We are thrilled to announce that The Meadows' Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S, and co-author Tom Bliss will receive the 2016 Clark Vincent Award from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for the book Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence. The award will be presented at CAMFT's Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Calif. on May 14, 2016.
She will also serve as the opening keynote speaker for the meeting this year.
In 2015, Mirror of Intimacy was the co-recipient of American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) Book of Year award.
In addition to serving as Senior Fellow at The Meadows and Gentle Path at The Meadows, Alexandra Katehakis is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in West Los Angeles, California. She has extensive experience in working with a full spectrum of sexuality from sexual addiction to sex therapy, and problems of sexual desire and sexual dysfunction for individuals and couples. Alex has successfully facilitated the recovery of many sexually addicted individuals and assisted couples in revitalizing their sex lives.
She also appears as a regular guest sex expert every Friday on Dr. Drew Midday Live on KABC Talk Radio to discuss sex, addiction and sexuality. She is the author of Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (Summer 2016,) Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot Healthy Sex after Recovery From Sex Addiction, the co-author of Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence and a contributing author to Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts — all available on Amazon.
By Georgia Fourlas, LMSW, LISAC, CSAT-C
There have been a number of high profile cases of sexual misbehaviors lately in the media. Each case has been accompanied by a barrage of interviews in the media with experts who discuss sexual addiction, excuse making, compulsive lying, bad behavior, legal actions, and a variety of other issues.
In the wake of these events, everyone wants to try to understand why individuals would act out in ways that could not only damage their own reputations, but also damage their families and risk the loss of their marriages. Help is often suggested or offered to those who have been “outed” as having engaged in sexually compulsive, sexually inappropriate, and deceptive behaviors— and it is critical that they get that help. But, where does that leave spouses and significant others of those with sexual disorders who have been traumatized by their betrayals?
“Where is my f@$%ing chip???” This is a statement I recently heard while working with a partner of a sex addict. It perfectly captures the anger and desperation often felt by partners of individuals with sexual disorders. This person went on to explain that her sexually addicted partner was in a 12-step recovery program, attending therapy, and recently picked up a chip (a token given at 12-step meetings to honor milestones in recovery) for sexual sobriety. She spoke of the intense pain, debilitating shame and searing anger she experienced while watching the addict being congratulated and hugged.
Meanwhile, the partner sat in the background feeling even further isolated, abandoned, and resentful. All of these emotions fed the anger in this partner and the other partners that were present as they ruminated about the injustice of the betrayal perpetrated by the addict and how the addict, now in recovery, is seemingly, treated like a hero for, in one person’s words: “What? Not being a liar and cheater for a few months? Where is my prize for not being a liar and cheater AT ALL…MY WHOLE LIFE?”
This imbalance can continue well into recovery, as much of the addicted partner’s time and some of the family’s funds get diverted to treatment and recovery activities. Even when the bad behaviors and destructive activities are replaced with recovery behaviors and healthy activities, it still leaves the partner of the addict alone to deal with the fall out. This often leaves the partner with the sense that everything is still all about the addict, and the partner still feels cheated in the relationship.
I heard these expressions of pain and anger in a workshop I facilitate at The Meadows called Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts, which is based on the extraordinary work of Claudia Black. It is one place where a partner of a person with a sexual disorder can get help. The workshop is specifically designed to support and assist the spouses and significant others of individuals with sexual disorders and provides an environment that enables open dialog and honest sharing about all traumatic reactions that partners may be experiencing.
Partners are provided a safe place to take an honest look at their own behaviors. Sometimes, out of anger and in their own traumatic reactions, partners also behave in ways that are outside of their own value systems. This workshop can help partners to begin to make an internal shift from focus on the other person to focus on oneself. In this way, partners are encouraged to embark on a recovery journey that involves self-care and encourages healing. Partners can begin to make decisions for themselves based on what they want in their lives and what is best for them rather than making decisions purely from an emotionally-charged and reactive place of pain that results from betrayal.
A variety of skills are offered to help partners to find ways to regulate their nervous systems and cope with their own feelings about the betrayal. It also helps partner’s deal with the very complex grief and shame that accompanies the discovery of a mate’s sexually compulsive or sexually aversive behavior.
This workshop also offers a chance to give and receive support from others going through similar struggles while encouraging a focus on self when partners begin the difficult decision making process of “What now?” Partners will leave with their own “f@$%ing chip” but will also leave with so much more.
For more details or to enroll, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6a.m. and 6p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
The remaining 2015 dates for the Healing Intimate Treason For Partners of Sex Addicts workshop are October 5 – 9 and December 14 – 18.
Earlier this week, news broke that Jared Fogle, the well-known spokesman for Subway, was at the center of an FBI investigation. No details have been confirmed at this time, but many speculate that the investigation is related to the recent arrest of an executive of the Jared Foundation on child pornography charges. (Fogle himself has not been arrested or charged with a crime.)
