Letter to AASECT therapists with respect to sex positive training and sex addiction

I am relatively new to AASECT, I became certified in 2010 with Dr. Lee in Miami and then continued on for the AASECT certification. I am a certified addiction professional and have worked at South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment for over 7 years. As a therapist at South Miami, I realized so many of my patients had negative sexual experiences growing up (abuse/rape). Others were riddled with shame that came from their family of origin, others were expressing compulsive (sexual) behaviors that they did not want to engage in, some had sexual dysfunctions (PE, ED, Low desire, Orgasmic disorders etc.) that they were ashamed to talk about. The bottom line is that they needed help in the sex arena and they needed to learn how to experience a healthy sexuality. This was one of the motivating factors for me to become certified. I then went on to obtain certification in “sex addiction” with IITAP to obtain a better understanding of the compulsive sexual acts some of my patients verbalized struggling with. 

My experience with IITAP training has been very different from what i have been reading from peers on about sex negative, religious, moralistic etc… So i asked another CSAT if they had experienced any of this and they stated that there have been CSATS known to have some of these beliefs. I’m sure in every profession there are going to be those who have difficulty keeping their own beliefs out of the sessions.  However, I can only speak about what i have been taught in the last 2 years by the presenters and that is that the goal is to help clients with their compulsive behavior and educate them on attachment theory. Basically the sexual acting out is only a symptom of a deeper hurt and that is what we focus on. Then we teach them how to have a healthy sex life (whatever that is for them).

 I will give an example: I recently had a client that came to me saying “I think I’m a sex addict”, I assessed him, he took the free test on sexhelp.com for sex addiction, I then gave him the SDI assessment that i administer through IITAP and this person barely met criteria (the cutoff is 6 and that is what he scored). I then went on to explore his behaviors, porn use, dating websites, and an affair (he is married). He is Christian and feels “bad about watching porn”. I feel my job here is to educate this man and work with his shame, I don’t think he’s a sex addict and I can see how he almost wants this diagnosis. 

I do agree that IITAP needs to add some sexuality training and a SAR. I believe that would benefit people tremendously.

It has not been my experience that the training is currently sex negative or religious. I understand how some of my colleagues have had that experience in the past, but it is my belief that continuing to think something from the past is still the same in the present is not correct. Things change, people change , theories change , everything changes and it is my professional opinion that as a good clinician I need to keep an open mind about concepts that I have firmly held in  the past are supplanted by a new understanding. 

I hope this adds something to the conversation.

Charlene Lewis, LCSW, CAP,Certified Sex Therapist, 

Certified Sex Addiction Therapist-Candidate



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