By Isabel Nino de Guzman, PhD, CSAT Licensed Psychologist at Gentle Path at the Meadows
News stories about sexually addictive behaviors in the armed forces over the past several years seem to be increasing at an alarming number, calling greater attention to the issues arising between the men and women who serve their country for us. A quick Google search using the terms “Sexual Addiction in the Military” brings an abundance of articles published in military publications regarding sexual addiction and the effect it has on military personnel. One such article published in The Army Times states that one in ten civilians may suffer from pornography addiction while the percentage may be as high as twenty percent of military personnel. Source
Gentle Path at The Meadows has a history of treating active duty military members and retirees for sexual compulsive behaviors so they understand the challenges these individuals face. As a Tricare network provider, Gentle Path at The Meadows provides behavioral health and substance abuse inpatient services, with an emphasis on trauma, PTSD, and addictive disease disorders, to active duty military members, retirees and dependents of the TRICARE West Region. Military personnel and the demands of their service require special consideration in their health care treatment. Through a close relationship with the military, the therapists, nurses, physicians, and administrators at Gentle Path at The Meadows are very familiar with the unique challenges of these individuals. Military members who serve their country are needed back on the job, back doing the vital service that they were trained to do, and Gentle Path at The Meadows specializes in returning these individuals back to duty.
Military personnel thrive in a structured environment with a scheduled day and required tasks. Gentle Path at The Meadows’ inpatient treatment process is a task-centered model that military personnel can relate to. This structured environment also makes sense to an addict because their lives have usually become convoluted and chaotic. The daily regimen of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program, created and overseen by the pioneer in the sexual addiction field, Dr. Patrick Carnes, is tailor-made for the treatment of sexual addiction in military personnel.
Dr. Carnes’s research findings reveal that more than 90% of the Gentle Path at The Meadows patients report experiences of severe trauma (Carnes, 2014) and a significant number exhibit symptoms of adult post-traumatic stress disorder. For the past 25 years, The Meadows, the parent program of Gentle Path at The Meadows, has examined how trauma affects psychological and biological processes, and how the damage caused by overwhelming life experiences can be reversed. An important component of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program is treating both sex addiction and trauma, given the intricate connections between these two. On the one hand, sex addiction treatment that addresses trauma has proven to be more effective and successful than clinical practices that do not take trauma into consideration. And, on the other hand, the rate of relapse when sex addiction treatment that is not trauma-informed is significantly higher than other therapeutic treatment that does not take trauma into consideration.
A direct implication of traumatic situations is the person’s loss of the natural sense of safety, meaning, purpose, and understanding of the world and life experiences. Because the fight or flight response cannot be deactivated, the sense of self, the world, and the future may become unsafe. Re-experiencing the event and avoiding reminders of the situation can be part of the normal adjustment process. However, it can also result in a disorder that alters the person’s cognition, arousal, and reactivity, behavior, and a sense of self.
Sex addiction is often a response to unresolved trauma. Paradoxically, it entails new sources of trauma; there is a proneness to re-victimization that results from the risky behaviors and/or dangerous relationships that are inherent to this disorder. A first goal in trauma-informed treatment for sexual addictions is the establishment of real safety and avoidance of further damage. Breaking through denial and admission of powerlessness are the essence of the First Step at Gentle Path at The Meadows and the beginning of the process, or stabilization that will lead to understanding the connection between trauma and sex addiction and recovering from it.
“Healing does not occur in a vacuum,” says Allan Benham, Executive Director for Gentle Path at The Meadows. “The therapeutic milieu at Gentle Path at The Meadows helps our patient create a new sense of safety and trust within the context of personal connections and safe relationships. Patients learn about resilience, new choices, and renewed skills, values, and ideals. Additionally, they learn to frame their own destiny by participating in a collaborative relationship with the clinicians at the program.”
Gentle Path at The Meadows provides a therapeutic environment in which:
Most importantly, patients are able to grieve the sexually addictive behaviors that once served to soothe them when trauma occurred.
Every journey begins with one step. If you are a service member in need of military addiction treatment or PTSD treatment for military issues, please call us today. To learn more about the Gentle Path at The Meadows or if you have an immediate need, please contact us or call 855-333-6076 or go to www.gentlepathmeadows.com.
There seems to be a relationship between interpersonal violence, trauma, and sexually addictive disorders that is noteworthy and complex. The exact nature of the relationship between trauma and sex addiction is not fully explained yet, but the association is unquestionable. Different theoretical approaches have addressed this relationship and most suggest that sexually addictive behaviors are unsuccessful attempts of the organism to cope with memory reminiscences of unresolved traumatic experiences. Even though trauma can be buried in the deepest corners of our memory and appear as forgotten, there seems to be an unwritten law in the unconscious: we tend to repeat over and over parts of history that we cannot consciously remember. The original event and the sexual acting-out become dissociated as the result of a psychological attempt of protection and the acting-out represents the experience that cannot be recalled or verbalized. This psychological disconnection eliminates the pain but not the wound. Gentle Path at The Meadows provides participants with the opportunity of memory recovery, resolution of original trauma, and subsequent liberation of the actual pain.
