Gentle Path at The Meadows has announced the addition of Couples Recovery Workshop to its services available to patients. Designed by Kenneth M. Adams, PhD, CSAT, with input from over a dozen leading national experts and Gentle Path at The Meadows clinical and executive teams, this program emphasizes hope for couples struggling with sexual addiction to recover trust and intimacy in their relationship.
"This unique program offers couples a one-of-a-kind opportunity to heal from the impact of sex addiction through a series of intensive workshops that track specifically the couple’s needs from disclosure to renewal,” said Adams. “Long overdue, it is my sincere hope that this program becomes an important contribution to the support of couples wanting to rebuild shattered lives."
The Couples Recovery Workshop, based on a developmental model of couple's healing from the impact of sexual addiction, encompasses sound clinical and research-based components of sex addiction, complex partner trauma, and couples treatment. Workshop participants can choose from three specific modules that can be taken together or separately to shape treatment for optimal timing and needs. Modules include:
Allan Benham, Executive Director for Gentle Path at The Meadows, says, “This workshop is an exciting addition to our sex addiction treatment program. It offers couples a chance to address the impact of sexual addiction on the couple in a supportive, respectful, and caring format.” He adds, “We’re excited about this workshop helping us to more completely serve all of those who are impacted by this disease and working with the providers who send us their suffering couples to work with by providing specific written follow-up plans after each workshop module to guide the couple and their on-going treatment provider.”
Gentle Path at The Meadows is a confidential inpatient treatment center for men 18 and older who battle sexual addiction, relationship addiction, and sexual anorexia. To learn more about Gentle Path at The Meadows’ work, contact an intake coordinator at 855-333-6076 or visit www.gentlepathmeadows.com.
Understanding Karpman's Triangle
Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at The Meadows
In relationships, individuals tend to develop a predictable pattern of acting and reacting to one another that they become accustomed to. This dynamic is sometimes referred to as their dance. This can often be a rather beautiful thing, as the dance metaphor implies, however, in relationships in which there is a great deal of conflict, these patterns can keep couples stuck in rather unhealthy patterns. Relationships in which these problematic patterns present are also often characterized by elements such as high reactivity, over control, manipulation, blaming, and other elements of dysfunction including addiction, for example.
The concept of the Karpman Triangle developed by Psychiatrist Stephen Karpman is a great illustration to help couples become more aware of this dynamic, and also learn how to change it. Within this concept, there are three primary roles that an individual may play. They include the victim/martyr, perpetrator/offender, and the rescuer/enabler. Individuals tend to play one role most predominately in their relationships with others, but in the process they often move around while typically still landing back where they started. The victim/martyr tends to have unrealistic expectations and avoids sharing their thoughts and feelings while blaming others. The perpetrator/offender tends to engage in a number of acting out behaviors that are offensive or harmful to others, or to themselves. The rescuer/enabler often engages in caretaking behaviors and sometimes serves as the pseudo-peacemaker in the relationship. Although these roles can play out in a variety of different ways, one of the most common dynamics is two individuals moving between victim and perpetrator typically followed at some point by one of them moving into the rescuer/enabler role to temporarily alleviate the problem.
In couples where sex addiction is present there is an obvious victim-perpetrator dynamic. The individual engaging in sexual acting out behaviors through lies, deception, and secrets, is operating in the role of the perpetrator/offender, and the partner is the victim of this behavior. Typically, when the partner discovers the sexual acting out behavior, they may stay in the victim role, and remain in a very painful place filled with constant self-loathing and blame. What is also common is that they can become aggressive and offensive towards the perpetrating partner and thus move into the perpetrator role (not to be confused with righteous anger). In this moment, the sex addict partner would be in the victim role. This movement from perpetrator to victim and vice versa can happen very quickly. In fact, individuals in a relationship can move back and forth between these roles numerous times in a matter of minutes. Because this exchange is exhausting, one person usually attempts to “fix” the situation. This can look like asking for “cheap forgiveness,” being overly compliant, or even showing extra affection despite their true feelings.
You might be wondering what is wrong with this attempt to repair the relationship hurts. The truth is that in healthier relationships where there is not a lot of underlying hurt and dysfunction it often does work because it offers temporary respite from the disagreement, and both individuals typically engage in the repairing at different times, so there is some balance. In more dysfunctional relationships, such as those where addiction exists, these superficial dynamics don’t really create lasting change. This is because they don’t really address the underlying problem that is often that each partner feels disrespected, unheard and misunderstood.
When presented with the Karpman’s Triangle, many individuals can quickly identify their primary and secondary roles. They can often see how the content of their disagreements in a relationship change, but the same patterns emerge. The difficult part is learning how to change that dynamic, or “get off the triangle”. For each role, there is a respective antidote that will most effectively allow an individual to step out of that role. For the victim/martyr, the most critical thing for them to do is to begin taking responsibility. This means identifying and owning their part in the problem. For the perpetrator/offender, they need to learn to negotiate. This means that they are not always right, and will need to work with others to create a situation where both people walk away satisfied. For the rescuer/enabler, their solution is in realizing that they have options, so it is their choice to try and fix a situation, or to step back and let each adult discern a solution for themselves. Real change tends to happen when individuals engage in these alternatives roles. Often, when they begin to see that the conflict is rarely about the topic at hand, they can begin to address deeper issues requiring more vulnerability and allowing them to move closer to true intimacy.
Every journey begins with one step. To learn more about the Gentle Path at The Meadows program or if you have an immediate need, please contact us or call 855-333-6076.
