Critics of sexual addiction often accuse sex addiction treatment of promoting homophobia. One basis for these arguments comes from the 12-step support group, Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). This group describes “healthy” sexual behavior as being between a man and a woman. Those who are advocates of gay men legitimately argue that this definition is shaming of gay men. However, there are other 12-step support groups, such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) that do not restrict healthy sexuality to this definition.
Sexual addiction critics also point out that many therapists who offer Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) or reparative “therapy” will label homosexuality as a sign of a sexual addiction. SOCE or reparative approaches have the goal of changing a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. Although these efforts have been denounced as unethical by major boards such as the American Psychological Association (APA), these practices continue to be legal in most states. SOCE practices are considered shaming, and have been involved in recent high profile lawsuits from past clients who report having been harmed and traumatized. Even though these SOCE professionals call homosexuality an addictive behavior, the majority of them have no training in treating sexual addiction. Nor do they have any affiliation with IITAP. In fact, they rarely have significant training in sexuality, other than training that comes from reparative programs.
There have been therapists who have been certified with the CSAT credential who have engaged in SOCE practices. However, IITAP has an ethical position against such practices. Also, all organizational bodies in mental health have professionals who practice SOCE within them. All of these professionals are licensed. Despite this, some of the concerns about SOCE and sexual addiction continue to stick in these debates.
Unfortunately, there are also SOCE organizations that train therapists to link sexual orientation to gender norms, and view the sexual orientation of gay men as a developmental issue, and even an “addiction”. This ideology will often purport that there is research to back up these claims, yet the research is flawed. In fact, in 2012, the researcher of one of the most well known studies on reparative therapy admitted to having overlooked a fatal flaw in his research (Spitzer, 2012). Robert Spitzer apologized directly to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals, who may have been “harmed” as a result of this research flaw.
Rather than focusing on the validity of research, these groups are largely evangelically based. They use their extreme, religious perspectives, along with the term of “sexual addiction,” to create an illusion that they can change the sexual orientation of their clients. Instead, they leave these clients dealing with shame, and even trauma. As a result, they ignore the ethical and research-based position of almost every major medical and mental health board.
Michael J. Salas is a counselor in Dallas, Texas who specializes in relationships and sexuality. Read more about his specialties and counseling perspectives at vantagepointdallascounseling.com.