Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Sexual Steve: A Schema-Focused, Spiritually Based Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Sexual Steve: A Schema-Focused, Spiritually Based Approach

Article excerpt

This article discusses Steve, a thirty-seven year-old male who struggled for several years with chemical and sexual addiction. Schema-focused therapy is explained briefly along with various interventions from the model used in the case. Schaumberg's (1997) biblical model of sexual addiction is also examined as it pertains to this client. Assorted spiritual interventions, including the use of forgiveness, Christian visualization techniques, and selfacceptance are also highlighted along with the author's own spiritual experience during Steve's treatment.

The Client

Steve1 was one of my first longer-term clients after I completed graduate school. I found him to be insightful and motivated to change. This motivation was due to a recent conversion experience compelling him to want to change his lifestyle so he could begin to fulfill 'God's call on his life to become a pastor.'

When I met Steve he was thirty-seven, married with two children and self-employed. The younger of two, he was close with his older sister. The two forged a close relationship during their mother's lengthy illness and subsequent death when Steve was thirteen. At thirteen Steve also had his first sexual experience, an event he described as 'just sex without any emotional connection' and began using drugs.

While close with his sister and mother, Steve described his father as 'selfish' and 'negative'. Steve's father physically and verbally abused Steve's mother; he also engaged in multiple extramarital affairs. Steve recalled his father being verbally degrading toward him and his sister; he became physically abusive toward Steve sporadically. Steve's father remarried six months after his mother's death.

Steve's primary reason for seeking counseling was due to an inability to stop engaging in sexual liaisons. When we began meeting, Steve engaged in approximately five encounters weekly, these were often combined with cocaine and/or alcohol abuse.

Case Conceptualization

Steve presented as charming and charismatic it was easy to see why women were drawn to him. After hearing his goals for therapy, I remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed and incompetent. Obviously, Steve had complex and intertwined psychological issues. The two most prominent - chemical and sexual addiction seemed to stem from childhood. Steve was repeating his father's pattern of abuse/neglect along with his extramarital affairs. Such patterns are not uncommon and stand out for clients when completing a genogram. This principle also follows the biblical idea of sin flowing through a family line when not dealt with. Such an explanation, although not an excuse, provided an opportunity to educate Steve about this concept while simultaneously reducing some shame and stigma.

Despite the negative description of his father, Steve described feelings of resentment and anger towards his present family for taking up his time and placing demands on him. Although he recognized these feelings and other patterns of behavior (e.g., selfishness, chronic negativity) cognitively, he seemed unable to connect with them emotionally.

Steve's mother's death left deep wounds. He felt a special connection to her, often protecting her from his father's abuse. His father's quick remarriage solidified for Steve that women are objects to be used and replaced. It is not a coincidence then that Steve began his use of chemicals and sexual encounters the year his mother died. In the fourteen years between then and when he sought treatment, the patterns escalated, but could not fill the emptiness in Steve's inner world. Such escalation of behavior is commonplace in the world of addiction and perhaps why Carnes (2001) stated, "a moment comes for every addict when the consequences are so great or the pain is so bad the addict admits life is out of control because of his sexual behavior" (p. 1).

Steve's sexual behavior fit Schaumberg's (1997) characterization of sexual addicts as individuals whose sexual behavior (a) is compelling and consuming, (b) leads to negative consequences, and (c) is out-of control. …

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