The Problem of Sex Addicts Who Become Therapists

At first, it may sound like hope. After all, this guy got better—so much better that he could become a counsellor to other men called sex addicts! Wives and partners hopefully conclude “He will understand the ins and outs of the recovery journey. He will be a role model for my husband (or boyfriend). He will get him through this.”

That hopefulness is perfectly understandable—if what they call sex addiction was only about sexual activities that they will stop doing. But it’s not.

The prevailing treatment model in which most of these “sex addicts turned therapists” were certified was developed by another “sex addict”. It conveniently compartmentalizes sexual activities so that the larger canvas of his wife and/or partner abuse is never addressed. The dots are never connected between his control needs that manifest beyond sexual activities as he cultivates and protects a secret life at her expense and at her constant risk. Gaslighting, blameshifting, lying, unfair personal criticism, rage, emotional and sexual abandonment, isolation, criminal activity, unchecked emotional affairs, the spread of disease, spiritual abuse and ensuring her financial dependency can all be part of the larger canvas of control and abuse that accompany his sexual activities. That’s a long list of abuse tactics to ignore.

It is this intentional disconnect that is behind the decades of misogynist treatment of wives and partners in the prevailing treatment model. The long list above was then experienced as therapeutic abuse. Wives and partners were (and still are) labelled co-sex addicts, co-addicts, codependents. That means they are pathologized by who their husband or boyfriend is, and required to self-identify in a negative and derivative way. At the same time they are bullied/shamed/pressured into staying in the relationship. This is an travesty of professional neglect and harm to those wives and partners. But to those who are abusers, it is the gift that keeps on giving. The supposedly “sober” men called sex addicts, now turned therapists, have an official licence to continue to abuse wives and partners under the “cloak” of “treatment” in all the ways I have listed—because that larger canvas of abuse was not considered as part of his symptomology.

Let’s be clear. There is no credible research of any kind behind this professional therapeutic abuse of wives and partners to justify any of its assumptions, strategies, tactics, ongoing practices or outcomes. There never was any credible research. This was simply a covert abuse opportunity under the cloak of therapy. Men were declared “sober” and became therapists. They weren’t sober at all. They were still hungry for control, and some of them eager to continue to abuse wives and partners, get paid for it, and be championed as therapeutic heroes on the front lines of sex addiction treatment.

When Lili Bee of and I were talking one day and I laid this out for her, she connected all the dots and said “They’re not sober at all!”  Exactly.

But…but….but…the prevailing treatment model no longer promotes the position that wives and partners are co-sex addicts, co-addicts, or codependent! They talk about trauma care for wives and partners!

Talk is cheap. In spite of the fact that the only credible academic research about partners spells out the glaring error of the prevailing treatment model, certifying bodies in that model did not require those it had certified in the erroneous model to be retrained. It ordered no corrective upgrading. It put out no notice of potential harm done to wives and partners under its programs. So, don’t be surprised to find “sex addicts turned therapists” persisting in using the abusive model.

But what about those therapists who do talk up trauma as a factor in caring for wives and partners?  You will find that many “sober sex addicts turned therapists) still do not alter the actual practice. They will talk about “trauma-like” symptoms, as if what wives and partners experience really isn’t trauma, and their symptoms aren’t really trauma symptoms. This allows them to avoid offering the critical trauma care wives and partners need from their therapeutic professional (and in this case, the care they are often incompetent to deliver.) They maintain the treatment model as addict-centered so that he is always the priority, and the program acts as his advocate.

Men called sex addicts who are now therapists have a personal stake in keeping the trauma of wives and partners at arm’s length. This helps them to avoid connecting the dots between what these women have endured, what it has cost them, and the correct assessment of abuse at the hands of men called sex addicts. It helps them avoid seeing themselves as abusers. These guys don’t want to deal with the traumas we have endured, along with the discovery of our husband or boyfriend’s secret life, and the unreality of our own. Sexual behaviours are the tip of the abuse iceberg, so a sexually sober man called a sex addict still has a huge “below water” territory of other behaviours through which to act against wives and partners.

