Have you been struggling with an online sex addiction for years?
Have you resorted to meeting random people on Craigslist, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Omegle or Ashley Madison?
Do you feel like you are addicted to porn or anonymous sexual encounters?
Are you looking to see a psychologist for help with getting your sex addiction under control?
Has your sexual libido dropped off with your wife or husband?
Are you seeking to sustain the excitement by imagining yourself in erotic or even in pornographic films?
Suppose you join a 12-step program like SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous Calgary), SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) or go with a 12-step-based, Patrick Carnes-trained Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (C-SAT). In that case, you will be repeatedly told that addiction simply is not a class anyone graduates from and that no one ever breaks utterly free of any addiction.
A similar posture is often mirrored in marriage counselling: Some couples counselling Calgary offers in the area of sexual addiction will paint an equally hopeless picture, with the relationship therapist usually suggesting that, "Once an addict, always an addict" is an unassailable truism. Even some Christian therapists in Calgary will shift what was marriage counselling into divorce counselling as soon as porn addiction or hyper-sexuality and the associated affairs or infidelity are discovered.
Meanwhile, the DSM-5 Diagnostic Manual of Statistics and Mental Disorders has removed sexual addiction as a mental disorder or mental disease entirely, and many of the sex therapists Calgary offers will regard the use of the (dubious, though popular) term "Sex addiction," as evidence of religious moralizing. Yet, many still consider those who suffer from such as having "Just decided" to break trust in their relationships. (Thus, they then deserve punishment by way of the loss of that relationship?) Read More
Quite naturally, a thoroughly confused public often flees from those various counselling sources in Calgary into the above Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous programs and settle for a teeth-gritted strategy of just trying harder. Many times, this is coupled with attempts to kill off their supposedly-diseased sexualities altogether - while their spouses end up in Al-Anon-type groups and their marriages drift further and further apart.
It almost goes without saying that there's something desperately wrong here...
One little-known fact about recovery programs is that even the best-case evaluations of many popular 12-step-based addiction treatment programs still repeatedly show a failure rate (over various periods) of around 70%. (The worst-case assessments of many of those treatments generally report success rates that statistically seem to differ little from doing nothing.) Read More
What's even more confusing about this rather sad state of addiction recovery is that we already knew better a long time ago. When we look at psychological research-based treatment programs such as St. Jude's Sober-Forever program (primarily focused on just the cognitive 20% of the problem) that provide treatment in a competent and psychologically well-founded manner, what we find is that therapy success rates shoot up to a repeatedly-verified level of over 60% favourable outcome in overcoming addiction, from just that 20% increase in effective psychologically based treatment!
It got us wondering: What could be possible if we merged that effective cognitive approach with only the bare minimum couples and family therapy Calgary has everywhere? What if we also tried to address the entire 80% remaining? And what if we went far beyond just that bare minimum and did all of it really well?
Maybe there actually is enormous hope for the healing of sexual addictions!
When, twenty years ago, Ros and I first opened our practice here, we almost immediately went to work building a program in a Lutheran Church we attended. Every Thursday night, we closed down and took over the entire building creating a confidential environment to walk around 80 people per year out of their struggles with addiction and compulsive sexuality. It provided the perfect laboratory to test all the addiction recovery theories and techniques we learned in graduate school while pursuing our Master's Degrees in Psychology and Counselling.
There we discovered that doing research in the treatment of compulsive sexuality didn't necessarily require research grants, writing papers or methods of statistical analysis. It simply required the intellectual honesty to try those techniques on a group and then, a few weeks or months later, look in the mirror and admit to ourselves:
"That was completely useless and I can't believe I ever thought that would work!"
Unfortunately, we discovered that practically nothing many other Calgary Counsellors of the time and we were trained in accomplished much of anything. And, worse yet, no matter how perfectly we executed that training, sometimes people got hurt. Read More
The Calgary couples sex counselling we offer is a direct result of that period of exploration and honest self-reflection - as well as the years of nearly constant research and learning we pursued as we sought to develop our practice to provide the best marriage counselling Calgary could offer and merge it with addiction treatments and a faith-based perspective that went far beyond the norm that most Calgary therapists of the time were practicing.
