11. Explore and Pursue Professional Help, if Needed
In this Practice:
- What is the benefit of counseling?
- How do I know if I should seek professional help?
- What do we mean by counseling, therapy and treatment?
- What are the criteria you need to look at in finding a good counselor?
- Assignment for Practice Eleven
Like a lot of us who struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors, you will come to a point in your journey towards wholeness where you will need and greatly benefit from professional help, either by seeing a counselor or entering an inpatient treatment program.
The truth is that nearly everyone—whether or not they’re addicts—will benefit from professional counseling at one time or another. The healthy adult life is one of continued development, insight, adjustment and integration of our personal values with our thoughts and behaviors. Competent, appropriate counseling gives you needed assistance when various factors inhibit your personal growth.
So I think counseling—the right counseling with the right guide at the right time—can be helpful to most people. But if you are an addict, you are much more likely to need professional help to resolve some of the issues you have to deal with.
Some people who are deeply spiritual, or deeply religious, have an aversion to counseling. Sometimes our spiritual communities reinforce negative stereotypes about counseling or promote unhealthy spiritual thinking that psychological help is antithetical to trust in God.
The reality, though, is that all healing comes from our Creator, and our Creator uses each other in helping us heal. In the Christian tradition, God creates us for community and it is in doing life with one another that we experience the reality and truth and power of the Gospel. And therapy, counseling and treatment are part of his community.
Rarely does he heal us apart from one another.
So, how do you know if you need professional help?
If you are beginning your work on compulsive sexual behaviors early in your life, and your sole entry point and area of experience is Internet porn, and if your upbringing has been a relatively calm and healthy one, immediate use of a counselor or therapist may not be necessary.
However, if any of the following are part of your journey…
- Early childhood participation in sexual activity
- You have difficulty concentrating
- You are often depressed and/or struggle with anxiety that you find difficult to manage
- You’ve been abused physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually
- You have abused others physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually
- You’ve engaged in sexual behaviors that have crossed lines of commonly accepted appropriate sexual practices
- You’ve continually and faithfully worked at recovery for a significant period of time—including working the Twelve Steps and fully participating in a Twelve Step recovery group—but you are stuck
…then you should seek out a counselor or therapist. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. Other factors will indicate the need for counseling.
While I tend to use the terms “counseling” and “therapy” interchangeably, there is a difference. To be sure there is a great deal of overlap between the two, but a counselor will help you solve problems you’ve identified and want help with. A therapist will help you dig deeper to explore root causes or discover and resolve hidden issues. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the terms, so let’s just use the term counseling. The deeper you go, the more you’ll be utilizing therapy. The key is you want to find someone who can help you with what you need.
There are two guidelines for finding a good counselor, competency and chemistry.
Competency is the expertise a counselor has in their profession and how that matches up with your needs. Today more and more counselors are adding to their training certification in helping people with compulsive sexual behaviors and this is a very good thing. There are several organizations doing this certification, and for those of us not familiar with psychological training and certification, it can be confusing. You’ll need to do some checking and research. But finding the right counseling guide when you need them is very important.
When looking for a counselor, then, check out their credentials, references, areas of expertise and training. Use referring resources from other folks in recovery, and online resources. I will list a few online resources in the Assignment for this Practice.
Chemistry is the nature of the personal interaction you have with your counselor. It will take several sessions with a counselor to discover if you have personal chemistry; this is important because you won’t do the hard work you need to do if you don’t trust the person you’re meeting with. Do you feel like they get you? Do you trust them? Does the way they come across with you in person match up with their credentials and advertised skills?
Don’t be afraid to make a change. If it’s not working don’t waste your time, effort and money. And a healthy counselor doesn’t want to work with someone they’re not connecting with or who’s not willing to do the work. You’d be wasting their time and effort, too. So make the change if it’s indicated. It takes time and effort to find the right counselor or therapist, and the search is well worth it.
You may struggle with the cost of competent counseling. Maybe you don’t have insurance coverage. Or you might not want the topic of our counseling to be in your insurance or personnel file. I really understand that. What you have to weigh is the cost (in it’s various forms) to the need/benefit. I you are seriously ill physically, don’t you do whatever necessary to get help, get well? You want to give the same effort to care for your emotional well being, your soul.
Now let’s think about treatment. If you’re compulsive patterns are deeply entrenched or have wrought a significant amount of damage in your life, utilizing a treatment program may be the very best way to break up our compulsive patterns and replace them with healthy ways of thinking and behaving.
Using inpatient treatment is an intensive period of work. Treatment can put you on a much swifter pace of self-discovery and integrity resolution. And in some of our situations, we have suffered or engaged in such extreme experiences (either in episodes or over long periods of time) that treatment really is the very best way to get the help we need.
Another form of treatment is an outpatient treatment program which is different from inpatient in that you go home, or to a more open residential situation, at night.
Treatment itself won’t change your life; you have to put into practice the new life you want to live when you leave treatment.
Treatment centers and treatment programs are not equal. Some specialize in some addictions but not others. Not all deal with sexual addiction (intimacy impairment). Some are better than others. Some are more expensive than others.
Usually your counselor or therapist is the best guide for you to determine if you need to go to treatment and if so, how to find the treatment facility and program that best suits your needs.
If you need treatment, do whatever you can to pursue it. Competent treatment offers the possibility of saving you (and those around you) a great deal of unnecessary pain and suffering.
One last thought before we move to the Assignment. Besides counseling and treatment, there is one other resource you ought to keep in mind. There are an increasing number of intensive workshops on sex addiction recovery. Neither counseling nor treatment, a good intensive workshop can give you a great deal of information and personal encouragement in an intensely focused few days. I’ll give you one example in the Assignment and you can search for others.
Assignment for Engaging the Eleventh Practice—Explore and Pursue Professional Help, if Needed
1. Think over your background, context and experiences regarding counseling and treatment; do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of counseling? What is your view of treatment?
2. Review the bullet point elements in this Practice; do any of them apply to you?
3. Read pp 121-128 in Ashamed No More, from the beginning of chapter seven through the section “Therapy and My Search for Healing”
4. Do you think you’d benefit in your recovery by utilizing counseling, therapy or treatment?
5. Go to http://www.iitap.com, click on “Find a therapist” and then “Therapist Locator” and familiarize yourself with this resource
6. Go to http://www.iitap.com, click on “Find a therapist” and then “Treatment Options” and then “Additional Treatment Programs” and survey some of the treatment programs listed
7. Go to http://www.iitap.com, follow the previous pathway to “Outpatient Treatment Programs”
8. Go to http://www.sexaddictioncertification.org and click on “Find a Specialist” and familiarize yourself with the options there
9. Go to https://www.faithfulandtrue.com and click on “Workshops” where you’ll see information for three-day intensive workshops for men, women or couples; Dr. Mark Laaser is a significant resource in this area of recovery
10. Here is a prayer I recommend you pray daily
God, all healing comes from You. Help me to understand if the path of healing You have me on includes professional help. Open my heart to what is best for my healing and help me with the obstacles that are in the way. Amen
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