The Restoring Intimacy program helps individuals struggling with sex and love addiction by addressing underlying compulsive behaviours and unhealthy intimacy using a trauma lens
Sex and love addiction is understood as an intimacy disorder or intimacy avoidance.
Underneath sex and love addiction is the impacts of developmental trauma, such as the inability to feel safe and loved in relationships. Core beliefs develop that others are hurtful, others cannot be trusted, or others cannot be depended on. Thus, the fear of intimacy begins.
A fear of intimacy, or intimacy-based trauma, is marked by an inability to form healthy closeness within relationships. As a result, people may turn to compulsive sexual behaviours to get their needs met and protect themselves.
The Restoring Intimacy program treats sex and love addiction through a trauma lens to address intimacy disorders, while targeting the underlying sexual compulsive behaviours.
WHAT IS SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addiction can be understood as an unhealthy relationship to any sexual experience (thoughts, fantasies, behaviours, activities) that a person engages in despite adverse consequences. Sex addiction is progressive – it increases in severity, becomes uncontrollable and unmanageable.
Sexual behaviours become compulsive, obsessive, and interfere with daily responsibilities such as work, school, and family/friends. Sex addiction causes profound shame, guilt, and remorse that leaves the person feeling despair, fearful, and desperate to stop the cycle.
Examples of sexual addictive behaviours can include:
WHAT SEX ADDICTION IS NOT
Sex addiction is not a moral problem, nor an excuse for infidelity or to be unfaithful. Sex addiction is not just a high sex drive or an insatiable sexual desire. Sex addiction is not just about having sex.
Sex addiction is different from sex offending and antisocial/sociopathic behaviour such as pedophilia. However, some sexual behaviours can escalate to higher risk offensive behaviours such as exhibitionism and voyeurism.
SEX ADDICTION AS A TRAUMA
& INTIMACY DISORDER
Sex addiction can also be understood as a trauma-based intimacy and attachment disorder.
Many people experiencing sex addiction have experiences of trauma and adverse childhood experiences such as abandonment, emotional neglect, physical/sexual abuse, rejection, and/or unhealthy attachment with one or both parents.
As a result of this trauma, a person may be unable to form healthy intimacy. They learn to use sexual behaviours to escape emotional pain and protect themselves.
Symptoms of an intimacy disorder can include:
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and mental heath
Many people experiencing sex and love addiction also struggle with substance abuse and other behavioural addictions. Alcohol is the number one co-occurring substance abused with sex addiction, followed by crystal meth and cocaine. Process or behavioural addictions such as gambling, gaming, spending/shopping and compulsive use of food can be commonly present alongside sex addiction.
Additionally, people struggling with sex addiction may live with other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sexual behaviours are often used to escape and cope with the distressful mental health symptoms. However, after momentary relief, symptoms tend to intensify and worsen, causing a painful cycle.
SEX ADDICTION ASSESSMENT
Do you think you might be struggling with a sex addiction? Ask yourself the following questions:
THE ROLE OF CYBERSEX
Cybersex is often referred to as “the crack-cocaine of sexual compulsivity”, a phrase first coined by Dr. Al Cooper.
Cybersex is a term referring to a subcategory of online sexual activity where the internet is used to engage in sexually gratifying activities. Such activities can include pornography, sexting, webcam sex, virtual reality sex, apps to meet people for anonymous sex.
Cybersex has increasingly become problematic for many people. It is estimated that about 70% of sex addicts report problematic online sexual behaviours.
There are several reasons that make cybersex so addictive:
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Pornography has become problematic for many people, specifically placing young children and adolescents at risk for developing unhealthy sexual behaviours. Pornography significantly impacts three main areas that makes it so addictive.
These areas include:
1) The brain – Pornography has substantial impacts on the brain and lead to overstimulation and release of dopamine (the “feel good” chemical that creates pleasure). The more someone watches pornography, the more dopamine is released. This reinforces the behaviour, increases cravings, and creates a feedback loop.
2) Escalation – The feedback loop leads to an escalation of the behaviour and triggers a need for higher intensity pornographic content. This causes greater challenges in developing healthy relationships and distorts the arousal template (a map created to discern what one desires, is attracted to, seeks pleasure from, or pursues in a relationship).
3) Emotional bonding – Pornography use creates an emotional bond with the internet world, furthering the intimacy disorder. Sex becomes less about intimacy and connection, and can create barriers to forming healthy sexuality within relationships.
Do you think you might be struggling with a pornography addiction? Ask yourself the following questions:
Love or relationship addiction is similarly understood as a trauma-based intimacy and attachment disorder. Unresolved trauma wounds and deeply engrained negative core beliefs about love, can lead to chasing the “happily ever after” and fantasy of romance.
The “love or relationship addict” spends significant time preoccupied and fantasizing about the potential of love, a desired person, or “fairy-tale” relationship. When in a romantic relationship, they may engage in behaviours they think will sustain the relationship. However, they often confuse intensity with intimacy, which inevitably pushes people away.
On a deeper level, they believe they are not worthy of romantic love. They become fearful, anxious, and paranoid about losing a relationship or never being able to sustain one. They might “serial date” because of their fear of abandonment. The “love addict” is often attracted to unavailable people or people with avoidant attachment styles, which ultimately perpetuate their fear of abandonment.
