As a Catholic counselor, I often receive calls from Catholic men who are in a crisis in their marriage or dating relationship due to struggles with pornography, infidelity, and sexual betrayal. Many of these men carry worries such as: how much longer will their partner put up with them? Will another man be raising their kids? If people really knew how much they were struggling, would they be rejected? Most of these men are active in their faith, deeply love their wives/significant others, attend Mass each Sunday, and want freedom from these habitual struggles with lust.
However, many of these men have partners who are dealing with devastating emotions such as feeling traumatized, angry, hopeless, replaceable, and afraid. Pornography, infidelity, and other forms of sexual betrayal often have impacts on the partner that are very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks, disturbing dreams, negative alterations in mood, and reactivity.
How To Approach Pornography Addiction in Counseling
During initial counseling sessions with individuals and couples, I often use the SAST, which is a research-based assessment for sexual addiction developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes. This test can be taken online for free, and it takes about 10 minutes. Scores of 6 or above on the SAST are an indication that one’s pornography addiction, masturbation, and/or other sexual behaviors have reached an addictive level.
During counseling sessions, I also go through family history, sexual history, and a longer research-based assessment called the SDI to get a deeper understanding of the client’s struggles. Underneath the sexually addictive behaviors, there are often painful emotional experiences, including neglect, verbal abuse, bullying, lack of parental guidance on sexuality, isolation, sexual abuse, anxiety, fear, financial insecurity, resentment, and shame. It can be difficult for people to experience deeper recovery and healing until these underlying wounds have been addressed in counseling.
Many of the married men and couples that I’ve worked with have struggled with communication, expressing needs, criticism, passive-aggressive anger, and “stonewalling.” Research-based methods from Dr. John Gottman, along with “FANOS” check-ins, can be really helpful to build a more emotional and spiritual connection between couples.
I often encourage men who are starting their recovery journey from pornography/sexual addiction (or who just need a boost in their healing) to attend counseling intensives. Over the years, I have referred many men to counseling intensives at Christian recovery centers in other states. These have proven to be quite beneficial!
Catholic Recovery Intensives
In the last several years, we have been conducting Catholic recovery intensives in Kansas City called "My House Men's Workshop."
During this 3-day workshop, attendees work to regain trust in their relationships that have been negatively affected by betrayal trauma. Using research-based tools, we help men dig into the underlying wounds and roots beneath their sexual behaviors.
We have conducted nine workshops to date and have three to four scheduled each year. The next workshop is on November 7th. Men have attended from all over the United States.
Recovery Plan for Men
We have developed a recovery plan that is recommended to men at the My House Men’s Workshop. This plan includes both individual and couples counseling, two or more weekly 12-step groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous, and research-based recovery books and resources. It is very beneficial for partners to receive help for their betrayal trauma through counseling, therapy groups, and other resources.
My House Workshop for Men
The My House Workshop for Men is a 3-day confidential, intensive for men striving to overcome and heal from unwanted sexual behaviors. It is geared to maximize your investment of time and money, as it will enhance the work you might have started or jump start your journey towards healing.
There are discounts for diocesan and parish ministry staff.