In addition to diminishing the reality of trauma endured by wives and partners and the resulting trauma symptoms devastating their lives (by calling them trauma-like, etc.) sex addicts turned therapists are also likely to promote negative character assessments of wives and partners. One classic example is to create a list of “signs” for sex addicts that includes such things as “often in relationship with emotionally unavailable and abusive partners.” It’s hard for these men to change their stripes. So they don’t. They persist in promoting unsupported and false negative labelling of wives and partners. They can’t get away with calling them co-sex addicts anymore on their blogs and in their resources. So they call them something even worse, and present themselves and their sex addict clients as hapless victims of abusive women. They isolate episodes of conflict that arise from their own behaviours, and present them as abuses they are enduring. After neglecting and destroying their emotional intimacy with his secret life and covert abuse, he blames her for not being emotionally involved in his so-called recovery. If she defends herself, or doesn’t buy into his recovery charade, or reminds him of how he has treated her, he calls her abusive. He recounts her actions to his therapist (likely another “former sex addict”) and he pronounces her abusive. Next thing you know, it’s on a blog list of signs created by a “sex addict turned therapist”.

Perhaps the most offensive thing that men called sex addicts who become therapists do is to withhold that information from wives and partners. Once again, the tactic is to lie by omission about something critical to establishing trust and safety. Safety, by the way, is the first thing that trauma victims need to have. Working with a therapist who has not disclosed who he is, or his codependent relationship with the prevailing treatment model is extremely dangerous for wives and partners. It means he continues to use his position to control her by limiting her ability to make an informed decision about her own therapeutic care. He takes away her choice, her ability to protect herself at the same time as being dishonest about himself and his point of view. If that sounds familiar—it should. It’s what men called sex addicts do to their wives and partners.

Unfortunately, when this stuff plays out, she is a ready victim who will likely embrace more self-doubt when she has inklings that “something is not right” –simply because he is “the therapist”. Clients have also recounted how, in finding out this information and challenging the appropriateness of non-disclosure, they were treated to shaming and blameshifting by the therapist. When faced with reasonable accountability, abusers abuse. It’s a blatant misuse of professional power and the professional organizations and accrediting bodies do nothing about it. Indeed, they won’t even talk about it. At a training event for appropriate partner care as trauma victims, a colleague of mine asked about this very issue. She was shamed and disparaged into silence before her peers by one male participant. The leader of the training did nothing to stop him, name his inappropriate behaviour, or advocate for the question being relevant and inviting discussion.

Another unfortunate consequence of having men called sex addicts becoming therapists is that if their behaviours include initiating and nurturing emotional affairs, they now have a ready stable of targets to cultivate, as well as being paid while they do it. This will seriously complicate a wife or partner’s ability to recognize the web of abusive behaviours in which she is now caught. He will appear to be supporting her, but he’s actually using her for his own damaged egoic purposes. When she becomes less entertaining or satisfying to him, she will be cut off. Or, she will become so emotionally enmeshed with him that her agency will be absorbed into his. It’s bad no matter how you imagine it.

And finally, we have no reliable statistics that support long term recovery. But there are lots of assumptions in the clinical practice with men called sex addicts that they will not be able to maintain sobriety if, in fact, they are ever able to achieve it. Further, the natural aging process is fraught with potential to compromise sobriety and the likelihood of these men to self-regulate their sexual and sexualized activities. So, even sexual sobriety has a shelf life. And by the way, some of these guys are a year out from discovery and are already posting some certification or another that presents them as cured experts.

Misogyny isn’t just an idea. It’s about policy, assumptions, practices, models, and theories that act against women. The glaring example of this in men called sex addicts who become sex addiction therapists is a violation of natural justice to female victims of abuse and a professional shame to an entire treatment industry. Buyer beware.

Have you faced an abusive therapist when you needed safety, compassion, and truth? Your story is safe here.

With you,







Diane Strickland