This news comes on the heels of the release of court documents in which veteran comedian Bill Cosby admitted to giving women sedatives in the pursuit of sex. And, similar shocking revelations have come to light in the past year pertaining to Stephen Collins from the popular 90s TV show 7th Heaven, and to Tiger Woods, who is rumored to have relapsed into his sexual addiction by cheating on girlfriend Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Vonn.
When these stories come to light, the same questions begin to appear on social media sites, in our offices, and around our dinner tables: “What is wrong with these men? How could they do these things? And, why can’t they stop?”
There are, of course, no easy answers to these questions. And, it would be too presumptuous for us to speculate about any of these men without any direct knowledge or understanding of their personal histories. But, here at Gentle Path at The Meadows, we do see some common behavioral patterns that emerge among our patients that have parallels to what we’re seeing in the news.
One of the patterns that we most often see with clients who are caught up in destructive sexual behavior is a struggle with an enormous amount of social or political pressure. Although this pressure in no way serves as an excuse for their behavior, it does often lead them to feel entitled to act out in destructive ways and, frankly, to not experience any negative consequences for it.
Their distorted thinking tells them that they’ve earned the right to do these things because “they work so hard” and “do so much.” On top of that, the constant scrutiny that they are under in the media and in other social arenas often fuels anger and resentment. The more anger, resentment, and pressure that exists, the more entitled they feel and the more destructive their behaviors become.
Over time, without intervention, the behavior will continue to get worse, sometimes leading to acting out that is even more offensive in nature. That’s when legal consequences and news stories often emerge.
Another common pattern we see in clients is the presence of narcissistic personality traits. These traits can include grandiosity, entitlement, exploitation of others, arrogance, repeated law-breaking, impulsivity, lying, aggressiveness, and lack of remorse or empathy.
According to a recent study, these same personality traits are associated with behaviors related to sex trade use, use of drugs with sex, soliciting sex with money or drugs, hurting and exploiting adults sexually and sexually exploiting children. Grandiosity, in particular, seems to have the strongest link to sexual acting out.
These traits are addressed early in treatment at Gentle Path through an exercise related to the first step of the 12-step model: admitting one’s powerlessness in the face of sexual addiction. This first step serves as a powerful challenge to grandiose, narcissistic, and antisocial traits, enabling patients to begin to take an honest stock of the damage caused by their actions and inactions and proceed with greater openness to restorative treatment.
There are three “A’s” that often fuel problematic sexual behaviors: Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity. The wealthy and powerful are not immune to their effects; as a matter of fact, for those with money or power these factors may have an even greater impact.
Accessibility refers to how easily outlets for sexual acting out can be found, from online pornography to escorts, to adoring fans willing to spend a few hours with a celebrity. Accessibility is often no barrier for the rich and famous.
The Accessibility factor is understandable in a culture that promotes immediate rewards as a means of comfort and happiness (e.g. fast food). Sexual images that elicit strong sexual responses are accessible within seconds through a few clicks of a mouse. This creates a sense of omnipotence and invulnerability for the addict, something that can be appealing to those who also presenting narcissistic personality traits.
Affordability, of course, refers to whether or not a person has access to the money or resources needed to purchase the types of sexual materials or encounters he’s looking for. However, it’s not just about money. It‘s also about emotional affordability. These men often feel that they cannot “afford” emotional complications and that they can better handle interactions that they can keep under control. It’s much easier to keep an interaction under control when it is with an object (i.e., a computer or a person who can be objectified).
Anonymity is a bit more of a struggle for celebrities who choose to act out with others in person. They frequently end up paying large sums of money for ongoing gifts or services long after the relationship ends to maintain the silence. Or, they endure the cost of attorneys to “make it go away.” For individuals whose choice is to indulge in pornography, anonymity seems assured, until the authorities knock on the door asking about the websites or files they have been viewing. The sense of Anonymity that comes with using pornography becomes understandable when a person is socially visible and is subjected to constant social scrutiny. Most forms of sexual acting-out could be immediately detected and sanctioned. Pornography and other forms of cybersex help them keep their secret lives in compartments.
The “three A’s” are a combination that can lead individuals to drown in a sea unhealthy sexual behaviors. One of the things we do as Gentle Path is help patients learn how to develop better coping skills, so they won’t be tempted to engage in those behaviors in spite of their accessibility, affordability and potential anonymity.
For the bystander, it may seem like “these men will never learn.” But, for those who are willing to acknowledge their problem and do the difficult and painful work of addressing their underlying issues, change is possible. Many men who have been through the program at Gentle Path report to us that they feel free from much of the shame that came with their sexual addiction, and that they have been able to regain their self-respect and restore relationships with their friends and loved ones.
