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is Indicated.


It is the best time in human history to be talking about sex addiction, because there are more recovery resources available for healing addictive symptoms, and other painful effects of trauma and neglect, than ever before.

Newsletter #9, SPECIAL EDITION
Created by Staci Sprout, LICSW, CSAT
www.stacisprout.com

 

THE SEX ADDICTION

CONTROVERSY 

 

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.

--M. Gandhi


POINT OF VIEW


I believe in the concept of sex addiction as an umbrella term to explain a dis-ease that some people suffer. How many? Due to taboos and research limitations, there are only estimates. A 2011 Time article "The Sex Addiction Epidemic" estimated between 3 - 5 % of the U.S. population; in today's numbers that would average 12.75 million people. If you want to learn more about criteria for sex addiction, check out the questions here: Am I a Sex Addict? There are other qualifiers under this umbrella term, for example, "love addiction," "sexaholism," romance addiction," "porn addiction," and "relationship addiction."

These terms are NOT interchangeable with "out-of-control sexual behavior" or "hypersexuality," which I see as descriptors and not diseases. Someone who has episodes of hypersexuality may or may not be sexually addicted. When sexual addiction takes hold of an individual, it has devastating effects on them, those who love them, and the community. The more power this person has, the more harm they can cause themselves and others. Sex addiction is an out-of-control sexual behavior pattern on the far end of the continuum; it's extreme. The disease can be fatal*.

I am so convinced of the validity of the sex addiction concept that I published my own experience as a sex addict, using my real name, now easily accessible to anyone who has access to the Internet, forever. To avoid any mistake about what I was talking about, I chose an evocative title: Naked in Public: A Memoir of Recovery From Sex Addiction and Other Temporary Insanities

Though it was not easy, I surrendered my privacy in order to promote awareness of both the devastation of untreated sex addiction, and the hope that when successfully intervened upon, people can and do recover from it - as long as they remain committed to what works over time. I have experienced this, as have many of my closest friends and others I've had the privilege to know.

On the journey to global recognition and acceptance of sex addiction, which I believe will happen, I have noticed the same milestones famously outlined by M. Gandhi in the quote above. The fight for** and against sex addiction awareness is occurring in the media at unprecedented levels these days, and confusion abounds. But who's behind the controversy? What are the issues? I created this special issue of my newsletter to help readers better understand the various organizations invested in the sex addiction concept (or its dismissal), and where they stand. 

Below I list three categories of response to the polarizing topic of sex addiction, with examples from each. I think the conflict occurring among the sexual health professional organizations can mirror the conflict we see - and feel - in families. After reading, I wonder: where do YOU stand? I'd LOVE you to email me your reply!
--SS

*I estimate the most common form of fatality from sex addiction is suicide. :(


**The Sex Addiction Battleground, by Debra Kaplan, PhD, CSAT-S, offers a thoughtful overview of some of the controversy, and the history of DSM/addiction tension.

**Championing the "Addiction" Paradigm with Regard to Pornography/Sex Addiction, Mormon Matters Podcast interviews 353-354 with key leaders in the sexual addiction treatment community - a thoughtful discussion.

 
 

 

THE CHAMPIONS

These are the organizations that understand sex addiction and are dedicated to helping members and their families in recovery.

 


12-STEP SEXUAL RECOVERY PROGRAMS*


Free, accessible to anyone who can get to a meeting, read literature or make a phone call, these spiritually based, self-help fellowships exist with the primary purpose to carry a message of hope, and offer peer support to anyone who needs it.

These organizations have no question about the reality of sex addiction, nor about recovery. They are not about intellectual argument, status-seeking, or financial gain. They are about healing through awareness, acceptance and action. And they are growing.

The graphic above highlights the incredible expansion of one major 12-Step sexual recovery fellowship, Sex Addicts Anonymous, as shared by the International Service Office. The number of SAA meetings worldwide grew by 35% from 2005 to 2016. In addiction, this fellowship documented a 2016 average of 40,000 website hits and 1,000 calls per month. That's a LOT of people looking for information about sex addiction.