So, if you are considering seeing a psychologist in Calgary to help address issues of compulsivity in sexuality, what are the five core areas of holistic psychotherapy those Calgary counselling services absolutely must address?
Most North American addiction treatment has and continues to pursue what is called "The Control model," of addiction treatment. Control Model treatment programs start with the assumption that addiction is a disease you catch from exposure to addictive substances or behaviours. Once you catch it, you will always live with a disordered brain wrapped up in the constant search for dopamine (Or whatever the "problem" neurotransmitter of the day is said to be.) It holds that your health or sickness level is determined by the presence and/or frequency of engagement with a given substance or activity and that the best you can do is attempt to manage the problem (mainly through avoiding those addictive substances or behaviours.) They promote lifelong treatment, the belief that addictive substances cause people to lose control, unleash inhibitions, make people diseased and cause them to live out-of-control lives.
Unfortunately, the Control Model rarely works:
It's influential, powerful, and so visible most people don't know there is any other model. Yet, so many peer reviewed studies repeatedly confirm that Control Model treatment programs for addiction are largely ineffective. Conversely, other researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that Cognitive Based and Trauma-focused Programs do work - especially in conjunction with a whole-life-focused movement towards physical, emotional, mental and relational wellness. Those social scientists have clearly shown us that, not only can addiction be arrested without constant attendance at meetings and teeth-gritted effort, but that some people can even cease to be addicts entirely. So, what do those Cognitive Based and Trauma-focused programs entail?
We believe that effective psychological counselling for addiction starts with two core assumptions:
Two equal and opposite lies are constantly promoted within the addiction recovery culture: The first is that addiction is a choice (and you'll make better choices once we punish you). The second is that addiction is a disease you were born with (because you have messed up genes, a miss-wired brain or were overstressed as a child or something...)
Those lies have inflicted incredible damage. The choice model is just a continuation of lousy parenting techniques based on punishment (and jail-based time-outs because we really don't want to be around you), while the second ignores the reality that stress is a normal part of life and that everything a person is seeking through their addictive behaviours (motivation, affection, love, pain reduction etc.) are entirely normal human longings.
If we grow up in a healthy environment, we grow up with an accurate understanding of relationships, the ability to make decisions, skills at enriching our own lives, the ability to manage/regulate stress and the knowledge of how to handle our autonomic nervous systems. What we really should be asking is why didn't the addict grow up with that, and why do they have so much pain that the need to escape is overpowering?
In other words, the first question is not, why is there addiction. The question is, why is there so much pain and so little skill in managing it?
Obviously, if people seek to feel human, it's because they DON'T feel human...
Addiction is never the core of the problem, nor is it the primary problem. It's just an attempt to regulate the autonomic nervous system. Addiction really has only three purposes: To reduce pain, simulate connection and alleviate stress. We either put substances into our bodies or engage in behaviours that release our natural drugs called Endorphins. (The word "Endorphin," stands for: Endogenous Opioid Like Substance.) Read More
In a child's life, traumatic events do not add up - they multiply in terms of creating risk factors for addiction. And, even when a child is not overtly abused, neglect can often have precisely the same impact. For example, the brain is designed with a neural expectancy of attuned emotional coregulation with a parent. When the child does not get it, that emotional abandonment is experienced as traumatic. Lack of responsive parental interaction is an assault on the nervous system. A child not getting an attuned and responsive connection from their parent IS ALONE A SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE EVENT IN THE LIFE OF A CHILD! Sometimes we are traumatized by experiencing what we should not have (E.g. Sexual abuse), but we are traumatized mainly by not experiencing what we should have.
Popular media seems to think addicts are somehow different from "normal" people. But, I've never met one who fits that stereotype - even if they believe themselves to be weird and shameful to the very core. Their addictions had nothing to do with anything abnormal about them, and their addictive behaviours were absolutely normal responses to abnormal circumstances.
