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Author:  Dr Barb Steffens [ Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:29 am ]
Post subject:  Hello everyone

Hi! I am so excited to be able to chat with you!
As many of you know, I co-authored Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners can Cope and Heal. I welcome the opportunity here to talk with you about the concept of trauma for partners.

I am also working on a workbook to accompany the book and want to make sure it meets the needs of partners so I would also appreciate any thoughts as to what would make a workbook "workable" or helpful.

So- whatever you want to comment on, ask about, or recommend to me- I'm open!!

Dr. Barb

Author:  12peace [ Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:44 pm ]
Post subject: 

Wow, this is quite the opportunity.

Your book for me was a lifesaver. I felt lost and terrified upon discovering my husbands sex addiction. Your book offered me the understanding, compassion, explanations and support I so desperately needed. It made all the difference in the world knowing that I was not alone and that the emotional and physical responses I had were normal in those circumstances.

Even though I have left my husband, having a workbook to help me heal from the trauma would be extremely beneficial. For me some things I would need some help with are:

- Learning to listen to and trust my instincts
- Learning how to build trust with someone (non-SA)
- Learning more about healthy sexuality and intimacy

My goodness...I am sure there is so much more, but this what first pops into my head.

Thank you for this opportunity!

Author:  foolmetwice [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Dear Dr. Steffens,

First, like 12Peace, I'd like to thank you for your book. It was the first piece of literature I'd come across which validated my feelings of being traumatized, and didn't try to minimize what I was going through. That was wonderful, because on top of being really upset, I was further upset by worries and self-consciousness that I was over-reacting and should just 'get over it'. So thank you for such a compassionate, balanced work, and I'm glad to hear you're continuing.

My initial suggestion for your workbook would be - might it be available online as well as in hard copy? One of the reasons I like RN is it's so easy, user-friendly and anonymous (unlike an actual book, which could be left lying around the house for someone else to stumble across!). Just a thought.

Also, one thing I know a lot of us have in common is being 're-traumatized' by inexpert therapists not properly trained in SA. That might be a good topic to cover...

I'm not sure exactly what you're after in terms of information from us Partners, but please feel free to ask my opinion on anything - I owe you, and I'd love to help support your valuable work!':g:'


Author:  Dr Barb Steffens [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re-traumatization by untrained therapists

I have heard many women describe horrific responses and treatment by therapists who are not trained in SA or who automatically refer to the partner as a "co-addict"

What have your experiences been? Any stories to share? What I'd offer in the workbook is a few examples of things women might hear...and then offer some tips for what to look for in a competent therapist for partners. Just because the therapist is trained in treating SA does not mean they are competent to treat the partner!

Stories? Thoughts?

Author:  12peace [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:53 am ]
Post subject: 

When I told my counselor that I was having difficulty with triggers she made it sound like I just needed to let it go. My husband cheated on me many times with Asian escorts, and I have felt triggered when seeing very attractive Asian women. Seeing them would remind me of what my husband "liked" and what he did. When I told my counselor this she said that those women had done nothing to me and that I shouldn't be angry with them. After hearing that I felt guilty for having these triggers. It wasn't that I was angry at these women who triggered me...they just reminded me of my husbands betrayal.

I needed to know how to deal with the feelings that arose from seeing them.

Also, I had discussed how it was difficult to get the images of his physical betrayal out of my head. My counselor said that what happened between my husband and the prostitutes was "his perception". It took me a long time to accept the reality of my situation and she was suggesting that I shouldn't believe any of it. I'm sorry this is hard to explain. She said that I shouldn't necessarily believe what he said happened...but either he was telling the truth, or it was worse. It was horrible to have someone suggest that my experiences weren't real or that my pain was unfounded.

I think learning how to deal with triggers and imagery would also be very helpful.

Thank you!

Author:  foolmetwice [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 8:35 am ]
Post subject: 

Things I heard in counseling:

1. While relating how painful I found it that my H was starting to refuse to have sex with me (I was 29, he was 33, and I didn't know about his PA at the time), she said: 'Why don't you just buy yourself some sex toys?'

