If you or someone you love needs pornography addiction help, this is our area of specialization. We can help. For more articles and information on recovery from sexual addictions, please visit Utah Valley Addiction Recovery.
All Utah Valley Counseling therapists are specially trained to treat sexual addiction. This type of addiction may include pornography, sexual acting out online or with other people, or fantasy. Sexual addiction can ruin marriages and other family relationships and is incredibly difficult to overcome without specialized treatment.
We have seen significant success in our treatment of both men and women struggling with sex addiction. For those who are married or in committed relationships, we also treat the affected partner. Treating only the addict when there is a spouse or partner involved is only a half treatment. We focus on full healing for both addicts and their partners. The treatment process is described briefly below.
Most people who struggle with sex addiction spend years trying to stop the behaviors on their own. They isolate, avoid telling others, and often keep many secrets from loved ones or partners. This isolation and secrecy is part of what gives the addiction staying power. Secrecy also creates shame, which is a powerful predictor of relapse.
Healing from addiction is much more than simply stopping a behavior. Recovery involves major changes that affect every aspect of a recovering person’s life. Some of those changes are outlined here.
1. Honesty and accountability
Real change only begins to happen when addicts are fully accountable for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Daily accountability to trusted and emotionally safe others is a significant part of recovery. Accountability becomes part of daily recovery rituals that counteract processes that maintain addiction.
2. Confrontation of denial
Denial takes many forms: comparing, compartmentalizing, minimizing, and intellectualizing are a few of the ways addicts tell themselves stories that give them permission to maintain the addiction, even while verbally expressing a desire to change. Confronting denial can be challenging and is a crucial part of therapy.
3. Emotional awareness and self-expression
Addiction is an ineffective self-soothing process that becomes the addict’s “go to” method of dealing with difficult emotion. Recovering addicts must learn to become emotionally self-aware and gain the courage to share those emotions and ask for help coping. Sexual addiction is a search for false intimacy, which never satisfies. Real human connection is the most powerful antidote for addiction.
4. Empathy and understanding
Many people struggling with addiction also struggle to fully comprehend the extensive effects of their addiction on loved ones and those close to them. Those who are addicted need to learn empathy for those they have hurt and learn how to be present for and hold the emotions of their loved ones who are working through the emotional traumas caused by addiction.
5. Life restructuring
It has been said, “The way you do recovery is the way you do life.” Addiction recovery is not just about stopping certain behaviors or thoughts. It is about restructuring one’s whole life and way of being. Addicts often tend to struggle keeping other life commitments, being honest, being patient, and coping with stress or pain. A full recovery involves seeing every area of life that mirrors the destructive patterns of addiction and making changes in each area. Without these changes, the recovering addict will struggle to maintain gains.
A crucial element of treatment of sex addiction when a partner or spouse is involved is the treatment of the traumatized partner.
Discovering that your loved one has a sex or pornography addiction is a traumatizing experience. It turns people’s worlds upside down and creates a sense of helplessness and lack of relational or emotional safety that is impossible to resolve while the addiction is active. This trauma needs to be treated in order for couples to successfully navigate their way through the addict’s recovery. Without an equal emphasis on a partner’s healing and recovery, treatment of sex addiction is only half complete.
Partners of addicts need at least three significant things:
1. Learning to trust again
Trust is not automatic. It is earned. We encourage partners to trust only at a pace that parallels the addict’s own recovery. Spouses or partners are not obligated to trust. In therapy, they learn to express honestly their needs and experience of the addict’s recovery (or lack thereof). Partners begin to trust again within their own defined parameters.
2. Learning how to implement healthy boundaries
Often spouses or partners struggle to have healthy boundaries for themselves and their addicted partners. In therapy, we work to help affected partners create and maintain healthy boundaries. These include boundaries around their own reactions to the addiction or their triggers. They also include boundaries around intimacy with the addict. This helps the traumatized partner feel emotionally and physically safe during treatment. Good boundaries can be defined in this way, “This is how I will take care of and protect myself when you [the addict] do not take care of and protect me.”
3. Emotional healing
We recognize the emotional and relational trauma caused by addiction. Affected partners and spouses need to heal. They need time, space, and permission to heal at their own rate and in their own way. Part of that healing comes when the recovering addict presents a therapy-guided “full disclosure” of all of his or her past acting out behaviors. Secrets are such a large part of addiction that real healing for affected partners rarely comes without a full disclosure. We help couples navigate the disclosure process in a safe way. Partners of addicts also heal as they get permission to share their story in therapy and with safe others. They heal as they make sense of the addiction in ways that are not shaming to themselves. Affected partners heal as they watch their recovering partners work to rebuild what they destroyed through their addiction. We walk through this process step by step with couples.
If you or a loved one are struggling with sex addiction in any form, please call our staff to schedule with one of our competent therapists. Success in recovery is very real. We have seen so many individuals and couples heal from pornography and sexual addiction. We want to help you do the same.