call Dr. Julie A. Johnson at the Plymouth Center for Behavioral Health at 508-830-0012.