Should Sex Addiction Therapy Exist?
Author: Shernide Delva
In a society where many are free with their sexual preferences and open about promiscuity, where do we draw the line on what actually defines sexual addiction? At what point does sexual behavior go from playful to problematic? A recent article delves into the idea that perhaps our views on sexuality are skewed. Perhaps, unconscious prejudices and societal religious morals result in treatment that is more harmful than helpful.
Let’s go back a bit. In the 1980s, the word “addiction” was gaining immense popularity. Information on addiction was increasingly more accessible and twelve-step groups on behavior were forming everywhere. Clients understood the concept of addiction and sex was thrown into the mix of potentially addictive behaviors.
Flash forward to today and knowledge on the matter has shifted considerably over the past few decades. Sexuality is embraced in ways it was not embraced in the past. Ideas on what qualify as sex addiction vary from person to person. Sex is complicated in many ways and in many ways remains a mystery.
The article goes on the explain how sexual addiction is complicated by values, morality and religious overtone so sex addiction therapy rarely is able to address those issues in an informed, educated format. As a result, sex recovery is left to the therapist’s moral judgment and discretion. How do we know if the belief of a sex therapist is in the client’s best interest? Moreover, how do we know if someone is truly a sex addict?
As the understanding of human sexuality expands, many who practice sex therapy have recognized that sexual behaviors are not to be looked down upon if they are safe and consensual. Such behaviors not only enhance people’s happiness and wellbeing, but are neither “unnatural” nor “abnormal.”
The Sex Addiction Model
The article continues to explain that too often; sex addiction therapy focuses on altering sexual behavior. Behavior that is normal to one person may not be normal to another. For example, in the SA Model, a man who can’t stop undressing women in his mind is encouraged to manage his lust by self-policing how long he looks at a woman— the three-second rule. However, this assumption assumes that simply stopping the addictive behavior can bring him back to a healthy sex and marriage. However, this is not always success.
In the book Erotic Mind by Jack Morin, he says, “If you go to war with your sexuality you will lose and cause more chaos than you started.”
In sex addiction, a person is told that if they return to their previous sexual behavior, they will relapse into sexual compulsivity. Instead, they learn to build a life around the behaviors and create strong boundaries. However, one must wonder if encouraging limitations and deprivation contributes to the sexual experience making the behavior more attractive
Behaviors like BDSM, cross-dressing, or other atypical sexual interests are consider “sick” and are ceased through a program of abstinence even though American Psychiatric Association has very clear guidelines in the DSM-5 on the difference between kinks (paraphilias) and the psychological disorders associated with kinks. Most therapists do not focus on these differences in treatment programs.
Also, as mentioned below, opinions of sexuality come from our own personal beliefs. A therapist may not believe in spanking, for example, because they associate pain with a negative feeling versus pleasure. In the past, transgender behavior was looked down upon and men who wanted to dress as women were considered sick. However, there is more information about transgender issues and it is treated rather than ostracized.
Therapists often use their own bias and belief system to treat clients. Sex therapist Mary Klein has argued, quite frankly,
“The mission of sex addiction therapists is to put everyone in the missionary position.”
Could this be true? Personally, sex addiction is so varied and different behaviors fall all over the spectrum of what is considered normal. Attraction is just as varied as sex and learning about the Kinsley scale of sexuality will reveal that we all fall on different areas on the spectrum.
The argument is that we should focus on why certain behaviors are occurring rather than the behavior themselves. Focusing on conditions and diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder can help someone decipher the reason they are struggling with their out-of-control sexual behaviors instead of having them feel ashamed by their behavior.
So should sex therapy exist? It is hard to answer that. Personally, I think sex therapy is helpful for many. Clearly, there are people with addictions and who are struggling with their sexual behaviors. More importantly, therapists need self-reflect and evaluate their beliefs and views regarding their client and make sure they remain as unbiased as possible.
Overall, therapy should come from a place of compassion and sex-positive demeanor, not from a place of judgment.
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