Sexual Addiction and other Intimacy Disorders

Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction is characterized by out-of-control (compulsive) sexual behavior with marked consequences.  Sex addicts use denial, rationalizing, minimizing, and lying to avoid the truth to themselves and others.

They typically have difficulty with closeness in committed relationships and use their sexual addiction behavior to escape painful and stressful feelings.  The sex addict typically cycles through an addictive cycle of preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior, and despair (shame).  The following criteria are used to diagnose sexual addiction (3 or more):

  1. Recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses in order to engage in specific behaviors.
  2. Frequently engaging in those behaviors to a greater extent, or over a longer period of time than intended.
  3. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce, or control those behaviors.
  4. Inordinate amounts of time spent in obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from sexual experiences.
  5. Preoccupation with sexual behavior or preparatory activities.
  6. Frequently engaging in the behavior when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic, or social obligations.
  7. Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological, or physical problem that is caused or exacerbated by the problem.
  8. The need to increase the intensity, frequency, number, or risk level of behaviors in order to achieve the desired effect; or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number, or risk.
  9. Giving up or limiting social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior.
  10. Distress, anxiety, restlessness, or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior.

Without treatment and recovery, overcoming sexual addiction can be very difficult.  Sexual addiction recovery requires multiple interventions at critical points in the sexual addiction recovery process.  Sex addiction is a multi-dimensional disorder that responds best when the individual dealing with the sex addiction is willing to take advantage of specific services as the need arises in the sexual addiction recovery process.  The sexual addiction recovery process assists sex addicts in altering long standing patterns to embrace sexual health.

Partners and Spouses Treatment
Partners and spouses of sex addicts have experienced painful consequences from the addict's behavior and require help as well.  We offer services that address these complex problems.  Many partners and spouses of sex addicts are burdened with feelings of betrayal, isolation, mistrust, anger, vigilance, and a sense of unreality due to the infidelity caused by the addiction.  They have difficulty regaining their emotional balance and are often in acute distress.  At the Center for Relationship Health we are particularly sensitive to the specific concerns of those suffering from the impact of a partner’s sex addiction.  Through supportive and clarifying individual therapy, education from the Beginnings Care Program, and the Partners Recovery Group, partners of sex addicts can heal from the effects of infidelity and betrayal.  They can build a renewed sense of themselves and learn they are not alone.

Infidelity is commonly associated with actual physical, sexual contact with another person outside of a committed relationship.  However, spouses of sex addicts report reactions similar to this form of infidelity even if there is not direct physical, sexual contact with another person.  Addicts chatting sexually online, viewing pornography, masturbating to images and fantasy following internet use produce low self-esteem, self-blame, mistrust, and negative comparisons to the “other” in spouses normally found with infidelity involving another person physically.

Sexual Health
Sexual health is an objective in sexual addiction treatment.  Sexuality should be an integral and balanced part of our life experience.  However, when sex becomes all consuming, or when we deprive ourselves of healthy sexual expression, our sexuality acts as a barrier filled with shame and self-contempt.  It isolates us from attachment with others.  Healthy sexual behavior or sexual health, on the other hand, creates intimacy and closeness.  It is characterized by trust, respect, joy, and safety.

Sexual health can be achieved by sex addicts in recovery.  Overcoming sexual addiction requires hard work and a commitment to settle for nothing less than full recovery.  In doing so, sexual addiction recovery becomes a life shift that opens up hope and the possibility for change.


Individual Therapy
Heath Wise is specifically trained and experienced to provide specialized individual therapy for addicts, spouses or partners of addicts, and survivors of childhood trauma.  She is experienced in traditional methods of psychotherapy as well as addiction and trauma approaches.  She is a certified sex therapist and sex addiction therapist.

Beginnings Care Group
The Beginnings Care Program is a 12-week program for individuals with sexual compulsion and/or their spouses or partners.  It is a combination of educational classes and small group experiences done in an atmosphere of safety, confidentiality, and respect.

Both the addict and their partner leave with a written recovery plan and having completed basic core tasks necessary for recovery.  This program is a unique and rich experience for those recovering from sexual addiction and its effects.  In some cases a screening/assessment session (at additional cost) may be needed in order for us to determine a candidate is a good fit and will derive optimum benefit from the program.

Addiction Recovery Group
The Addiction Recovery Group is a weekly, ongoing, safe, and supportive group to assist recovering sex addicts to maintain sexual sobriety.  Its focus is on monitoring sexual sobriety and working on maintaining a life balance that is supportive of recovery.  The Beginnings Care Program (or a similar program) is a prerequisite.  It involves a minimum of a nine month commitment and participation in individual therapy.  This group complements individual therapy by managing the addiction in a structured setting.

Spouses/Partners Recovery Group
The Spouses/Partners Recovery Group is a weekly, ongoing group for individuals struggling with reactions to others’ addictions.  The group is safe, validating, and supportive, allowing participants to reduce anger, grief, and shame and to establish a strong sense of self.  Self-esteem and acceptance is enhanced for group members.  Participation in the Beginnings Care Program (or a similar program) is a prerequisite.

Trauma Resolution Group
The Trauma Resolution Group is a weekly, ongoing group designed for survivors of childhood trauma who are looking for increased resolution of trauma and life competency skills.  The group utilizes experiential techniques that assist participants to access the core feelings surrounding the trauma and reprocess the negative core beliefs that are still in place.  This intense but rewarding experience has helped many to move beyond their abuse.  It is appropriate also for addicts who have established a stable program of recovery.  Weekly ongoing therapy is required for all participants.

