Do Not Waste Your Time at a Therapist You Feel No Connection With

I just came back from my therapist’s office after our first meeting in nearly a month. We had to cancel an appointment from two weeks ago for whatever reason, and I think it’s been the longest gap between appointments we’ve had since I started seeing her in late March 2014.

She’s not the first therapist I’ve ever had, but she’s the best and I know that I would not have been able to process the boatload of mental health and experiential baggage I brought to the table following my arrest with just anybody else.

The first time I was seen in a formal therapy setting was in 1996, shortly after one of my best friends was killed by a drunk driver. The therapist let me ramble for a few weeks, wrote some stuff down, but after a month or so of grieving, I recognized this guy, at least 30 years my senior, was no help at all. I could have been talking to a cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan and got the same feedback.

In 2000, I went back to therapy, with an overall feeling something was wrong. He diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, which was just the tip of the iceberg of diagnoses to come, but I connected with him in a weird way. He was always telling me about his problems, which were way worse than mine. I was 24 at the time and he was probably 15 years older. It seemed like he made many choices in life he wished he could backtrack on, but didn’t have the courage. I saw him for about a year, took about six months off, then saw him for another year. This was around the time I was put on medication for bipolar disorder.

I had another 6-week stint with a therapist around 2005. He mostly wanted to talk about football and I probably wasn’t completely into it either, complaining of general malaise, but unsure what the real issues were and not in a place to delve too deeply.

And while I mostly stayed on my meds, I went almost the next 10 years without seeing a therapist. I had determined that my problems where chemical, not emotional. While the second guy was some help, I told myself that I’d never received that “magic bullet” piece of advice that would turn my life completely around, so clearly therapists didn’t “get me” and it was a waste of time.

I was referred to my current therapist immediately after I was arrested by the nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office. I learned years later that I wasn’t supposed to end up with her, as I was referred to someone else in her office. As the owner of the practice, she seemed interested in the brief bit she heard of my story and took me on.

I only saw her twice before I went off to rehab for alcoholism. The last thing she said to me was “Do me a favor and give it a chance.” Those words stuck with me and I don’t know if I would have come to terms with being an alcoholic as quickly without that advice.

Early on, the work was intense. I’d see her either twice a week for an hour, or once for two hours. There are benefits and drawbacks to each set-up. We’d talk about things I learned at my two rehabs, go over my mental health history, and talk about how my experiences in life led me to where I was at the time. It was very tough work a lot of the time. I think she’s seen me cry more than anybody else in the last 35 years. Two years after first meeting her, when it was time to do my six months in jail, I was a healthier version of myself than I’d ever been, with her deserving a lot of the credit.

She testified in my favor at the sentencing and visited me in jail. I resumed a steady schedule of therapy upon release and although it was part of my probation conditions, it’s not like I would have stopped seeing her. Off probation now, I’m still not quitting.

As I’ve continued to move in healthier directions, writing books and trying to educate about porn addiction, she’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders and I don’t know that I’d have the confidence to keep going if she didn’t boost me up from time to time.

I read so much about people who are just not connecting with their therapist. I have to admit, I was not always 100% open and honest about everything with my former therapists, so some of the problem was likely me. With my current therapist, I can tell her anything, even things that are uncomfortable and shameful.

I wouldn’t have ever thought a woman who’s only three or four years older than me would be the one I clicked with, but she was the one. Her practice has expanded mightily to several offices over the last few years and despite transitioning most of her client load, she was gracious enough to continue seeing me. That meant a lot as I can’t imagine the time it would take to not only get up to speed with another therapist, but also be lucky enough to make that connection.

If you’re not connecting with your therapist, and you’ve given it four or five sessions, stop wasting your time. Just because they have some letters after their name does not mean they are instantly the perfect one for you. I needed someone who asked a lot of questions and who understands my strange sense of humor. I needed someone who shared a bit about her life, but didn’t make it about her. I didn’t want someone who ended every session with “homework.” I didn’t do my homework in high school, what makes you think I’m going to do it now?

She’s never given me the “magic bullet” piece of advice to change everything for the better. She helped me learn it doesn’t exist. While I don’t need the intense therapy I had early in recovery, it’s reassuring to know we can check-in every 2 or 3 weeks, even if it’s just for chit-chat. Hopefully that will continue for many years to come.

Find a therapist you connect with because it will make a world of difference. It did for me.

Q&A Time: I’m A Porn Addict. Help.

