Wrong labels make for poor therapy
For some years now a fight has been going on between those who ascribe to the notion that people struggling with “out of control” sexual behaviors should be labeled “sex addicts” (and treated under the same protocols as other types of addicts), and those who believe such people must be understood and treated in a more psychotherapeutic way—one that is more sexually informed.
Recently, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), founded in 1967, released a historic statement about sex addiction asserting that it:
1) Does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and
2) Does not find the sexual addiction training, treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.
As the leading national body of sexuality educators, counselors and therapists, AASECT does, however, recognize that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. How to help clients deal with and manage and characterize these inclinations is at the heart of the dispute mentioned above.
I was a certified “sex addiction therapist” for many years before I began discovering that there were other ways of understanding sexual behavior, mainly through the sex therapy training and supervision I received in my involvement with AASECT. This is where I began to see the importance of labels in how we treat clients.
Let me offer some examples of how my views evolved from the sex addiction model into what I now believe to be a more nuanced and realistic view of sexual behavior, and how labels—words—make a difference.
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