COUPLES INTENSIVES FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Couples Intensives require a lot of hard work and dedication. Many couples are hesitant to make a commitment to something they don't know much about. Here are some common questions we get from couples considering an Intensive.
What is an Intensive?
An Intensive is just what it sounds like. It is three days of intense counseling, including a combination of couple and individual sessions. The Intensive consists of a daily schedule of activities, exercises and therapy to help give you and your spouse a jump start to recovery from sexual addiction. While the schedule is planned out, we leave room for flexibility, based on each couple's unique needs.
What makes your Intensive different?
Many things make our Intensive unique. Our Intensive is conducted by a licensed therapist who is the wife of a sex addict and her husband, a Certified Life Coach, Sex Addiction Specialist, and sex addict in recovery. Both are trained and certified in treating sexual addiction, but our personal experience is what makes us able to be more empathic to other couples.
Also, our Intensive takes place in a non-clinical setting with a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Your comfort as well as privacy are of the utmost importance to us.
In addition, unlike many sex addiction clinicians who have an addict-centric approach to treating couples, we work from the trauma model for partners which is a partner-sensitive approach. We do our best to make sure both the addict and the partner receive the treatment and attention they need and deserve.
What is included in the Intensive?
One cornerstone to the Intensive is a clinical disclosure to the partner, which is a full disclosure of all acting out behaviors, from the sex addict. While this is usually a frightening concept for both, extensive research has been done on the benefit for the partner and the addict of clinical disclosure. The disclosure is done on the first day of the intensive. There are specific guidelines to preparing a disclosure and we strongly advise against trying to do this on your own. A disclosure should only be done in the presence of a skilled professional. After the disclosure the sex addict will take a polygraph test, administered by a certified polygraph examiner with years of experience working with sexual addiction, to verify that the disclosure was truthful and complete. The fee for the polygraph is $500 and is paid directly to the polygraph examiner. This is not included in the intensive fee. Before the intensive we offer individual and group support and preparation assistance at no additional cost.
Won't my partner leave me if I tell her everything I have done?
In our experience, if both the husband and wife are willing to commit to an Intensive, whether or not the partner stays DOES NOT depend on the information that comes out in the disclosure. What is more important is that he is honest with her during the intensive, continues to stay in recovery after the intensive, and is able to remain patient and empathetic with his wife as she grieves his betrayal. The disclosure and polygraph are done on the first day of the intensive. The next two days we will work to help the partner process the information that she has heard and learn how to cope with and begin to heal from the pain of the betrayal. With time a marriage broken by sexual addiction can become stronger than ever.
According to Dr. Doug Weiss, a sex addiction therapist in Colorado, "when men agree to the polygraph and 'stay clean', most wives tend to stay in the marriage. But when partners refuse treatment, the wives are more apt to leave them."
Why is a full disclosure necessary? What if I don't want to know everything my spouse has done?
Sexual addiction lives in the dark. Once the lies and secrets come into the light, the addiction loses a lot of its power. Further, the secrets a sex addict keeps from his partner prevent them from being able to fully experience intimacy in their relationship. For many reasons, the partner deserves to know the truth. Finding out about your spouse's sexual acting out behavior can be excruciatingly painful. But through this process you will find yourself stronger than you thought and you capable of handling more than you thought. While a partner has a right to have all his/her questions answered honestly, sordid details are not part of the official disclosure.
Is pornography addiction the same thing as sex addiction? Is an Intensive appropriate when the sexual behavior has not progressed beyond compulsive porn and masturbation?
Since pornography is sexual, we consider a person who is addicted to porn a sexual addict or sexual compulsive. We have conducted many intensives with porn addicts/compulsives, and through these interactions, we often learn that there are other behaviors of which the partner is unaware.
Other than the disclosure, what exactly will we do during the Intensive?
During the Intensive, considering there are simultaneous individual sessions so that neither of you has to wait while the other has their individual session, you and your spouse will receive the equivalent of over 30 hours of counseling. We do not give out specific information in advance about the exercises and activities we do during the intensive. This is because we feel it would take away from the benefit of the Intensive. We will also ask you not to reveal specifics about your Intensive to others for this reason. Some topics covered during the Intensive include education about sexual addiction, it's causes and origin, the trauma the partner has experienced due to the addiction, tools to build intimacy in the marriage and restore trust, understanding each other, developing empathy, and teaching the addict how to become responsible for their own recovery while supporting their partner through the grieving process. While we encourage couple not to postpone their intensive, couples in all stages of recovery have found the Intensive invaluable to their healing. Before the intensive we offer individual and group support and preparation assistance at no additional cost.
When should an Intensive be done?
As long as both parties are 100% motivated for recovery, we believe most couples should apply for an Intensive as soon as possible. If approved, there will usually be at least a one month wait for your Intensive (during this time you will have pre-intensive reading and assignments to work on). In fact, we believe that waiting to do a clinical disclosure (ideally in the context of an Intensive), can be harmful to the marriage. With rare exception, we do not see any reason to wait to do an Intensive, provided both the addict and the spouse display motivation for recovery and have a strong support system in place. We must see dedication to sobriety and recovery activities in the addict, including willingness to attend weekly 12 step meetings, in order for us to agree to do an Intensive.
What if we don't live in the Houston area?
Couples travel from all over the world for our couple's intensives. We can provide you with a list of hotels in the area.
What qualifies Jeff and Ella to treat sex addiction?
Ella is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT). Jeff is a Certified Life Coach and Certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Specialist. He is also certified to treat sex addiction through the American Association for Christian Counseling. Ella is a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist, and both Jeff and Ella have received training, through the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). Ella worked closely with Dr. Barbara Steffens and other experienced clinicians, while serving on the APSATS board of directors, to help write the curriculum to train therapists in treating partners through APSATS.
How much does the Intensive cost?
If approved, the cost before polygraph is $4900, with half paid up front as a deposit and the other half due when you come for the three-day intensive which is usually booked one to two months in advance. Snacks and beverages are provided daily as well as lunch on at least one day during the intensive. Online (ZOOM which is similar to Skype) support groups and Intensive preparation phone or in-person sessions before your intensive are included in the intensive cost. You will also leave with resources and materials to help you easily continue on your path to couple's recovery at home. You and your spouse will be the only couple in attendance and Jeff and Ella will do everything we can to dedicate those three days to working with you and your unique needs. Please fill out the applications to discuss this with us on the phone so you can get all your questions answered and we can get to know a little about you.
Is there anything else we should know about the Intensive?
It is important that you devote all 3 days of your Intensive, and ideally the day after, to your recovery. Arrangements must be made in advance for child care (including overnight) and other responsibilities. We strongly encourage you to stay in a hotel, even if you live in the area, as this helps you to focus on only the Intensive. If you do not stay in a hotel, if you have kids, they must be out of the home during the Intensive. In addition, during the Intensive, there is to be NO work or school related activity, no TV or internet use, and no cell phone use except to check in on kids and for intensive related purposes (such as communicating with us). Bringing a tablet or laptop WILL be helpful for homework assignments during the intensive. Further, no non-prescribed drugs or alcoholic beverages should be consumed for a minimum of one month prior to the Intensive and during the Intensive. We welcome nursing mothers who would like to bring their infant with them to the intensive. However, after approximately two to four months of age, it will become necessary to find assistance, such as a grandparent, to help care for the child in a separate hotel room or in your or their home.