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Successful couple's counseling can only proceed where both partners are willing to seek individual healing for their trauma. Laaser (2005) says couples must find meaning in suffering and pain. By this he means that couples who have suffered a trauma together have an opportunity to for greater insight, healing and empathy for and with each other. When this takes place partners become companions.
Helping couples rebuild trust is a vital part of repairing the relationship after the sexual addiction has been disclosed. Laaser (2005) believes the spiritual tradition encourages couples to find forgiveness in their hearts. "Christian tradition tells us that we must forgive others as God has forgiven us."
Vision determines what we see and is based on what we desire. For instance, sexual fantasy leads to the belief that the love can be found in sexual activity. Any fantasy according to Laaser (2005) can be a false solution to desires that only God or deeper spiritual understanding can provide. The trouble for some couples is that each partner may have a vision, but they don't match up or complement each other. The couple that has two different visions really experiences division. Couple's counseling must facilitate the development of a vision that both partners can embrace and pursue.
Couples who don't have a vision, will do only what they think they have to in order to survive, while couples who do have a vision will do whatever it takes to fulfill that vision.
Sexual addicts and their partners may be reluctant to delve further into this area due to the potential negative consequences, trauma for the partner and the loss of the relationship for the addict according to Bird (2006). Nevertheless, research indicates that discloser is necessary and helpful in the long run in improving the relationship and recovering from the addiction. It is important to keep in mind that partners who are further along in therapy report that learning more about the addict's behavior does not give them the power to control the addict or the situation. In fact, too much detail can be more traumatic the helpful. The revelation of certain details may possibly cause, or enhance, PTSD symptoms; therefore the therapist must consider the potential negative consequences of collecting too much information.
If disclosure of inappropriate sexual behavior is prior to therapy most spouses have already dealt with threats to leave and other ineffective and often harmful problem-solving behaviors. Bird (July, 2006) states that research indicates such behavior does not preclude relapse and often induces the addicted partner to withhold important information for fear of losing the relationship. At this juncture the role of the therapist is to assist partners in setting appropriate boundaries, up to and including separation, which will allow the addict to feel more open. It is further noted the trust in the relationship will increase over time and consistency in the addict's behavior. By helping couples become more aware of their own feelings, learn to share these feeling with each other, set boundaries and manage future disclosures, the therapist can support them while they work at redeveloping lost confidence in each other.
In terms of general treatment approaches therapists recommend contracting, anger management, cognitive restructuring, confrontation, defining sexual sobriety, defining behavioral boundaries, empathy, and grief counseling as treatments. Prayer and scripture study are also useful.
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