You Better Ask the Experts
I am a Board Certified Sexologist and a Certified Sex Therapist. For many of you this means very little, other than I am licensed and certified to treat couples and individuals with sexual "issues."
But what does this really mean and why is it important for someone who thinks they have a "sex addiction"?
I have a PhD doctorate degree in Sexology. I have years and years of post graduate training in sexual behavior, dysfunction, pathology and sexual health. I have been supervised, and done research, written a dissertation.
Why is this relevant?
Because working with people who struggle with sexual behaviors and difficult symptoms and consequences can be complex. Sex and the discussion of sex can trigger emotions in everyone, including the therapist, and create long term complications for the individual in therapy.
Sexuality and all of the areas related to our erotic life are affected by our physical health, our family history, our emotional well being, our psychological stressors and given our current cultural climate, our sexual choices are also influenced by law makers and by politics.
Right now we are at a turning point in our sexual history. AASECT, The American Association of Educators, Counselors and Therapists, the Certifying body for Certified Sex Therapists in this country, has just released a position statement saying that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the label of "Sex Addiction," a label that has come into the public discourse when athletes like Tiger Woods are accused of being sex addicted, or when Anthony Weiner goes to rehab for sexting. AASECT believes that Sex Addiction is an oversimplified concept and a label given too quickly to too many.
The DSM, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the bible for diagnoses for psychologists and psychiatrists, does not recognize Sex Addiction as a psychiatric diagnosis.Therefore, Sex Addiction cannot be given as a primary diagnosis. It is not the correct name for sexual problems, and in fact, may pathologize sexuality, in some cases, unnecessarily.
AASECT released their statement to protect those who might be labeled too quickly and perhaps treated incorrectly for sexual behaviors that are out of the norm. Where most therapists agree that out of control sexuality can be problematic in a myriad of ways, not everyone agrees that sex addiction is a real addiction, like a drug addiction to cocaine or heroin.
However, “problematic sexual behavior is very real,” they say in their press release. AASECT asserts that "people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors." It is important that people whose lives are affected by problematic sexual behaviors are treated by well trained therapists, to protect them and ensure their therapeutic needs are met. They say, "....sex therapy counseling and education requires a higher standard of sexual science to ensure sexual rights and sexual health."
I will continue to treat people and couples as I have, with the highest standards of care. Regardless of the label of 'Sex Addiction' versus 'Sexually Compulsive Behavior,' I recognize that there are many people who seek treatment because they are suffering. Sex therapy has a crucial role in the healing model of contemporary psychotherapy and it can help.
If you personally are going through something painful in your life where you fear that compulsive behaviors with sex or pornography are affecting your relationship, job, or your happiness, find a qualified person with experience and training in this specific area to help you. Most AASECT Certified Sex Therapists are qualified; and I am happy to help you find someone.
It means less what we call these problems and more how we treat out of control sexual behavior. Make sure you are in therapy with someone who respects and supports you and your needs.
If you have questions or feel you are in the wrong type of treatment, please contact me. For more information, please go to www.drtammynelson.com
The entire statement by AASECT is below.
FROM A SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE, SEX ADDICTION IS NOT REAL.
Problematic sexual behavior, on the other hand, is very real and consumers need to be protected from sex addiction therapists who are not adequately trained in human sexuality.
Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) has released a historic statement asserting that it:
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, 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.
As the leading national body of sexuality educators, counselors and therapists, AASECT does, however, recognize that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.
“These are real problems, but sex therapy counseling and education requires a higher standard of sexual science to ensure sexual rights and sexual health. The sex addiction concept is an oversimplification of a complex area of human sexual behavior and is not substantiated by sexual science and sex therapy. I think the most important thing to remember is that there are people who are suffering from their sexual behavior being out of control, but what ends up happening is that the suffering, the fear and the consequences it brings to their careers and families get prematurely and very quickly labeled sex addiction.”
AASECT’s statement comes at a time when sex addiction continues to make headlines with former politicians like Anthony Weiner checking into a sex addiction rehabilitation center and the state of Utah and the GOP declaring pornography use to be a public health hazard. In spite of this sense of alarm, the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) rejected the diagnosis of sex addiction with the explanation: “To include this as an addiction would require published scientific research that does not exist at this time.”
“The AASECT Position Statement is an assertion that the best scientific studies do not currently support the theory that sex can be an addiction directly analogous to cocaine, heroin, alcohol or nicotine. That similar neural pathways may sometimes be shared by sexuality and other sources of pleasure and reward, including those involved in true addictions, reflects correlation but does not establish causation. The scientific evidence is also weak that one will lose erectile function or partner desire from over-use of erotica.”
“The topic of sex addiction has been contentious for many years, with a large body of scientific research indicating that sex addiction has not been well defined or operationalized,” says AASECT President, Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH, CSE. “Contemporary research indicates that individuals’ problematic sexual behavior may often be better explained by other factors, including a high sex drive, mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety) or culturally influenced guilt or shame.”
Many AASECT therapists regularly see clients for problematic sexual behavior and are trained to compassionately support clients in their work and in ways that are consistent with AASECT’s Vision of Sexual Health.
Please click here to read the full version of AASECT’s position statement on sex addiction.