2. In couples counseling, I said, in front of my H and through overpowering sobs, that it really hurt me that he chose P instead of me. I said that I thought his 'habit' reflected greater problems, not least of which was that it was destroying me, my belief in myself as a wife, my feelings about my body, my sexuality, and our marriage. The counselor said to me: 'I think you are over-focusing on P. It's something that a lot of men do, and is not really the problem. You just need to change your attitude to P.'

3. When I said to the couples counselor (in a private session), that the lack of sex in our relationship (less than 10 times a year), and his continuing P habit was hurting me, she said: 'You're just going to have to accept that sex just isn't as important to your H as it is to you.'

Honestly, these responses play over and over in my head almost as vividly as the images of other women my H downloaded.

Both counselors were trained in marriage counseling, and the second was trained in SA.

Thanks for giving me the chance to vent. Hope this helps!


Author:  Janni [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:50 am ]
Post subject: 

I have not read your book -- though I did look it up on Amazon and will be purchasing it this week. I'll let you know what I think, if you're interested in feedback.

In reference to counseling - my H and I have attended a couple of sessions with a Christian counselor. She doesn't necessarily have experience with SA. Last week she told me that she didn't think I was "present in the relationship" and that I hadn't decided yet if I wanted to be married. Of course, I've stuck by my H for the past four months (after D Day). I'm considering his addiction to be one indication that he wasn't committed fully to our relationship -- seeking false intimacy elsewhere. I'm disturbed by this seeming trend of counselors to question the partner's commitment and buy-in to the relationship.


Author:  Dr Barb Steffens [ Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:29 pm ]
Post subject:  More about me


I thought it might help if I told you a little about my training, etc. I am a professional clinical counselor- so that's a mental health counselor licensed in my state. I got my masters in 1991. I began doing a lot of crisis counseling, worked a lot with abuse of all kinds (child and adult), grief counseling and anxiety/depression. I never focused on addictions. UNTIL....I had to find out how to help myself. There was next to nothing at the time and what there was told me I was co-addicted. I said Baloney!

Over the years I've worked with too many women...and they are the ones who taught me about the trauma end of this issue for partners. I had worked with many traumatized people in my career and it became painfully evident that was what I was seeing and treating as I grew in my specialty. In my doctoral research (2004-2005), I studied partners and measured them for trauma symptoms. The results then fueled the book and hopefully some changes in how SA clinicians view the partner. But- that work is only just beginning. So I am not a trained SA therapist- I specialize and treat the partner. I do have a SA credential...but do not treat SA's.

Thanks for all of your comments so far. I appreciate so much your willingness to share and to help educate me further :) I see myself as an advocate or voice for partners.


Author:  deservesmore [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:30 am ]
Post subject: 

my dear dr. steffens,
i am one of those women who has been helped tremendously by your book. every cell in my body thanks you for that incredible gift. i finally had an explanation for myself that made sense. the labels of co addict and co dependent make me furious. in the moment of discovery i went from being considered a compassionate, loving, understanding, generous woman to some poor wreck of a woman with a lifelong disease in the eyes of many in the therapeutic world. even those therapists who actually understand pornography addiction, seem to automatically apply one or the other of these labels to partners.
you asked about therapy horror stories. i won't write mine out today, but i will later. our first therapist did incredible damage to us and to our chances of ever healing as a couple which we were unable to do. my current therapist is a jewel and i am thankful for her every day. when i left therapist #1 i started a thread here on recovery nation about interviewing for a new therapist. perhaps it will be helpful to you. ... ght=#50799
i am so grateful that you are expanding on your book. i hope that you have some sense of the lifeline you have thrown to so many of us. i am currently writing a blessings journal here on rn. you are one of the blessings that i have found on this journey although i haven't written about you yet.
thank you for hearing us.

Author:  deservesmore [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:53 am ]
Post subject: 

my dear dr. steffens,
one of the things you might want to think about including is strategies for those of us whose brains seem to take something of a vacation when we start this journey.
since my brain took a mini vacation while i was posting before, i need to add this.
you have my permission to read and include anything i have written on rn if you think it would be helpful to other partners.
thank you again for all your efforts to help the partners.

