People who have been unfaithful or who have a tendency to put themselves at risk through sex can change. They might not be able to change their personalities, but they can change what they do. It is a difficult process, and it takes a lot of work. We will work on skills to help you maintain any gains on your own, on building close relationships with people who can support you when therapy is over, and on filling your needs in ways that do not involve sex – so that you can enjoy sex in ways that do not hurt you or others.
A lot of spouses and partners who are the victims of infidelity want to label the offending partner as a sex addict. It is comforting to believe that they did not have control over their actions, that it is not a reflection of the state of the marriage, and that the intent was not malicious. But there are also drawbacks to this label.
But sex addiction is a tricky term. It suggests that a person who engages in destructive or risky sexual behaviors does not have control over and will never stop engaging in them. But it also implies that the person is not to blame for their actions. As a psychologist, I am not concerned with who is to blame. I am concerned with how to prevent risky and destructive sexual behaviors from occurring again and with helping to mend relationships that are damaged as a result of them.
Although I do specialize in marriage counseling, I find that therapy for infidelity works best when I work alone with the person who is trying to change. This allows the person to be more open and honest so that I can help them without the barrier of secrecy that often occurs when their spouse or partner is in the room.
Therapy typically consists of three phases. First we will work on recovering from the initial trauma of being caught by one’s spouse, being fired from a job, or contracting an STD, among other things. Second we work on preventing destructive or risky behaviors from occurring again. This is usually the most important part of therapy. Third, once we can be reasonably sure that the behavior will not occur in the short term, we can work to understand the original cause of the behaviors. Many of my clients are not interested in this step, and it is not critical. I do not require that we cover it, although it can be helpful for some people. Throughout the process, we will work on relapse prevention, so that months or years down the line, you will hopefully have tools to help you prevent unwanted behaviors in the absence of therapy.