The compulsive behaviour that is commonly termed "Sexual Addiction," then, should actually be seen as an ineffective attempt to meet a genuine need: self-medicating trauma. We believe credible addiction treatment starts, somewhat counterintuitively, with honouring addiction! When a person resorts to addictive behaviour, it's because that behaviour or substance does something for the person that they need. We need to deeply understand what that need is before we can begin to meet it more effectively, and we need to normalize that need, or the self-punishment will continue. No one will even start to heal while engaged in ruthless self-punishment, much less fully understanding the intense needs and savage wounding that the addictive behaviour is an attempt to address.
We repeatedly find that, when our clients can walk free of that shame and guilt and begin to understand and validate the intention of their addiction, then the focus shifts from self-punishment towards learning skills to manage life, pain and relationships. There is incredible power in saying, "You know, I experienced X abnormal event without the tools to deal with it, so I ceased to risk growing up and turned to Y instead - and I can change that." Contact us today!
But that's only part of the picture! Again, though they do not cause addiction, emotional pain and stress do play a huge role in addiction. Stressful circumstances and relational/emotional distress are standard parts of life that addicts and non-addicts alike endure. It's only when those experiences are mishandled (usually through false beliefs about such) that addiction becomes a factor. A core part of addictions counselling and sex therapy for sexuality-related addiction involves learning to handle stress differently.
However, stress's critical role in addiction is also central to understanding why we often merge our Calgary Couples Counselling with Addiction Therapy. In simple terms, humans were never designed to carry emotional pain alone. In many ways, addiction can be seen as an attempt to deal with emotional and relational problems without trusting emotionally connected relational intimacy to do so or meet our heart needs. Helping our clients learn how to endure and hold emotional pain when it arises is nearly impossible unless we can also help them put love in order and learn to trust another person.
Here's a simple foundation: Almost no one ever breaks free of hyper-sexuality or sexual addiction without learning how to enter relationship in the most profound and genuine sense.
Humans are fundamentally relational beings. Due to the simple fact that the fully developed head would never make it down the birth canal, the human infant is essentially born into a larval state that lasts for about the next six weeks to three months. But, even in that larval state, the first moments of human life and the actions associated with them are profoundly relational. The infant's eyes are designed to focus straight ahead at the exact distance the mother's face would be when nursing her newborn child, and, almost from the moment of birth, those little eyes search for the face of mother. Many infants refuse to nurse unless they can both see the mother's face AND the mother is making eye contact with the child.
If you look at the Bible's Genesis narrative of the creation of man, you see a similar theme: God creates Adam and sets him to his first task: naming all animals. Adam finishes naming the last animal and concludes, "There's no one here just like me." God then makes His first negative statement about his creation, "It is not good for Man to be alone." It's an obvious observation - though not really the interesting part. The interesting part is what God says by His actions: "I choose not to fix that. I'm not going to make it OK for man to be alone." Instead, God creates Eve. The message is exactly the same: We were made for community and intimate relationship. The Relationship Counselling Calgary that we offer is based on one simple truth:
Yet, so much of the addiction recovery community basically ignores marriage and sometimes denigrates its value to addiction treatment. So often, I get people coming into my office saying things like, "Well, I do want my __________ to heal - but I want him or her to do it for themselves." Think about the distorted worldview reflected in that statement for a moment. The message is straightforward: Forget going for couples counselling. You need to figure out some way to be a whole person WITHOUT relationship to be eligible FOR or deserving of relationship.
Really? There are countless things that I have changed in my life that I would have NEVER changed for anyone other than my wife Roslyn - or, perhaps, my children. She has healed me in deep and profound ways, and I am in no way the same person I was before she entered my life. I've healed because of relationship, for relationship and, often, despite myself! How, exactly, is that healing and transformation invalid because it wasn't for myself?
Control model programs often live this belief out in real-time with a tendency to avoid even addressing marriage, much less offering marriage counselling. People are segregated, spouses are placed in different groups from the designated addict, addicts are encouraged not to share with their partners (and get a sponsor instead), and couples are often encouraged to get separate therapists and attend different sessions - often with vague hints that having the same therapist working with both partners in the same session on both couple and individual issues would somehow be unethical. (It's not!!!) See more by clicking here: Marriage Counselling Calgary.
