The Program in Human Sexuality is one of the largest clinical, teaching, and research institutions in the world specializing in human sexuality. We have a strong research agenda in HIV prevention, sexual aggression and compulsive sexual behavior, transgender health, and women’s sexual health that has been supported by millions of dollars in state and federal funding, and we have developed innovative and effective treatment approaches to sexual problems. PHS has led the way nationally and internationally in crucial, often controversial, sexual issues and has worked with local, national, and international health agencies to advance public health policies promoting sexual health.
The formation of the program started to take shape June 2-3, 1970, with the first Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) in Minnesota. In 1971 the University of Minnesota Medical School created PHS and assigned it the task of teaching and conducting research in the field of human sexuality. A medical school curriculum was established that included a SAR with lectures and readings. In 1973, PHS began offering therapeutic and educational services to individuals with sexual dysfunctions and other relationship problems, and in 1977 we became a unit within the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
Over 5,000 University of Minnesota and Mayo medical students have been trained to deal with their patients' sexual health concerns, and tens of thousands of physicians, psychologists, clergy, and other professionals have been given up-to-date knowledge on how to treat a variety of sexual problems.
At our Center for Sexual Health, we treat 400-500 individuals and couples a year with approximately 1,200 patient visits a month. Our faculty and professional staff work as a team and represent a variety of backgrounds including psychology, family medicine, psychiatry, marital and family therapy, education, and epidemiology.
- Thousands of individuals and couples have overcome problems with sexual desire, orgasmic difficulties, erectile problems, and pain during sexual activity and improved their communication and relationship skills.
- Our unique, comprehensive approach to transgender health services has benefited thousands of individuals.
- We have provided new understanding and a sex-positive treatment for compulsive sexual behavior.
- We have developed a unique sexual offender treatment program with a proven record of success and low recidivism.
- We have developed a well-known model for the coming-out process that has assisted many gay men and lesbians develop positive identities and relationships.
- We assist youth and adolescents with a variety of sexual health concerns.
PHS is recognized nationally as a highly regarded center with outstanding teaching, research, and treatment of sexual health concerns. Our faculty hold positions of leadership in many of the professional organizations devoted to sexual science.
- We played a key role in the development of the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action on the Promotion of Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior.”
- We are one of the few programs in the country training sexual therapists and researchers through our post-doctoral training program in human sexuality; we also train HIV workers in a sexual health model of prevention.
- We provide specialized and sparsely available services for a variety of sexual health problems; patients come from around the country for evaluation and treatment.
- We established the Center for HIV and STI Intervention and Prevention Studies, which does federally funded research for HIV/STI prevention programs based upon a sex-positive sexual health approach targeting men who have sex with men, HIV+ men, transgender individuals, Latino men, and African American women and men.
International Scope and Influence
PHS is internationally influential in the academic world of sexual science. Faculty and staff have developed collaborative professional relationships with sexologists in Mexico, Latin America, Canada, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, and Europe.
- We helped develop the World Association for Sexology’s “Universal Declaration of Sexual Rights.”
- We helped revise international standards for the care of transgender individuals.
- We have developed an internationally recognized and highly effective approach for the treatment of sexual offenders and their families.
- We founded the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders to promote effective sexual offender treatment around the world and helped develop internationally accepted standards of care.
- We played a key role in the development of a plan for action to promote sexual health in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization.
- We are currently working with the World Health Organization on strategies to promote sexual health throughout the world.
PHS Research Goals
- Focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual offending, compulsive sexual behavior, and transgender health
- Conduct evaluation and outcome research into promising interventions for the amelioration of problems related to sexuality and the promotion of sexual health in diverse populations
- Seek grants to support research
- Develop collaborations on a local, national, and international level
- Disseminate knowledge to the general public and scientific community through community education, mass media, scientific meetings, and publications in lay and scientific media
PHS has been a forerunner in contributing to the available body of knowledge about human sexuality. Because of the strong teaching and community outreach program at PHS, faculty and staff have been actively involved in educating professionals and nonprofessionals about their research in human sexuality.