Sex Addiction Treatment: What Works and Who Can be Helped?
I find displaying patience with myself and with my family difficult. There is plenty of room for growth in patience in my actions towards my wife and children. I like it when things work, whether it is my car that didn’t start in downtown Spokane today or the recipe for a new type of crepe that I am trying to perfect on a Saturday morning. I also find it distressing when my plans don’t work. That is a place for growth in my life. There are small steps that I can take in learning how to manage my expectations. Patience is required, but patience is also hard to access. I need reminders that my car will get started, eventually. I need a forgiving son or daughter when my new recipe looks like a pile of cooked goo.
Recovery from Sexual Addiction Requires Patience
Patience is a key component of success in recovering from sexual addiction in Spokane. However, it is hard to find, and you need people to walk with you through your “dark night of the soul.” Forgiving yourself is important, and will come as you begin to trust yourself to live a sober life.
There are no good “shortcuts” in treating sexually compulsive thinking and acting. It would be nice if there were easy ways to treat the patterns of thinking and acting that have been present for years in an individual’s life. But sadly, offering “shortcuts” is the one treatment that I cannot supply to the individuals or couples who call me seeking counseling. There are very good treatment models that trained therapists and pastors can now access, including those by notable researchers and clinicians such as Dr. Patrick Carnes. This research is helpful, although not sufficient on its own. There are also well-meaning people who may offer to treat you by means of short-term therapy, a weekend retreat, or a week long intensive. However, addiction is a chronic brain disease, as well as a choice that has been influenced by patterns of guilt and shame that have been in place for a significant portion of someone’s life. There is hope in the treatment of sexual addiction, but it is not achieved in the short term, and certainly not in a weekend retreat. As you continue to read this article, please note what does not work in sex addiction treatment, but also what I have witnessed that does work and who can be helped.
A Problem of Intimacy
If you or someone you love has out of control sexual thinking or behaviors, you have a significant need to see change. Your life, or the life of your family, may be in upheaval because of the lying and deception of sexual addiction. I would like to offer some thoughts for those who face the trauma and devastation of finding out that someone you love is a sex addict. I offer suggestions to you as a spouse, or as an individual seeking real change. I want to offer hope. I also offer my experience of discovering what works for individuals, couples, and families as they begin to recover from the impact of a husband or wife, a father or mother, engaging in compulsive sexual behaviors.
Sex addiction is actually a disorder of intimacy. It involves an ongoing and out of control pattern of compulsive sexual fantasy and behavior that causes problems in a person’s life. These behaviors are by definition compulsive and out of control. Someone engaged in such thinking and behavior is not in a connected place with themselves. As the disordered thinking progresses, there is increasing isolation from others and from God. Some people try to control their sexual addiction cycle, and they may experience measured success in shutting down their sexuality for days, or weeks, or even months. But their cycle of shame and guilt, and the necessity to numb those feelings, invariably returns through fantasy, preoccupation, and acting out. These acting out or acting in behaviors either return at their previous levels, or they may return in a more secretive and underground way and with greater frequency or intensity.
Is Change Possible?
As a Certified Sexual Addictions Therapist (CSAT), I meet with adult men (this disorder is also present in women) who have been living in chaos and are emotionally numb and out of touch with reality. There is a disconnection that separates them from themselves, and they consequently cannot connect in healthy attachments to others, whether those are their spouses, friends, or children. When we begin our treatment, I frequently hear questions similar to “Will I always live this way?” and “Is there any hope for change?” As I listen to these often-repeated questions, I also hear each of them asking, “Can I be helped?” and “What is the way forward?” Equally importantly, I hear them asking, “Will you accept me?” When they meet with me, or with other therapists who are trained in treating sexual addiction, we answer those questions by stating that there is hope, that change is possible, that they can be helped, and that they are accepted.
What Doesn’t Help in Treating Sex Addiction
Allow me to highlight a few actions that don’t work for men and women who are seeking to end the cycle of shame and numbing caused by sexual addiction. It is valuable to know what doesn’t work in order to manage expectations and hopefully point towards what is invaluable in sex addiction treatment. Here is what not to do.
Don’t neglect to take the time to get to know where the resources are that you need. When you don’t have assistance from someone, you are likely to live in the isolation that is destroying you. A therapist who is trained in sexual addictions can walk with you and discuss what resources are available and how you can access them.
Don’t be in a rush, for patience is required. Recovery takes time. You can experience change and healing one hour, one day, and one week at a time. Living into the future takes you out of the present.
Starting Your Journey Out of Sexual Addiction
Here are some actions that you can engage in that will help you as you journey from the devastation of sexual addiction into healthy thinking and acting. Please read on to discover how you can be empowered as a sex addict or the partner of a sex addict.
Firstly, find a Certified Sexual Addictions Therapist who can assist you in determining whether what you are experiencing is addictive or compulsive. Such therapists have training, experience, and assessment tools that are designed to help.
Secondly, find a support group that is specifically for sexual addictions. These can be 12-step groups such as SA, SAA, or SLAA, as well as other church-based support groups such as Pure Desire (and others).
Thirdly, you need to personally commit to a journey into and through recovery, one day at a time. The more you live in the present, the healthier you can be.
Breaking through the Web of Lies
Ultimately, anyone who has been facing the uphill battle of sexual addiction, and has been losing, can be helped and can see significant, life-giving changes in their relationships with themselves and with others. One of the most significant struggles of this disorder is an inability to face yourself and the truth. Telling half-truths, omitting information, telling white lies, and just regular deception are hallmarks of this compulsive disorder. In the treatment focus, it is common to engage in support for weeks or months before you begin to see the amazing web of lies that prevents you from intimate relationships. And it takes even longer for healing to take hold. The more honest you can be with your therapist and your group, the more you can face the shame and disrupt the cycle that has been keeping you from having a connection to yourself, to others in your life, and to God.
Christian Counseling to Overcome Sexual Addiction
As a Christian counselor in Spokane, I have learned that it is helpful to be part of a therapy group led by a therapist trained in sexual addictions. This is a group in which you can be held accountable for your work and progress in personal therapy. When you are able to be open to a spiritual journey, and offer gentleness to yourself in the process, as well as ongoing accountability, you have a recipe for success and healing. Finding out what works and giving yourself enough time to change are key components of your healing journey.