Treatment Model

We use an eclectic theoretical approach which draws on the best of several treatment modalities. In simplest terms, we use a trauma-based model, which means that we believe trauma (in its broadest sense) is the root of compulsive sexual and relationship behavior. Simply stopping the problematic behavior isn’t enough without healing the woundedness that drives it.

Because we conceptualize sexual addiction as an intimacy disorder, we view the sexually addictive behaviors as merely symptomatic of deeper issues. Thus, our primary theoretical approach is to uncover and address those roots. In this sense, we use a psychodynamic, Bowenian model that considers family of origin as crucial in the development of adult beliefs and behavior.

We also come from a family systems approach, which is the foundation for our treatment of partners and couples’ recovery. Partners of addicts are NOT responsible for the addict’s behavior and have been deeply betrayed and often traumatized by it. At the same time, from a systems standpoint, each spouse is equally responsible for his/her personal health and each plays a part in the dynamics in the marriage. Each partner benefits by addressing his or her own patterns of relating. The first step for partners, though, is to be heard in their pain and to grieve the losses associated with the addiction.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy also has its place in addiction recovery. It’s a behavioral approach that insists on attendance at Twelve Step groups, the achievement of physical sobriety, or the maintenance of healthy boundaries. Cognitive therapy examines the false core beliefs of addicts and partners – the damaging messages received from their families of origin and the culture.

We’ve found that bibliotherapy is an extremely helpful adjunct to what happens in counseling sessions. We encourage clients to read recovery literature about addiction, codependency and woundedness. This material often generates insight and speeds progress.

We insist that addicts and partners both participate in a support group. (This step is especially hard for partners, who tend to isolate.) In addition to breaking isolation and reducing shame, group offers a fertile practice field for learning intimacy.

We also believe that healing happens in relationship, and therefore, the therapeutic relationship is key. Although we’re only with workshop participants a short time, we seek to establish a caring, supportive connection. We also are willing to speak the truth in love and aren’t afraid to challenge a client for the purpose of his or her growth. We seek to model God’s unconditional love and grace, while at the same time inspire the development of a more holy character.

Treatment Planning

An effective treatment plan for addicts and partners is a dual-track approach. The first rail is arresting the problematic behaviors and creating a healthy lifestyle of accountability and community. The second rail involves healing from the woundedness that fuels the unhealthy coping methods of addiction and codependency. Both tracks are addressed simultaneously, though in the beginning stage, more emphasis is given to achieving and maintaining sobriety (for addicts) and grieving and establishing healthy boundaries (for partners).


In this early stage, we believe it’s important to evaluate a client for mood, attention and anxiety disorders, as well as other comorbid conditions such as another addiction. Some addicts and partners suffer from an Axis II personality disorder (or traits) that require attention. See the section on dual diagnosis for more information.

We’ve found a variety of techniques are helpful in treating trauma. In addition to traditional talk therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), neurofeedback, somatic experiencing, and experiential approaches are especially effective. We believe group therapy is the treatment of choice for addiction and trauma, and at some point, every recovering person benefits from participation in a therapy group.

For the partner, it’s important to hear the pain of the betrayal and allow the client a period of grieving. In those raw early days of discovery or disclosure, a partner needs support and understanding before she (or he) can make the paradigm shift to focusing on self instead of on the addict.

We believe engaging the partner in treatment is one of the best predictors of marital success. When the spouse refuses to get help, it’s much harder for the addict to achieve lasting sobriety. And without recovery on the part of the partner, the marriage relationship can never achieve the transformation both spouses deserve.