Academic journal article Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling

Treating the Sexually Addicted Client: Establishing a Need for Increased Counselor Awareness

Academic journal article Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling

Treating the Sexually Addicted Client: Establishing a Need for Increased Counselor Awareness

Article excerpt

Seventeen to 37 million Americans struggle with sexual addictions (P. Carnes, 1994b; A. Cooper, D. L. Delmonico, & R. Burg, 2000; B. Morris, 1999; J. L. Wolf, 2000), yet traditionally trained addictions and offender counselors often find themselves unprepared to assist clients who are sexually addicted. This article provides a general overview of the disorder, explores the ongoing definition debate, and offers clinically proven treatment protocols.

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The suggested prevalence of sexual addiction is staggering. An estimated 17 to 37 million Americans struggle with this addictive disorder (Carnes, 1994b; Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg, 2000; Morris, 1999; Wolfe, 2000). These figures are greater than the combined number of Americans who are addicted to gambling or have eating disorders (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2003; Potenza, Fiellin, Heninger, Rounsaville, & Mazure, 2002; Shaffer & Korn, 2002; Tenore, 2001). In addition to the prevalence, the incidence of sexual addiction is rising, due in part to the affordability, accessibility, and anonymity of sexually explicit material available on the Internet (Cooper et al., 2000). The prevalence of sexual addiction is predicted, based on current trends, to continue rising at a rapid rate (Cooper, 2004).

Because of the lack of qualified counselors, many addicted individuals turn to self-help groups, all of which are administered by nonprofessionals without for-real education and training in treating sexual addiction (Haugh, 1999; Myers, 1995; Wolfe, 2000). Of the 73 nationally known 12-step, self-help support groups, 8 distinct groups are dedicated to individuals seeking assistance in managing their sexually addictive behaviors. This number of sexual addiction support groups is more than any other 12-step group addressing an addictive disorder and may reflect the large number of individuals who are sexually addicted. Despite steadily increasing self-referral and participation in 12-step, self-help groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Sexual Recovery Anonymous, the treatment community lacks the resources and funding to address this growing population (National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 2000). Although the increase in the number of 12-step groups specific to the treatment of sexual addiction is a commendable step, there is a growing need for addictions and offender counselors to respond to the needs of the population of clients who are sexually addicted. Although a very limited number of articles related to sexual addiction have been published, these articles have typically been published in journals specific to other clinician groups. For example, Carnes (1990) presented his early findings in the American Journal of Preventive Psychiatry & Neurology, Goodman (1993) offered a definition and some treatment suggestions in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, and Myers (1995) explored the impact of addictive sexual behavior in the American Journal of Psychotherapy. A specific journal, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, was created in 1993 to provide a forum for authors and researchers to provide information regarding sexual addiction (e.g., Delmonico & Griffin, 1997; Goodman, 2001; Manley & Koehler, 2001; Ragan & Martin, 2000). Whereas this demonstrates the importance and timeliness of information pertinent to treating clients who are sexually addicted, this information has been disseminated to most clinician groups, with the exception of addictions and offender counselors. Psychiatrists, sex and marital therapists, psychotherapists, even those working specifically with sexual addicts, all have the necessary scholarly resources at their disposal to aid in their work with this client population. As of yet, no meta-analysis defining sexual addiction and outlining the recommended treatment protocols has been published for addictions and offender counselor generalists who are not specialists working exclusively with couples or persons who are sexually addicted. …

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