All addictions, including sex and love addiction, involve an unstoppable pursue or reward in the brain. When trauma is present, the incessant seek of reward may respond at first to a need of compensation for the pain and suffering that a person has experienced. Further, and particularly when there are predisposing factors for addiction, the need acquires its own drive: the brain becomes physiologically dependent to the addictive element, which can be a substance, an object, a sensation, or even a person. When sex addiction is present, the sexual acting out may become the person’s best friend. Medical aspects of treatment offered in treatment such as antidepressants, which tap into the physiological responses of addictions, may provide some relief. Psychological therapies may help the patient cope with the sense of urge and develop new strengths. However, the sex addict may not be ready to let go of the addictive behavior that has provided a false sense of security for a long time. Our patients need to gently let go of the best friend.
Sex Addiction, in and of itself entails new sources of trauma; there is a proneness to re-victimization that results from the risky behaviors and/or dangerous relationships that are inherent to this disorder. A first goal in trauma-informed treatment for sexual addictions is the establishment of real safety and avoidance of further damage. In the same way that a cast is used to restore a broken bone, the wounded person has to accept the pain and his or her need of external help in order to start the healing process. Breaking through denial and admission of powerlessness are the essence of the First Step in Gentle Path and the beginning of a process or stabilization that will lead to understand the connection between trauma and sex addiction and recover from it.
Whereas trauma is the ultimate experience of powerlessness, sex addiction is a pathological attempt to staying in control. Sexually addictive behaviors somehow recreate a reality that was abruptly and unwantedly interrupted. Because our brain’s self-organizing tendencies, any interrupted gestalt needs to be perceptually and psychologically completed, and it will do anything to make this happen. The brain tasks will either take the path for addictions or for recovery. Recovery from sex addiction involves both the recognition of powerlessness and acknowledgment of old wounds. Bringing someone to his knees and getting exposed to the original trauma at the same time require a new sense of strength that can only be achieved if the person feels safe. Healing does not occur in the vacuum, and the therapeutic milieu at Gentle Path helps the patient create a new sense of safety and trust within the context of personal connections and safe relationships. In our program patients learn about resilience, new choices, and renewed skills, values, and ideals. Patients also learn that they can frame their own destiny by participating in a collaborative relationship with the clinicians at the program.
Gentle Path at The Meadows provides a therapeutic environment in which, a) the cycle of sex addiction and trauma repetition can be stopped; b) fear can be substituted by a sense of safety; c) new healthy relationships help breaking through isolation and the concept of intimacy is re-learned; d) coping skills are developed; f) new choices help develop a sense of genuine empowerment and self-pride; g) self-nurturing replaces self-abuse; h) spiritual healing becomes possible; g) chaos is replaced by a recomposed structure, and a sense of balance can be achieved. Most importantly, patients have a chance to let go of addiction as the old friend that helped with soothing when trauma occurred. During our treatment, the gentle path of recovery and healing gets started.
MAUREEN CANNING ON CONTEMPORARY SEX ADDICTION TREATMENT
As part of its series on addiction and trauma, The Meadows is pleased to present a video featuring Maureen Canning discussing sexual addiction in women.
In the third video in her nine-part series, Maureen Canning, MA, LMFT, talks about contemporary methods for treating sexual addiction.
"One of the things we do differently at The Meadows is that we really look at the family of origin," she says. "We address the addictive process - and we're very good at doing that - but we also look at the underlying issues."
Ms. Canning adds that most sex addicts have deep-seated feelings of shame and inherent worthlessness. They feel they don't deserve to be loved, heard, or emotionally safe.
"They're looking for someone to hear them, to see them, and to love them," Ms. Canning explains. "And when we help them to understand, it automatically reduces the shame. And reducing the shame starts the process of recovery."
Ms. Canning is a clinical consultant and senior fellow at The Meadows of Wickenburg and a clinical consultant at Dakota, The Meadows' extended-care facility dedicated to treating sexual addiction and trauma. She has taught extensively about sexual disorders, and her clinical experience includes individual, couples, and family counseling; workshops; lectures; educational training; and interventions. She has written several books, including Lust, Anger, Love: Understanding Sexual Addiction and The Road to Healthy Intimacy.
In other videos in the series, she discusses such topics as the nature of healthy sexuality, how sexual addiction can kill, and what partners of sex addicts need to know.
View the entire series of The Meadows' videos, including interviews with John Bradshaw and Dr. Jerry Boriskin, at www.youtube.com/themeadowswickenburg.
For more about The Meadows' innovative treatment program for addictions and trauma, visit www.themeadows.org or call The Meadows at 800-244-4949.
The Meadows is heading to Palm Springs, California as an event sponsor for the Moment of Change 2011 Conference at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa April 6-9, 2011.
The Meadows is excited to have Senior Fellow, Maureen Canning, MA. LMFT presenting on Friday, April 8 at 1:30-3:00 pm.
Maureen's presentation is titled Lust, Anger, Love:Intervening on the Sexually Addicted Client. The dynamics specific to sexual addiction set it apart from other addictive processes. This lecture will offer an understanding of these dynamics and the complexities of treating sexual compulsive behaviors. By discussing the ideology of sexual disorders, exploring the cycle of sexual addiction, and understanding the criteria for sexual addiction treatment, clinicians will develop valuable knowledge to enhance their clinical skills.
Stop by and visit The Meadows booth and Maureen Canning's lecture. See you in Palm Springs!