Author:  gfdtre [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 6:53 am ]
Post subject: 

Hello, Dr. Steffens!
I am very excited to be able to communicate with you. I hope this forum with you will be open for at least a few weeks. In the next 2 weeks I will have some time to put together some thoughts to share with you on what I need in a workbook. I have a few stories to share: counseling, COSA, testing, and my husband and your book. That gets me started!

There are many good books from a Christian perspective and self-help books on forgiveness and marriage. Studying about how I should respond in a Christian manner is helpful but does not adequately address my pain. There are some good books on SA recovery. Your book is the only book I am aware of that researched the topic from the partner's point of view - not as an add-on to SA research already in place. Consequently, your book "got it." The co-dependent label delays partner healing. I would go so far as to say it has a negative impact on our survival.

Thank you for your work,

Author:  2morrow4sure [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:13 am ]
Post subject: 

I feel this is a great privilege and I haven't even read your book yet. I did not know about it until this thread, but I'll be finding it today. I'm excited to have something else to read that truly understands what we are going through. There is so little real helpful information out there.

I too started out in the 12-step program for partners, but it never felt like a real "fit" for me. I went so far as to appologize to my husband and children for my past behavior as a "co-dependent". Although I don't regret this per say especially for my children because I did behave badly when they were young, trying to control everything around me, but my H is now using my heartfelt words against me and throwing them in my face and using them as an excuse why he had SA and Alcohol problems. I think the 12-step was damaging to me and to SA Hs recovery chances.

I read the words of others about past councellors. I have not been to a councellor, but have talked to our church ministers and they are honestly trying to help, but they are approaching it as this is a problem we both have. We both contributed to our broken marriage and are minimizing the SA, Alcohol. They are trying to drag me back to the "guilt", "If I behave like I should things will get better", etc. I've moved past that as far as the SA is concerned. Of course I can improve in areas, but it won't affect the SA. This sort of thinking is very damaging and distressing for the spouse of SA. It leaves you with such a hopeless feeling and I agree that it is re-traumatizing.

I'll post more after I read the book.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Author:  12peace [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:42 am ]
Post subject: 

I would also like to add to what gftdr said about the Christian perspective. I appreciated that your book was not religious or faith-centered. I am not a Christian nor am I "religious" and it's hard to find helpful books and articles on this issue that are not centered around religion.

It would be beneficial to us non-Christians to have resources without the religious context.

Sorry if this offends anyone!

Author:  CoachMel [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:21 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hello Dr. Steffens (and welcome to Recovery Nation),

I wonder if writing a book for the Professionals in the field would be more of a benefit to partners than another book/workbook for partners....

I believe that the tools and insights required for a partner to find healing can already be found herein (at Recovery Nation) and is supported by a loving and supportive community (not to mention the coaches) :w:...

What is really lacking in the realm of support for partners of sexual addicts is Real. Life. Professional. Support. as well as the overall awareness of society as a whole. Tangent...The recent celebrity exposures have done little for awareness and more for sensationalism. Sexual addiction, as we can all attest, is far from sensational and I am almost embarrassed to talk about my husband's SA for the simple fact of being compared to these high profilers. He's in rehab, he's out and back on the green and what came of it? What lesson was learned? What message are we sending? The media treats it like a joke! It is nothing short of frustrating and disheartening. The veil of ignorance has to be lifted. If our so called professional counsellors and therapists are so ignorant then what chance do we have at educating Society?

With all due respect, this has been my opinion.

Be well.

Author:  Befuddled [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Totally agree with CoachMel

My BF went to a counselor for what he put forth as fear of commitment issues. I had wanted us to go together but he said it was his problem. He went alone. He said he told her about his M/P and strip club frequency and she told him that how I reacted to his choices MY problem! She also told him that his choices were his own as he is an adult.

I really do not think she has even heard of sexual compulsive behavior or sex addiction. A book for professionals, educating them on what to look for as well as what partners go through, is long overdue.

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