treatment + healing
In over 25 years I have treated approximately 350 males afflicted with
sexual addictions (or sometimes referred to as sexual compulsions).
In about 94% of the cases I have found that pornography was a contributor,
facilitator or direct causal agent in the acquiring of these sexual
illnesses. I note that Patrick Carnes, the leading U.S. researcher in
this area, reports similar findings. In his research on nearly 1000
sex addicts, as reported in his Don't Call it Love: Recovery from
Sexual Addictions: "Among all addicts surveyed 90% of the men and
77% of the women reported pornography as significant to their addiction."
I found that nearly all of my adult sexual addicts' problems started
with porn exposure in childhood or adolescence (8 years and older).
The typical pattern was exposure to mild porn early with increasing
frequency of exposure and eventual later addiction. This was nearly
always accompanied by masturbation.
This was followed by an increasing desensitization of the materials'
pathology, escalation to increasingly aberrant and varied kinds of materials
and eventually to acting out the sexual fantasies they were exposed
to. While this did on occasion include incest,
child molestation and rape, most of the damage was through compulsive
infidelity (often infecting the wife with herpes or other venereal
diseases) and a destruction of trust in the marital bond which in many
cases led to divorce and a breaking up of
Many wives found their husband preferring fantasy sex (they would catch
them masturbating to pornography) to making love with their partner.
This had devastating effects on the marriage. One wife, in great pain,
confronted her husband, "What do you see in those two-dimensional faceless
women that I can't give you as a loving wife who is flesh and blood,
a real person and committed to you?"
The men never had an answer.
the ugly reality of fantasy
To some extent they enjoyed sexual relations with their wives but most
preferred the fantasy with masturbation because "these women" could
do anything and were perfect in form and appearance! I found that once
addicted, whether to just the pornography or the later pattern of sexual
acting out, they really lost their "free agency."
It was like a drug addiction. And in this case their drug was sex. They
could not stop the pattern of their behavior, no matter how high-risk
for them it was. My 25 years' clinical work, as well as frequent reviews
of the literature, convince me that at least one avenue leading to the
creation of these kinds of addictions is through a process of masturbatory
The work of R.J. McGuire, et. al suggests that exposure to special sexual
experiences (which could include pornography) and then masturbating
to the fantasy of this exposure, can sometimes later lead to participation
in deviant sexual acts.
As McGuire explains it, as a man repeatedly masturbates to a vivid sexual
fantasy as his exclusive outlet, the pleasurable experiences endow the
deviant fantasy (rape, molesting children, injuring one's partner while
having sex, etc.) with increasing erotic value. The orgasm experienced
then provides the critical reinforcing event for the conditioning of
the fantasy preceding or accompanying the act.
McGuire indicates that any type of sexual deviation can be acquired
in this way, that it may include several unrelated deviations in one
individual and that it cannot be eliminated even by massive feelings
of guilt. Other related studies by D.R. Evans and B.T. Jackson support
this thesis. They found that deviant masturbatory fantasy very significantly
affected the habit strength of the subject's sexual deviation.
In my treatment of hundreds of primarily male patients with sexual
pathology (paraphilias) I have consistently found that most men are
vulnerable to the effects of masturbatory conditioning to pornography
with a consequence of sexual ill health, because we are all subject
to the laws of learning with few or no exceptions.
In my experience as a sexual therapist, any individual is at risk of
becoming, in time, a sexual addict, as well as conditioning himself
into having a sexual deviancy and/or disturbing a bonded relationship
with a spouse or girlfriend when this occurs. A frequent side effect
is that their capacity to love is also dramatically
reduced (e.g. it results in a marked dissociation of sex from friendship,
affection, caring and other normal healthy emotions and traits which
help marital relationships).
This sexual side becomes, in a sense, dehumanized.
Many of them develop also an "alien ego state" (or "dark" side), whose
core is antisocial lust devoid of most values. Raw id, in a sense. In
time, the "high" obtained from masturbating to pornography becomes more
important than real life relationships.
training the mind
It has been commonly thought by health educators that masturbation
has negligible consequences, other than reducing sexual tensions. Moral
objections aside, one exception would appear to be in the area of repeatedly
masturbating to deviant pornographic imagery, either in memories in
the mind or as explicit pornographic stimuli which risks (via conditioning)
the acquiring of sexual addictions and/or other sexual pathology.
