Understanding Sexual and Technological Addictions. Are You Or Your Children Already Addicted? Part XXIII

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

“Innocence is like polished armor; it adorns and defends.”
Bishop Robert South

The 12-step program was developed decades ago for a method and technique to deal with alcoholics. Since then the addiction world has utilized this model/concept or created their own to have their members follow specific guidelines. To date the mental health profession has used the 12-step programs as a foundation to assist men and women who have technological and sexual addiction issues. There needs to be some changes in the 12-step program and this article will address 
12_steps_of_aa-080131a (Photo credit: beachblogger42)
the 12-step program and its value and changes which need to be made.

In evaluating the 12-step program in reference to the sexual addiction arena, the program is divided into three categories. Author and clinician Patrick Carnes has devoted his life into dealing with the issues surrounding sexual addiction. His viewpoint of the 12-step program is as follows:

Steps One through Three address the addicted person's lack of ability to control the behavior alone and his/her need to begin recovery. Each of these first three steps is viewed independently. Steps Four through Nine focus on taking responsibility for one's actions and personality characteristics, and beginning the process of change. Here the steps are paired. Steps Four, Six, and Eight are more self-reflective in nature while Five, Seven, and Nine require some form of action as a result of the self-reflection. Steps Ten through Twelve concentrate on maintaining and continuing recovery. The steps are a progressive process, with each step building on the previous steps. (Parker & Guest, 1999, p. 5.)

Carnes states that the 12-step program was not devised for individual or couple therapy, in fact not therapeutic at all. The problem with this viewpoint is the denial that men and women who attend a group session with other individuals isn’t therapeutic.  In interviews with men who attend a 12-step program on a weekly basis believe there is a therapeutic aspect to their attending the group discussion. According to About.com the goal in therapy is to:

The goals of therapy provide a definite measurable outcome for the therapeutic process. These goals may include both primary goals (the basic desired outcome) and secondary goals (other benefits of the process). There may also be interim goals, which are smaller and occur at various stages of therapy…The goals of therapy are outlined in the treatment plan. They are generally developed through collaboration between the therapist and the patient.

In the 12-step program the definite measurable outcome is for sexual addicts not to sexually act out. This would be their primary goal, with their second goal being uniting with God, their spouse/partner, family, friends, and so forth. There generally are no specific treatment plans which are written individually. However, most of the 12-step programs have an ‘outlined agenda’ which states what the goal of the group will be. In the Pure Desire program their workbook is divided into specific areas to compliment the Pure Desire book.

The words therapy is absent from the 12-step programs. The reasons for this are the original foundation of the 12-step program was for men to come together and individually tell their story. The leader is a group leader, counselor, or life coach, but their specific role is to moderate the group and individual discussions. The moderator is a necessary and essential aspect of the 12-step program because some of the attendees will try to maximize the time, which eliminates everyone from having the opportunity to talk. Generally, the group meetings are an hour to two hours meeting once a week. The decision of the length of time is set by the moderator.

The role of the moderator is not that of a therapist. The topic of discussion is generally related to sexual addiction behavior. However, since 70 percent of sexual addicts have alcoholic or drug addiction problems, the moderator should deal with these addictions during the group meeting.

In the 12-step program the ‘theme’ should be about the abstinence from the addictive behavior and methods and techniques which will change out of control sexual behavior. The limitations is generally the 12-step program itself, as since the foundation of the Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) were created.

Recent research has proven that the 12-step program has its purpose but there needs to be additional steps inserted to make the program whole. Most spouses or partners are not allowed to be a part of the process. The theme of most 12-step programs is what is disclosed in the group meeting stays in the group meeting. It would be inappropriate to say confidential as if one of the members disclosed child sexual abuse, the information by law would have to be reported to the legal authorities.

Inclusion of the spouse/partner in the therapeutic arena has proven in study after study that the success rate of keeping the relationship together after the spouse or partner is found to have a sexual addiction problem is approximately 70 percent. Wherein, the exclusion of the spouse or partner has a success rate of approximately 48 percent in keeping the relationship together.

The 12-step programs are complex and need much research to determine if they are useful and successful. Just because the 12-step programs have been around for decades doesn’t guarantee success for the sexual addict. The need for adding additional steps, re-evaluating the manner in which the programs are operated, needs intense scrutiny and revamping.

Tomorrow, the many programs which assist individuals with technological and sexual addiction issues are seriously and definitely necessary and needed. Imagine wanting assistance with your problem, but not having the finances to pay for therapy. These programs are free and they are of tremendous assistance in helping individuals find themselves, rebuild trust issues, rebuild their self-esteem, rebuild their relationships with God, spouses, partners, family, friends, and other individuals. Most importantly the foundation ideology of the 12-step program is to support members to be abstinent of sexually acting out.

Lawrence W. Daly
Puyallup, WA

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