Again sexual addiction is an attempt to get relief from unmet relational needs met without ever trusting another person enough to have them fulfilled. Trusting them with what? With our emotional world. With our deepest thoughts. With our most significant wounds. With our most intense needs. With our most passionate longings. With our most intense anger. With all of ourselves!!!
The thing is, trusting another person is scary for anyone. Levels of relational trauma, experienced either through abuse or abandonment, are often relatively equal in romantic partners - and that only increases the difficulty of that trust. That's agonizingly true if your partner or spouse has already been deeply betrayed by the state of the relationship and/or the presence of addiction. It becomes almost impossibly confusing if that partner is also themselves addicted in other ways.
Obviously, most homes that neglect or traumatize children neither have the skills to model anything better nor teach those children anything approximating practical skills at connection and trust. Thus, the wounded hearts of both partners and the absence of skills in this area are both significant areas we address in therapy. Learn more about our Couples Therapy Calgary.
If we go back to the searching eyes of that newborn infant, what that child is asking is, "Do you want me, do I belong here, am I safe in your arms and, when I call, will you be there for me?" The passage of a few decades does nothing to change those questions.
When we help couples rewrite their attachment patterns away from preoccupied, avoidant dismissive, disorganized or fear-based stances and help them create patterns of secure attachment, we are helping them create, in their modern relationships, the safe place of love and belonging many have craved since infancy.
When those couples then learn how to give each other space and honestly express their needs and longings to each other, we create the framework for different understandings of relationship and for learning skills for getting love needs met in a trusting, intimate relationship.
Once we get basic compatibility out of the way, marriage is fundamentally a skill-based proposition. If you have those skills, you will usually get your needs met, meet your partner's needs and enjoy a successful relationship.
If you don't have those skills, you could be the most compatible people on the planet and may still end up in a divorce court.
• Couple communications skills.
• Conflict resolution skills.
• Skills at meeting couple
• Spiritual Intimacy skills.
• Skills of physical affection.
• Recreational Companionship
• Skills at integrating all aspects
• Sexual intimacy skills & sexual
Many more areas could be added to that list. Still, for most people struggling with hyper-sexuality or sexual compulsivity, it is all seen under two headings: Trusting my heart to love and trusting another to care for the physical/sexual needs of my body.
It's important to note that while many in the general public look at addictive struggles in the area of sex as being a love for sex, most people struggling in this area regard their random sexual experiences with strangers as being a way of punishing themselves or their immersion in erotic or even pornographic materials as being all they deserve. It may generate a euphoric state - but addictive sexuality a still mostly about numbness and the avoidance of self, memory and emotions.
Thus, it's not just enough to put love in order, we also have to put sexual intimacy in order as well. Book a session today!
Think of some of the bleak terms we commonly use to describe sexual intimacy: Bumping Uglys, Doing The Nasty, Get Laid, Bone, Bang, Screw, F**k... Why is it that positive terms for physical/sexual bonding are so few and far between in our culture?
Our culture has had an extremely dim view of sexuality ever since the Puritans, and it doesn't appear that those views are likely to shift anytime soon. Much of organized religion is still profoundly sex-negative. Parents have largely ceded education in the area of sexuality to the school system, and the school system seems mainly focused on training children to put condoms on assorted fruits and vegetables. Obviously, helping children not die from weird sexually transmitted diseases is a laudable goal, but that accomplishes almost nothing in terms of raising up people who really know how to how to love, give of themselves and become deeply sexually known by another.
A significant part of our personhood is sexual in nature and can only be met in a sexual relationship. Random encounters with people met in bars or on Tinder do not, in any way, constitute sexual intimacy. The mechanics of sex (Insert tab A in slot B, repeat vigorously...) also have little to do with such. Sexology Calgary is firstly about helping people find worth in their own sexual selves - so that they can finally allow themselves to be loved there.