LOVE AND RELATIONSHIP ADDICTION ASSESSMENT
Do you think you might be struggling with a love or relationship addiction? Ask yourself the following questions:
TREATMENT FOR SEX
AND LOVE ADDICTION
Just like with any treatment for addiction, recovery from sex and love dependency is very possible.
JACS offers a comprehensive, best-practice sex addiction treatment program with Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT). These therapists have successfully completed professional development to support individuals with sex addiction and their loved ones.
JACS provides a 25-day intensive virtual out-patient program. This program is for people who identify as men who struggle with sexual and relationship compulsivity, use sex and love as maladaptive forms of coping, and are looking for a safe space to begin their recovery journey.
These groups will consist of the following treatment approaches:
Appropriate and necessary assessments will be completed for each person interested in joining the program. This provides a thorough holistic understanding, identifying origins and contributing factors such as trauma, mental health and co-occurring addictions.
Other important aspects of the treatment program will include:
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about our Restoring Intimacy program, find the answers here.
The program will be 28 treatment days (Monday through Friday). This does not included weekends, nor statutory or Jewish holidays. A full schedule will be given to participants at the beginning of their treatment cycle.
The full cost of the program is $7250. This cost covers intake assessments and consultations with CSAT therapists, therapeutic materials such as a workbook, 2 individual therapy sessions per week, 2 group therapy sessions per week, 5 individual therapy sessions for a family member or loved one, and additional support services.
Participants of this program are not eligible for a tax receipt for program costs. Donations made to JACS beyond the cost of this program are eligible for a tax receipt.
Various private insurance policies may cover portions of the costs of this program. Speak with your insurance provider to understand what benefits you may be able to take advantage of to cover the cost of this program. Unfortunately, OHIP coverage will not cover the costs of this program.
Prior to entering the program, all participants will have an individual session with a therapist to discuss with the program expectations. Some of these expectations include attending all groups, actively participating, completing assigned exercises, maintaining group conduct, being open and honest.
Restoring Intimacy is a unique program in that it is facilitated by experienced Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT) who are qualified to offer sex addiction treatment using the Patrick Carnes Task Model approach. This approach is evidence-based and widely used across the United States at some of the most successful treatment centres. It is unique in that it is offered virtually which allows people to access treatment while being in the comfort of their own home and able to attend to other life responsibilities. Coupled with the holistic community and family-focused approach JACS generally takes, this program is uniquely positioned to help everyone affected by sex and love addiction. Furthermore, the virtual out-patient program allows for more flexibility than an in-person/inpatient treatment program.
The program is facilitated by Marlee Harendorf-Gold and Rachel Dahan, both Certified Sex Addiction Therapists trained through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. Marlee is also a Certified Partners Trauma Therapist. It is offered through Jewish Addictions Community Services (JACS) Toronto.
To enroll in the program, you can click on the “get help” button below. This will allow you to send a direct email to Marlee (facilitator of the program) where she will connect with you to schedule a consultation call. During this consultation call you will receive more information about the program and schedule a formal intake assessment appointment to begin your admission process. You may also call JACS directly at 416-638-0350 to speak with our intake counsellor who can connect you with Marlee or Rachel.
During the program, clients will work with their individual therapist to develop an aftercare plan. This plan will assist clients transition from the program to other resources for support such as CSAT therapists, 12-step meetings, SA-specific group therapy. Additionally, all clients who complete the program will be eligible to participate in weekly aftercare groups with JACS for continued support.
The Restoring Intimacy program therapists are here to support you and see you successfully complete the program. If you are struggling to live up to the expectations of the program, your therapists will work with you to develop a plan to assist you in working within the program expectations. If there are reasons that prevent you from continuing in the program your therapists will support you to find alternative resources that meet your individual needs.
As a medical professional, you can refer a client by either directing your client to the website or email email@example.com. You may also call or email JACS to speak directly to the intake counsellor on behalf of your patient to determine if they would benefit from the program.
As a friend or family member you can refer your loved one by either directing them to the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. As the friend or family member, you may also call or email JACS to receive support for yourself. We provide individual therapy and groups to support those impacted by addictions.
There will be a total of 6-8 clients participating in the program at one time. The program will run on cycles, meaning that 6-8 people will be admitted into the program and complete the 25 days together. Following the completion of that cycle, a new cycle of clients will begin.
If you are unsure if this program is the right fit for you, please click here to take take our assessment questionnaire. This will help determine if the program is right for you. Alternatively, you may email/call to schedule a consultation call with the intake counsellor to discuss if the program is the right fit.
Out-patient refers to providing treatment for individuals while they remain living at home, as opposed to in-patient where individuals live temporarily at the location of the treatment centre. Out-patient treatment is intended for people who feel stable and safe enough to engage in treatment and are not currently in a high-risk situation.
Success in treatment looks different for different people. Within sex and love addiction, effective treatment means the person has stopped compulsively engaging in sexual behaviours, has developed skills for managing underlying issues, and is maintaining a healthy relationship with their sexuality.
To prepare for this program we encourage people to purchase Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes to begin understanding what sex and love addiction is. Additionally, once clients are admitted into the program, they will be assigned necessary assessments by their therapists to gain an in-depth understanding of their experiences with sex and love addiction.
Your therapist will review the completed assessment with you and together you will develop an individualized therapeutic plan for your program. Since the program is virtual, clients will need to prepare by having access to a computer/laptop, internet, and a quiet confidential space to participate in the program.