Paradigm Shifting from an outdated sex addiction model to a new sexual health model

Debate within my profession:

Sometimes the public isn’t aware of nor even concerned with the idea that different professionals treat the same issue from different perspectives. The public or consumer is usually my first concern and your understanding and knowledge is paramount to me. It bothers me when clinicians in my profession state theory in terms of fact. It bothers me when closed minded people push their value systems on to others in an attempt to control and shame them.

There is a new gold standard of treating Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior and my profession is currently in a huge internal struggle some might say fight. This shift will be and is currently profoundly troubling to clinicians who are entrenched in the sex addiction paradigm. I personally have empathy for them because they will have to change and grow. Growth is painful at times so in that I do have empathy. It doesn’t change that when we know better we must do better.

Doug Braun-Harvey and Michael Vigorito have laid out a model of treating individuals who struggle with feeling out of control in their relationship to sexual thoughts, urges and behavior.

We have many many years of viewing sexuality through an act-centered lens by which treatment models have evolved and been refined. Much like when individuals thought the world was flat and then we found out it wasn’t it made for a great deal of discomfort. But once you are aware of and have the knowledge that sex addiction really isn’t scientifically prove-able as a matter of record the sex addiction model has actually been falsified.

What to do now that a new model exists?

The new model challenges clinicians with concepts of ethics and professionalism in ways that can at times feel like a struggle. None the less it is our professional ethics that should drive us to continue to assess our own knowledge and competence around an area we treat that should propel clinicians to revisit the way they view clients who feel out-of-control.

Recently there was position statement by AASECT here it is:

AASECT Position Statement – Sex Addiction

Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.

AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 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 and 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.

AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.

This statement calls for clinicians to revisit their own conceptualizations.  I am cautiously hopeful that both clinicians and consumers will find help so that we may all grow in our understanding of sexual health.

My best,

Chuck Franks, LCSW, CST

About Chuck Franks

Chuck Franks is a LSCW and a certified coach. He lives in Kansas City, MO helping individuals, couples and families improve their relationships. His focus is sexuality therapy with an emphasis on how shame around sex reflects into our relationships.

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