“Sex Addiction: a relational approach”.Posted: 11/11/2019
All participants from the previous five events, rated the workshop as excellent/good. Next workshops:
Manchester, Thursday 27th February, 2020.
A relational approach to formulation and intervention for sex addiction invites us to understand how the behaviour relates to our clients emotional and relational world. We all have characteristic patterns of relating to ourselves and others: these can be rich clues for formulating the relational drivers behind patterns of sexual behaviour that repeat in your clients lives and so appear addictive or compulsive.
Is your client’s relationship with themselves an affirming or a belittling one? Are they for the most part critically demanding of themselves in a way that leaves them feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to be perfect whilst feeling that nothing they do is good enough? It is not hard to see how such a deeply ingrained relationship with self could give rise to difficult feelings of failure or anxious striving that could push someone towards sex and drugs in order to provide a powerful albeit temporary escape or respite from self-attacking or self-pressuring patterns of thinking. Similarly, does your client appear very anxious of rejection in his relationship perhaps because of earlier life experiences, and has found that having sex with others leaves him instead feeling admired or wanted, but then finds his anxiety about rejection heightened because of fears of discovery.
A relational approach offers useful ways of understating that sexual behaviours labelled addictive or compulsive can represent an attempt to find a solution to some form of vulnerability and to ease the “burden of self “, and the perceived risks of vulnerability, such as the vulnerability of living up to expectations, to be approved of by others, or to be loved and accepted. We can alleviate much of our suffering by temporarily forgetting about ourselves or getting lost. We can forget about our self in many ways, and sex and drugs are just one.
I would like to suggest that in order to help clients we need to hold in mind the nature of escape. It is not about a desire to self-destruct. Apart from the potential to pathologise, this idea misses the central purpose of escape – to limit or stop the patterns of thinking or relating with others that give rise to difficult feelings about self- such as I am a failure, I am unlovable etc. We need to help clients identify and change relational patterns that give rise to these feelings and assist them to develop more helpful relationships with themselves and others, and thereby reduce the need to escape. As someone once put it:
“It’s easy to take off your clothes and have sex. People do it all the time. But opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams…that is being naked”.
To learn more about using relational understandings to help support people struggling with “Chemsex” and other sexual activities which have come to feel out of control, join Dr Robert Watson in Manchester at the next workshop.
Written by the workshop presenter Dr Robert Watson, Clinical Psychologist in Sexual Health, Accredited Cognitive Analytic Therapist & Supervisor, & Vice-Chair of the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy.