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.
Gentle Path at The Meadows has developed a unique program that integrates effective clinical methodologies to help patients deal with sex addiction and trauma. An important component of our 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. On the other hand, the rate of recidivism when sex addiction treatment that is not trauma-informed is significantly higher than other modalities of treatment that do not take trauma into consideration.
As unpleasant as it may be to accept it, pain is part of human existence. However, trauma per se is not expected as an aspect of normal experience. Trauma results from life events that are beyond the normal sense of control, are extremely stressful in nature, and are directly experienced, witnessed, or vicariously lived by an individual. Trauma can be overwhelmingly disruptive. 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. Trauma usually shatters trust; which affects our sense of personal connection and support; other people can be perceived as unreliable, and the experience of loneliness may become invasive. When the system of rules that frame our normal experience has been violated, the world may no longer be protective for the person. Because the fight or flight response cannot be deactivated, the body experience and even the sense of self and identity may become unsafe. Hence, the person needs special care in order to have his/her personal structure restored and reintegrate the experience of self.
When trauma occurs, the organism tries to assimilate the experience and reduce the detrimental consequences without an extreme investment of psychological energy. Human beings have an innate biological response of protection to wounding that is immediately activated when this happens. Psychologically, a frequent reaction of the organism is re-experiencing the event and avoiding reminders of the situation as a defense mechanism. This reaction can be part of the normal adjustment process. However, it can also result in a disorder that causes alterations in the person’s cognition, arousal, reactivity, and behavior if the reaction lasts for a period of time that ranges from one month to lifetime if untreated. Sex addiction is quite often a response to unresolved relational trauma and wounded love.
This week The Meadows provided to industry experts an online screening of the new film "Thanks for Sharing" focusing on sex addiction. One hundred twenty-four people attended the screening. The following is a review of the film.
BY: Gene Klassen, LPC-Intern, CSAT (c)
I thought the movie was well done. It provided a very realistic view of life in the first several years of recovery from sexual addiction. All of the basic themes around recovery and 12-step meetings were presented: sobriety medallions, sponsorship, 3-second rule, relapse, partner's fears about their addict's relapse potential, dating, honesty, avoiding triggers, withdrawal, meetings, phone calls to program buddies, eliminating stash, higher power, etc.
There were a few scenes with sexual content that could potentially be problematic for sex addicts in early recovery to watch. With appropriate support and discussion about these scenes with other recovering addicts immediately following the movie, I think the movie could be appropriate for almost all addicts and partners in recovery.
For the general public, I think the movie provides a pretty good overview of sexual addiction. For individuals with this problem who are not in recovery, this movie may provide an impetus to seek help. Of course, those who see the movie and want to solve this problem on their own will find ways to dis-identify with the characters in the movie.
Other than an education in sexual addiction, there is not much else that makes the movie compelling. Because of a few well-known actors, the movie may bring in a crowd that would otherwise pass. My prediction is that it will not be a box office hit. I also doubt the movie will result in immediate change in general attitudes around sexual addiction, but my hope is that it will provide additional content and perspective to the ongoing conversation. The media buzz could generate curiosity and higher attendance that I might expect. We'll see.
Thank you so much for the invitation to the pre-screening,
Gene Klassen, LPC-Intern, CSAT (c)
Dallas, TX 75209
The Meadows will sponsor a preview of the new film about sex addiction, "Thanks for Sharing," at the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) National Conference on September 18 - 21, 2013 at the Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel. The theme of the convention is "Creating a Culture of Healthy Sexuality: Diversity of Thought" which will examine sex addition and how to move from addiction into healthy sexuality.
The Meadows Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, MFT, CSAT, CST-S, and the 2012 Carnes Award Recipient, will present the Carnes Lecture "From Behaviorism to Biology: A historical look at where we've been and where we're going" on Friday, September 20.
"We are pleased to preview the new film "Thanks for Sharing" at this year's SASH Conference," said Sean Walsh, Executive Director for The Meadows."Leading sex addiction experts, including The Meadows' Senior Fellow, Alexandra Katehakis, will be presenting training, along with strategies, treatment modalities, and research in the fields of sexual health."
Several goals and objectives of the conference include using effective techniques to identify persons for increased risk for problems with sexual health and developing educational approaches and preventive interventions that improve the sexual health of all persons.
SASH is a nonprofit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to scholarship, training, and resources for promoting sexual health and overcoming problematic sexual behaviors. For more information about SASH and the conference, visit. www.sash.net.
Dusty - 23year old -Strawberry Roan - Quarter horse - Gelding
Boundaries are one of the most requested issues that Participants want to work on at Equine.
So where can you find a safe and reliable place to practice noticing and responding to boundaries? A place where you can literally see and feel boundaries?
Dusty is that space. He is amazing in that he is consistent, honest and clear in his expression of personal boundaries. He is not what you would call cuddly. We affectionately refer to him as our "Grumpy Old Man." With Dusty you always know exactly what he wants. No question. He makes no excuses and never second guesses himself. If he wants to be close that day you know it. If he wants space that day, you know it too. Groups have begun only to have Dusty lay down and fall asleep or take a nap. The photo above is Dusty napping during a group.
Dusty created our Boundaries experiential all on his own. We would watch Participants approach him and see him begin setting boundaries. Often the more subtle cues were missed and so he would be more obvious with ears and making a face. If these cues were also missed he would move away or move his head up and down in the air. So the question posed is always the same "Do you ever find yourself in an out of control situation but have no idea how it got that way?"
By moving toward Dusty and then away Participants can see exactly when the Boundary is being set and also FEEL when the Boundary is there. Dusty sets and holds boundaries with an almost tangible energy. It's a very confident feeling. To Participants who chose to work with Dusty it becomes very clear; that in learning how to recognize the boundaries he sets, they were also better able to see other boundaries being set around them. Boundaries that, before would have been totally unrecognized, are now easily seen.
Even though he is a horse that clearly prefers the predictable black and white of life, Dusty willingly stands in the grey messiness of us trying to figure out human Boundaries. With Dusty the more you lean into the Boundary the clearer and more obvious it gets. He is a horse that brings things into focus and gives you a look at life through eyes that see things in a much simpler way.