Couples or Marriage Counseling
We provide specialized couples or marriage counseling for couples dealing with sexual addiction.  Included in our approach to couples or marriage counseling is helping couples manage the consequences of addiction, build positive communication skills, reduce shame, rebuild trust, deal with disclosure of secrets, and develop a healthy sexual life.

Our approach to couples or marriage counseling takes into account the unique challenges faced by couples dealing with sexual infidelity and betrayal.  The loss of trust from dealing with infidelity from sexual addiction requires embracing a recovery process that takes into account the challenges faced by the sex addict and spouse as they attempt to rebuild their relationship.  Hope and change are possible.

Family Therapy
We provide help for families of addicts by providing opportunities for them to begin the process of recovery together.  Helping family members deal with the effects of addiction is a primary focus of family work.  The addicts are encouraged to reduce shame by being accountable and making amends.  Through the process of sharing feelings, accountability, amends, and forgiveness families affected by addiction can begin a life-long healing journey.

Recovery Checkup
The Recovery Checkup is an annual evaluation for an addict once recovery has been established.  It helps to determine how best to create and maintain an optimal recovery path.  Recovering people prevent relapse and do best when they lead a balanced life of meaning and intimacy.  It allows them to unfold paths of harmony and optimal performance.

Restoring Sexual Intimacy Group
The Restoring Sexual Intimacy Group is a weekly, ongoing group designed for couples in the later stages of recovery.  This group helps couples reconnect and develop deeper intimacy in an environment of safety and support.

  • Pornography
    Compulsive pornography use can produce significant consequences for both the viewer as well as the spouse or partner who may experience it as a betrayal of the implicit or explicit commitment of fidelity in the relationship.

    When cybersex is involved, the pornography use can escalate very rapidly with new sources of arousal occurring and becoming fixated very quickly.  The viewer may discover being “hooked” by images never imaginable before.  At this stage, sex addiction treatment is highly recommended.
  • Affairs
    We have worked extensively with couples where one partner has betrayed the implicit or explicit commitment in the partnership.  This can be emotional, romantic, sexual, or all three.  We offer individual therapy and, if addiction is present, the Beginnings Care Program to assist in these objectives.

    We help the partner who has had the affair understand the reasons and take responsibility for his or her actions.  We also help the partner who has been betrayed, gain a better sense of themselves and decide on a course of action.  Please contact us for dates and costs.
  • Compulsive Masturbation
    Some individuals use masturbation as a way to medicate feelings of stress, loneliness, anger, and depression.  Over time, some become dependent on its use to relieve tension and alter moods, much like a problem drinker becomes dependent on alcohol to manage feelings.

    In chronic stages, the addict is organized around the chemical or sexual behavior as their primary relationship, defending its use while consequences mount.  Compulsive masturbation is often connected to other addictive sexual behaviors like pornography or cybersex.  Addiction treatment approaches become critical at this stage.

    Here at the Center for Relationship Health, we provide safe and respectful treatment for individuals struggling with compulsive masturbation.  Call or email us today for an appointment so we can help you break the pattern of shame and addiction.
  • Cybersex
    Cybersex is a growing problem which is even causing those who have never had problematic sexual behavior to enter the world of sex addiction.  Increasingly, people’s online sexual behavior is affecting their daily lives negatively.  It is referred to as the “crack cocaine” of sex addiction.

    Dr. Patrick Carnes points out some specific patterns noted in people abusing online sex are:
    - Rapid escalation of amount and variety of online sex use.
    - Escalation then moves on to obsessional, new behaviors.
    - Relational regression occurs, in which the user loses interest in sex with his/her partner.
    - Internet sexual behavior accelerates existing addictive behavior and/or precipitates new compulsive off-line behavior.

    Following are the 10 criterion of problem online behavior:
  1. Preoccupation with sex online.
  2. Frequently engaging in sex online more often or for periods of time than intended.
  3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on, or stop engaging in sex online
  4. Restlessness or irritability when attempting to limit or stop engaging in sex online.
  5. Using sex online as a way of escaping from problems or to relieve feelings such as helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression.
  6. Returning to sex online in hopes of a more intense or higher risk sex experience.
  7. Lying to family members, therapists, or others about online sex activity.
  8. Committing illegal acts online.  (Sending or downloading child pornography or soliciting sex acts, for example)
  9. Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of online sexual behavior.
  10. Incurring significant financial consequences as a result of engaging in online sexual behavior.
  • Social Networking Problems
    Facebook, Twitter, mySpace, and YouTube have created a whole new world of possibilities for sex addicts to act-out sexual fantasies.  While the majority of individuals using social media will not have problems as a result of their use, others will.

    Sexting, live video streaming, and GPS hook-up apps for Smart phones add to the possibilities of immediate gratification and expansion of sexual possibilities for addicts.  Virtual sex outlets, once a fantasy of the future, are now here and accessible to those willing to alter the paradigm of what they consider “normal” sexuality.

    Even those who may never have considered having an affair or hiring an escort, may find themselves unable to resist the intrigue and novelty that the new technologies offer.  We carefully help clients sort out what is common and normal from what is addictive or problematic and support them in finding ways to regain a sense of control.

If you or someone you love has a problem, please contact our office for an appointment.