Sexual Addiction and MFT: Therapists' Perspectives on Facilitating Individual and Relationship Healing

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Virginia Tech


In recent decades there has been an increase in literature regarding sexual addiction as well as a growing number of clients presenting in therapy with problems related to their sexual behaviors (including internet sexual addiction). More recently, the impact of sexual addiction on couples has been noted, but little is known regarding how couples can be assisted in the recovery process. In this qualitative study, I explored in depth the critical change processes in couple therapy for sexual addiction from the therapist's perspective, including the therapist's role in that process. The findings suggest that couple recovery from sexual addiction includes (a) individual responsibility in recovery (which includes themes of trauma, family-of-origin, emotional reactivity, depersonalizing, and utilizing other resources), (b) couple recovery (which includes the themes of family-of-origin, communication, empathy, intimacy, trust, and sexual intimacy), (c) balancing individual recovery with couple recovery in the process of healing (which includes the themes of education, accountability, and couple perspective) and (d) distinguishing affairs from sexual addiction. I discuss the implications of study findings, offering a sequential outline of the process of therapy with couples who are struggling to recover from sexual addiction, including therapist interventions that may assist in that process. Limitations to the study and implications for future research in sexual addiction generally and MFT specifically are presented.



recovery, couple therapy, marriage and family therapy, Sex addiction