- Since sex is a normal part of life, can it really become an addiction?
- How do I know if I have an addiction?
- How is the LifeSTAR program different from 12-step recovery groups, counselling, or other types of group therapy?
- Why should a couple be involved in treatment together? What can I expect by involving my partner?
- Can I attend alone?
- How long does the LifeSTAR program last?
- Can I just attend one phase, or do I have to go through all three phases?
- Do I really need to be in a group to overcome pornography or other sexually compulsive behaviours?
- How much will I have to disclose in the program?
- How many people will be in my group?
- Why would I come to a group when I can just do treatment on line?
- How much does the LifeSTAR program cost?
- Do insurance companies cover this program?
Since sex is a normal part of life, can it really become an addiction? Sex is a normal expression of love and bonding between two stable partners who love and cherish each other. When used as it is designed, sex brings two people closer. It edifies and strengthens the bond. Sex is the result of working to build an emotional connection, an intimacy that is composed of mental, emotional, spiritual and social connectedness. It involves the heart, mind and soul. It makes you want to be present with that person for more than just the sexual experience. It increases respect and brings a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment in the relationship.
Sexual addictions involve sexual behaviours that a person cannot stop even in the face of negative consequences resulting from the behaviour, including damage to relationships, career, spirituality, finances, legal status, and other aspects of life. It results in shame, low self-esteem, denial, blaming, anger, rationalizations, sexual anorexia, and spiritual or emotional numbing.
The field of addictions now acknowledges what are called “process addictions,” which occur when a person becomes addicted to food, work, high -risk activities, another person or even emotions. All addictions have similarities and are indicators that a person is attempting to increase pleasure while avoiding pain. The LifeSTAR program’s position is based upon the view that if you cannot control when you start or stop a behaviour, and if the behaviour causes serious problems for you or those close to you, then you many have become addicted. Sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behaviours represent maladaptive ways that people attempt to meet physical, emotional and psychological needs for love through relationships and intimacy.
I have a pattern of out of control sexual behaviour.
(This could include pornography, online affairs-either emotional or sexual, inappropriate relationships, any inappropriate acting out such as strip clubs, prostitution, massage parlours, escorts, etc.)
I have experienced severe consequences due to my sexual behaviour.
(These may include: lack of production at work or school, warnings at work from your supervisor, stress in your personal relationships, threats of separation or divorce, legal consequences, loss of income, financial distress, health concerns, spiritual consequences, or feelings of isolation.)
I seem to have an inability to stop these sexual behaviours, despite adverse consequences.
I continue to persist in the pursuit of self-destructive or high risk behaviours.
I make ongoing attempts to stop or limit my unwanted obsessive sexual behaviours.
I use my sexual obsession and fantasy as primary coping strategies for life stresses (to escape from problems, to relieve anxiety or to cope).
I have increased the amount of sexual experience because the current level is no longer sufficient.
(This may include feelings of guilt, remorse, fear, shame or depression about the sexual behaviour. You may have experienced suicidal thoughts.)
I spend an excessive amount of time obtaining, being involved in or recovering from sexual experiences.
I have been known to neglect important social, occupational, educational or recreational activities because of my sexual behaviour.
If you can identify with one or more of these statements, it may be an indication that you have a problem with compulsive sexual behaviour or sexual addiction . Get help now.
The LifeSTAR program is a phased program designed to take participants on a gentle and structured path into recovery. It shares many of the same features of 12-step programs, counselling and group therapy, with components such as group sessions, workbook exercises, an educational design, and the processing of personal experiences. Think of LifeSTAR as a comprehensive recovery approach that included all the best features of these three approaches packaged into one program. Each phase has a different emphasis:
Phase 1 is designed to educate and create hope; it lays a strong foundation for future recovery work.
Phase 2 is task oriented and helps individuals struggling with addiction begin deeper recovery work. The emphasis is on completing specific tasks that build understanding and lasting change.
Phase 3 is a process group where members take what they’ve accomplished in the previous two phases and integrate their learning into long-term recovery. The emphasis is on healing childhood trauma, family of origin issues and the effects of addiction.
The therapists that run the treatment groups have specialized training in treating sexual compulsive behaviours. All groups are facilitated by therapists who work to help group members deepen their recovery experience.
One important point to remember is that traditional 12-stepwork, group work and even counselling often leave the spouse or partner out of the process. In LifeSTAR the spouse or partner is an integral part of the program and receives just as much help and attention as the individual struggling with the addiction.
We strongly encourage individuals to continue attending 12 -step meetings and counselling as they go through the program. We believe the LifeSTAR program to be an excellent compliment to recovery work that is already taking place.
4. Why should a couple be involved in treatment together? What can I expect by including my spouse?
Many partners question why they would need to attend if they don’t have an addiction. Research and experience show that when a partner is included in early recovery work, the chance of saving the relationship greatly improves. The partners of individuals struggling with an addiction are included because many partners feel isolated, confused, angry and betrayed.
The LifeSTAR program was designed to address the unique and sensitive needs of partners. Even though they attend the initial Getting Started Workshop together, partners do separate work apart from the individuals struggling with addiction. Their work focuses on recognizing the nature of addiction, understanding their own families or origins, identifying faulty belief systems about relationships, decreasing feelings of low self-worth, and creating healthy boundaries with loved ones.
