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Sex Addiction Counseling

Counseling with a mental health professional has long been considered the best treatment for a behavioral addiction like sex addiction (a.k.a. hypersexuality disorder). While the best type of therapy may vary from addict to addict, research has shown that counseling is the ideal first step to addressing sex addiction. Learn more about what types of therapy work best for sex addiction treatment, how they can help in different ways, and what to look for in a counselor for best results.

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Is Counseling an Effective Sex Addiction Treatment?

Behavioral therapies, in particular, seem to be most effective in treating addictive and compulsive sexual behaviors.

However, with the amount of shame and stigma surrounding sexual addiction, many addicts fail to seek treatment until their situation becomes dire.

As a result, sex addicts may experience severe mental health problems or financial or legal troubles due to their addiction, even needing interventions to influence change.

While inpatient treatment for sex addiction is rare, it may be necessary for individuals who also abuse substances or engage in dangerous sexual activities.

Ideally, the stigma around sex addiction will continue to improve, and addicts will seek sex therapy before real harm can occur.

Benefits of counseling for sex addiction include:

  • Avoiding or lessening financial or legal negative consequences of sex addiction
  • Rebuilding healthy relationships with partners and loved ones
  • Improve performance at work or school
  • Creating coping skills to handle obsessive sexual thoughts, sexual impulses, and sexual urges
  • Increased self-esteem and self-worth
  • Addressing intense shame, guilt, embarrassment, and regret
  • Treatment of co-occurring substance abuse issues or mental health conditions
  • Processing of past trauma that may have led to sex addiction
  • Access to couples therapy to mend resentment related to infidelity

Types of Counseling Used for Treating Sex Addiction

A few different types of therapy have proven to help treat sex addiction.

Not all types of counseling work for all sex addicts, so you may need to try a few before finding what works best.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common therapy for sex addiction and hypersexuality disorder. CBT works well for sex addiction because it helps the patient identify the thought patterns and false beliefs that lead to addictive behaviors.

A sex addiction therapist using CBT helps patients confront and process these unhealthy sexual thoughts and sexual urges.

Once these thoughts and past trauma are processed, the therapist will teach patients how to apply these skills moving forward to avoid future relapse during moments of temptation.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an off-shoot of CBT that helps sex addict patients learn to stop denying, avoiding, and struggling with their inner emotions.

Rather than constantly fighting and shaming their sexual urges, patients learn to accept these feelings and healthily manage them.

While ACT has many similarities with CBT, the therapy’s focus on acceptance can help with the intense shame many addicts experience.

The truth is there is no cure for sex addiction. Through radical acceptance of these sexual compulsions, patients learn to commit to making necessary changes to their behavior.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivational enhancement therapy can be highly effective for sex addicts with difficulty finding the motivation to change their behavior.

It’s not uncommon for sex addicts to feel hopeless or even resistant to improving, whether due to self-worth issues or resentment towards their situation.

MET for sex addiction works by helping patients produce internally motivated change. Such motivation is provoked through a combination of goal setting, assessments, and motivational interviewing that discourages apathy about the situation.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

For those who are acting out sexually due to a personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder, DBT may be an effective behavioral change methodology.

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12-Step Programs and Support Groups

Support groups and 12-step programs are often employed in addiction treatment programs, and they are just as helpful for sex addiction as well.

Depending on the addict’s personal style of recovery, 12-step programs can work as a standalone treatment or a supplement to existing sex addiction treatment.

Support groups, by comparison, are usually considered a supplement to counseling or treatment programs.

Through support groups, sex addicts in recovery can find validation, community, and accountability through meetings and conversations with other recovering addicts.

Popular sexual addiction 12-step programs and support groups include:

What to Look for in a Sex Addiction Counselor

Finding a sex addiction counselor can feel daunting, especially considering the shame and guilt sex addicts often feel.

If you or a loved one is ready to seek counseling for sex addiction, there are a few things to keep in mind to set yourself up for success.

