Asking a sex addict to take a polygraph seemed ludicrous to me at first. First off, it seems like something you do with a criminal, not with a patient who has come in for help with a sexually compulsive behavior.
It is certainly true that addicts are world class liars. In fact, as I have argued in previous posts, they often seem sociopathic in their dishonesty and lack of accountability to anyone. But in treatment we are trying to help addicts learn to be honest. We want to promote honesty as a value, not coerce them into it with police tactics.
I recently presided over a formal disclosure with an addict and his wife along with her therapist. The addict disclosed “everything” about his history of leading a double life including extensive use of prostitutes, strip clubs, sexual massage parlors and pornography.
Later in a group therapy session he was discussing the fact that his wife still felt he was keeping secrets. I said that sometimes therapists recommend a polygraph test and he quickly said he was unwilling to consider that. He added that he would be afraid to take a polygraph because there were things he hadn’t told his wife. It turned out that these were not minor details either. In this case the mere mention of a polygraph was enough to get the addict to come clean with the group, the therapist and ultimately his wife.
So what would be the rational for considering or discussing the use of polygraphs with sex addicts or couples?
For the sake of the addict
For sex addiction recovery honesty is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Obviously addicts cannot address their problems in treatment if the nature or extent of those problems is hidden. The goal of sex addiction treatment is not just abstaining from a compulsive behavior pattern. It also involves breaking down the compartmentalization of the addict’s life: the normal life vs. the secret sexual acting out life. The new and healthier way of living is one in …
I do not take sides on the issue of whether it is better to stay in a marriage or committed relationship with a sex addict or whether it is better to get away and start over. I think there are many valid arguments on both sides depending on the situation.
New studies in progress using the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), The Millon Clinical Inventory and the Sexual Dependency Inventory suggest that different general types of sexually addictive behavior tend to clump together with different personality types or traits. These types vary from less to more severe.
Since the posting on psychcentral a year ago of the article called “Organizational Infidelity Amplifies Sexual Trauma“there has been a great deal of attention paid to the poor handling of sexual trauma by institutions such as universities, the military and the church.
Getting pulled in all different directions, putting out fires, dealing with one problem after another—pretty soon the day is gone. Many of us can’t find time to work on our own growth and recovery because obligations, decisions, and all kinds of distractions crowd into our awareness and fill up our time before we know it.
We often hear two conflicting messages about the painful events of the past. Treatment for addiction and psychological problems involves remembering working through hurtful experiences. At the same time it seems as if growth and change involve letting go of the past; forgiving, forgetting and moving on.
For the partner of a sex addict, even one who is in recovery for a year or two, mistrust can develop a life of its own. The addict seems to be doing everything right but for some reason you are unable to feel happy or at peace. Sometimes even little things may trigger the old feeling of being flooded with emotion. What follows is based on the common experiences of my clients and my own life experience.