Tool 17: Therapy
Very often the addiction stems from underlying issues, such as a difficult childhood, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and so on. We used the addiction as an escape mechanism to run away from emotional pain, or as an attempt to fill a void that we felt in our lives. And once we got hooked, we couldn't stop. Often these issues are deeply rooted in our psyche and began back in our childhood. From our youth, we used the pleasure to medicate our feelings of inadequacy or the void we felt in our lives that may have stemmed from childhood trauma, abuse, or even from social isolation, like just not "fitting in". An addiction therapist, preferably one who is trained in dealing with lust addiction, can help us explore the underlying causes of our addiction and discover where the root of our behaviors may stem from. This is important for the long term, because even if we learn how to fight the addiction, if we do not deal with the underlying causes the disease will often relapse at a later stage.
Besides for the importance of the therapist being trained in addictions, it is best if the therapist we choose has also dealt with an addiction in the past - and broken free. As they say, "it takes one to know one". The mechanics of all addictions are very similar, so it doesn't really matter which particular addiction the therapist may have dealt with.
Choosing a therapist who is not trained in addictions and does not understand the nature of addiction, will often cause much frustration and waste a lot of time and money before we realize that they are not really helping us. They may try to help us find the underlying causes, but an addiction is a disease, and understanding where it stems from alone is not enough to enable us to break free. Just like understanding a broken leg won’t heal it. All the understanding and "self-knowledge" in the world can't take away an addiction - which is a physical disease accompanied by a mental obsession.
A good addiction therapist will be able to teach us how to start living real life instead of fantasy, how to reconnect with the world around us, how to "get out of our heads" and stop living a self-centered existence, how to admit powerlessness, and how to "surrender" the addiction and turn our lives over to our Higher Power (often using the 12-Step method). They will teach us how to let go of the need to "control", which underlies all addictions, and how to start trusting in ourselves, in the world around us and in G-d, without resorting to the escape mechanisms and the "need to control" that the addiction provided us with.
There are also techniques such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and the techniques of Patrick Carnes, which many therapists trained in treating lust addiction use.
Also, a good addiction therapist will often encourage us to join a 12-Step group, either in tandem with the therapy or as a follow up, and they may be able to help us work through the 12-Step program themselves.
Although we may be religious, it is not necessary to choose a religious therapist in order to be helped, just like the doctor who fixes our broken leg doesn't have to be religious to heal us. All that really matters is that the therapist understand the nature of addictions well, and is trained in dealing with them. As Rabbi Avraham J. Twerski answered someone on our network who wrote to him for advice about going to a non-religious therapist:
Because Freud was an atheist who was anti-religion, psychology got a bad rap years ago (which was well deserved). Modern psychology is generally not anti-religion. A good sex-addiction therapist is not going to lead anyone off-the-derech. A person who is sexually addicted is, in that area, off-the-derech already, and getting help with the addiction can actually enable him to strengthen his Yiddishkeit. Of course, I cannot vouch for all therapists. But if he has a good reputation, that should be OK.
See our therapist referral page.