LIST OF 12-STEP SEXUAL RECOVERY PROGRAMS HERE - WITH DESCRIPTORS - Thank you to my colleague and friend Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT

 

“We found in each other what we could find nowhere else: people who knew the depth of our pain. Together we found hope and the care of a loving Higher Power. Our commitment is to help others recover from sexual addiction, just as we have been helped.”


*There are other resources for peer support in sexual recovery, for example Prodigals International & Celebrate Recovery (for Christians) SMART Recovery, EXaholics (free trial/membership fee), and more.

 


THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR TRAUMA & ADDICTION PROFESSIONALS


The International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals, or IITAP, was founded after many therapists began to affiliate themselves with the work of Patrick Carnes, PhD, (the author who popularized the sex addiction concept in the early 80's) - whether they were qualified to treat sex addiction or not. It was clear that a rigorous standard of training and certification was necessary; thereby creating a unified group of certified professionals that would preserve the quality of Dr. Carnes’ work. IITAP created and oversees the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, or CSAT Program*. IITAP is a for-profit corporation.
 
IITAP's Core Beliefs:
  • Sex Addiction is real and recovery is possible
  • Addicts and their families deserve quality treatment by compassionate providers
  • IITAP celebrates diversity and our ethical guidelines promote non-discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, height, weight, physical or mental ability, veteran status, military obligations, and marital status.
  • IITAP does not condone the practice of Reparative Therapy.  Homosexuality is not pathological and is not a mental illness.
  • Sexual addiction is not defined by the type of sexual act or the gender of the sexual partner
*In my experience, there are highly qualified sex addiction therapists who have not chosen to take the CSAT training, and not all CSAT's have the same skill or experience level. However, a therapist who invests the time and resources to get certified with IITAP is demonstrating a significant commitment to the specialty. READ MORE
 
 

THE ASSOCIATION OF PARTNER OF SEX ADDICTS TRAUMA SPECIALISTS (APSATS)


APSATS is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing professional training and certification, public education and research.  They advocate for ethical care and relational healing for partners, addicts, families and communities impacted by sexual addiction and betrayal trauma.  


What they do: 


APSATS trains and
 certifies Certified Clinical Partner Specialists (CCPS) and Certified Partner Coaches (CPC) who subscribe to a developing treatment model that acknowledges and responds to the traumatic stress found in partners affected by sex addiction. MORE HERE
 
 

THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ADDICTION MEDICINE (ASAM)


ASAM, founded in 1954, is a professional society representing over 4,300 physicians, clinicians and associated professionals in the field of addiction medicine. ASAM is dedicated to increasing access and improving the quality of addiction treatment, educating physicians and the public, supporting research and prevention, and promoting the appropriate role of physicians in the care of patients with addiction. ASAM's relevant statement, from 2011:


“Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain affecting the reward/motivation/memory systems. For the first time, addiction is defined as including non-substance addictions such as to food, sex, and gambling. In other words, sexual addiction, including pornography addiction, is a chronic disease of the brain affecting reward, motivation, and memory.” This is not an issue of politics or morality, it’s an issue of brain disease and treatment. 

MORE HERE

THE CONFLICTED


SOCIETY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SEXUAL HEALTH (SASH)


Though originally founded as The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, the organization changed its name to the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) when it expanded its scope to the promotion of sexual health rather than focusing on education and treatment of sex addiction more directly. Per its website, sash.net:

"SASH is a nonprofit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to scholarship, clinical training, and resources for promoting sexual health and overcoming problematic sexual behaviors.*

*[Problematic sexual behaviors are defined as] sex addiction, hypersexual disorder, out of control sexual behavior, sexual impulsivity, sexual abuse."

"Sex addiction, hypersexual disorder, out of control sexual behavior, sexual impulsivity, sexual abuse" - sound like a mouthful? It is, and it confuses people. Competing theories and intellectual debates may be compelling to some, but can be distracting from the reality of sex addiction and its impact on families and communities. I'm all for looking at sexual pathology on a continuum, but let's get clear about what we mean so we can help people get better!

SASH offers a 16 hour class for professionals called the Advanced Training in Problematic Sexual Behaviors, but when compared to the rigors of IITAP's CSAT Program, the training reads more basic than advanced. 

