Proper Training for Professionals
In the Nashville area? - Bethesda Workshops will host a Breaking the Bonds of Sexual Addiction training Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. This date coincides with the world conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors to accommodate those who may be coming to Nashville for that event, which begins Sept. 11, 2013. Lunch and a certificate for 6 1/2 hours of continuing education are included. Click here for the Breaking the Bonds conference flyer.
Be a Part of the Solution
As our sexually saturated culture brings the problem of pornography and other forms of sexual acting out into the public eye, more people are seeking help for sex and co-sex addiction. As a clinician, pastor, physician or support group leader, you are uniquely positioned to guide or assist the healing process. Are you equipped?
Unfortunately, many Christian helpers are ill-equipped to address sexual addiction and co-addiction. Standard approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy and using scripture alone are rarely effective. In fact, uninformed Christian counseling often adds to the sufferer’s shame and makes the problem worse. Appropriate training is vital.
The field of treating sexual addiction is still in its infancy and competent training isn’t widely available. The other Bethesda Position Papers outline an appropriate clinical approach for numerous topics. This Paper takes the opposite slant and details typical mistakes made by untrained professionals.
Most often – and most damaging – is the error of addressing only the sin component of sexual addiction. Sex addicts already know their behavior is wrong, and they’ve already prayed to be free. Motivating addicts through guilt never works long-term. Exhortations to “Just stop!” or “pray more” only add to the person’s shame. Shame, in turn, further fuels the addiction. Helpful professionals understand the disease model of sexual addiction. They realize it’s a multi-faceted problem requiring a multi-faceted approach that covers all the components of this disease: physical, mental, emotional, and relational, as well as spiritual.
Next, untrained helpers often only focus on the specific acting out behavior(s) and ignore the deeper issues. Arresting behavior is the first treatment task, but it’s only the beginning. Both the addict and co-addict must uncover, understand, and heal from the underlying issues that drive the behavior. A trauma-based approach (one that examines woundedness and false core beliefs) is essential.
Without adequate training, Christian helpers also often fail to identify co-existing conditions that complicate recovery. Most sex addicts and co-addicts are depressed at some level. Many have an anxiety disorder or another behavioral or chemical addiction. Attention deficit disorder and eating disorder often are concurrent with the sexual addiction and co-addiction.
These co-morbid conditions often require medical attention in addition to psychotherapy. Although the Christian climate is changing, some pastors and clinicians still discourage the use of psychotropic medications.
These Christians are also likely to be suspicious of a so-called secular 12 Step recovery group and to discourage attendance. While a healthy faith-based support group is ideal, they aren’t widespread. And even if a Christian group (like Celebrate Recovery or a L.I.F.E. Group) is available, recovering people need meetings more frequently than once a week, which is the norm for faith-based groups. The Twelve Steps are firmly rooted in Scripture and active participation is vital for healthy progress in recovery.
Christian helpers also may discourage full disclosure. Instead, they advise “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” and thus let the addict avoid the painful necessity of telling the truth.
Too often, untrained pastors and counselors are especially off target in working with co-addicts, the spouses of sexual addicts. Standard marital therapy approaches don’t work and are often harmful. Sadly, co-addicts are sometimes blamed for the addiction, are encouraged to continue enabling the addict in some way (like by being more sexual), and aren’t pushed to pursue personal healing.
Finally, Christians often believe that someone must get help only from a Christian practitioner. We recommend that strugglers find the person who best understands sex addiction and co-addiction, regardless of that helper’s religious beliefs. A responsible counselor respects a client’s faith and does nothing to alter it. Just as you’d seek the best cardiologist for a heart condition, sex addicts and co-addicts need the best clinical help possible. They can turn to the church for spiritual guidance and comfort, but they need competent clinical help in order to recover.
Learn Proper Tools
Bethesda Workshops provides training for clinicians, pastors and lay helpers. Our Therapist Observer program allows professionals to sit in on an actual treatment workshop. We also offer teaching conferences, CEU events, and church seminars.