sex addiction: beware of labels
When a client comes to me with this complaint, it is usually for one of these reasons:
- most of their recent sexual activity has been with porn, and now that they are with a new partner, they are having trouble connecting to that person
- their partner thinks they want too much sex, want the wrong kind of sex, or that they watch too much porn
- their partner caught them practicing non-consensual non monogamy
- another therapist thinks they are a sex addict
- they are uncomfortable with or feel stigmatized by their desires.
Because I practice solution focused brief therapy, a way of working that looks at how clients will recognize a successful outcome for therapy, I don’t need to label a person to help them, and I don’t need to give them advice. I do need listen very attentively, and ask a series of carefully crafted questions to elicit precise descriptions of what things will be like they begin to improve, how they will know they are on the right track. Listening carefully for these clues inevitably leads to helpful conclusions. These are questions that will lead to improvement, descriptions of when things were better, and to pick up clues in what they say.
While as a certified sex therapist I have must subject matter expertise, it is equally important for me to have expertise in relating to clients in a way that actually helps them. I have heard so many stories about experts who didn’t listen to clients, gave advice that didn’t apply to them, or talked down to them. It is only once I have truly understood how a client measures success that I can accurately point them to resources.
There is a a growing body of evidence (http://www.solutionfocused.net/research.html) to support the idea that asking someone solution focused questions is much more likely to help clients than telling them what to do. When this way of relating is backed up with knowledge of sexual and psychological health, my client and I have truly built a solution that works for them.