I fear the dilution of focus by SASH is undermining the clarity necessary to confront the complexity of sex addiction. While there are many in that community who are pillars in the sexual addictions treatment field, a growing faction of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health denies the reality of sex addiction and promotes confusing and misleading ideas - for example that sex addiction is a wholly shaming concept and consumers need protection from such emotional abuse in therapy.

On the plus side, SASH publishes the journal, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: A Journal of Treatment & Prevention, to highlight the latest research and clinical perspective in the field of sex addiction treatment.

And, SASH put out a petition to Psychology Today in 2016 (with supporting letters from some of its members) to address PT's editorial bias against the sex addiction model. SASH also offers an annual conference with many of the leaders in sex addiction treatment offering workshops and talks.

It is my hope that SASH can honor its roots by taking a strong public stand acknowledging the grim reality of sex addiction and the complexities and realities of its successful treatment. 
 


WHAT'S THE AVERAGE 
CONSUMER TO THINK ABOUT SEX ADDICTION TREATMENT?


With conflict in the media and among some professionals so prevalent, it's even more important for consumers to determine what kind of help they need, and if the person they are considering for help in this area is qualified.

Here's an excerpt from an article called "The Sex and Porn Addiction Controversy" from my colleague Ken Adams, PhD, to help:
 

How Do I Choose the Right Therapist?

Therapists who deny the presence of sex and porn addiction often hide their denial behind statements to clients such as, “I think that label is overused,” “I work from a problematic sexual behavior therapy model,” or “Maybe if your spouse (partner) joins you in your sexual practice, there won’t be a problem.”


So, how do you choose the best therapist given these controversies about sex and porn addiction?


We recommend that you ask your therapist some or all of the following questions to determine the best fit for you:

  1. What is your belief about sex and porn addiction problems?
  2. How will your position determine the way in which you would diagnosis and treat my problem?
  3. What are the criteria you would use to determine if I am a sex or porn addict?
  4. What is your specific training to treat sex and porn addiction?
  5. If you don’t feel I have a sex or porn addiction, or don’t believe in that diagnosis, will you refer me to someone who is trained in sex and porn addiction therapy if your approach fails to help me?
  6. If you are trained to treat sex and porn addiction, how can I be certain that you won’t label and treat me as an addict if I am not one?
  7. What is your approach to treating the couple when one partner is in distress over the other’s compulsive sexual behavior?
  8. What is your treatment approach to handling sexual secrets that violate the implicit or explicit understanding regarding trust within a relationship?
  9. What results can I expect by participating with your approach to treatment?
  10. What is a reasonable time frame that I should expect to see change?

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

 


AT ONE TIME, DOCTORS DENIED THAT CIGARETTES WERE ADDICTIVE AND USED TO SMOKE IN EXAM ROOMS WITH PATIENTS...


The tobacco lobby hired many leaders, researchers, doctors, and other so-called "experts" to testify things like:
 

“Mr. Congressman, cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction.”

--James Johnson, Chairman and CEO of RJ Renolds Tobacco Company, Rep. Waxman’s Subcommittee on Health and the Environment

April 14, 1994
 

THE DENIERS

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SEXUALITY EDUCATORS, COUNSELORS, AND THERAPISTS (ASSECT)


AASECT certifies sex therapists, sex educators, and sexuality counselors. They purport to be experts on sex, however, they don't believe in sex addiction. In November 2016, AASECT released a public position statement criticizing the sex addiction concept as unduly pathological. A pointed quote from an AASECT press release:
 
"FROM A SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE, SEX ADDICTION IS NOT REAL."

Specifically: 

"AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and

2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge.

Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy."

READ PRESS RELEASE HERE

 

 

IITAP RESPONSE TO AASECT


"...a recent article on this topic, written by Dr. Patrick Carnes and published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, compared the most popular nomenclature and theoretical formulations of sexual addiction, finding that whatever name is used to label the problem, the constellation of behaviors used to identify it are incredibly similar. So the controversy and debate really does seem to be more about nomenclature and theory than anything else."

READ FULL RESPONSE HERE


 

 

APSATS RESPONSE TO AASECT


"While AASECT trained therapists and educators are permitted to use any of the clinical modalities they are trained in, we are concerned that many within and without the AASECT community will misuse or misinterpret the aims of the AASECT position statement to justify the dismissal of the important work occurring within the field of sexual addiction treatment, or to falsely suggest that the sexual addiction paradigm is not supported in the research. Worse yet, many will claim sex or porn addiction are non-existent, which has already been the case in news articles written in direct response to this statement.