It makes no difference if one is an eminent physician, attorney, minister,
athlete, corporate executive, college president, unskilled laborer,
or an average 15 year old boy. All can be conditioned into deviancy.
The process of masturbatory conditioning is inexorable and does not
The course of this illness may be slow and is nearly always hidden from
It is usually a secret part of the man's life and like a cancer, it
keeps growing and spreading. It rarely ever reverses itself and it is
also very difficult to treat and heal. Denial on the part of the male
addict and refusal to confront the problem are typical and predictable
and this almost always leads to marital or couple disharmony, sometimes
divorce and sometimes the breaking up of other intimate relationships.
One researcher, Stanley Rachman demonstrated in the laboratory how sexual
deviations could be created in adult male subjects. He was actually
able to condition, in two separate experiments, 100% of his male subjects
into sexual deviancy (fetishism).
There are many approaches to treatment, which usually involve individual
work with a psychotherapist who has skills in treating this kind of
illness, plus being put into a 12-step group such as Sexaholics
Anonymous. There are no costs to be in such a group, which is patterned
after the original AA model.
initiative in healing
I have personally found the following approach to yield the most successful
outcomes for at least the type of patient population which I work with:
males 15-70 from mainly middle social class backgrounds, often religious
and motivated to change (because of the threat of divorce, loss of job,
If the patient is married I attempt to have the wife participate in
treatment. She has been traumatized repeatedly by the husband's problem
and broken promises and usually has a huge trust issue with him and
may be debating divorce. I see them together so that the wife knows
everything that goes on in treatment and we address her fears, depression,
the kinds of acting-out, as well as their stressed marriage.
In the first interview I have the husband outline the problem and ask
him what he wants me to do. He needs to take the initiative in his healing.
I then turn to the wife and ask if she has anything to add or correct
or if she wants to say what her goals for therapy are. If on the verge
of divorce, I determine if she wants out or wants to stay and help.
I talk about the importance of the wife being a part of the healing
team. It goes faster if both are involved. Both are wounded. Both need
help. However, there is one unchangeable rule: NO SECRETS. I tell them
that secrets "kill you. They take away your power." They create shame
and guilt. And even though there might be some relapses (usually minor)
during treatment, these need to be talked about openly in therapy; they
are wasting their money if these are not disclosed and worked with.
I tell them that most people I know who are kicking the cigarette habit
quit 12 times before they really quit. Anything hidden, the spouse always
sooner or later finds out about it. So right to begin with: no secrets!
I next take a history of the man's exposure to pornography and masturbation
to it (or masturbation with no pornography) and sexual acting out. I
do this in the wife's presence, which helps her understand more clearly
that in some ways her husband was a victim usually starting at an early
age. I next inquire about possible sexual abuse or early seduction of
the husband as a child or as an adolescent, which have eroticized him
In taking this history, I start with his first memory of exposure to
pornography - what its form was (magazine, video, phone sex, etc.) and
if he masturbated to it - and continue with the history up to the day
Then I establish a sobriety date (the date of last exposure) for all
the different forms of porn or sexual acting out that he was involved
with, as well as the last time he masturbated. At each succeeding visit
I recheck these sobriety dates. If there has been relapse then I do
relapse prevention work with him, identify triggers that set him off
and seek ways to circumvent these.
I next explain to the wife that her husband has lost his free agency.
And that's why promises don't work. Good intentions mean nothing. Her
husband may mean well and really want to quit because of the terrible
painful consequences, but he literally cannot do this by himself yet.
He has to have highly specialized help.
the wave theory
Most therapists do not know how to treat sexual addictions. Self control
and self discipline or a rational approach generally don't change anything.
I tell both husband and wife about the "wave" which periodically hits
the patient and overwhelms him with temptation. This is something most
men cannot resist.
One of the goals of therapy is to prepare the man to face and defeat
the wave. These waves vary in frequency from several times a day to
once a year or even less. Between the waves the man feels at peace and
has the mistaken notion that he has his power and can resist anything.
But this is an illusion and is only temporary until the next wave hits
him. I explain to the couple that as a therapist I'm like a guide to
I can show them how to get there but they have to walk every step of
the way. They have to do all the work. I assure them they can heal.
But like alcoholics when sober, sexual addicts must be careful not to
expose themselves in the future to high-risk situations. I also explain
that they are not mentally ill in the classical sense but that they
have an addiction which powerfully controls their lives, somewhat like
being on crack cocaine.
And the journey to freedom will not be easy.
It will require an enormous commitment on their part to become whole
again. I assign both husband and wife to read Patrick Carnes' book,
Out of the Shadows and Steven Kramer's book, Worth of a Soul. I have
the husband begin attending Sexaholics
Anonymous. There are chapters in nearly every city in America. They
are free. To find where and when one meets, call Alcoholics Anonymous
(in all the phone books). They will know.
The client-addict may start with a newcomers group first and then graduate
to the step-study group after a few months. Wives that have been badly
traumatized by their husband's behavior may wish to attend S-Anon (for
spouses of offenders - once again, find the details from Sexaholics
Anonymous) or even later join with their husbands at their SA meetings
The client-addict needs to attend 90% of his weekly meetings for this
to work and be truly healing. If the individual is relapsing at high
rates, they may need to attend up to three or four nights a week in
order to achieve sobriety and break the stranglehold of their addiction.
At these SA meetings, they need in time to locate a "sponsor," who is
someone who has been sober (no relapses) for a lengthy period of time
who they can call (phone) in an emergency, which is an occasion when
the wave hits and they are strongly tempted to act out.
Their sponsor can help them stay sober; he's like a life guard.
Because the compulsion to act out is so overpowering, I give them a
mental set to just stay sober one day at a time. They must think only
of making it today. If they focus on a longer time period they may be
setting themselves up for failure. Through close interviewing, the addicts
must identify triggers which activate the wave (e.g. looking at porn,
seeing girls in skimpy clothes, after a fight with their spouse or the
spouse being out of town, driving by an adult bookstore, walking into
any video store, viewing hard-R or X films, looking at ladies bra and
panty ads) and then plan strategies to avoid these or deal with them.
Example: if going on a business trip and staying in a hotel with access
to porn movies, request the front desk, when checking in, to block out
those channels. Call your wife at 9:00 P.M. each evening when away.
When the addict is stimulated or aroused by sexual fantasy which can
lead to masturbation and the acting out cycle, I tell them that they
have only three seconds to block or stop the thought or imagery. At
the top of their voice they should yell STOP (or scream silently if
others are nearby) and visualize a policeman with handcuffs approaching,
holding a big sign with the words STOP on it.
This will kick the offending imagery off the mind screen briefly.
But then they have to bring to mind an event in their life that has
very powerful emotional significance (either positive or negative) which
they can ruminate about. In other words, they fight fire with fire,
a strong sexual fantasy with another totally different kind of memory,
such as the time they helped their team win the game, a surprise birthday
party, or even the death of a very close friend. But it must be something
I present to them imaginary situations which they might have to face
in real life which would expose them to temptation. How would they handle
it? I process their responses in great detail so if something like this
should happen in real life they would be mentally prepared to deal with
Example: a friend at work wants to show them his porn. How would they
handle it? The wife, of course, is listening to all of this and participating
as she chooses. No more masturbation. Stop masturbating. This risks
further conditioning into deviancy. The goal of no masturbation may
be difficult and not even possible immediately. I have them keep a calendar
record of those days when they masturbate and urge them to strive for
reducing its frequency but especially, if they do slip, to refrain from
fantasizing about deviant sexual imagery.
In contrast, I have them imagine loving their spouse. I check their
calendar record at each session to determine whether the frequency of
masturbation has been reduced, with the ultimate goal of being free
of this habit. Marriage counseling. I tell them to do things that will
help improve their marital relationship. I give them assignments to
have fun together and improve intimacy, take
marriage seminars, participate in sports together, be friends, etc.
