As Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity Treatment Centers, I am often asked (by both potential clients and therapists), “What happens in sex, porn, and chemsex addiction rehab?” This brief article will try answering that question.
Sex Rehab: The Basics
Generally speaking, individuals who actively struggle with compulsive sexual behavior will jump-start their process of recovery and healing with a two-week stay (or longer) in a gender-specific facility that specializes in sex addiction and closely related issues, like porn addiction and paired substance/sex addiction (also known as chemsex addiction). Note: Plenty of substance abuse treatment centers say they also treat sexual addiction. But we can’t always recommend these centers for individuals who primarily struggle with sexual behaviors, as they likely won’t address client’s issues effectively. To address the unique issues present by sex, porn, and paired substance/sex addiction, specialization is required.
For the most part, sex rehab uses the same basic structure and techniques that work with other forms of addiction. But it also adapts and tailors them toward sexual compulsivity. Sex rehab’s primary goal is helping the client understand which of his or her sexual behaviors are problematic and which aren’t, to create a plan for establishing and maintaining sobriety. To this end, treatment separates the clients from their addiction (and the people, places, and things that trigger it), begins the process of breaking through the addicts’ denial of their problems, works to manage the crisis or crises that sent the clients into treatment, and provides them with some basic coping skills to rely on when triggered toward relapse.
Typically, the first thing that occurs in sex, porn and paired substance/sex rehab is a thorough bio-psycho-social assessment. This assessment explores every aspect of the client’s life, including a complete sexual and romantic history. The assessment also explores current life circumstances: present crises, other addictions, mental health issues, physical health issues, unresolved trauma history, and anything else that recovery may need to address.
Sex Addiction Plans
After assessment, clients will receive a treatment plan. Typically, therapeutic work is carried out using a directive, accountability-based treatment modality such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). CBT and DBT differ from traditional forms of talk therapy (which examine the ways in which the past affects the present), focusing instead on the present moment and on client behaviors. Essentially, clients are taught to recognize their desire to act out in their addiction, and to short-circuit the process by thinking about and/or doing something different – calling a supportive friend in recovery, going to a 12-Step meeting, cleaning the house, cooking a nice dinner, exercising, reading a good book, enjoying a fun hobby, etc.
No More Sex Rehab Myths
A common misperception about sex, porn and paired substance/sex addiction rehab is that clients will leave the treatment center cured of their addiction, and that they’ll never again struggle with addictive behaviors. This is most definitely not the case. In reality, the main goal of sex rehab (and other forms of addiction rehab) is to prepare clients for the necessary outpatient and 12-Step work they still have yet to do. In this respect, recovering from addiction is like recovering from diabetes or heart disease – a lifelong, day-to-day process. The good news? The disease of addiction, as with diabetes and heart disease, can go into permanent remission with a bit of daily effort.