You might be here because due to a recent sex addiction disclosure in your marriage, you are wondering if you should find an online couples counselor for marriage therapy.
You may have heard the advice that traditional marriage counseling doesn’t work in the initial recovery stages of sex addiction and betrayal trauma. This is both right and wrong. It’s right that “traditional” couples counseling is not advised. But it’s not good advice taken at face value because getting immediately into what we call “early couples recovery” is the BEST thing you can do immediately.
We are so passionate about couples work in the sex addiction recovery process.
What is Marriage Counseling in Sex Addiction?
Marriage counseling in the context of sex addiction isn’t merely a generic therapy session focused on relationship dynamics. It is a specialized therapeutic approach tailored to address the intricate challenges that arise due to one partner’s compulsive sexual behaviors. Such behaviors, often rooted in complex psychological and emotional factors, can severely disrupt the trust, intimacy, and overall health of a marriage. In this form of counseling, the therapist dives deep into the underlying causes of the addiction while simultaneously guiding the couple in rebuilding the fractured bonds of trust and mutual respect. It’s essential to recognize that sex addiction isn’t merely a reflection of moral failure or a lack of self-control; it’s a profound behavioral disorder.
Thus, marriage counseling in this domain incorporates a dual approach: helping the individual with the addiction recognize, confront, and manage their behaviors and aiding the couple in navigating the painful aftermath of betrayal and mistrust. It’s a journey of not only understanding and recovery but also one of rediscovering the essence of their commitment and love for one another. The process may be challenging, but with consistent effort, understanding, and professional guidance, many couples find a renewed sense of purpose and strength in their relationship.
Carol the Coach’s Early Couples Recovery Empathy Model
Carol the Coach’s Early Couples Recovery Empathy Model (ERCEM) is a crucial tool in sex addiction and betrayal trauma recovery. This model emphasizes the importance of empathy and relational skills in the healing process for both the betrayer and the betrayed. For couples dealing with sex addiction and betrayal, ERCEM can provide a structured approach to recovery, helping them navigate the complex emotions and challenges that arise in the aftermath of betrayal.
For the betrayer, the ERCEM model emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for their actions and actively working to help their partner heal. This involves doing 80% of the work to support their partner, learning to contain their partner’s pain, and repeatedly demonstrating empathy, even when it is met with resistance. This is especially important for those struggling with sex addiction, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) criteria for Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder (CSBD) highlights a lack of empathy and self-absorption as core features of the disorder.
By working with an ERCEM specialist and achieving 90 days of sobriety, the betrayer can begin to come out of the fog of sex addiction and develop the necessary relational skills to empathize with their partner’s pain. This involves understanding the impact of their actions on their partner and actively working to repair the damage caused by their betrayal. Learning and practicing empathy is crucial for the betrayer, as it helps to rebuild trust and foster a deeper emotional connection between the couple.
For the betrayed partner, the ERCEM model provides a framework for understanding the betrayal and working through the resulting trauma. By recognizing the symptoms of CSBD and understanding the role of sex addiction in their partner’s behavior, the betrayed partner can begin to process their emotions and make informed decisions about the future of their relationship. The emphasis on empathy in the ERCEM model also helps the betrayed partner feel heard and validated, which is essential for healing.
The decision to invest in the recovery process is a significant one for couples affected by sexual infidelity. The ERCEM model provides a structured approach to recovery that emphasizes the importance of empathy and relational skills, helping couples navigate the complex emotions and challenges that arise in the aftermath of betrayal. By working with an ERCEM specialist, couples can expedite the recovery process and increase their chances of restoring their relationship and living a loving, meaningful life together.
Couples work is individual recovery work
Marriage counseling and couples work play a crucial role in the individual recovery of both the betrayer and the betrayed partner in sex addiction recovery. One of the primary reasons for this is the need to address and manage triggers that arise during the healing process. Triggers are reminders of past hurtful and addictive behaviors that can evoke strong emotional reactions, anxiety, fear, and disgust towards the addict. These triggers can be directly tied to the recovering addict’s behavior or environmental factors such as explicit content in media or discussions about affairs.
Couples work helps both partners understand and recognize the types and signs of triggers, which can be essential in rebuilding trust and maintaining sobriety. For the betrayed partner, this understanding can help them avoid destructive thought patterns and safety-seeking behaviors that may lead to further emotional distress or relapse into their own addictions. For the addict, recognizing triggers can help them to be more empathetic and supportive, ultimately promoting growth and healing in the relationship.
Marriage counseling provides a structured environment for both partners to develop a plan for dealing with triggers. For the addict, this plan may include learning to slow down and breathe, reframing trigger moments as opportunities for growth, actively listening to their partner, and containing their feelings of shame. Additionally, the addict should validate their partner’s pain, apologize if needed, answer any questions, and work on rebuilding trust in the moment.
