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Sexual Reintegration Therapy: Healing Solutions for Sex and Porn Addiction

Bercaw BookCouples dealing with the impact of a partner with sex and porn addiction, according to Drs. Bill and Ginger Bercaw, face considerably greater obstacles than those facing other addictions, such as substance abuse. Because of the trauma caused by repeated acts of betrayal, healing and rebuilding a relationship will require extensive efforts.

Authors of “The Couple’s Guide to Intimacy: How Sexual Reintegration Therapy Can Help Your Relationship Heal,” the Bercaws are psychologists who specialize in sex addiction and sex therapy. The treatment approach they have developed, “Sexual Reintegration Therapy,” is specifically designed to heal the wounds caused one partner having a sexual addiction. The approach can also effective, however, for couples seeking to heal from love addiction, infidelity and other addictive patterns, as well as to improve or develop a healthier sex life.

Partners must be willing to make a commitment for the long haul, and work hard on their own individual healing before they can work in a more focused way on healing their relationship, with no guarantees the relationship will survive. In the words of Drs Bercaw,

“In sex and porn addiction, not only does the addict’s brain become ‘hijacked’ by the repetitive stimulation and then the secretiveness of his acting out, the spouse or partner is also repetitively emotionally traumatized by betrayal, secrecy and lies. Long-term healing requires rebuilding the couple’s relational system from the ground up. The added challenge is that the very thing that has caused so much pain—sexual behavior—cannot be cut out of the couples like as substances such as alcohol can be. On the contrary, the couple will need to heal from the wounds that the sexual acting out has caused and then decide how they would like to cultivate a new way of relating sexually with each other.”

         The Bercaws view the biggest challenge facing partners in recovery as being open to learning how to reconnect and be emotionally and sexually intimate after the impact of the initial shock and anguish. This involves new ways of relating that allow both to be “emotionally intimate,” perhaps seeing the other for the first time. A healthy emotional connection is what absorbs the impact of the trauma experience and sets the stage for “sexual intimacy” to happen. They identify four stages of recovery as:

  1. Shock stage
  2. Grief stage
  3. Repair stage
  4. Growth stage

Couples who make it through the first stage may find themselves feeling isolated and losing hope in restoring healthy intimacy and sexual relations. According to Drs. Bercaw, healing may only begin once the betrayed spouse has stabilized to some degree from the traumatic shock of the discovery of the addict’s secret life. For couples that survive the initial storm, the program assigns tasks specifically designed to help partners recover individually and reengage emotionally.

For starters, couples with sex and porn addiction issues usually have a history of problematic patterns in how they communicate and emotionally engage to express their feelings with one another. The treatment consists of a structured program that outlines a specific plan for partners to reconnect intimately. The program invites partners to participate in a series of experiences designed to rewire the way they communicate and caress one another, and to believe that it is possible to replace unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling acting sexually with patterns that promote healthy relating and sex. Considerable effort goes into identifying unhealthy sexual behaviors and patterns to avoid, and recovery requires a willingness to abstain from harmful behaviors. There are five steps, or “criteria for readiness,” to take first before partners return to the question of “What is healthy sexuality” for them as a couple and individuals. They are to:

  1. Understand the four stages of discovery
  2. Fully participate in addiction and trauma work
  3. Conduct a ‘formal disclosure’ session (meaning therapist facilitated)
  4. Participate in emotional reflection leading to a clear plan for restitution
  5. Review critical incidents of betrayal in healing communications

A commitment from both to heal and restore their relationship is key. “The only way intimate sexuality will be reclaimed,” Drs. Bercaw explain, “is if it addressed directly and with a level of focus sufficient to make significant change,” once both parties agree to fully participate.

Sexual Reintegration Therapy: Healing Solutions for Sex and Porn Addiction


Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit www.drstaik.com, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik


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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2015). Sexual Reintegration Therapy: Healing Solutions for Sex and Porn Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2015/01/sexual-reintegration-therapy-healing-solutions-for-sex-and-porn-addiction/

 

Last updated: 24 Jan 2015
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