Couples who come to Impulse Treatment Center are often angry and confused. How to deal with the conflicting realities? The partner’s trauma? The addict’s shame? And the couple’s lack of safety, as trauma and shame struggle to survive under the same roof?
For couples seeking to heal from the effects of sex addiction these conflicting realities must be addressed.
Impulse Treatment Center offers a variety of treatment strategies, individually tailored to each couple’s needs at each stage of the recovery process.
STAGE ONE: Crisis Intervention
At Impulse Treatment Center, sex addicts and their partners work with individual therapists and/or their own individual groups during this initial stage of the recovery process. Sex addiction is about intimacy, but intimacy issues cannot be addressed when the relationship is no longer a place of safety or trust.
For those couples who also need help in establishing boundaries and guidelines that will allow them to function day-to-day without constant re-traumatization, a limited form of couples work can be utilized to help maneuver through Stage One of the recovery process.
Goals for this stage of couples work include:
- Establishing physical and emotional safety
- Education about impact of relational trauma
- Information on discovery and disclosure trauma
- Basic communication skills
- Making agreements and contracts
- Boundary setting
STAGE TWO: Laying the Groundwork
The second stage of treatment involves assessing couple’s needs regarding information and resources so that stabilization builds and paves the way for the deeper work to come.
Honesty Agreements are a way of increasing safety in the relationship through a facilitated contract that specifies what, when, how and how soon information about current slips or relapses will be disclosed by the addict to the partner. As slips and relapses can be a part of the recovery process for many addicts, both parties may need extensive work to prepare for the emotional impact of an Honesty Agreement.
Disclosure hurts but it is dishonesty that injures a relationship. Honesty Agreements and Therapeutic Disclosure (below) is what can help repair the injury.
Therapeutic Disclosure can be a way to help both addict and partner move further into reality. Unlike sudden, unexpected discovery or disclosures that happen at home in the middle of a fight, therapeutic disclosure is not a crisis event. Facilitated by a therapist, it is a highly structured and predictable process.
If a couple is hoping to move forward in relationship, this kind of disclosure will also help their relationship in the following ways:
- It removes the need for guesswork about what happened in the past
- It prevents any more sudden traumatic discovery in the future
- Both parties need to know what the disease looks like in their home. What are the risk factors? The red flags?
Therapeutic Disclosure also helps partners who are looking for ways to take care of themselves to:
- Understand the scope of sex addiction as it affects his/her specific family
- Create boundaries and make informed choices for self-care
- Find ways to assess the progress of the addict in recovery
Therapeutic Separation is another resource that may be helpful for some couples — separation designed in service of healing the relationship. Therapeutic separation is NOT a prelude to divorce, a form of punishment, or a way to avoid unresolved pain. It is designed to offer a thoughtful time-out for assessment, insight building, education and improved communication.
The most constructive therapeutic separations begin with clear, specific agreements between partners, facilitated by a therapist, giving each member of the couple the time and space necessary to focus on his or her own healing process.
While a therapeutic separation can be painful or frightening, it also serves to reduce blame and shame, thereby offering a platform for couples to grow and change.
Stage Three: Relational Healing
Once both partners have been stabilized in their individual work, agreements/contracts are in place and boundaries understood, couples counseling at Impulse Treatment Center can begin to help them deepen their understanding of themselves in relationship. Goals for this stage of the couples work include:
- Development of empathy and validation skills
- Relational tools such as weekly check-ins
- Trust building
- Learning how to identify and express needs
- Making a shift from compartmentalization to being able to share all parts of oneself with partner
- Grieving past and future relationship
- Family of origin work
- Becoming a securely functioning couple
- Beginning sexual healing