My name is Shari Cohn. I am a psychotherapist who works with sex addicts and partners is Madison Wisconsin. I found your site some time ago and recently visited again in connection with some networking I am doing with Barbara Steffens.
I connected with Barbara through seeing her present her research at the Society For The Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) conference and liking her book Your Sexually Addicted Spouse. I had used Marsha Means’ books and workbook for a Partners Group in the past. I agree with the perspectives that Barbara and Marcia have about partners being traumatized and this trauma is what needs to be addressed first, foremost and continually throughout therapy. Their approach resonates with the way I work with clients.
I like your website very much. As I read through it I appreciate the information you offer and the opportunity you give to partners to share their experiences and get support which is so critical for partners.
I ordered your ebooks yesterday and found myself nodding repeatedly as I read the information and advice which is quite similar to the advice I give on a daily basis. The advice on boundaries, finances and much about therapy really matched what I tell people.
I was very excited and actually planning to contact you about finding out if I could link to your website and ask if you would consider linking to mine. I am always looking for resources for my clients and was preparing to start telling them about your website if they had not already found it.
I got stuck, however, when I was reading p. 15 of your Recovery module where you tell partners to not seek out a counselor who specializes in sexual addiction treatment and encourage them to seek a domestic violence trained counselor instead.
I understand that the model of addressing co-addiction and codependence for every partner, which has been the model for working with partners of many sex addiction trained therapists, is not the model which you endorse and I agree with that. Not every woman who is in relationship with a sex addict is codependent and for the women who do connect with the codependence model this focus should not be in place of addressing the ongoing trauma she experiences being in relationship with a sex addict.
As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I integrate the trauma model into my therapy with sex addicts and partners. I have been working with trauma victims and survivors for over twenty years and recognize the importance of addressing the trauma and its intrusive negative effects on their lives. I think this makes me a better and more effective therapist.\
I understand what you are saying about the experience of domestic violence counselors understanding trauma and meeting the client where they are at helping them and empowering them to make the choices that are right for them. These counselors, while knowledgeable and well trained, may not know enough about sex addiction to be most helpful to partners.
Working in Wisconsin as I do where there is a shortage of therapists trained in working with sex addicts and partners, I would rather have a partner see someone who understands the power dynamics and trauma if she can’t see someone specifically trained to help her. But all things equal I think she might get better treatment from someone trained in helping sex addicts and partners.
I thought about what I would want you to say instead of not referring partners to see a therapist trained as a sex addiction therapist. I would want you to advise the partner to ask the therapist what her or his approach is to working with partners of sex addicts. I would encourage her to listen for the therapist to talk about the trauma and the need for trauma focused treatment for the partner. I would encourage her to listen to the attitude of the therapist and ask about what treatment would look like. And to make the choice of not going to treatment with someone who was not supportive to her.
I have had clients who told me they saw therapists who were not trained as sex addiction therapists but as family therapists, couples therapists, and sex therapists to name a few, who clients felt blamed by for the acting out of their partners. These clients were traumatized by this and described feeling relieved to come to therapy with me.
I know this is a long letter from someone you do not even know. I like your website so much and you have so much to offer partners that I thought it was worthwhile to write this letter rather than just not make the connection with you.
I do not always have to agree with everything someone says or on their website or in their book. In fact, in therapy I often will use materials that have sufficient value to clients that I just inform them of this and suggest they take what works and leave the rest to coin a 12 step phrase. I probably can do this with your website and materials too because there is so much to offer to clients.
You seem like a person who is interested in dialogue so I thought it was worth writing to you. I actually do not do this kind of letter very often.
I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks for reading this long letter.
Shari Cohn, MSSW, LCSW, SC, CSAT
6300 University Avenue, Suite 125
Middleton, WI 53562
608-237-8000 ext 109
Here is my response:
Thank you so much for writing with your concerns with the Recovery eBook, I genuinely appreciate your professional opinion. And, I agree with your concern and you are absolutely correct. I would be doing both my readers and all the wonderful Sex Addiction therapists out there a great disservice if I left that direction in the book.
If I may explain, not as an excuse, but as a probable reason for the editing oversight. When I write I tend to just ‘let it flow’ and write everything that is on my mind. I let my manuscript set for a while, then I go back to do the objective editing. In the case of the Recovery book I do remember my mindset being clouded by a flood of both private and website correspondence from women who were being treated by their spouse’s counselors in a very unfair manner.
It really was an oversight on my part to leave that bias in the book as my third and final therapist was a wonderful woman who also specialized in Sex Addiction. I guess my emotional state at the time I was writing just took over my fingers!
I have been thinking all night about how to correct this. I think a post on the website is in order, explaining your e-mail and my thoughts. Then, I will make the correction in the eBook and recommend that everyone who has ordered it download the revised edition with the correction. (multiple downloads are available via the e-mail you received after placing your order)
I do apologize if this caused you any mental discomfort. I truly am not a crusader against all of the wonderful therapists out there who are helping women like myself who are faced with the fallout of their spouse’s Sexual Addiction.
I am always open to suggestions and recommendations, especially from the professional world. Thank you again for taking the time to write.
She responded back:
What a great response!
Thank you for taking in my feedback the way it was intended. Not as criticism. I am so glad you had a positive experience with your last therapist.I am sorry if your other experiences were not good.
You are clearly a very brave woman with much strength to help yourself and others.
The correction has been made in the Recovery eBook and anyone who has ordered that eBook before Oct. 1, 2010 can simply download it again from the download e-mail that you received. If you need that link again just send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you. If you are curious here are the corrections:
Original paragraph, pages 15 and 16:
Finding the right counselor can be daunting. You can narrow it down by looking through the phone book or online. I may be prejudiced, but I prefer a woman counselor. The very best type of counselor is one who specializes in domestic violence as she will know how to deal with your trauma. Do not seek out a counselor who specializes in Sexual Addiction. You are not a Sex Addict and you will not find the right kind of support with this type of specialist. If there is a woman’s shelter in your area you may be able to receive free counseling there.
Revised paragraph, pages 15 and 16:
Finding the right counselor can be daunting. You can narrow it down by looking through the phone book or online. I may be prejudiced, but I prefer a woman counselor. You might want to seek a counselor who specializes in domestic violence as she will know how to deal with your trauma. If there is a woman’s shelter in your area you may be able to receive free counseling there.
Don’t be afraid to interview a potential counselor either in person or over the phone. Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Shari Cohn, MSSW, LCSW, SC, CSAT recommends that you ask the therapist what her or his approach is to working with partners of Sex Addicts. Shari encourages you to listen for the therapist to talk about the trauma and the need for trauma focused treatment for you. She also encourages you to listen to the attitude of the therapist and ask about what treatment would look like. And to make the choice of not going to or continuing treatment with someone who was not supportive to you.