Additionally, some may use the AASECT statement to invalidate the experience of traumatized partners and family members of sex addicts. Those with sexual addiction who are not in recovery may also use the AASECT statement to justify their behaviors and to invalidate the needs and experiences of the partner and family."


READ FULL RESPONSE HERE
 


How does the AASECT discounting of Sex & Porn Addiction affect the 12-step community?

 

CLICK ABOVE FOR COMMENTARY BY TODD LOVE, PSYD, and see his VISION below...
 

MY VISION FOR THE SEX ADDICTION 12-STEP COMMUNITY:

 

"I encourage those hundreds of thousands of people who self-identify as “sex addicts” or “porn addicts”, who attend the thousands of 12-step S-meetings, and who have found meaningful life change as such, to not be discouraged by AASECT. If it is working for you, STICK WITH IT! Despite the fact that increasing numbers of major media outlets are running these harmful stories, if self-identifying as a “sex addict”, and/or working the 12-step program is making positive change in your life, STICK WITH IT!!"



 

 

YOUR BRAIN ON PORN


Next to Patrick Carnes, PhD, perhaps no one person has done more to educate the public on the harm of sex and porn addiction than Gary Wilson and www.yourbrainonporn.com. 

READ YOUR BRAIN ON PORN'S RESPONSE TO AASECT'S POSITION HERE

Wilson has not been shy to call out some of the key "sex addiction debunkers" for their harassment, unethical research tactics, and questionable ties to the porn industry - an industry dominated by one company and estimated with over 100 billion income annually - and one that can logically be assumed to be heavily invested in suppressing recovery from sex addiction.

Wilson is a role model to me on sex addiction education and activism - keep up the courageous work Gary!!!

 

 

SEX ADDICTION EDUCATION  & ACTIVISM -


BECOMING A SEX ADDICTION EDUCATOR has been a key part of my recovery and my professional work today. I'm linking below my protest in the comments section from a Psychology Today article lauding AASECT's denial of the sex addiction concept. The comments devolve into personal and professional attacks on porn-harm educator and activist, Gary Wilson. Wilson's TED Talk "The Great Porn Experiment" has been viewed 7,504,539 times, obviously striking a nerve culturally. His credibility is clearly established as a global leader in sex education focused on the harmful impact of pornography.

READ MY COMMENT "I DISAGREE AND I'M DEEPLY CONCERNED" HERE
 


The real issue that continues to be forgotten when the politics of sex is at play is that people, both men and women are suffering as a result of what they describe is an addiction to sex and/or porn. 
 

--Candice Christiansen, CMHC, CSAT-S, Denial of Sex Addiction Hurts Our Clients

 

Editor Affiliations: 


I am an active member of the International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). I do not receive any money or other reimbursement or trade for my favorable comments about the organization. I just believe in them and the work they do whole-heartedly.

I am not a member of the Association of Partner of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) but I have heard wonderful things about the organization and have admired their rapid response to the sex addiction deniers. I am not a member of ASAM.

I used to be a member of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) but resigned after feeling emotionally unsafe on their professional listserv. I respect many SASH members and sponsoring organizations, and I hope to see SASH more strongly support the sexual addiction concept, and not shy away from using political issues involving sex addiction and pathology to further educate the public about sexual health.

I considered joining AASECT but after witnessing their denial of sex addiction, decided not to.

My business, Recontext Media, sends out this newsletter free to consenting readers whenever my HP inspires me. I promote my memoir through this medium, though the primary purpose is to educate and empower anyone interested in sex addiction recovery!

12-Step sexual recovery fellowships saved my life, connected me to a higher power, taught me character, and brought community and love into my life. I keep membership in specific 12-Step organizations anonymous, in respect to the Twelve Traditions.
 

Seeking Stories, Including Yours!

If you have a story, image, or link on this topic you'd like to share for future newsletters, please email it to stacisprout@recontextmedia.com for submission guidelines. Together we can do what we could never do alone!


 

"Sexuality is our most meaningful expression of our spirit. You cannot touch
one without touching the other."
- Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

 
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