QUESTION: I’m struggling with this addiction and I need help. What now?

ANSWER: That’s about as direct and to-the-point as you can get. It’s hard to get very specific because I don’t know if you’re looking once-a-week and feel bad about yourself or if this is a daily, multi-hour activity that is starting to stray into extreme or illegal territory. Either way there are some common pieces of advice I’d offer.

First is to find a professional to talk about this with. Depending on where you live there may be Certified Sex Addiction Therapists available. That would be your first choice. Here in Maine, where I live, that is an official licensure designation. If that’s the case where you live, you’ll want to find someone who has expertise with addictions. That can range from LCSWs (licensed clinical social worker) to LMFTs (licensed marriage and family therapist) to CACs (certified addiction counselors).

When you find that therapist, be 100% honest with them. You’re wasting everybody’s time and your money if you are anything less. The therapist will help guide you through you journey, but you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and lying to them (or yourself) is going to largely render the therapeutic experience as worthless. Also understand you are probably going to bring up a lot more questions before you start with answers. This is all part of the process.

Next, find others who are also suffering from pornography addiction. Share your story with them and listen as they share their story with you. Recognizing you’re not alone, and coming to a sense of community with others like you will help you.

You can find these communities with 12-step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. If these kinds of support groups are not local to your area, there are online meetings and hundreds of hours of recorded testimony available on YouTube of people talking about this exact subject. If you want to be more interactive, there are a handful of really good message boards out there. I’ve listed a few on the Resources page of this website and I’m sure a simple Google search may yield a few more I don’t know about. The point is, you are not alone in this struggle.

Finally, I’d urge you to learn as much about porn addiction, or addiction in general. There are literally thousands of books that you can find online and countless videos on YouTube that address addiction. I found learning about the scientific side of things helped me understand what I was experiencing at a deeper level.

As addicts, we tend to think that we’re a special snowflake and nobody could possibly understand what is happening with us. The reality is, in most cases, we’re just another statistic. Understanding those statistics, especially ones that had to do with success in recovery, was one of the key steps to me staying on the recovery path.

You must understand that your addiction will not go away overnight. Recovery is a long, hard road with triggers galore in the beginning. While I rarely feel triggers these days, even five years into recovery, they can still happen. You need to develop the tools to deal with them.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Lessons I’ve Learned While Helping Pornography Addicts & Their Loved Ones

For the last couple months, I’ve been offering a porn addict peer support service where I lend my expertise to people struggling with pornography addiction and spouses/partners who are living with a suspected or outed addict. I’ve learned a heck of a lot from dealing with these folks, which number around 8 or 9 at this point.

It’s evolved into a weigh station of sorts for people to figure out if they need to, or are willing to take the next steps, whatever that may be, to get help. I probably average 3-4 interactions per person and am proud to say most go on to official therapy after talking to me.

There are several things I’ve learned up to now on this little journey:

Porn Addiction Knows No Bounds: I have had a woman, a doctor and a former school teacher who are among the people I have worked with on the addict side of things and everybody’s story is so different. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to show that even successful white-collar guys with families can get hooked…which means anybody can. I want to repeat that for the doubters who are like, “Even a cross-eyed Eskimo with a skin condition or a Chinese millionaire who also gambles too much?” Yes, even them. Anybody. An-ee-bod-ee.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery is Brutal: I’ll often go to my own therapy sessions with a question or two for my therapist who is well-versed in this area with questions about how to handle the wives and girlfriends of sex addicts who have been hit with betrayal trauma like a ton of bricks. I’ve never lost a spouse or child, but I imagine the trauma is similar to what many of these women are feeling. I’m forever grateful my wife handled my situation much more smoothly than would have been expected.

We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves Only to Ourselves: I don’t know if it’s a 12-step saying or if it was just popular at one of my rehabs, but I’ve heard, “We are the stories we tell ourselves” too many times. I understand it means that we like to believe things that aren’t necessarily true about ourselves. But I think there’s also a level of belief that other people are buying our stories. Forget gaslighting your partner, I have worked with so many addicts and loved ones who continue to tell themselves stories that are simply not true. We may believe our own BS, but there are plenty of people out there nodding who let you live in your fantasy world but can see right through you.

Porn is a Concept, Not an Actual Thing: Porn is like: Anger, Cold, Bright, Proud, Alert – these are all words that mean basically the same thing to all of us, but not EXACTLY the same because they are concepts or ideas. One man’s pornographic film is not necessarily another’s. I can’t disagree with your conservative definition of porn, but I can’t disagree with the next person’s liberal definition. One of the most important things when I talk to people is to find out what their definition of pornography is before I start asking too many questions.

