The phenomenon of sexual addiction has been well described by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., who first popularized the idea in 1983. The outpouring of books on the subject from both secular and Christian writers has been tremendous. Unfortunately, the common sense approach to healing is often reserved for the latter chapters or pages in these books. In this article, I would like to share what I have learned about practical steps toward healing for this problem which I gained over the last 25 years as a significant part of my practice as a Christian psychotherapist.
There are many formulas and prescriptions for healing from sexual compulsion (my preferred term). The seven essentials discussed below are found in one form or another in most schemas for healing.
1) A willingness to let God in and the consequent opening of a person to God's Holy Spirit is the first step. Many Christian men and women begin healing with this kind of surrender only to be frustrated by relapse. Keep reading!
2) Practicing the spiritual disciplines which include prayer, meditation, Scripture study, fasting, confession and many others which restores our brain circuitry and our soul to a right relationship to God. The men I have worked with who "do the disciplines" seem to have more and longer lasting strength in overcoming "the sins of the flesh" than do those who seek a quick fix. (See Romans 12:21)
3) Physical exercise tires the body and perhaps, more importantly, focuses the spiritual mind. Hint:The professionally managed gym with its inevitable cadre of well sculpted bodies is not useful for many men.
4) God's gift of the "positive pleasures" outlined by C.S. Lewis in his classic, The Screwtape Letters, gives us full indulgence in positive, healthy, life-affirming practices. Screwtape (the devil) instructs his apprentice in ways to subtly undermine a Christian's view of pleasure. Lewis' point is that enjoyment of non-sinful pleasure helps the Christian to be somewhat immune from temptation. (See Philippians 4:8)
5) Group and/or individual accountability (see confession) creates an opportunity for one who struggles with lust to receive prayer and active support from a "band of brothers." Hint:Having a spouse act as an accountability partner is not recommended.
6) Eliminate access to lust as much as possible. The ability of computer protection programs allow safety settings to be password protected by an accountability partner or spouse. If the struggler is a computer genius, I recommend a "spy ware" program called Spectre Pro. Some software such as Covenant Eyes, Safe Eyes generate a report about websites visited and their content to an accountability person.
7) Psychotherapy for childhood issues may be required for those who suffer from childhood trauma or excessive shame and guilt.
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Jim Alexander is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Meier Clinics in Fairfax, VA. He has been treating individuals, couples and families for a wide variety of mental health issues for more than 30 years. He currently serves as Board Chairman for Restoration Ministries, DC, an organization which seeks to bring mental health and Christian healing to underage victims of sex-trafficking in the DC metro area. He and his wife, Barbara, are currently enjoying an empty nest.