Since 1985 I have run a program for couples who struggle with sex addiction, affairs and/or infidelity. I run two weekly group meetings for men (see Men’s Issues and Men’s Groups on this website). The men may have a history of virtual (online) or actual infidelity and may or may not be “addicted” to sex. It is common to see both men who have a problem with online pornography and masturbation as well as those who have had affairs.
Typically, men come in for help when their spouse has discovered their secret. They are often presented with an ultimatum to get help or face a divorce. This is very motivating(!) This is the “hitting bottom” experience many men need to finally agree to get professional help. It is in exposing the secret and keeping it exposed that recovery takes place.
I recommend that both husband and wife come to the first meeting. At that time we get everything (needs to be the whole story-no secrets) on the table and establish a treatment plan that will restore the man to integrity and hopefully serve to restore the marriage. In the majority of cases, this is accomplished! There are no quick fixes, but there is hope. The men are involved in 1:1 therapy and group therapy. Couples’ sessions take place to process pain- on both sides. The men deal with shame and guilt and the women feel betrayed, violated and often undesirable to their partners. A common issue also requiring attention is the verbal and/or emotional abuse of the spouse that emanates most of the time from the offender’s feelings of shame and guilt.
The 1:1 work uncovers the issues which the offending party has been “medicating.” The group provides tools which, when employed, deter what we call “acting out” (seeking relief from stress, an ego boost or adrenaline boost through a behavior). Many times the habits are so engrained that it takes considerable time in therapy to extinguish the unhealthy behaviors and engrain the healthier ones. I have found, in over 35 years in the field, that those who remain in treatment for the long haul do very well. Clients do most of their 1:1 sessions in the first 90 days, with the group therapy providing the majority of ongoing and aftercare.
There are times when additional treatment tools are used. It may be necessary to do an Intensive Therapy Program, in conjunction with the group and couples’ work (see Intensive Therapy Program on this website). The Intensive Therapy Program squeezes the counseling into a short period of time. This allows individuals and couples to go deeper and change more quickly. This is critical when clients’ behaviors are out of control and/or the pain of the situation needs immediate attention.