Sex Addiction Counselling
The structure of sex addiction therapy is the Patrick Carnes Task Model approach ™. The first stage of addiction recovery includes addressing denial, learning about how we became addicted, understanding what addiction (and the sexual component) really is, addressing the damage that was caused and addressing it, restoring physical integrity, and finding and engaging in a culture of support.
The second stage of addiction therapy includes processing and healing from trauma, restoring (or developing) a life with purpose and meaning, and establishing a lifestyle that sustains continual growth and healing.
This includes one of, all or a combination of: individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, couples’ psychotherapy, engagement in a peer support group for recovery from addictive sexual behaviours.
Key Indicators of Sex Addiction
Sex addiction has predictable diagnostic criteria. Though Sex Addiction is not in the DSM-V (diagnostics and statistics manual, fifth edition), the diagnostic criteria used to diagnose substance use disorder (Compulsivity (out of control behaviour over time), Loss of Control, escalation (needing more intensity, longer duration of time spent), loss of time, continuation despite negative consequences, repeated failed efforts to stop, Unable to continue to adequately function in daily life (work, family, school), being consistently preoccupied, Loss of or severe damage to relationships.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms it is very likely that your sexual behaviours have become problematic.
What do we do now?
Luckily you are not the first person to have this issue so there is a comprehensive model and professionals like myself trained in the area of sex addiction.
A great place to start is by having a session with a therapist. Meeting with someone who understands this side of you will likely be a new experience and often instills hope that change is possible.
Focus in the first stage of recovery is addressing the factors in your environment and distorted thinking that make up the addictive lifestyle.
It starts with you.
By taking the step to meet with a therapist you are demonstrating a willingness to start a change process. If you have a significant other, or loved ones that know about your problem they will likely feel relief that you are getting help.
Emerging from a world that is lonely and full of secrets starts a process of miraculous growth.
Partners of Sex Addicts
Sexual betrayal almost invariably causes trauma for the betrayed. To discover that your partner has had a secret sexual life leaves us feeling abandoned, confused, deceived and often full of shame. It is not uncommon to feel alone, embittered, scared, depressed and anxious and struggle to sleep or get out of bed in the morning. Once the addiction is discovered, you may find yourself completely unable to focus and become preoccupied with what your partner has done or may be doing. Not being able to trust anymore is a huge loss. A loss to peace of mind, personal safety and well being. These are some of the effects of betrayal trauma. Starting to choose to heal, for you, is an empowering step towards not allowing your partner’s addiction and the damage it has caused to continue to control your life anymore.
“Is there any hope for us?”
This is a question that many couples have, even well into the process of recovery for both the person with the addiction and their partner. A cycle emerges: feeling hope as recovery becomes solid accompanying a period of feeling closer. Then something triggers mistrust, fear and anger which can be accompanied by confrontations, accusations and distancing from each other. The longer this cycle continues the more exhausted each member of the partnership becomes and the less hope for things to “finally get better” exists.
Most likely both of your lives have changed for ever. Addressing trauma, learning to live life without secrets, lies and addictions… it’s very easy to get lost and feel that there can be no progress together. For many couples post-discovery, learning how to be intimate, vulnerable and honest is another difficult and important hurdle to overcome. Life on the other side of this, when successfully and rigorously handled, is worth the time and sacrifice. Professional help is available.
To best support couples in the recovery process, the right conditions need to be met. A commitment and engagement in a solid recovery plan by the person with the addiction, support for the partner, establishment of boundaries, a formal disclosure (ask me about this), and a safety plan. Building trust and safety requires learning how to de-escalate arguments through “acknowledgement, validation and reassurance” (Carol Jurgensen-Sheets, “Help Her Heal”).
Couples can find healing and establish a new found intimacy after betrayal. It is NOT easy, and does not happen quickly for many.
Resources for the person with the Addiction
Facing the Shadow Workbook for Sex Addiction Recovery, Patrick J. Carnes PhD.
Out of the Shadows, Patrick J. Carnes PhD.
Sex Addiction 101, Robert Weiss PhD.
The Porn Trap, Larry and Wendy Maltz
Your Brain on Porn, Gary Wilson
Resources for Partners
Mending a Shattered Heart, Stefanie Carnes
From Betrayal Trauma to Healing and Joy, Marsha Means
Facing Heartbreak, Stefanie Carnes
The Betrayal Bond, Patrick J. Carnes
Partner Betrayal Trauma (a step by step guide), Doug Weiss
Sex Addiction: The Partner’s Perspective, Paula Hall
Facing Heartbreak workbook for partner's of people with Sex Addiction by Stephanie Carnes, PhD.
Support Groups for Couples
Recovering Couples Anonymous: recovering-couples.org
Resources for Couples
A Couple’s Guide to Intimacy, Drs David and Ginger Berkaw
A Couple’s Guide to Sexual Addiction, Paldrom Catherin Collins and George N. Collins
Porn Free Radio
Helping Couples Heal
Carol the Coach
Sex, Love and Addiction