In my practice I utilize a behavioral therapy approach called Acceptance Commitment Therapy or ACT. ACT “is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.” ACT incorporates mindfulness meditation. Studies have shown ACT to have a high efficacy in addressing addiction as well as other psychological issues. ACT teaches that the goal is to live a “life well lived” not only surviving but thriving in your life.
In order to support my clients, I also utilize Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I have found it very helpful in supporting clients who were making decisions with major negative consequences due to the experience of trauma* in their life. It is also very helpful in addressing “fusion”. Fusion is an ACT term referring to ways in which we get entangled with our thoughts and are pushed around by them. In the state of fusion a thought can seem like an absolute truth or a command that we must obey.
For a person who is sexually addicted, I am a firm believer in the benefits of a 12-step program. As Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, stated “We can stop. Our problem is staying stopped.” Therapy can be a great asset in assisting a person who is sexually addicted by addressing the underling psychological issues of addiction as well as supporting that person in their understanding of addiction; however, many people discover that “staying stopped” requires a change in life style that “one day at a time” is supported by a 12-step program. Addiction is shaming, destroying the spiritual essence of a person. To counteract the years of devastation to the addicts self-esteem, it is important to rediscover the “true” selves. Whatever a person’s religious belief or non-belief may be, the healing of the internal spirit is of utmost importance. As the “Big Book” of AA states in the Promises “we will know a new freedom and a new happiness”. There are 12-step programs, such as Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), for someone who is sexually addicted.
I also believe that the family members of the person suffering from the disease of sexual addiction are effected by the disease. Spouses/Partners/Children are often traumatized by the actions of the sex addict. They too are in need of support.
Marriages/Partnerships can survive the ravages of sexual addiction; however, the trauma of broken trust must be addressed and, over time, mended to successfully reestablish a loving, trust worthy union. Individual therapy and couples therapy can be a great asset in the individual healing process. There are also 12-step programs to help all family members.
*There is “big T” trauma (such as a life threatening experience) as well as “little t” trauma, also known as developmental trauma, (such as growing up in a home with a highly volatile caregiver).