Porn Addiction is Rampant, Yet Invisible: Statistics suggest that 18% of all men in this world are addicted to pornography, with the largest group – 18-to-35 years old – at around 33%. I believe this and think those statistics are under-reported. I also have a feeling the rate of female addiction are far less underreported. We once lived in a world where you had to go to a store or a disgusting movie theater to get your porn needs met. Now, you can see porn as easily as you buy tickets, plan a trip, or send an e-mail. When the barriers for becoming a porn addict all drop, you’ve got loads of susceptible people that easily fall into the trap.

This Is Going to Get a Lot Worse Before It Gets Better: I remember first hearing about heroin in middle school. It was one of those drugs so far out of the mainstream, like PCP, that it seemed like it was almost a myth. Now, 30 years later, it’s probably more difficult to find cocaine or speed on the street than heroin. Why? Because we let it happen. I recall learning of the dangers of a handful of drugs in school, but never learning about heroin. It must have not seemed important to the curriculum. I don’t know what they’re doing about it now, but they failed a generation or two. That same mistake can’t be made with porn.

I talk to people in such pain over this, wracked with guilt, shame and embarrassment who feel like they have nowhere to turn. Resources for porn addiction are few and far between. In the state of Maine, there are 5 meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous statewide per week. There are over 50 per day for Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Maine, there is no designation for a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT). You can certainly go take a course on it, but the State doesn’t seem to want to recognize it as an area for professional certification among therapists. This means that an addict largely has to cross their fingers that a therapist who lists “sexual issues” in their areas of expertise aren’t simply trawling for clients and that they know their stuff.

Unfortunately, Maine is far more typical than atypical. We are horribly behind the times here, but like most places, there’s a tendency for the herd to gather, not want to talk about uncomfortable things and shun those who do. The herd will eventually talk about these things, but as the opiate crisis shows, they’re often decades too late. The herd is reactive, not proactive.

I’m trying to do what I can, talking about this problem with anybody who will listen. I love to do podcasts with people who have thousands of listeners, but I’ll do them with podcasts that have dozens. Once people learn they won’t become, nor will be perceived as a porn addict for simply having a conversation, maybe we’ll start making strides.

One day, I hope to step away from my daily job of ghostwriting to focus on porn addiction education full-time, but that’s about 20 clients away. It’s OK, I’ll get there someday.

If I can give you one call-to-action it’s that whether an addict, loved one of an addict, or someone who just stumbled upon this article, please don’t carry fear or embarrassment when it comes to talking about the scourge of pornography addiction. We need to normalize the conversation in society before anybody is going to do anything about it.

And of course, if you’re interested in my peer support services, click HERE.

Q&A Time: Even if Porn Addict Husband Doesn’t Go To Therapy, Should I?

QUESTION: My husband has told me that he looks at pornography, and he will stop. I’ve suggested couple’s counseling or even individual sessions and he has said no. I read an online board that says I should still go by myself. Can that really help anything?

ANSWER: I don’t think it will come as any shock to you that I answer this with a resounding “Yes!” It may not directly help with his pornography addiction since it sounds like he hasn’t actually accepted it as a problem. That may just take some time.

Get a therapist…and be honest with your therapist.

I believe that even though I wasn’t 100% honest with my therapists through my 20s and early 30s, they were still instrumental in helping me get through some of the challenges I faced that had nothing to do with my addictions. There is something powerful about somebody who is there to advocate for you, is rooting for you, but isn’t emotionally involved, nor plays an active role in your everyday real life.

The relationship between a therapist and patient is unique and unlike any other. I think most people fear going to a therapist because they think it will be a complete bearing of their deepest secrets and simply by the act of seeing a therapist, it must mean there is something wrong.

I wish that I could go back to the beginning when I was 20 years old when the therapist inevitably asked me if there was any sexual dysfunction, I could say, “I have been renting porno movies or buying Playboy every month since I was 14 years old.” I don’t know what I thought the blowback would be. They weren’t going to kick me out of their office.

But, like so many guys who believed porn was something to be ashamed of and that I was just walking around with this invisible black cloud of perversion over my head, I kept my mouth quiet when it came to the pornography. I didn’t talk about any of my sexual hang-ups, either. I just said everything was fine and complained about work or my parents.

