Jeff Schultz, LPC, CSAT, is a counselor in private practice with The Sonoran Healing Center in Phoenix, Arizona who specializes in the treatment of substance abuse and process addictions with an expertise in treating compulsive sexual behaviors (sex and love addictions). He recently left his position with The Meadows in Arizona where he practiced as a primary counselor under the direct supervision of Pia Mellody and Maureen Canning. Jeff has also earned his certification as a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) trained by Dr. Patrick Carnes and supervised by two board members of the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health. Jeff currently practices from an addiction interaction model popularized by Dr. Patrick Carnes integrated with Pia Mellody's model of developmental immaturity. He also sees patients at the Sundance Treatment Center in Scottsdale and teaches as adjunct faculty at Grand Canyon University.
Recently, Jeff took time out of his busy schedule to answer LoveToKnow's questions about sexual addiction.
Sexual Addiction: Interview with Jeff Schultz, CSAT
LTK: What is the difference between someone who has a healthy interest in sex and a person who is a sex addict?
JS: A person is demonstrating the signs of sexual addiction when four factors are present:
- There is an escalation in the activity.
- Efforts to stop are unsuccessful.
- The activities interfere with his or her work.
- The person experiences a loss of time due to his or her preoccupation with or pursuit of sexual activities.
Healthy sexuality shouldn't make you feel ashamed or guilty, and if you feel that way, it may be a sign that sex is a problem for you.
LTK: Is there an underlying cause of sexual addiction?
JS: The roots of a sexual addiction can be traced back to childhood. Children who don't feel a strong connection to the people who are supposed to be caring for them (attachment disorder) are at risk of developing an addiction as they get older. The lack of attachment can be caused by neglect, abuse, multiple caregivers or the lack of response to the child's needs at a young age.
Many factors contribute to sexual addiction. Early sexualization, where the child is exposed to inappropriate sexual material or activity, is one of them. Other factors that play a part in sexual addiction include:
- Sexual abuse (81 percent of cases)
- Emotional abuse (97 percent of cases)
- Physical abuse (72 percent of cases)
LTK: Do all sex addicts have a pattern of acting out that includes having affairs or visiting prostitutes?
JS: No, they don't. That pattern does occur, either on its own or combined with other acting out activities, but it is not present in all cases. Being a sex addict can also be a solitary thing where the person becomes addicted to Internet porn or masturbation.
LTK: What does the addict gain from acting out sexually?
JS: There are four reasons why someone acts out sexually:
- To get high
- To numb out
- To escape from stress or problems for a time
- To get a sense of control (to reduce anxiety)
LTK: What is the goal of treatment for sexual addiction?
JS: Unlike an alcoholic or a drug addict where part of being in treatment involves not using the substance again, the goal of treating sex addicts is to help them stop the destructive behaviors they have been doing and have them learn how to develop a healthy sexuality instead.
LTK: At what point do clients seek treatment for their sexual addition?
JS: People may seek treatment when they reach the point that their sense of shame gets them into a therapist's office. They may realize that if they don't stop they will lose their job, or their partner may be threatening to leave them.
LTK: What is the first step in treating a person with a sexual addiction?
JS: The first step in treating the sexual addiction is to get clients to stop the behavior. They need to agree to a period of abstinence from all sexual activity for a time. As I state on my web site, "You won't die if you don't have sex for a while."
LTK: What forms of therapy are used to treat a sex addiction?
JS: Depending on the degree to which the person is acting out, inpatient treatment for 35 days may be necessary. A longer stay of up to a year can be arranged if circumstances warrant that type of extended help. Regular visits with a therapist on an outpatient basis are another form of treatment.
Twelve step programs are an important part of the treatment process. They are built around addicts helping addicts. Going to meetings indicates that the client is willing to be intimate with other people and to be vulnerable in a supportive atmosphere. Participants experience spirituality and develop a relationship with a Higher Power that some of them have either not had before or have gotten away from over the years.
LTK: How can a sex addict begin to develop healthy sexual relationships?
JS: It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior around sex. For clients in a relationship, we provide them with guidance in trying to reconnect with their significant other through loving gestures. It is possible to build the relationship back up with time and effort.