I provide help to men suffering from sex addiction in Vancouver for:
- Out of control Masturbation to internet pornography
- Out of control Sex – such as casual hookups, flings, encounters with sex trade workers ( street prostitutes, massage workers, and escorts)
- Out of control Pornography
- Out of control Phone sex
- Out of control Cybersex (chat-rooms, web-cams, message boards)
What is a Sex Addict?
The definition of sexual addiction (also called hypersexual disorder) is consensual sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior marked by a recurring loss of control and continuation despite harmful consequences that cause personal distress. This is predominately a male diagnosis, assigned to men who report symptoms and signs such as lack of sexual desire for their female partners, marital conflict, financial problems, impairment of goal-directed behavior, diminished self-esteem, and infections.
Help for Sex Addicts
As a Vancouver psychologist who is a sex therapist, I utilize a comprehensive approach in treating sex addiction in men. Because change is difficult (addiction is highly reinforcing and marked by a tendency to relapse), initially I focus on increasing a man’s motivation for overcoming the addiction using techniques such as motivational interviewing and externalizing the resistance. The latter technique involves bringing into awareness often unconscious factors that underlie his resistance to change. As this occurs, the part that resists change melts and the part that wants to change strengthens. I emphasize that the more men are prepared to do whatever it takes to change, by way of investing time, effort, and resources, the more likely they are to have a full recovery from sex addiction.
After increasing motivation for change, I help men to separate from the out of control behavior and to maintain the change using a Sexual Health Plan (SHP) informed by sexual health principles. The SHP delineates boundaries that men do not want to cross and tools to achieve this. It is flexible and accommodates behaviors that men are ambivalent about and not ready to change as well as behaviors they wish to continue but moderate (called harm reduction). For example, some porn addicts with a mild problem may decide they want to practice harm reduction by learning to use internet imagery in a controlled, recreational manner rather than abstaining.
The Sexual Health Plan also addresses concurrent addiction to substances that often triggers and reinforces sexual obsession. I believe that the same addictive process underlies all addictive behavior; namely, moving toward an addictive object be it a behavior like sex or a drug in order to avoid uncomfortable feelings and to experience pleasurable feelings temporarily. In my approach, how to overcome sex addiction is to treat this addictive process.
The tools involve changing behaviors (such as practicing stimulus control), thoughts (such as externalizing the negative inner voice that rationalizes “acting out”), and feelings (such as identifying in words and bringing presence to intrusive feelings (see the article Intrusive Feelings) such as anxiety, shame, and pain rather than escaping the feelings into compulsive behavior that causes more suffering. Because avoiding our feelings by “acting out” leads to negative consequences and increased unhappiness, I give particular emphasis to helping men learn to regulate themselves emotionally in a healthy way. For many men, who are distant from their feelings, this is the most challenging, albeit rewarding (see the article, Alive to Feelings), the aspect of recovery.
I often recommend Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) as an adjunct to therapy where sexaholics may find the emotional support and culture of honesty that facilitates the journey of recovery. This is a free, self-help organization based on the 12 Step Program that has meetings throughout the Lower Mainland.
The length of counselling varies. Some men, who have a less severe problem, require only brief therapy; others, who have a long-standing, severe problem, require lengthier treatment. At the start of therapy, I recommend having a few sessions on consecutive weeks to build motivation for change and then staggering the sessions further apart as change takes hold.
Help for Women in Relationships with Sex Addicts
When men have married or unmarried partners who are suffering as the result of their behavior, as an adjunct to individual therapy for the man, I encourage them to be involved in joint sessions that focus on teaching the man how to validate the woman’s feelings, to communicate honestly and responsibly, to rebuild trust, and to build a new, couple’s sexual style in which the man experiences real gratification through a close connection.. My work with couples is informed by Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
For a hypothetical clinical case study that illustrates my approach to counselling sex addicts, click on the link below which describes a married man with a history of pornography addiction /compulsive masturbation as well as promiscuity.