When selecting a sex addiction therapist, make sure that the therapist has undergone real training in treating sex addiction by a rigorous and reputable training program, such as the Certified Sex Addiction Therapist training program by the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals, developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes.
Just because a therapist advertises that he treats sex addicts does not mean he has any real training in working with that population. He may not know what he is doing. In that situation, the therapist can actually do more harm than good for the sex addict and his spouse.
From Corley & Schneider, 2002:
Therapists with Limited Knowledge of Sex Addiction
In our research with couples dealing with sexual addiction, the primary
complaint was that the therapist was unfamiliar with sex addiction and that
the therapist’s approach prolonged the addict’s denial about the extent of
the problem. A therapist who has little or no experience with sex addiction
needs to let the couple know this.
Therapists with inadequate knowledge of sex addiction may fall prey to
the error of premature diagnosis. When a client presents with a sexual prob-
lem, ferreting out its cause may require some detective work. An all-too-
common therapist mistake is to diagnose without obtaining an adequate
sexual history of both the addict and the partner. For example, a client who
complains that her husband is not interested in sex with her may indeed be
married to someone who has a sexual desire disorder or sexual dysphoric
disorder, but alternatively, he may be an active sex addict who is spending
hours every night downloading pornography and masturbating. If a client
describes her own loss of interest in sex with her husband, she may have
sexual anorexia, but alternatively she may be reacting appropriately to living
with a spouse who has disclosed that he spends hours masturbating on the
computer, and who after 10 years of marriage suddenly wants her to partici-
pate in unusual sexual practices with which she is uncomfortable. Therapists
need to take the time to ask enough questions to get a full understanding of
what is happening in the relationship.
Another type of premature diagnosis is to attribute the cause of any
sexual problem to the partner. For example, years ago a woman wrote to Dr.
Ruth Westheimer (1987), who had a sex therapy newspaper column, com-
plaining that her husband could hardly wait for her to leave the house so
that he could begin watching pornographic videos, and that several times
she had returned home early and found him masturbating to a porn movie.
Meanwhile, her husband was rarely interested in sex with her. Dr. Ruth’s
diagnosis was that the wife was sexually boring, and she recommended the
wife work on becoming more exciting sexually by dressing more provoca-
tively and increasing her sexual repertoire and her sexual availability. An-
other therapist, upon hearing a woman’s complaints about her husband’s
interest in pornography, told her that all she needed was a more enlightened
attitude about pornography, including joining her husband in viewing the
pictures and films. Meanwhile, her husband’s preferred sexual outlet, one he
spent engaged in for may hours a week, was masturbating to pornography,
The wife had, in the past, agreed to experiment with various sexual activities
with her husband, but he was not particularly interested in relational sex
(Schneider et al., 1998).
In both of the cases, the underlying problem may have been a compul-
sive or addictive sexual disorder involving pornography and masturbation.
Rather than looking to the partner to change, it is better to obtain a thorough
history about addictive or compulsive patterns.
In other cases, the diagnosis may be correct, but the labeling may be
premature. Partners are very sensitive to being labeled along with the addict.
Labels such as “coaddict” or “codependent,” while they may appropriately
describe the partner, rarely are the best path for helping the partner begin to
see her part in the couple’s relational dance. After the chaos begins to sub-
side, it is easier for the partner to see that some of her behaviors have
contributed to the situation with the couple. Early on, it is preferable that the
partner hear those labels at support group meetings from other partners in