  • Find someone who makes you feel comfortable: To recover from sex addiction, patients must feel safe being vulnerable with a therapist. You may be less likely to commit to recovery if you don’t feel safe or comfortable with a particular therapist. Be willing to try a few therapists initially to find someone you mesh with.
  • Practical appointment times: If your therapy sessions occur at an unpleasant or inconvenient time to your existing schedule, you will be more likely to skip attending, or the session may not be productive. Let the therapist’s office know what times work best for your schedule so you can regularly attend.
  • Know the cost and plan to invest in your recovery: The price of therapy is often a huge barrier to entry for many sex addicts. If you have health insurance, check what your co-pays for mental healthcare are and what out-of-pocket costs may be. Some offices may have payment options or can recommend low-cost community options if cost prevents you from attending therapy.
  • Experience and specialty: Not all therapists and counselors have the same training and experience. Make sure the person you’re seeing has training or expertise in sex addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders you may already have.

Seeking Counseling for Sex Addiction

If you or a loved one is ready to seek counseling for sex addiction, many providers are ready to help you begin the path to recovery. You can get started by talking to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and what treatment options may best suit your unique needs.

Another option is to try SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or 1-877-726-4727 (HELP); they can provide a list of sex addiction treatment centers in your area so you can find the best option for you or your loved one.

Get Help for Sex Addiction

If you have become addicted to sex, help is available: Learn more about treatment and therapy options for sex addiction.

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FAQs About Sex Addiction Counseling

How do you stop being addicted to sex?

Treatment for sex addiction usually includes one-on-one or group therapy, often in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy or similar therapy styles. Some styles may work better for others, so don’t hesitate to ask your provider which option is best for you.

In some cases, inpatient treatment may be needed if a sex addict also has substance abuse issues or severe mental health concerns. Medication may also be helpful for individuals with co-occurring mental health issues like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorders, OCD, ADHD, and depression.

Is sex addiction a mental illness?

Yes. Although sex addiction is not officially listed as a diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), the condition is widely diagnosed and treated.

What is the three-second rule for sex addiction?

The three-second tool is one of many tools often used to combat sexual urges. When sex addicts are triggered by visual stimulation, they may feel out of control at that moment. The three-second rule works by providing addicts with a tool to stop themselves from giving in to the urge.

After recognizing the unwanted thought or fantasy, the addict uses the three-second rule by giving themselves three seconds to turn away from the trigger and focus on something else.

While the three-second rule isn’t a long-term solution to compulsive sexual thoughts, it can act as a short-term solution to the intense desire many sex addicts must confront.

What is the difference between sex addiction and sexual compulsion?

The difference between sex addiction and sexual compulsion is really about “urge” versus “need.” While they may seem like the same thing, they are not. It’s possible to experience a sexual compulsion without sex addiction and vice versa.

A sexual compulsion is the insatiable urge to engage in sexual activity in that moment. Sex addiction, on the other hand, is the need to do something to remove discomfort or experience pleasure, often related to feeling good or avoiding withdrawal symptoms.

What is the best way to cure sex addiction?

Although sex addiction cannot be cured, counseling is the best treatment. Some patients may also benefit from medications, especially if they have co-occurring physical or mental health issues.

How long does sex addiction therapy take to be successful?

It depends on many factors, such as the patient’s commitment to therapy, how long they’ve had a sex addiction, what kind of support they receive, and if any trauma or co-occurring health issues contribute. Each person heals and processes things differently, so it will vary from person to person.

How does sex addiction start?

Some people are more predisposed to developing sex addiction than others, depending on their brain chemistry, addiction history, and trauma exposure.

Regardless of the cause, many sex addicts start by obsessing over thoughts of sex and excessive masturbation or sex.

However, each addict is different. Some people may start with a porn addiction or substance use issues that lead to sex addiction later on. That’s why it’s important to understand the warning signs and symptoms of sex addiction so they can be identified early on.

Written by: is your trusted educational guide to addiction and recovery, founded by recovering addicts and board-certified addiction specialists. Whether you are struggling with addiction or concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse, our mission is to lead you to a healthier, happier life.

  1. Briken, P., & Turner, D. (2022, July 13). What Does “Sexual” Mean in Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder? Journal of Behavioral Addictions.
  2. Fong, T. W. (2006, November). Understanding and Managing Compulsive Sexual Behaviors. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)).
  3. O’Bryan, A. (2021, November 19). What Is Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)?.
  4. Sex Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Recovery. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, April 5).
  5. Sussex Publishers. (2022, March 1). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Psychology Today.

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