For the betrayed partner, the plan may involve practicing grounding breathing exercises, reaching out for support, avoiding safety-seeking behaviors, and approaching their spouse with a talking formula that includes expressing their thoughts and feelings about the trigger. They may also make requests for changes in behavior and practice self-care to help them cope with the emotional and physical exhaustion that triggers can cause.
Gottmans — Atone, Attune, Attach
I have witnessed the power of Gottman’s model of Atone, Attune, and Attach in helping couples heal from sex and betrayal trauma. This model provides a structured and supportive framework for both partners to navigate the complex emotions and challenges associated with infidelity.
During the Atonement phase, the betraying partner takes responsibility for their actions and works to rebuild trust by demonstrating transparency and commitment to relationship. This includes cutting off all contact with the affair partner and being open to answering questions about the betrayal. It is crucial for the therapist to guide the couple through this process, ensuring that the betrayed partner’s needs are met while also supporting the betraying partner in their efforts to make amends.
The Attunement phase focuses on rebuilding emotional connection and trust between the partners. This involves fostering open communication, empathy, and understanding, as well as addressing any pre-existing relationship issues that may have contributed to the affair. The Gottman Sound Relationship House Model is used to help the couple strengthen their bond and create a more fulfilling relationship.
A – Awareness of your partner’s negative emotion
T – Turning toward the partner
T – Tolerance
U – Understanding
N – Non-defensive responding
E – Empathy
Finally, the Attach phase addresses the challenge of re-establishing physical intimacy after the betrayal. This requires patience and open communication about each partner’s needs, desires, and boundaries. The therapist supports the couple in gradually rebuilding their sexual connection, taking cues from the injured partner and emphasizing the importance of trust and emotional intimacy in the healing process.
Throughout all three phases, the therapist’s role is to provide a safe and supportive environment for the couple to explore their emotions, heal their wounds, and rebuild their relationship. By integrating trauma-informed approaches and evidence-based techniques, therapists can help couples navigate the difficult journey of recovery from sex addiction and betrayal trauma.
Terry Real — RLT Therapy
In Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy (RLT) approach, the focus is placed on the individual who has committed the betrayal, rather than attempting to remain neutral like traditional marriage counseling. This approach emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and holding oneself accountable for the choices made. It is crucial to recognize that a difficult or unfulfilling relationship does not justify infidelity, and that each person is responsible for their actions and reactions.
The process of recovery and repair after an instance of infidelity can be broken down into three phases. The first phase is focused on addressing the immediate hurt and trauma experienced by the partner who has been betrayed. This may involve seeking therapy to help stabilize and address acute symptoms such as insomnia, panic attacks, or nightmares. The second phase shifts the focus to exploring the underlying meaning of the infidelity, delving into motives, lessons, and insights. The final phase occurs once resolution and repair have been thoroughly explored, allowing the couple to re-envision their relationship and move forward with a transformed understanding of one another.
Trust, a crucial component of any relationship, is not an on-off switch. Rebuilding trust after a breach is a long process, and each couple’s journey is unique. Strategies for rebuilding trust include engaging in reassuring behaviors, such as reviewing emails and texts together or sending photographs to verify one’s whereabouts, and asking investigative questions to delve deeper into the motivations and emotions behind the infidelity. Addressing the two primary questions – “How could you do this to me?” and “How do I know you won’t do it again?” – is key to beginning the process of repair.
Why Online Sex Addiction Couples Counseling?
In today’s digitally connected world, online sex addiction couples counseling offers unparalleled convenience and a sense of privacy that traditional in-person sessions might not always provide. Engaging in therapy from the comfort of one’s home reduces the stigma and discomfort that some might feel when attending face-to-face sessions, allowing couples to focus wholly on their recovery journey. Furthermore, online counseling provides accessibility to specialists regardless of geographical boundaries, ensuring that couples receive the best possible guidance. It also offers flexibility in scheduling, accommodating the busy lives that modern couples lead.
Most importantly, during times when personal mobility might be limited, such as during health crises or travel restrictions, online counseling ensures that the therapeutic journey remains uninterrupted. If you and your partner are considering taking this significant step towards healing and growth, “Karuna Healing” is here to guide you.
Our dedicated team of professionals specializes in sex addiction therapy, providing tailored online sessions to meet your specific needs. Contact us today and embark on your path to recovery and renewed connection. Your journey towards healing begins with “Karuna Healing”.
Julie Terry is the co-founder of Karuna Healing, counseling and coaching services for sex addiction and betrayal trauma recovery. Julie’s trainings include APSATS, EMDR, and IFS. She has personal experience of recovery from betrayal trauma. Julie provides hope and healing for individuals and couples with therapy (within the state of Utah) and coaching (outside Utah and all over the world).