Sex addiction therapy with Brad Salzman
Brad Salzman, LCSW, MS, CSAT is a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist trained and certified by Dr. Patrick Carnes, the world's leading authority in sexual addiction treatment. Brad founded the New York Sexual Addiction Center in 2010, and in 2014 he became the Clinical Director of the KIVUN Israel Recovery Center, which offers in-person therapy in Jerusalem and Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, as well as worldwide online therapy sessions via Skype. We have conducted an interview with him.
Sex becomes an addiction when your sexual behaviors are problematic and you want to stop them but you are unable to do so, even when serious consequences arise or they go against your values.
Is it a real disease or a phenomena of the modern society where we try to medicalize unwanted behaviors?
Sex addiction is a "real" addiction, just like alcoholism or drug addiction, but some people have difficulty accepting that something as natural as sex could really be addictive. After all, isn't it normal to want to have sex? In reality, sex can become an addiction much in the same way that food can become an addiction. Even though all of us need food and enjoy eating, some people use food as a way to medicate their feelings, stuffing themselves or eating even when they are no longer full as way to avoid feeling sad, lonely, angry, or afraid. Even though they may be overweight or obese, they are unable to stop overeating because it helps them deal with unpleasant feelings. In much the same way, sex can become addictive when it is used as a way to medicate and avoid unpleasant feelings.
What is the treatment/therapy for sex addiction?
Sex addiction is less about sex and more about intimacy. Most people who are engaged in sexually compulsive behaviors have problems achieving and maintaining real emotional intimacy in their relationships. They have great difficulty being fully open, honest, and vulnerable with those who are closest to them. In fact, they are often leading a double life that their loved ones or colleagues may be completely unaware of and would be horrified to discover. So people with sex addiction have to learn how to develop intimacy as a way to help them stop acting out sexually. Many people with intimacy disorders had some significant childhood trauma -- as many as 90% of sex addicts were abused physically, emotionally, or sexually -- and have learned to use sex as a way to deal with painful feelings of shame and inadequacy. Therapy must address this childhood trauma and help the addict to heal and get past those events and help the addict learn to love himself and feel worthy of being loved by others.
What should people expect when they go for treatment?
When people go for treatment, they should realize that there is no overnight cure. In fact, there is no cure for addiction, only a chance to recover. Addiction is a chronic disease, and addicts need to understand that they will always be at risk of a relapse into active addiction, no matter how much time they had away from their acting out behaviors. I like to compare it to diabetes: while there is no cure for diabetes, as long as a person avoids certain foods and takes his insulin, he can have a happy, normal, and productive life. However, if he is not vigilant or tries to deny his disease, the results can be deadly. So someone who is starting sex addiction therapy has to be aware that the treatment can take a while to undo many years of behavior. The general consensus is complete recovery can take 3-5 years. However, there are ways that a person can accelerate his progress in recovery and insure his chances at lifelong success.
What can spouses do if they think their partner has a problem with sex addiction?
If a woman suspects that her husband may be acting out sexually, she needs to confront him directly, but calmly and at the right time. She should not avoid the subject or drop hints about it. She must be firm that he goes for evaluation and treatment by a professional. It is very important for spouses to have good boundaries about what behavior they will and will not accept from the addict and what the consequences will be if the addict continues to act out sexually. It is often helpful for spouses to get therapy from a therapist who is specifically trained and experienced in dealing with the wives of sex addicts.
You can find out more about Brad at his website www.bradsalzman.com. Prospective clients are invited to schedule a free consultation with Brad to discuss their situation at (212) 529-7900 (USA) or 058-400-8413 (Israel).
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