Sexual and Relationship Recovery
It is important to distinguish between certain sexual behavior without labeling it. For instance, just because someone has an affair, has one or more fetish, engages in BDSM, is LGBTQ+, or enjoys cross-dressing, does not mean they engage in problematic sexual behavior or that they are a sex addict. Blindly judging someone, in our opinion, is unethical.
We are sex positive thus avoid labeling individuals as problematic or deviant simply because they engage in various behaviors. We do a thorough clinical interview that entails an exhaustive sexual history, and the use of validated measures (SDI 4.0). We are also aware that some individuals may have chronic mental illnesses, health-related issues, or other mental disorders that cause their symptomatology to appear similar to sexual addiction. We strive to accurately diagnosis and treat accordingly.
Candice is a faculty for Dr. Carnes' Institute, IITAP. She and her clinical team have trained directly with Dr. Patrick Carnes, Dr. Stefanie Carnes, Dr. Ken Adams, Rob Weiss, Debra Kaplan, Alexandria Katehakis, all of whom are internationally recognized experts on trauma and sex, porn, trauma, and multiple addiction recovery. We whole-heartedly subscribe to Carnes’ Task Based Model for treating intimacy disorders because we have seen that it works!
Many men and women seek our services in order to recovery from compulsive sexual acting out, chronic infidelity, or sex or pornography addiction. There is now ample research that indicates sex and pornography can be addictive. People who have sexual addiction (also referred to as hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, or sexual compulsion, out of control sexual behavior-OCSB) do not engage in isolated sex acts, such as a one-time affair. They are often preoccupied and obsessed with partaking in various secretive sexual behavior, for instance, getting lost in the fantasy world of viewing pornography and compulsive masturbation (instead of fulfilling other obligations), compulsively paying for sex on-line or in person, sex chatting with multiple strangers, and/or having multiple affairs that includes unprotected sex, to name a few. Many report experiencing shame, despair, and guilt after they act out sexually.
Individuals who seek us for an intimacy disorder oftentimes have other addictions or aversions. Our team continually assesses for all addictions and aversions, as well as the underlying issues that are causing problematic behavior, in order to adequately treat all symptomatology.
A NOTE ABOUT CONTEMPORARY SEX ADDICTION
This term entails the "GenText" generation: 26 years old or younger and shaped by early and chronic exposure to sexually explicit content on the internet. This exposure is distinct from "classic" cases of abuse; however, it may constitute a "trauma" of which the severity can be determined by the age of first exposure. Estimates of the average age of first exposure to internet pornography range between 10 and 14 years of age; however, it is now highly probable that the age is declining as a result of the widespread uses of internet devices. First exposure tends to be accidental. While teens and adults may be more intentional about seeking pornography after exposure, the rapid features of addiction tends to be a common response among all age groups (Riemersma, J. Sytsma, M. 2013. A New Generation of Sexual Addiction. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 20:306-322). Click here for article.
In the last few years, we have also seen a rise in youth and “millennials” (18-26) who enter treatment describing an addiction to pornography but not quite having actual sexual addiction. We attribute this in large part to the accessibility of pornography on the internet and the use of porn beginning as early as 8 years of age for some. We acknowledge that there is a difference in this population and are mindful in our treatment approach. For more information on youth and millennials with pornography addiction who don’t have sexual addiction, visit Your Brain On Porn.
SEXUAL RECOVERY, TREATMENT PHASES:
+ Phase I, "Discovery"
We know there are underlying reasons why an individual copes via sexual acting out; for instance, unresolved trauma (any incident deemed as shameful may cause trauma), attachment issues, emotional dysregulation or sensory stimulation dysfunction, adverse childhood experiences, and/or an inability to emotionally regulate. In order to identify an individual's deeper issues, during this phase we provide clients with a thorough intake assessment (lasts between 3-5 sessions). This entails a clinical interview, the assignment and review of the largest, validated broadband measure of problematic sexual behavior, the Sexual Dependency Inventory 4.0 (SDI 4.0). For the betrayed partner/spouse we assign and review the Inventory for Partner Attachment, Stress and Trauma (IPAST). These assessments allow us to establish an accurate treatment plan for both individuals in the coupleship. We typically recommend other assessment measures to accurately identify other mental health issues (depression, anxiety, PTSD), neuro-diverse issues (Autism Spectrum Disorder), as well as other forms of coping.
During Phase I of our sexual recovery program, individuals and their partners begin to identify and process the shock, denial, anger, grief, and mental and physical symptoms related to the out of control sexual behavior that has damaged the relationship. This is often the crisis management/resolution phase of recovery where both individuals in the relationship need extra support in order to comprehend the array of emotions and physical symptoms that they are experiencing. Many couples request an intake together only to find out that they are not stable enough yet to work in couples therapy and both need the support of their own clinician (ASAT or CSAT and/or a trauma-informed therapist) and group (our groups are all based on Carnes Task Model and facilitated by CSATs). Therefore, in Phase I each person works with an assigned therapist and attends weekly group to gain mental and emotional stability prior to incorporating couples therapy. Some individuals and couples attend our intensive outpatient program which includes attending our program 4-5 times per week and completing assignments.
We encourage couples new to recovery to attend our Part I and Part 2 class titled: "Couples In Recovery" to learn the foundational tools associated with each person's recovery process.
+ Phase II, "Recovery"
During Phase II, individuals and their partners start coming to terms with the reality, impact, and magnitude of the out of control sexual behavior. Individuals in this phase actively work out of evidenced based Task-Focused Workbooks created by Drs. Patrick and Stephanie Carnes, Ph.D. to heal. Our clincial team often observes individuals and couples working diligently on their own recovery via individual therapy and group by incorporating Carnes' Task Based Model along with the wealth of tools and support provided to partners via Facing Heartbreak (Carnes, S., Lee, M., Rodriguez,A.) and other supplemental resources.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy and IFS (Internal Family Systems) model and the use of Candice's Mastering The Trauma Wound workbook are incorporated into the treatment process to explore and heal family of origin issues, shame, guilt, and trauma re-enactment and ego/feeling states that have impacted one's coping. Disclosure is typically done during this phase of treatment when both parties are stable. We also begin incorporating once per month couples therapy. Communication, boundaries, and the dynamics of intimacy are often addressed during this phase.
+ Phase III, "Intimate Connections"
By Phase III, individuals and their partners have actively participated and completed Phase I and Phase II. During this phase, we incorporate couples therapy into treatment on a weekly to bi-weekly basis in order to ensure couples are improving their communication as well as strengthening the overall health of their relationship.
By this time, couples are encouraged to attend our twice per year 8-Week Gottman Class as well as our pre-recorded 12 session webinar series: "Art of Ecstasy: From Sexual Disconnect to Sexual Bliss™" in order to redefine, reclaim, and increase their overall intimate connections sexually, emotionally, and spiritually. Our founder Candice Christiansen co-facilitates the Gottman class and has recorded the Art of Ecstasy webinar series.