These 10 things are not so much myths as they are distortions born of fear and misinformation. When people do not understand sex addiction treatment they may see it as suspect or threatening in some way. This is most often based on very little direct knowledge or a misunderstanding of what they have heard.
The prejudice against sex addiction treatment is much like any other prejudice. It is constantly reinforced by other people who have the same prejudice and it breeds all kinds of misinformation about the feared group. These false beliefs serve to create further distance from that group of people and solidify the prejudice.
It is a scientific fact that when we hold an extreme view, one that is all the way at one end of the attitude scale, we are very bad at making discriminations about the attitudes of people who are at the other end of the scale. We lump the “others” together in an unexamined way. And the more polarized our attitude, the more forcefully we tend to believe it.
I hope this examination of some of the mistaken notions about sex addiction treatment will help to counteract some of the prejudicial beliefs I have seen floating around. In my training, beliefs and practices, and those of my fellow Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs), these ideas could not be further from the truth.
Sex addiction treatment tries to cure people of certain sexual behaviors. Wrong. Sex addiction treatment is not about any particular sexual preferences or behaviors. It addresses any compulsive and out of control sexual behavior, even “normal” behaviors that are obsessive. It also addresses compulsive sexual avoidance or sexual anorexia. It does not involve giving up sex forever and it does not try to get everyone to have plain “vanilla” sex.
Sex addiction treatment is anti-sex. Wrong. Sex addiction treatment is “sex positive”; it is about helping people enjoy sex more fully. Addictive sex is usually carried out furtively as a form of self-medication or escape. Usually it is experienced by the person as split off from their normal life. Sex addiction treatment aims to help people integrate their sexuality into their life.
Sex addiction therapists determine who has a sexual addiction. Wrong. People who come to me for help with sexually out-of-control sexual behavior do so because they have identified it as a problem or as a pattern they are uncomfortable with. Like all addiction, sex addiction is to a great extent a self-defined problem. For the sex addict who seeks help, their behavior pattern is somehow going against their own wishes and values, not mine or society’s. The addict who comes to treatment because of someone else’s value system will be unlikely to stick around.
Sex addiction therapists are against minority sexual orientations. Wrong. Sex addiction therapists, like sex addicts, come in the full range of sexual orientations. Once again, it is not the person’s particular behavior that is the problem, it is how they are going about it and how it is impacting their wellbeing. Furthermore, sex addiction therapy is not biased toward relational sex. Solitary forms of sex are not seen as less valid than sex in a relationship.
Sex addiction therapists are in it for the money so they need to convince people that they are addicts. Wrong. There are not enough sex addiction specialists to fill the need that has arisen. The UK is working to provide needed services in this area and they are compensated by their national health system for their work. Most CSAT therapists here and abroad are not getting rich by any means.
Sex addiction therapists don’t know enough to rule out other problems that may be causing sexually compulsive behavior. Wrong. CSAT trained therapists are required to be practicing clinicians prior to gaining the sub-specialty in sex addiction. They already have advanced training in psycho-diagnostics and are able to assess for the signs and symptoms of other psychological disorders, including other addictions.
Sex addiction therapists side with the addict and blame their spouses and partner or are oblivious to the partner’s trauma. Wrong. Many trained sex addiction therapists are former addicts and many are also current or former partners of sex addicts. Some specialize in the treatment of partners of sex addicts and partner trauma and all are trained in working with couples dealing with sex addiction. Also sex addiction treatment never assumes that the addict’s problem is product of relationship problems. Rather the other way around.
Sex addiction treats people who are over-sexed or hypersexual. Wrong. Sex addiction treatment has nothing to do with hypersexuality. We have a saying that “sex addiction is not about sex, it’s about pain.” Having a high or low sex drive is not the same as having a sexually compulsive pattern of behavior.
Sex addiction treatment is a way to let addict’s avoid responsibility for their harmful and irresponsible behavior. Wrong. Sex addiction treatment involves, among many things, breaking through the dishonesty and compartmentalization and gaining an appreciation of the consequences of the behavior. The addict learns to make choices and to be accountable for those choices rather than feeling out of control.
Sex addiction treatment only thrives in the US where society is steeped in religious repression and demands for celibacy. Wrong. Sex addiction treatment recognizes that extremes of sexual repression are part of the problem. But sex addiction treatment is in high demand in many less religious countries where sexual freedom is more the norm. For example, I received a request to allow my own website blog to be translated into Swedish.
I’m sure there are all kinds of other misconceptions about sex addiction and sex addiction treatment swirling around. Please share what you have heard and whether you think it is true or not true.