Would I have ended up behind bars if I had been honest with my therapist in my 20s? Honestly, I don’t think so. Part of the reason my addiction festered into a nasty wound was because I never had the salve of a professional’s ear. That’s on me, not them.

A therapist is a great sounding board and somebody who isn’t going to take it personally when you get mad or start crying or blurting things that you can’t believe are coming out of your mouth because you’ve tried to suppress them for so long. A therapist is going to know the next thing to say to keep things moving in the right direction.

I will mention that not counting the pair of couple’s counselors that my wife and I saw, I’ve seen five therapists, but I say I’ve only had two. I probably saw the other three a combined eight times.

If you’re not clicking with a therapist, find someone else. In your case, it would help if you could talk to someone who has experience working with relationships and hopefully has some experience in dealing with addiction, even if it is drugs and alcohol. Your personalities must mesh and there needs to be the opportunity for a level of trust to develop. You’re wasting your time if you don’t have a bond, or at least I was.

Ironically, the therapist I have now who has seen me through all of my recovery is the first woman I’ve seen. I never would have guessed it, but it isn’t an older man who I clicked with, but a woman only a couple years older than me.

You’re going to learn a lot about yourself in therapy you never otherwise would have. I wholeheartedly endorse therapy for anyone with a pulse.


If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: Reader with Porn Addiction Wonders What To Do Next

QUESTION Hi. I really like your site and I promise I’m going to buy your book when I get enough money. I think that I am a porn addict. Or maybe I should say I know I’m a porn addict, but it’s not that bad yet, but I want to stop before it is. Do you know what I mean? So if someone like me wants to stop, what do I do? I don’t think I need to see anyone.

ANSWER It’s good to hear you think you’re not an addict and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re is just in more of a compulsive use phase or maybe you’re in the early stages. As you’ve probably seen me write, these are labels. You believe you have a problem with porn. Instead of worrying where it is on a scale of 1-to-100, it’s more important you recognize the problem and want to deal with it.

Maybe you don’t need to see anyone. For now, it’s more important you try on your own than don’t try at all, but I hope you’ll stay open to the idea of professional help if the need arises. You don’t go to the hospital for a scrape, but you go for a big gash. If your unhealthy use of porn is now just a scrape, maybe you can tend to it by yourself.

You didn’t say much about how you use (or even if you’re a man — I really have to stop assuming) but I’ll assume it’s video clips online since that’s the vast majority. We both know that there is no filter that is foolproof, but we also know that having that one extra second to stop yourself can make the difference. I would urge you to put on the parental filters on Google or whatever search engine you use, and find a free piece of software online or app for your phone that can block certain sites. If you’re a fan of a certain site, not having access disrupts your routine, even if you find another site. Part of breaking habits is breaking routines. Being forced to adapt to something new may give you the moment of clarity you need to stop.

After this, I’d say look at your other routines and patterns. Are you only looking on your phone? Or at night? Is it always the same place? If your addiction isn’t “that bad” there are probably very obvious similarities in the circumstances of your use. You have to figure out a way to avoid them. I’d also suggest taking a step or two back in your routines and find out what you’re doing before you use the porn. Do you always take a shower first? Is it always immediately after you come home from work? Is it after a certain TV show? You’ll probably see patterns there. You need to disrupt those patterns.

I’d also suggest thinking about what you’re getting out of it. What itch does it scratch? Is it relaxing? Relieve tension or stress? Does it make you forget your life for a little bit? If you can find out what needs the pornography is meeting, you can also start to address how to better meet those needs in healthier ways. You may feel like you don’t need professional help for the porn addiction, but maybe you do for the grief over a lost relationship you’re running from by using porn. Maybe this is the way to fill a certain hole in your life and numb a raw nerve ending.

I can speak from experience. Take care of the core issues and dealing with the addiction actually gets so much easier. If you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re tired, you sleep. If you’re (what?), you use porn. Fill in the blank, my friend. If the answer is simply “horny” you may need to dig deeper.

I can’t really speak to the spiritual or religious side of things, but if you’re someone who has a relationship with and draws strength from God, use that, too. It seems to work for a lot of people.

I would have claimed to be in your position for many years, although I don’t think I’d be brave enough to use the term “addict” back then. I didn’t try to address things and I didn’t seek help and it blew up in my face quickly. It’s admirable you want to challenge your budding addiction. If you find that a few tweaks to your lifestyle and willpower alone aren’t enough, please seek real help.

 

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. While many have labeled me as a pornography addiction expert, take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.