“Am I (or my spouse) sex addicted?” It’s a question that comes up often when sex and sexuality are a clinical area of focus for a therapist. Whether it’s because one or the other partner uses pornography and “won’t” quit, there has been an affair(s), or there is a high interest partner desiring more or more variability in sexual behavior, eventually the question about sex (or porn) addiction arises.
If you’ve followed my blog you that I take a very cautious approach to labeling someone as “sex addicted” or “porn addicted.” Generally the answer is, “no.” The reasons for this are multiple. First, by making someone “addicted” means that the problem with the couple is with ONE of the couple and I simply find this not to be the best way of solving a problem. Second, asking what is missing that creates the value judgement of “addiction” is often intimacy. Intimacy is a scary thing and hard to trust with another human being, much less one that we are afraid (or have experienced) will judge or reject. Often rather than solving an “addiction issue” I find that intimacy issues as a dynamic of both partners in the relationship needs to be addressed. Finally, sex addiction “therapy” often leads to models and treatment dangerously like “conversion therapy” where complete sexual denial and feeling that sexuality is damaging rather than something to be proud of leads to invasive therapies that rarely work.
Today AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists) released a position paper on “sex addiction.” As it is not yet posted on their website (it was sent in an email) I’ll post it (emphasis added is mine) in its entirety here:
AASECT Position Statement – Sex Addiction
Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.
AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.
AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.
I applaud the AASECT for taking such a stance against such a popularized and often overly “diagnosed” condition. I have many esteemed colleagues that I know will take issue with this and I understand their concerns; however I happen to find in my clinical practice with many, many couples that I agree with this statement. I also find that problem sexual behavior does exist – often compulsive in nature. Addressing such compulsive sexual behavior should be always working toward health sexual expression that falls somewhere within the vast array and breadth of human sexuality with a goal for sexual wholeness not sexual denial and starvation. On those rare occasions when I have approached sexual behavior as an addiction within my practice it has been under rare circumstances that the client themselves is dissatisfied with their sexual expression, harming themselves, devoting large amounts of resources to it at the expense of choosing to find a healthy sexual partner. Even under these circumstances, the client leads the therapy and is challenged to explore why their current sexual practices are unsatisfying and learn skills to build more satisfying sexual experiences.
If you or your partner is struggling with sexual behavior in your relationship, come seek help today. I have experience helping couples find deeper connections and learn to support each other sexually rather than fear judgement, rejection or isolation. Even if you’re struggling with sexual behavior you wish you (or your partner) could stop, finding a path forward needn’t mean being labeled sex addicted. Call today (402)325-0117×1 or make an appointment online.
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J. Kipp Lanning, LIMHP, LPC
1001 S 70th Street Suite 225
Lincoln, NE 68510
(402) 325-0117 x 1