Attending group therapy for compulsive sexual behaviours (sex addiction) is commonly very difficult.
The fear and shame associated with the compulsion, and the desire to hide and minimise the behaviour subsumes a person’s thoughts. This drowns their motivation to attend. Procrastination or an outright rejection of the benefits of therapy group becomes inevitable.
Ironically, it is the benefits of group therapy that would motivate a person to attend in the first place. But they not be willing to attend unless they get these benefits first.
A chicken and egg conundrum.
The Benefits of Group Therapy – Shame Busting
One of the main benefits is group therapy’s ability to “bust” shame and fear.The same shame and fear that prevented the person from attending.
It is in a group environment of compassion, kindness and lack of judgment, that a person can find the courage to face their reality, and gain hope and purpose in their recovery.
In group, people discover that they are not alone in their secret thoughts, urges and cravings – and that they are not uniquely “broken”. It lifts the impossibly heavy weight of secrecy, lies and half-truths, that people carry – often for years.
They also find out that others – very much like them – have found a way to start a journey to change their behaviour, beliefs and feelings.
Sexual Compulsivity is an Issue of Intimacy
At its roots, sexual compulsivity is an issue of intimate relationships. Group therapy is therefore a uniquely effective way to learn how to build healthy relationships.
Having and maintaining personal boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others, is a skill set that can best be learned, and safely experimented with, in a group. Effective communication and emotion management are also learned skills – and a group of peers is the best place to practice them.
Simply by interacting with someone struggling in similar ways, learning from them – and, in turn, helping them – enables recovery to bloom.
Group Therapy and Self Knowledge
One aspect of sexual compulsive behaviour is the struggle with self-knowledge.
A person struggling with compulsivity may common to ask: what motivates my behaviour; why this particular behaviour; why is volition and control so hard; why can’t I learn from my experience; how did I get my calculation of the risks so wrong?
In group therapy, we also ask: what needs is this behaviour really serving; is it really satisfying my longer-term needs; what is the price I am “paying” for dealing with my needs in this way; are there other ways to meet those needs at the “right price”; and what else can I do to meet my needs?
The “Mirror” of the Group members
By exploring these questions together in a safe space, a group can feedback their observations of each other’s journeys – and pool their collective wisdom.
Having a “mirror” of four to six people, reflecting back their experiences of who a person is, enables that person to truly see themselves as they are – perhaps for the first time.
Group Therapy – the Safe Space Rules
To create a safe space, the group therapy the rules are made clear.
Confidentiality is paramount. Further, members are encouraged to talk about themselves and their perspectives, and not assume or impose things on others.
Advice is offered only if expressly requested. Comments are positive and constructive; and a person’s strengths and skills are celebrated.
The Outcomes of Group Therapy
With the dark pall of shame lifted – what other outcomes can be expected from group therapy?
The benefits are many. Self-awareness, self-esteem, honesty, skilful management of relationships, emotions and communications – and greater motivation to stay the recovery course.
Ultimately, not only does behaviour change, but so do perspectives and desires.
Needs are better understood and met. Purpose and meaning in life return – and having a full life becomes a probability –notjust something other lucky people have.
If you’re interested to start your CSBD group therapy journey, with a safe, non-judgmental and connected space for peer support and learning, you may want to consider writing in to [email protected] to be a part of our Sex Therapy And Recovery (S.T.A.R.) program facilitated by Andrew da Roza.
My partner says his sexual behavior is normal – but he is hiding it and I know something is wrong. Am I crazy? What are the signs of compulsive sexual behavior disorder?
Partners of people with sexual compulsivity often come to the clinic in great distress.
They have just learned about the latest infidelity, daily Internet porn use, visits to Orchard Towers, massage parlors or KTV lounges. The images accidently left on the family computer may be shocking or alarming.
Perhaps they have discovered condoms in the person’s luggage after a business trip, unexplained expenses on their credit cards, and unexplained absences from their hotel rooms late at night when they tried to call the person. Childrens’ birthdays, graduations and family celebrations may be mysteriously abandoned for “essential” business trips.
Partners may notice strange messages or nude photos on the mobiles; or perhaps odd phone calls at night, that seem to make the person excited or embarrassed. They may come home intoxicated at 3:00 am, after a night out with colleagues, with unexplained credit cards slips in their pockets for hundreds or thousands of dollars. They may find an STI clinic report.
The person acting out will likely try to vigorously “manage” all this fallout with their partners.
They may rationalize, minimize, intellectualize, normalize – or simply lie, to explain away all this overwhelming cumulative evidence. They may “gaslight” their partner, making them think they are crazy.
And it may work…for a time.
Meanwhile partners may feel: shocked; rejected; confused; angry, even rageful; anxious; and depressed. They may even blame themselves and feel inadequate as a partner and ashamed.
They may: become irritable, angry or overly anxious with their children; stop doing things they enjoyed, stop seeing people; forego self-care and grooming; or try to become overly sexual and breach their own boundaries to save the relationship.
They may become sleepless, without appetite and lose weight – or over eat and gain weight; and they may use medication and alcohol to numb their emotional pain. They may keep getting flus and colds that refuse to go away; or chronic backaches and neck aches that make sleep or activities painful.