If you or someone know is struggling with a sexual addiction, we’re here for you, 24 hours a day.
Marie Woods, LMFT,CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows
If you are reading this, you probably know the pain of discovering the once hidden, out of control sexual behaviors of someone you love. These discoveries are often what catapult sex addicts into treatment. Following the discovery, there was likely some sort of intervention, and expedient efforts to find help. That process likely took up a lot of your time, attention, and energy until they were finally admitted to treatment. At that point, you may have felt some temporary relief, like you could finally breathe again.
Unfortunately, though, the distraction of getting the addict into treatment is now gone, and you are left with your thoughts, worries, and anxieties over what is to come. You may start to feel alone, isolated, and even resentful that the addict is getting all of the help. You may find it difficult to sit with the knowledge of the discovery because you have so many thoughts and unanswered questions. What should you do?
Now that the addict is in a safe environment, utilize this time to engage (or re-engage) in your own self care. In the midst of the chaos of addiction your own physical and emotional care usually takes a big hit. So, utilize the time to reconnect with yourself. This might include engaging in a moderate amount of physical exercise, taking reflective walks, taking a long hot bath, meditating, leisure reading, or engaging in other hobbies that you enjoy.
At some point, you may have a desire ─sometimes a very strong one─ to try to sort things out with the addict. You may think that if they could just answer your questions, then you could make sense of this whole situation, and order in your life could be restored. The truth, however, is that the behaviors that occurred as part of active addiction are irrational. They won’t ever make sense.
Furthermore, the addict engaging in treatment at the inpatient level is in no position to understand and convey the nature of his or her addiction yet either. By giving in to the urge to sort things out right now, you run the risk of increasing your anxiety and feeling more hurt and pain.
At most sex addiction treatment centers, including Gentle Path at the Meadows, patients are highly encouraged to limit their communication with the outside world. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is to help them stay focused and engaged in treatment in order to initiate their healing process as quickly as possible. The other is to prevent any further hurt and damage to their relationships with others. Sex addiction has often already caused a lot of pain, chaos, and turmoil. Although we cannot change that, we can help prevent future damage. So, it’s important for both you and the addict to take advantage of the built- in time away from communication that treatment provides.
In addition to your loved one, you also deserve to be supported through this process. That’s why it’s a good idea for you to build your own support network. Family members are highly encouraged to seek out their own therapist to assist them in navigating through the emotional maze of sex addiction. It would be ideal to choose a therapist that is familiar with sex addiction; however, the most important thing is that you connect with, and feel supported by, your therapist.
Although the inpatient treatment team may reach out to you for collateral information or to coordinate Family Week, their role is to help connect you with more substantial ongoing support rather than serving as your primary support. You may also consider confiding in a few close friends and family members who you trust, and who understand your situation. Additionally, there are also a variety of support groups, both twelve-step and otherwise, that can be helpful as well.
As you read them, these points may seem obvious, but in the midst of the chaos of addiction we often lose sight of what’s important. Gentle loving reminders such as these can help bring us back to reality. Shifting the focus from where it has often been (on the addict) can be hard because it slows you down, and often brings up emotions that have been buried for a long time. As you embark on this journey, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Changing and developing new patterns is not easy.
Keep in mind, though, the growth that will result for you and your family member may end up changing your relationship with them and your lives in ways that are far better than you could have hoped!
The Meadows Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S, is the co-recipient of the 2015 Book of the Year Award from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) for the book, Mirror of Intimacy: Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence. Co-written by Tom Bliss, Center for Healthy Sex Project Manager, Katehakis will accept their award at the 47th Annual AASECT Conference in Minneapolis from June 3-7.
“I am grateful and honored to receive this prestigious award from the AASECT. It is with much enthusiasm that I continue my work in this compelling field through such roles as Senior Fellow of The Meadows and Founder of the Center for Healthy Sex. My latest body of work, Mirror of Intimacy, is designed to reflect on what it means to explore and understand one’s sexuality through healthy, accessible meditations for everyone seeking greater intimacy in relationships, but especially those on a spiritual path,” says Katehakis. The AASECT Book of the Year Award is presented to the author of a book that makes a significant contribution to AASECT’s vision of sexual health and the clinical and educational standards of the field.
Among other achievements, Katehakis is Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles, Author, and a Certified Sex Therapist/Supervisor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist/Supervisor. She is an expert in the treatment of sexual addiction and other sexual disorders – and has incorporated interpersonal neurobiology into her Psychological Approach to Sex Addiction Treatment (PASAT). Katehakis is also the 2012 recipient of the Carnes Award, a distinguished acknowledgement for her significant contributions to the field of 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 therapy, counseling, and education. AASECT's mission is the advancement of the highest standards of professional practice for educators, counselors and therapists.