Our fantasies are absolutely central to our sexual selves. Obviously, most of our fantasy lives are filled with imaginings that would be relatively poor ideas to try to act out in real life. But that was never what they were for. They are a means of expressing something so deep within us that it often can not come out in any other way. When the general public thinks of a sex therapist in Calgary, they often imagine learning a bunch of positions - but most of the work of a sex therapist is actually about getting people to talk, share and be vulnerable enough at the level of their fantasies and needs to really have sexuality truly be intimate - to be loved as a sexual being.
A considerable part of what a Couples Sex Therapist in Calgary does is help people learn to distinguish between their chosen means of finding relief from unmet needs and how to achieve real fulfillment for those needs.
It doesn't require a high level of awareness of unmet needs to numb them out of existence - but it does take a very high level of awareness and the development of a significant body of relationship skills to meet those needs successfully in the intimate couple relationship.
Sexologist Calgary addressing addiction via Couples Counselling? Yes, and it's absolutely essential that sexual intimacy really be all it can be for each couple for addiction to truly be healed. Contrary to public opinion, the human brain is VERY capable of rewiring itself - but never through simply trying harder. And, no one ever changes sexual addiction as long as hyper-sexuality is better than all other options available.
The human brain can only rewire itself if it finds and pursues something better. In this context, that's only likely to be found in the arms of someone who deeply loves and is committed to you...
Addictions treatment in North America is in the midst of a culture war. In years gone by, scientists believed that the brain developed within a critical window during early childhood and then remained virtually static (or unchanged) for the remainder of the person's life. This idea formed the foundation for concepts like "Can't teach an old dog new tricks," and "Once an addict, always an addict."
It's a story that has been repeatedly disproven!
Neuroplasticity (sometimes called neural plasticity) is a relatively new term which describes the brain's ability to rewire itself and change how it responds to stimuli. It represents our growing awareness of how the brain can move functions from one part of the brain to another and completely reroute neural pathways such that we respond in totally different ways than we previously would have.
In its simplest sense, Neuroplasticity is little more than the study of the power of human desire and altered belief to reshape the neural wiring of the human brain. On the surface, such a small idea doesn't seem particularly significant or world-changing. But it's huge - because it destroys the critical foundation of the disease or control model of addiction, which says your brain is broken, and there's nothing anyone can do about that. And what it's creating is nothing short of a cultural revolution here in North American addictions treatment.
Our modern ability to image the brain and watch it in action has allowed us to clearly state that it can change. Addiction need not be permanent for anyone. Obviously, that starts with hope that the behaviours of addiction can stop - but it goes far beyond that:
Many out there would consider that statement to border on the heretical, but the evidence for it is strong and growing nearly daily. And, bluntly, rewiring the brain STARTS with rejecting the deeply ingrained and incessantly promoted idea that your mind can not change your brain.
In other words, a cognitive-based, Emotion Focused approach to Neuroplastic change starts with the realization that there is no such thing as an out-of-control addict doing anything they do not want to do. Contrary to the entire Control Model of recovery and its associated guilt-laden interventions, consequences and attempts to make people hit "Rock bottom," real healing addiction starts with freedom: Respecting people enough to provide them with the opportunity to discover, invent, weigh out, decide upon and then pursue the options they choose.
Once we get the systems of guilt and the pronouncements of addiction recovery programs out of the way, we can then offer people the chance to finally ask themselves the most important questions:
Once we strip away that cloud of guilt and shame, answering those questions becomes relatively easy. And, what then emerges is an incredible clarity both about how rapidly behaviours and habits can be changed and the enormity of the pain, damage and false beliefs that have prevented such.
Your thinking and belief systems are yours alone - completely independent from every other person on the planet - and they create your emotions, decisions and, ultimately, your actions. Learning how to change your belief systems and thoughts, when matched with an equally important set of skills that enable you to properly handle your emotions and your inner world, creates an empowered and motivated relational learner and lover of other people where an addict once stood. Change those beliefs today!
