Last week a statement was published by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) regarding their official position on sex addiction. The statement claims AASECT: “1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge.”
APSATS — an organization that advocates for ethical care and relational healing for partners, addicts, families and communities impacted by sexual addiction and betrayal trauma — strongly opposes the AASECT statement and wishes to publicly express concern over the potential harm this position may evoke for families of addicts, individuals in recovery, and to the credibility of AASECT trained therapists.
While AASECT trained therapists and educators are permitted to use any of the clinical modalities they are trained in, we are concerned that many within and without the AASECT community will misuse or misinterpret the aims of the AASECT position statement to justify the dismissal of the important work occurring within the field of sexual addiction treatment, or to falsely suggest that the sexual addiction paradigm is not supported in the research. Worse yet, many will claim sex or porn addiction are non-existent, which has already been the case in news articles written in direct response to this statement.
Additionally, some may use the AASECT statement to invalidate the experience of traumatized partners and family members of sex addicts. Those with sexual addiction who are not in recovery may also use the AASECT statement to justify their behaviors and to invalidate the needs and experiences of the partner and family.
APSATS encourages the use of high-quality research through a committee of academic research scholars, and supports ongoing research in our growing and evolving field. To date, over two dozen empirically valid and reliable neurological studies and reviews establish the legitimacy of sexual addiction as a serious problem and public health issue. More than thirty studies reveal decreased relationship and sexual satisfaction when pornography use or sexual compulsivity are present, and seventeen studies associate pornography use and sex addiction with a variety of sexual issues. Additionally, several studies specifically highlight the experience of partners of sex addicts as traumatic, negative and multi-faceted.
Unfortunately, the AASECT position placed questionable and disproportionate emphasis on a single 2013 study that has subsequently had four critiques published about it and which dismantled its key claims.
An Individual directly associated with the creation of the AASECT statement has admitted to striving to “make quick change” and described the process as “very political.” In short, this organization has deliberately and purposefully failed to acknowledge the growing body of cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary data supporting the sex addiction model, and did not reveal any new research to support their statement.
Consequently, we strongly encourage AASECT to reconsider and to revise their position.
Lastly, we encourage those impacted by secretive, addictive or compulsive sexual behavior to seek out supports and resources that are rooted in research-based approaches and that honor their lived experiences.