Therapy for Problematic Sexual Behaviour
Undoubtedly the development of the internet, has facilitated sex becoming more readily available and easily accessible to all, if we have a particular type of sex we enjoy, we can find others who share our interest easily, with anonymity and without the need for a social interaction in the conventional way.
While many people are very sexual and may enjoy an active sex life with many partners, this does not make them a sex addict. However, when a person’s sexual behaviour becomes out of control and interferes with their life, making it difficult for them to form the type of relationships they want, it can be described as a problematic addictive, or compulsive behaviour. At this point therapy can be very supportive in helping the person to make the changes that they desire.
Many people who have compulsive sexual behaviour, like people who have an issue with food, drugs, alcohol or gambling, may be trying to self-soothe emotional distress. In the short term this is effective but this cycle tends to reinforce the behaviour. However, as time goes on the behaviour can become increasingly more problematic and compulsive. Distorted thinking, rationalisation and justification of the behaviour can accompany this.
Sexual addiction also is associated with risk-taking behaviours for themselves and others, which can put both parties at risk of emotional and physical injury.
Examples of the issues I work with include;
Compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation)
Multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs)
Multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands
Problematic use of the internet
Phone or computer sex (cybersex)
Sex work or use of sex workers
Obsessive dating through personal ads
Voyeurism (watching others) and/or stalking
How can therapy help?
The approach to this work is educative as well as therapeutic.
I provide a safe and non-threatening environment providing support and understanding, rather than condemnation and vilification. Being able to talk freely, will not only brings relief, but also allow new perspectives to be found, that will reduce shame.
Challenging the deep-rooted reasons for shame and self loathing that follow problematic sexual activity is a priority before the behaviour can be treated. Shame drives the unconscious anxiety that in turn, drives the addiction. Its known as the addiction cycle.
A focus of the work will be to develop trust in relationships as an alternative means of support when experiencing difficult feelings such as guilt, shame or low self esteem. My approach is open and positive, promoting sexual health, not a prescription for right or wrong.
There is often a limiting set of beliefs that have grown with the addiction. Part of the work will be to understand the role of those beliefs in maintaining the behaviour.
Therapy for couples
For couples, it is often easier for a therapist to ask the questions that are difficult for you to ask each other. This is especially true in relation to issues of trust, anger and problems of a sexual nature. My role is to support understanding ,rather than to establish blame. The work may include establishing new boundaries that work for both partners.