The ability to own your own choices, reject the lie of powerlessness (though it certainly feels real) and fully embrace your own personal responsibility is the ability to begin to identify your deepest relational needs and maximize the satisfaction and long-term fulfillment through meeting them that eventually begins to eclipse the instant-gratification based relief of sexually addictive behaviour.
Contrary to public opinion, free personal choice and the full force of passionate desire for real intimate fulfillment are the foundations of addiction recovery in sexuality.
The problem is that the cloud of guilt and shame is often thick. Yet, the last time I checked, the entire reason Christ came was to forever cancel religion and its associated rules, judgment and condemnation and replace it with utter freedom and an intimate relationship with God wherein there is, "No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1)
Funny how we manage to skip over all that, and somehow, Christians manage to be some of the most guilt-ridden, disempowered and shame-filled people on the planet...
Actually, it's not really funny at all - it's maddening, insulting and, in light of modern psychological understandings of addiction, a pretty decent explanation for why the levels of sex addiction, erotica addiction and porn use (legally defined in Canada as "Obscenity") within the Evangelical Church are significantly higher than in general society. Many of our marriages are so awash in joyless sexual contact that it often doesn't even deserve to be called intimacy.
Again, addictions treatment for compulsive sexuality, hyper-sexuality or sexual addiction is in the midst of a culture war here in North America.
On the one side stands the old (Reportedly Christian) Control Model 12-step based treatments that regard you as powerless, guilty, shameful, diseased, never-to-be-free again, destined to a life of avoiding sexual stimuli and dependant upon various treatment programs and formulas for trying harder - mostly in relational isolation.
On the other side stand the new (Reportedly non-religious) psychologically based freedom models teaching that you are a free agent with free will, that your mind can change your brain, that believing lies of powerlessness, shame and guilt keep you from growing up and owning the responsibility to live out the fully human life you were made for, that learning to avoid relief in favour of passionately pursuing real meaning and fulfillment in an intimate relationship can transform your entire life and that healing for past pain and trauma is most definitely available to all.
You tell me: Which of those is actually the Christian model of healing?
About fifteen years ago and near the end of the Thursday night small group meetings we led at that Lutheran Church, My wife, Roslyn, took her group of women (nearly all sexual assault or abuse victims and partners of male participants) out one Saturday for an afternoon lingerie shopping trip as a means of blessing their sexualities and giving them permission to risk again.
At the next small group meeting, I noticed that one of the participants (the husband of one of the women in Roslyn's group) appeared highly emotional. Concerned, I asked him if he was doing OK. He immediately started tearing up while describing the transformative impact that lingerie shopping trip had created in both the person of his wife and their marriage. He then said:
The core of the merged Sex Counselling Calgary and Couples Counselling Calgary we offer is simply this: A commitment to providing couples something so much better than sexual addiction. If you're looking for quick, easy band-aids, they're not on offer. If you are looking to transform your relationship and each of your hearts and are willing to do the work to heal all five of the above critical areas, then there is an excellent chance you can not only cease addictive behaviour, you can also cease being an addict. That starts with what no other philosophy or religion can offer: The definitive and permanent erasure of guilt - beginning with the part of it the Church inflicted.
I promised straight talk, so, here it is...
Real healing takes time, an integrated and holistic approach and hard work.
If you're looking for treatment for sex addiction, Calgary has a lot of options - the question is if the recovery they offer is a recovery you actually want? And, if a lonely, try-harder-based, teeth-gritted avoidance of shame via a strategy of fear-based distancing from sexual guilt with no hope for anything better is all your treatment program has to offer, then I have to recommend remaining in hyper-sexuality as almost being a better option than that sort of, "Recovery."
The URL of this website is made up of two words: Intimate Freedom. Why? Because it's incredibly difficult to get freedom from any addiction until the heart's deepest needs start getting met in a relationship - especially in an intimate one. Marriage is not a nuisance on the periphery of addiction recovery - it's the foundational centre. And, your primary therapist is not a Calgary Psychologist; it's actually your spouse.
The question every person and couple needs to ask is this: Are you and your partner worth the risk, time and energy that real healing takes - or will you settle for just another bandaid?
Truly Intimate Freedom - reach out for it today!