The article entitled “Insatiable: The Real Lives of Sex Addicts” in the May issue of GQ magazine is a positive step in helping to overcome the stigma attached to sexual addiction. The media can serve as a source of much-needed education when it allows people to understand the pain associated with sexual addiction, and sometimes get in touch with their own difficulties associated with the multitude of behaviors of sex addicts. Sexual addiction is like any other addiction, and there is more and more neuroscience evidence to support this fact. Unfortunately, the media also glamorizes sexual addiction at times, which impedes the process of raising awareness about its true nature. Casting the struggles that some high profile individuals have with sexual addiction in a positive light leads people to believe that sexual addiction is just an excuse for people to engage in affairs or that it’s appropriate and celebrated celebrities get to have lots of sex while lay people who engage in the same behaviors are frequently vilified.
The article in GQ magazine, which was written by Nathaniel Penn, addresses the plethora of “hookup” apps like Tinder and Grindr as ways that individuals find sexual liaisons; the number of professionals seeking sex addiction therapy training doubling since 2008, the lack of insurance coverage for sex addiction; and the increasing popularity of Sex Addicts Anonymous as a 12 Step Group for sex addiction growing by 10 percent each year for the past decade. The article focuses on a potpourri of individuals—from all walks of life—who have struggled with or who still struggle with sexual addiction and through that we see the wide range of behaviors associated with this addiction.
As the GQ article rightfully states, the absence of a DSM code is a deterrent in that it doesn’t allow sexual addiction treatment to be covered by health insurance nor does it provide funding for much-needed research. The sexual addiction research currently being conducted is largely funded through private donations from organizations like the American Foundation for Addiction Research (AFAR).
On a brighter note, the recent inclusion of Internet gaming and gambling disorder in the DSM has bolstered credibility for the recognition of non-substance related addictions, paving the path for sexual addiction to be recognized in the near future. Hopefully, in the interim, the media will continue to portray sexual addiction in an honest light in order to reduce its stigma and to open the door for people to become more educated about the true nature of this painful addiction.
While most sex addicts have a history of trauma and tend to come from certain specific family structures, we’re witnessing an increasing number of sex addicts in recent years whose addiction did not seem to have these typical precursors. One of the reasons for this shift is the proliferation of the adult entertainment industry, online pornography, and the widespread availability of hookup sites such as Tinder and Grindr. This landscape allows people to become addicted to sex because these types of technology-assisted sexual behaviors are strong enough to stimulate the brain beyond what it was originally designed to tolerate.
Sexual addiction has one of the most diverse manifestations of any addiction. When you’re working with alcoholics, it really doesn’t matter what they’re drinking, it could be beer, wine, or vodka and abstinence from alcohol is the goal. Individuals who suffer from alcoholism know what they have to stay away from. When you’re dealing with sex addicts, their behavior manifests in so many different ways and understanding the specific behaviors reveals important clues as to how to treat the addiction because different behaviors are treated in different ways. While one person may act out through juggling multiple relationships, another person may turn to prostitutes or child pornography. Certain behaviors may be intended to meet different underlying unmet needs and wants or they may be manifestations of various types of unresolved childhood trauma. No matter how the sex addict is acting out in their disease, a life in recovery from sex addiction still has healthy sexual activity in it. Sex addicts must find a healthy relationship with sex in order to live a healthy life. Therein lies one of the challenges of treating sex addiction.
The vast majority of sex addicts suffer from some sort of physical, sexual or relational trauma, which lies at the core of their addiction. Sex addicts often do not believe they have any inherent worth or value and typically don’t believe they can rely on other people to meet their needs, making it difficult for them to be honest, authentic and vulnerable enough to sustain long-term relationships. These faulty core beliefs come from childhood as we learn what to expect from other people from our primary caregivers when we’re young.
Developed by Patrick Carnes, PATHOS is a brief screen for sex addiction that is composed of six questions. Using a cutoff score of three, the PATHOS correctly identifies 88.3% of male sex addicts. In such cases, individuals should be assessed for sexual addiction.
At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we acknowledge the contribution of underlying trauma and insecure attachment to the development of adult addictions and relational problems. At the same time, we hold patients accountable by asking them to take responsibility for how their maladaptive behaviors have negatively impacted and even harmed other people. At Gentle Path at The Meadows, the difficult journey of working through trauma and being accountable for one’s addiction takes place in an environment that is strengthened by peer support. Our clients can comfortably share their stories with each other and build healthy friendships with other males who are also in sexual addiction recovery. When men gather together with the intention of changing the core of who they are, without distraction and fear of stigma from the outside world, a container of safety is created. This safe container in treatment creates the foundation of peer support that will continue to be fortified through continued participation in the 12-step recovery fellowship.
By Amy Sohler, MPA, MA, LMHC, CDP, MHP
Although it may be clinically hard to diagnose, sex addiction may affect up to three to seven percent of the population. Unfortunately, there is more of a stigma attached to sexually “acting out” than there is with the symptoms of other addictions. Many clinicians don’t have a well-defined criterion to diagnose the condition. Complicating matters even further is that sex addiction is often maintained and protected by a shield of dishonesty.
By Amy Sohler, MPA, MA, LMHC, CDP, MHP
Current research in the field of sex addiction is revealing with utmost certainty that sexual addiction is just like any other addiction. It involves the dopamine response just like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, shopping addiction, and any other process addiction. Such addictions all reside in the same part of the brain, so should be treated as such. What’s difficult and most challenging about sex addiction is that many people don’t see it as a “legitimate” addiction. Therefore, it has a stigma attached to it when in reality it’s no different than more “publicized” addictions.