If they have financial problems, I help them work out solutions or refer
them to agencies that can help. If they have out-of-control children,
I give them support in dealing with this. Or if the wife suffers greatly,
I recommend a program to provide her with a support group and place
where she can be nurtured.
When relapses occur, I don't "beat them up." I point out that relapses
are just part of a growth experience and explain what can be learned
from the relapse that will protect them in the future. I try to give
them hope. I point out the progress already made and the good things
done. I have them keep a daily journal in which they record fantasies
I then review and process these during therapy. I give them further
books to read, such as Patrick Carnes' later books, Contrary to Love
and Don't Call It Love. I also recommend the Sexaholics Anonymous
Big Books, include case histories and biographies of recovering addicts.
Other techniques I use include apology sessions; eliminating sex fantasies;
autobiography; covert sensitization; family of origin
work; developing a sobriety contract;
healthy sexuality education and social skills work. And lastly, if an
inappropriate image or tempting thought appears on the client's mind,
I have him close his eyes and say:
"Thank you, Higher Power. I appreciate being reminded of my weakness.
I will get well!"
Therapy must be tailored to the special needs of the couple. I choose
only those techniques that best fit my client's special needs.
Copyright 2002 Dr. Victor B. Cline.
hooked on darkness
You have an addiction.
It isn't a public addiction, like alcoholism. With alcoholism, the last
person to know he is an alcoholic is the alcoholic. Support groups exist
for alcoholics. If you go to Alcoholics Anonymous, people support you
because they know you are seeking help. But you are addicted to pornography,
and pornography addiction is a secret thing.
You may be the only one who knows you are addicted. If you went to a
support group for pornography addicts, and your friends found out, or
if your spouse found out, they might be very disappointed in you. You
might hurt feelings, break hearts. Friends and family probably don't
know you're addicted to pornography. They probably think you're a fine,
upstanding, loving man.
And you know what? They're probably right.
You see, pornography addicts come from all walks of life. They're blue
collar laborers and white collar executives; they're handsome and they're
homely; they're Christian, Jewish, and atheist; they're all races and
creeds. They're single, they're married and they're fathers. They can
be lazy couch potatoes, and they can be diligent community volunteers.
Some want to control their addiction and some do not.
you want to control your addiction
I say "control" your addiction, because you need to realize you will
never "eliminate" your addiction -- you will always be addicted. When
I refer to breaking your addiction, I mean it in the same sense you
might break a horse. Breaking a horse means you gain control over it
- it submits to your will. You don't take it out and shoot it. You're
like a diabetic. Diabetes won't go away (at least no one has found a
cure yet), but it can be controlled.
"But that's not fair," you say. "Why do I have this addiction?"
It isn't fair. Diabetes isn't fair either. It's just one of the inconveniences
of being human. Some people get it, some people don't. But just because
you get it, doesn't mean you should give in to it. And you've got pornography
addiction. You always will - it won't go away. But you can control it.
And by control, I don't mean you can reduce the amount of pornography
you look at. I mean you can stop looking at, listening to, or seeking
out pornography all together.
But it is going to take effort. It is going to take commitment. It is
going to take resolution that you won't give up, no matter how discouraging
it gets. It is going to take time. Most addicts have been controlled
by pornography most of their lives. That's a lot of programming to overcome.
In fact, you may want to seek professional counseling for your addiction.
The only challenge with counseling is that some therapists don't have
the experience to help you, and many do not even think you need help.
Many professionals don't consider pornography addiction a problem. Certainly
not to the degree that you understand it to be. Oh, and one more thing:
professionals can cost $125 an hour. So I'm writing this little brochure
because I think it can help you. It's short. It's to the point. It contains
what has worked for me, and I hope and pray it works for you.
You see, I'm addicted to pornography too.
But I was lucky; after years of searching, I found a counselor who understood
my desire to control my addiction. Like me, he believed that at the
very least, pornography made it difficult to to live the type of happy
life I was seeking. It's taken several years, hundreds of dollars in
therapy fees and lots of hope, but today I am in more control than I
have ever been.