The shame may be crushing.
Some partners may have experienced earlier traumas in their own childhood or adulthood, in which emotional and sexual or other physical abuse, neglect and rejection were prevalent. The acting out person’s behavior may therefore trigger strong trauma reactions, and lead to bonded relationship traumas, resulting in self-harm or even attempted suicide.
How can a partner respond when they get a feeling something is not quite right?
If they can persuade the person acting out to undertake a clinical assessment, the person will be able to understand that their behavior has become a serious self-destructive compulsion, and that they need treatment.
Even if the person won’t attend therapy, the partner can take an assessment of the extent of their trauma, and the role of the person acting out. The partner can then receive sex addiction treatment, and explore the options for the family. Do they stay or go?
Promises Healthcare Pte Ltd. provides therapy for both those with compulsive sexual behavior and their partners, so that together they can find a way out of their suffering and plan a better future for their families.
“My partner’s sexual behaviour has left me devastated – should I stay or should I go?”
Many clients come to therapy wondering whether they should leave or stay, after they have discovered their partner’s infidelity, or other compulsive sexual behavior. This may include a combination of: serial affairs at work; Internet pornography; sexual massages; use of sex workers; and use of anonymous dating Apps. Excessive alcohol, drugs and workaholism may also be involved.
Even though the behavior is intolerable or very risky, and causing great suffering – there may often seem compelling reasons to stay.
Young children may be involved. If the acting out partner has been a “good enough” parent, the children will suffer greatly if they leave. Further, the burden of parenting the children alone may seem too much.
The client may worry about the family finances – that they may not be able to support themselves and their children if the partner withholds money or does not agree to split the money appropriately.
The client may have to return to their country of origin and may not be able to bring the children with them, if their partner contests this.
Leaving may cause the client great shame, particularly with their family, friends and work colleagues.
The client may fear loneliness; or may ardently fantasize that things will get back to the way they were – eventually. After all, the couple may have a long, shared history, and may have weathered many other difficulties together.
Starting with a new relationship in future may be as daunting as living alone forever.
Some clients may be so angry and resentful, that leaving may seem like the partner getting away it. Leaving may appear like giving the partner a license to continue their intolerable behavior – unchecked and unavenged. It may result in the partners frittering the family money away.
Friends and family may be unhelpful – full of directive and conflicting advice. Clients may be ashamed, or too anxious of the reaction they will receive to even share about their suffering.
If the partner is assessed for a compulsive sexual behavior disorder and subsequently undertakes recovery; and the client works in therapy on taking care of themselves; learning and growing from the experience; and improving their relationship – there may still be hope in keeping the family together.
Ultimately, both need to work on themselves and the relationship, if it is to be saved.
Do you have a persistent pattern, over 6 months or more, of being powerless over controlling intense, repetitive sexual impulses and urges, which result in repetitive sexual behaviour? Has this behaviour made your life, and the lives of loved ones, unmanageable?
As with other addictions, the disorder results in neglecting health and personal care, family, work and other responsibilities.
Typically, those with this compulsive behaviour have made numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce it – but it continues, despite severely adverse consequences.
Clinicians qualified in sex addiction treatment use validated and reliable questionnaires and detailed clinical histories to assess clients, in order to determine whether they have a sexual behaviour disorder. These clinical tools have high sensitivity in detecting the disorder.
There are also clear therapeutic protocols to assist a client into and through recovery, substantially reducing the risk of re-offending behaviour.
DO I HAVE A SEX ADDICTION? IS MY PARTNER A SEX ADDICT?
These questions become urgent when your or your loved ones’ repeated sexual behaviour cause you acute distress.
It may be that you feel empty, frustrated, anxious, depressed or ashamed by your behaviour. Or you may be a loved one who suddenly discovers their partner is sexually acting out, and you feel betrayed, angry, raging, resentful, humiliated, confused or depressed; and have nagging doubts about your own adequacy as a partner. You may be worried for your children and your family life. Your health – or your finances – may be in serious jeopardy.
Not all sexual behaviour that causes you or a loved one suffering is a sex addiction – even if the suffering is profound and long lasting, or the behaviour is considered by others “deviant” or even “risky”. However, if it amounts to an sex addiction, there is a solution in recovery, and a loved one can play an important role.
It is therefore important to know – is it an addiction? Once sexual behaviour is persistent, it sometimes becomes impossible for a person to know whether their behaviour has become compulsive, obsessive, impulsive or even dangerous or intrusive. People can become confused.
“There is a way through – and that is to take a clinical assessment and discuss the results with a professional therapist, trained in interpreting them. “
Is the behaviour continuing because they consciously choose not to change? Is it just “normal”, “natural”, “justifiable”, or “cultural”? Is it the loved ones or others who are mainly at fault, because they can’t or won’t give the sexual intimacy needed? Is it just “temporary” or “a one off”.
Is it just a product of some unusual circumstances – such as being in a new country, starting a new job, having a baby, going on business trips, or feeling bored, stressed, anxious, lonely, isolated, neglected, or depressed?
