Chris’s wife turned to him and said, “You need sexual addiction treatment.”
He was stunned and angry. He retorted back, “Are you calling me a sex addict?”
Connie, his wife yelled at him and said, “What else would you call visiting massage parlors, viewing pornography throughout our entire marriage, and meeting complete strangers for sex while you have been married to me. You need help.”
Her words were like a slap in the face. Chris knew his behaviors would cause a lot of hurt to his wife, but he hadn’t been able to stop. Then, his secrets had abruptly become exposed when someone he had hooked up with sent him a message and Connie saw the message on his phone. Up to that point, Chris hadn’t given much thought to what would happen if she discovered his acting out behaviors, but now she knew and was angrier than he had ever seen her.
When she used the words sex addiction, he was initially very defensive. However, over the next few days when he realized he might lose his wife and his children, he began reflecting on his behaviors. He had felt his sexual behaviors were out of control many times, but he simply hadn’t been able to stop on his own. Now that his behaviors had been discovered and Connie had asked him to move out, he was reeling.
He didn’t know how to respond or what to do. It was a dark time for Chris. He didn’t know where to start or if Connie would even give him a chance. He decided to reach out for help.
During the past 25 years I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of individuals like Chris. By the time they come to seek my help, many have spent years hiding their behaviors while hoping they would not get caught. Many, initially come to my office, wondering what to expect. They are embarrassed that they need to seek help to stop their sexual activities. Most are anxious because they don’t know what to expect.
Fortunately, there are thousands of therapists around the United States and other countries who have specialized in helping individuals like Chris. I have been fortunate to be a faculty member of The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) that has trained therapists around the globe to help individuals seeking treatment for their out of control sexual behaviors. The therapists we train become certified sexual addiction therapists and are known as CSATs. CSATs are trained to use a 30 task model that was developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes. In addition, those we train are taught how to administer the Sexual Dependency Inventory (SDI). The SDI is a thorough assessment that helps therapists and their clients identify what areas to focus on and challenges that should be addressed.
Over the years, I have discovered that most of the people who seek my help don’t know the extent of their problem until we sit down and really evaluate what they are dealing with in the first place. Once we understand if they are dealing with sex addiction or not, then we can provide a clear direction for healing and recovery. My goal in this article is to help you see the steps that you can take to understand the problem and what actions you can take to engage in the healing and recovery process.
Step #1: Understand the Problem
It takes a lot of courage to seek professional help for unwanted sexual behaviors. There are a variety of reasons that stop people from seeking help. This can be a source of stress, fear, or anxiety. When individuals come to my office because they want to stop acting out they often leave relieved because they have been carrying a burden that has been weighing them down for years.
In the beginning, I ask them to complete the sexual addiction screening test (SAST) and the hyper sexual behavioral inventory (HBI-19). I also ask them to complete a few other assessments regarding ADHD, depression, anxiety, stress, adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) and their relationships. This battery of assessments helps me help understand a lot about my clients mental health, their relationships, and their sexual behaviors.
This information is incredibly helpful in creating a treatment plan and understand what type of treatment is best for them. For example, individuals who score high on the ADHD assessment will need support in dealing with ADHD symptoms. Individuals who score high in depression or anxiety will need extra help with these issues.
Finally, I look at their responses to the two sexual behaviors assessments. If they score high on these assessments, I will give them the SDI. This is the single best assessment available for understanding the extent of a person’s sexual behaviors. If a person has an addiction to sex, this assessment helps me clearly understand how to guide my client and their recovery efforts.
Step #2: Create a Plan
Once my clients and I understand the extent of their problem, together we develop a recovery plan. This plan is based on what addiction professionals call Recovery Capital. In essence, recovery capital is what successful individuals do to overcome their addiction Researchers have discovered that the more Recovery Capital a person has the more likely they are to succeed in their recovery. The majority of research has focused on Recovery Capital for drug and alcohol addiction but I have found it be a key component of treating unwanted sexual behaviors,
Here are some examples of recovery capital:
- Having a sponsor
- Feeling a part of your community
- Eating well
- Having resources (i.e. 12-step support groups in your area)
- Having people around you who support your recovery
In order to know which areas to focus on, I give my client’s the Sexual Addiction Recovery Capital Scale (SARCS). This short assessment helps us focus on the specific areas that need improvement (e.g., finding support, attending a 12-step group, etc.).
If you are interested in taking this test you can do so by visiting: (https://www.discoverandchange.com/tests/sarc).
Step #3: Implement the Plan and Process Unresolved Issues
Now that a plan is in place, it is time to help my clients implement that plan. This is often a long process, because changing unwanted sexual behaviors that have been occurring for years is not an easy process. Change, true and lasting change, takes time. In treating addictions it is a common belief that it can take three to five years to create new habits and patterns. While some people may move faster through treatment, others may take more time. Successful clients forget how long their treatment will take and instead they focus on reclaiming their lives and recognize that recovery is a life-long journey.
Sexual Addiction Treatment often includes the following elements:
- Addressing rituals or patterns associated with acting out behaviors
- Learning to succeed in critical or crucial moments
- How to build a support team
- How to deal with stress
- Why and how to be accountable
- How to make amends
- The importance of overcoming shame
- Strategies for resolving past hurts and traumas
- How to regulate difficult emotions
- How to improve your relationships
- And much…much more.
I often tell my clients that sexual addiction treatment is not easy. It requires effort and guidance, but recovery is worth it. I have had the privilege of observing many individuals pay the price and reclaim their lives. I have witnessed couples like Chris and Connie heal their relationship after sexual betrayal. While the journey is not easy, it is possible.
If you would like to learn more about the steps to recovery, I have created a 100 Day Advanced Recovery Program. In this program I take what I have learned over the past 25 years and walk you through step-by-step what has worked for my clients. If you would like to see how this program works, here’s a link to a 7 Day sample of the course.