Using what I have learned from my therapist and incorporating my own
experience, I have developed a very simple plan that helps me get through
each day, one day at a time.
I hope it can help you.
dealing with guilt
Chances are, you are probably extremely hard on yourself. Your addiction
can be discouraging, and can seriously damage your self-esteem. You
may go for a few weeks or months without a problem, and then - whammo!
- you fall in the hole again. And when you're in a hole, it's easy to
feel very worthless. All I can say is, don't beat yourself up!
You're not perfect.
This is brave of you - you are trying to accomplish great things, here.
You are trying to overcome an addiction, an addiction that didn't develop
overnight. Don't expect to gain control over your addiction overnight.
I didn't develop my plan in one day; I developed my plan after years
of trying, failing and learning. Give yourself a break. Think of it
this way: you are taking steps to change your life for the better. You
are going to feel closer to your heart during this process of change
than you have in a long time. Keep your progress in perspective.
Are you seeking out pornography every day?
Then going two days without seeking it out is a major accomplishment!
When you focus on a goal, and reward your own successes, you are going
to experience an increased sense of self worth. Determine at the outset
that when you occasionally stumble (because you will - at first), you
will pick yourself up and not give up. Your own plan might need some
adjustments, but DON'T GIVE UP!
If you've been addicted ten years, it's going to take a long time to
Start again, one day at a time. Each day that you succeed will increase
your self worth, and give you added strength to succeed tomorrow. So
don't worry about succeeding tomorrow. Just worry about succeeding today,
and rewarding yourself tonight.
controlling your thoughts
Pornography addiction begins in your mind. Some people think about it
and some people don't. For many people, pornography doesn't interest
them, just like auto mechanics or gardening might not interest you.
But for the pornography addict, pornography is extremely interesting.
You might not be someone who spends a lot of time thinking lustful thoughts.
Lustful thoughts can certainly increase your desire to find pornography.
But that might not be your particular spark. Maybe you associate feelings
of insecurity or loneliness with sex. Some people, when they're feeling
lonely, turn to masturbation or pornography. Such simulated sex makes
them feel un-lonely, at least for a little while.
If that's your situation, you need to realize that loneliness is part
of life. Even the most happily married man in the world feels lonely
once in a while. Create an action plan for the times you are alone.
Learn to enjoy being alone. Do housework, or study, or exercise.
Get out of the house and get your heart pumping. Don't worry about whether
you'll be tempted again when you get back. You're not exercising to
keep from seeking out pornography - you're exercising because you enjoy
it, you are alone and now is the perfect opportunity.
Find things you love to do, that you can do
when you're alone.
Controlling your thoughts is like driving down the freeway. Have you
ever driven at a high speed and suddenly heard your tires thumping over
the reflectors on the lane's dividing line? You hadn't noticed yourself
swerving out of your lane, but now you hear the warning of the bumps
under your tires. So what do you do? Probably, without even thinking,
you correct your steering and pull away from the line. That's what you
are trying to do with your thoughts.
Whenever you get in a situation that might tempt you to indulge in pornography,
you need to make adjustments in your thinking and actions to get you
away from danger. At first that will take a great deal of effort, but
as your instincts improve, you'll find yourself steering clear of hazards
with hardly any thought at all.
Let's say you are staying in a hotel that offers adult programming on
television. Well, most hotels also allow you to disconnect adult programming.
You probably need to call the front desk the moment you arrive in your
room and ask them to disconnect the service. Even though you aren't
tempted when you arrive, late at night you might be, and you want to
make sure it is unavailable. You may have to do the same thing 20 years
from now, even though it's been two decades since you've sought out
pornography - remember, you're an addict; you will always be addicted.
You will always have to take precautions. You are an addict.