If the behaviour has been persistent for a period of time, a person may think that it is safer than it really is, or that the risks of being found out, and the consequences, are minimal, manageable and within their control.
Sometimes a person my think that their chosen sexual partners are freely consenting, or that they enjoyed the experience – but the truth is otherwise.
Sometimes a person may lie, cover up, tell half truths and keep silent about their behaviour, because they want to protect their loved ones. They may not be willing to admit to themselves or others that they mainly wish to avoid the painful consequences of their behaviour.
After a while, they may even become confused or uncertain about what the real truth is. Being persistently deceitful and living a double life, can become a crushing burden.
There are a number of assessments available online. However, some are not thorough or confidential enough, or they cause unnecessary alarm. Many do not provide a clear interpretation; and some do not provide a path towards a workable therapeutic solution.
The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) provide Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) with an anonymised, online questionnaire, called the “Sexual Dependency Inventory – 4.0”. It takes a client 2 hours or so to complete, and a confidential, detailed client report is automatically generated for the therapist to view online – and subsequently share it with the client.
The report compares the client’s responses with the responses of many thousands of other respondents, both with and without sex addiction, to gauge whether the sexual behaviour and preoccupation are likely to indicate a sex addiction.
The report provides the client and therapist with a thorough review of the client’s: sexual behaviour and preoccupations; the consequences; the possible origins of the behaviour; and the potential future course and direction of the behaviour.
The report also helps the client articulate their motivation to change their behaviour.
This report is coupled with a subsequent clinical interview session, that assesses: sexual, medical and psychiatric history; family of origin history; education and employment history; intimate and social relationships; and other information. Together, this information permits clients and the therapist to determine the next steps.
If the client’s behaviour is likely to amount to an addiction, the recovery path has been clearly mapped by the IITAP programme; and CSATs are trained and skilled in helping client’s navigate through their recovery using workbooks, videos, books, articles, and other therapeutic interventions.
The recovery path engenders great hope for those who start on it. Life gets better quickly, and keeps getting better with each recovery step that is conscientiously taken.
What causes the greatest suffering is not knowing. Am I a sex addict? Is my partner a sex addict?
Contact us today to take a free clinical assessment.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so tough to stick to your new year’s resolutions? According to Statistics Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% of Americans feel like they have achieved their resolutions in the past year. Here are some strategies from psychologist and behaviour change expert, Dr Paul Marciano, and the American Psychological Association to help you with sticking to your resolutions this year.
Set realistic resolutions
Most of us are guilty of making impractical resolutions that we can’t keep. For example, we aim to exercise more regularly, from barely going to the gym once a week, to aiming for seven days. Instead of setting unrealistic resolutions, you can try starting with something that’s small, practical and within your abilities. Rather than aiming for seven days of exercise, you could start with three or four. Josh Klapow, an Alabama-based clinical psychologist says, “It is far better to succeed at a smaller, more manageable resolution than to fail at a larger, loftier one.”
Bad habits develop over time. Similarly, it also takes time to substitute bad habits for good ones. When making resolutions, we often overestimate ourselves and try to re-evaluate our lives. We have to accept that development is rarely consistent and aim to change one behaviour at a time. Hence, having the patience to work through on resolution at a time will help you stick to them.
Talk about your goals
Having support from your social group is vital. Sharing your goals with friends and family increases the chances of success. Rather than trying to achieve your goal alone, you could join a fitness class at a gym, join a support group to quit smoking, or even just have someone to check in on your progress (accountability partner). Having social support and people to share successes and failures will make the process less daunting.
Resilience is vital in achieving your resolutions. When you slip-up and get discouraged, it is important to remember that it’s impossible to achieve perfection. Just because you were busy and didn’t manage to go for your gym classes doesn’t mean that you have failed and should give up your goal to be fit. What is critical is to bounce back from your mistakes and continue to work towards your goal. According to founder of MoneyCrashers, Andrew Schrage, it is useful to set targets throughout the year, so that you can keep yourself in check and your momentum going.
When you’re feeling overpowered when trying to achieve your resolutions, it is important to remember people who can listen and care for you. Seeking professional help can reinforce your resilience and manage stress stemming from your resolution. For example, a psychologist can suggest ways for you to fine-tune your goals to make them more achievable.
Make your resolutions more precise
Dr. Marciano recommends setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals. Instead of just setting a goal to lose weight, you should be more specific and aim for a particular weight or body-fat percentage goal, or allocate a time every day to go for a run.
Track your development
Reflecting on your starting point and the developments you have made creates feedback loops. This allows you to track improvements during your endeavour and it will be an incentive to continue. It also enables you to reflect and adjust your strategies accordingly when you’re declining or when you’re not improving as much.
Set aside time for your goals
Allocate time for your resolutions and make them a priority by putting them on your schedule. This way, you won’t have the excuse of not being able to find the time to complete something. If you’re trying to get fit, block out certain hours of the day to complete your run or schedule certain fitness classes into your calendar. Treating your fitness classes or runs as though they are scheduled appointments can help you stick to them.
At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to help you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.