I recently came across an article in The National Psychologist by Dr. Omar Minwalla. Dr. Minwalla is a psychologist, clinical sexologist and clinical director of The Institute for Sexual Health (ISH), a treatment center in Los Angeles that specializes in rehabilitation and psychotherapy for sex and porn addiction. Importantly, ISH focuses on the healing needs of the addict as well as the spouse, and is one of the few sex addiction treatment programs that conducts research on the traumatic impact of sex addiction on the addict’s partner.
According to Dr. Minwalla, partners of sex addicts often experience Sex Addiction Induced Trauma (SAI-T). SAI-T is a specific type of trauma that results from the direct impact of sex addiction, including the impact of the sex addict’s chronic pattern of sexual acting out, relational disturbance, emotional abuse, deception, betrayal, manipulation and compartmentalization.
According to Dr. Minwalla, partners of sex addicts often present to treatment with symptoms similar to rape trauma syndrome (RTS) and complex post-traumatic-stress disorder (C-PTSD). This includes a re-experiencing of the trauma, social and emotional constriction, frequent triggering and physiological and emotional reactivity, anxiety, emotional arousal and hyper-vigilance. Some partners experience fears of exposure to sexually transmitted disease or concerns for the safety of their children. Social isolation, shame, and disruption in the ability to trust their spouse, self, or others is common. Psychological pain for partners of sex addicts is particularly intense upon new discovery of sexual acting out, deceit, or relationship betrayals.
Dr. Minwalla indicates that the traditional field of sex addiction treatment often ignores the partner’s trauma symptoms. In fact, few professionals are familiar with Sex Addiction Induced Trauma and, therefore, remain largely unresponsive to addressing the healing needs of the partner.
The co-addiction and codependency model of treatment that is frequently used by sex addiction treatment specialists is described as “inadequate, clinically contra-indicated and wrought with ethical and moral challenges.” In fact, Dr. Minwalla describes traditional therapy models that focus solely on co-addiction, while ignoring trauma, as potentially harmful and re-traumatizing .
As a psychologist who specializes in helping partners of sex addicts recover from sex addiction induced trauma, I wholeheartedly applaud Dr. Minwalla’s efforts and look forward to the day when the sex addiction treatment community heeds his call for “compassionate and responsible action” for partners of sex addicts.
For more information, check out our Partner Betrayal Trauma page.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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