In Phases 2 and 3, partners work on improving their own awareness of how the addiction has affected their lives and relationships. This helps them improve their boundaries and ability to cope with the addiction, increases their self -care and healthy service to others and helps them learn to express emotions in a healthy way.
Recognize that the first 3 to 6 months of couple recovery are usually the most stressful. Both partners will experience a wide range of powerful feelings. Difficulties in the areas of communication styles, intimacy levels, sexuality, spirituality, parenting, past trauma and finances can complicate the recovery process. Identification of the sexual addiction/co-addiction systems is painful at first but holds hope for eventual relief of the far greater pain caused by the addiction.
The following is a list of what to expect during the early stages:
Relief: The addict usually experiences a great sense of relief after admitting the secret of the addiction. The end of the double life and shame may bring a premature sense of accomplishment, which needs to be reinforced by attending meetings, going to therapy, and connecting with program friends for support. Partners also feel a sense of relief at the end of secrecy and validation of their experience of pain.
Anger: Both partners can expect to experience anger. The revelation that their partner is a sex addict may trigger much anger mixed with legitimate hurt and betrayal in the spouse. The addict feels anger about the need to make changes as part of recovery. Both partners may blame and shame the other.
Hope: The work being done by both partners can bring new life and hope to the relationship. Both partners are encouraged to work in therapy, attend 12-step meetings, and group meetings.
Intimacy: Recovering couples begin to communicate at a more intimate level, often on issues they have never discussed before. Communication skills such as practicing empathic listening, being respectful and expressing vulnerability are essential elements in recovery.
Grief: The addict experiences pain over the loss of their “best friend,” the addiction. The partner mourns the loss of the relationship as it was imagined to be. Partners often berate themselves for not having been aware sooner of the addiction.
Sexual issues: Sexuality has a different meaning in recovery. The goal becomes intimacy rather than intensity. Abstinence, and later the frequency, types and quality of sexual contacts are issues that the recovering couple must address. Past sexual relationships as well as possible past child sexual abuse for either partner need to be explored. Where other sexual partners were involved, the possibility of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases must be faced early. Couples who continue to learn about healthy sexuality will do better as they address these sexual issues.
Spirituality: Couples who grow together spiritually have hope that a power greater than themselves is also involved in the re-creating of their relationship.
Phase 1: The Getting Started Workshop is offered as a 3-day Intensive weekend. Contact us to find out when the next Getting Started Workshop begins.
Phase 2: The Recovery Group lasts 12 to 14 months, depending on the size of the group and your own personal progress.
Phase 3: The Advanced Group lasts 10 to 12 months.
This is a common question, as many individuals who struggle with addiction would prefer to do their recovery work privately. We find that individuals who submit to the group process make changes more quickly and have longer-lasting results.
Group work is unique because it challenges many of the core beliefs that plague individuals struggling with addiction. For example, many individuals who struggle with sexual addiction believe that if people really knew their secret, they would reject them. Attending a group disproves this belief, as group members actually deepen their connection with each other the longer they attend the group.
Eliminating unhealthy core beliefs such as the one mentioned above is the main goal to overcoming a pornography/sexual addiction. Group work is a proven method for helping individuals accomplish this goal.
Although it is initially awkward and uncomfortable to enter a group setting, virtually all participants report feeling grateful for the experience.
All LifeSTAR groups are closed, meaning that new individuals are not added without the consent of the existing group members. This ensures safety and predictability in the process.
Each group member is screened prior to attending Phase 1: The Getting Started Workshop, and each group member is required to sign a confidentiality statement.
You only disclose as much as you feel comfortable disclosing. We believe that secrets are the lifeblood of addiction. Therefore, working to disclose your secrets in a safe and confidential environment is an integral part of recovery. In Phase 1, you are not required to disclose any details about your addiction or your situation. If you want to share your story, there will be opportunities to share, but it is not required. In Phase 2, you will have a chance to tell your story in more detail and to seek greater support from the other group members.
Healing sexually compulsive behaviours such as pornography and other forms of sexually acting out requires healing of relationships. Staying anonymous doesn’t require an individual to reach out to others and grow. Using pornography and acting out sexually are quick fixes for dealing with the stresses of life and relationships. Pornography also becomes a “fake relationship” between the user and the pornography. Likewise, anonymous relationships can become “fake relationships” that don’t really yield the depth of connection nor the healing bond available in a real life relationship.
Treatment should encourage individuals to challenge themselves and not to keep doing emotionally low-risk behaviours, such as staying anonymous. The LifeSTAR program emphasizes confidentiality, which makes it easier to show up, share and connect with others in a safe setting.
Phase 1: The Getting Started Intensive Workshop costs $675/individual or $1250/couple (this includes workbooks and materials). There is a total of 18 hours instruction time over the course of 3 days.
Phase 2: The Recovery Group costs $235 per month per participant. This includes 4 additional workbooks and 6 hours of group therapy per month. The Phase 2 group typically lasts 12 to 14 months.
Phase 3: The Advanced Group costs $235 per month which includes 6 hours of group therapy per month. Phase 3 group lasts approximately 9 to 12 months.
We do not do third party billings for the LifeSTAR program. If you are interested in using your insurance, you will be required to pay for the LifeSTAR program up front and seek reimbursement from your insurance carrier. It is up to you to consult with your insurance agency as to whether our program would be covered under your policy, as each policy will vary.