Are you rationalizing? Pay attention to the things you rationalize -
they're probably the very things where you are weakest. Fill
your mind with something uplifting when you catch an unpleasant
thought creeping onto the stage of your mind. Just remember, you need
to actively resist pornography. So, here is my plan.
one day at a time
My plan works best if you start today and don't put it off. Make sure
you have gotten rid of any pornography in your home. Throw it out. If
it's around, you will fail. Remember, right now you are weak. You have
to resist each day. When you've finished reading this paper and understand
the plan, take time to pray. You need to appeal to a higher power if
you hope to succeed. Prayer will give you extra strength.
If you aren't a praying man, become one. Let your Higher Power know
that you have a new plan, and you want his help in accomplishing it.
I believe that a personal prayer, rather than a recited one, is more
powerful. In your own words, explain that you're addicted to pornography
and that you will do everything you can to control your addiction, but
that you need his help to make up the difference. Pray in whatever way
you are most comfortable. Ask for what you need. Ask for help in controlling
Now, determine how much you can afford to pay yourself each day. Fifty
cents? A dollar? Two dollars? It depends on your personal budget, but
what you are doing is saving for a big reward. Pay yourself each day
that you avoid pornography. Your goal is to give yourself something
great after your first 100 days. And it needs to be something totally
extravagant that you would never spend money on otherwise. Maybe it's
a diving course or a day of skiing.
Your goal will increase.
Your first goal is to go 100 days. After you've made it, your next goal
will be to reward yourself after 250 days. And then reward yourself
once a year. So each year you will have money to spend on something
purely fun. Every night, I take a dollar bill and put it in my bank.
It's a great feeling. Every once in a while I take the money out of
the bank and count it. That's how many days I've gone without seeking
pornography. And I keep a tally of when I spend it so I know when I've
gone more than a year in a row successfully.
But what happens when you fail?
Well, you have to give the money away. Pick
a charity. Maybe it's a centre for homeless children, maybe it's
a medical research group, maybe it's a local arts group or a service
organization, or even better - an
anti-pornography group! But pick a charity. When you fail, you're
going to send them all the money in your bank. AND THEN YOU ARE GOING
TO START AGAIN!
That's all there is to it. That's my plan. So remember:
1. Eliminate all the pornography in your home;
2. Ask your Higher Power for help;
3. Determine how much you can afford to save each day;
4. Pick a reward for yourself after the first 100 days;
5. Make or buy a bank to save your money in;
6. Pay yourself each day that you successfully avoid pornography;
7. If you stumble, give all the money in your bank to your favorite
8. After 100 days of success, reward yourself;
9. After the next 250 days, reward yourself;
10. Reward yourself each subsequent year for the rest of your life;
11. Don't beat yourself up when you stumble; and, most importantly,
12. Remember that what you are trying to accomplish is a major undertaking.
you can do it
And as you progress, you will be blessed with incredible
joy. You will become more self disciplined, and you will be happier
than you have ever been.
Copyright 2002 no-porn.com
You must believe in yourself at all times.
You must never lose faith that you are capable of doing
anything in life you choose to do, and you must always choose the highest.
It is not enough for you to choose that you must achieve
For you must believe in yourself enough to accomplish
that which others cannot accomplish.
To believe in yourself, you must have courage that exceeds
the need for the consideration of courage.
It must be a natural part of your life that avoids any
need for decision making based on whether you have courage to do that
which you must.
This must be a belief beyond personal questioning, beyond
personal doubt, to a point when it can no longer be considered courage
but rather a way of life.
This shall be so, for you will believe in yourself.
You must have character that is beyond criticism and
is a permanent part of yourself.
It is not imagined or pretended.
Every moment of your life must be naturally conducted
with pride and dignity that cannot be confused with arrogance but recognized
Your character must always contain compassion and concern
This concern will be genuine, for you will never lose
sight of your background in trying to understand those you have difficulty
in identifying with, for they are the majority of the world and the
character never bends, never compromises and is consistent.
You must believe in intellect that no task is beyond your
ability to succeed.
Your intellect is a gift that you shall not waste and
you shall use to its greatest capacity.
You must have the patience and tolerance to realize that
others will not always agree with or understand you.
But rather than find fault, you shall try harder to reach
them, for it shall become your responsibility to serve them.
This is your calling.
You cannot question it. you must accept it.