On November 29th, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) released a statement on its perspective on sex addiction and the treatment of out-of -control sexual behaviors. This has received both praise and criticism from people who treat these issues. As someone who is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist and a Certified Sex Therapist, this statement is one that I have taken very seriously. I think that it’s important to feel comfortable in the treatments and terminology that the field uses.
Needless to say, there are disagreements between professionals and organizations regarding behaviors that can be described as sexual addiction. Throughout my education, I have learned that addiction is difficult to define. Therefore, I understand that this can be a controversial topic. Especially when it surrounds the issue of sexuality.
As a member of the International Institute of Trauma Addiction Professionals (IITAP) and AASECT, I have had the privilege of meeting many professionals who hold various opinions on the topic of sex addiction. Some don’t believe that addiction exists at all. Other professionals identify that many deal with problems with out-of-control sexual behaviors, but believe that these shouldn’t be labeled as addictions. While others believe that the compulsive behaviors that clients describe meet the definition of an addiction. There are brilliant, talented therapists on all sides of this topic.
I also understand that clients will identify with their problems in different ways. It has always been important to help clients find a way to healthy sexuality that makes the most sense to them. Throughout my work, this has involved reflection clients’ feelings surrounding sexuality, relationships, and boundaries. Sometimes these behaviors are compulsive. Other times clients are responding to sexual shame surrounding their sexual expression and authenticity.
This is reflective of training that I have received from both IITAP and AASECT. The other part of it reflects the clinical skills and values that I learned to bring to therapy long ago. Our goals as clinicians are to help people identify their goals, and walk through this in a way that makes the most sense to them. To do this, there are various approaches, modalities and skills that therapists can use to help clients get there.
This field of sexuality is always evolving. There are new discoveries and theories developing all the time. I look forward to participating in ongoing dialogue on the topic. I also look forward to the ongoing work that I can provide to clients to help them in therapy. This is whether they identify their behaviors as an addiction, or if they identify them as out-of-control.
It also means that I can help clients in a sex positive way who are looking to add elements of pornography, open relationships, or kink or BDSM to their relationships in a consensual way, which makes the most sense to them. It means that I can help people who are mistaking their sexuality for an addictive problem. It means that I can join clients in a way that can help them build, rebuild, and enhance their relationship connections. It also means that I can help people heal wounds that they have been living with in their day-to-day lives.
This statement has caused a great deal of discussion within the therapy community, as well as outside of it. These discussions are necessary, even when they’re difficult to have. This means that many passionate discussions and disagreements will occur surrounding sex addiction. However, these professional discussions are secondary to the needs that our clients are dealing with. If you’re dealing with an issue with a relationship problem or personal problem that is caused by out of control sexual behavior, the most important thing is to find help. No matter how you identify with this problem, find a professional who you feel can help you with sexual authenticity.