Porn Addiction Treatment

Effective treatment of porn addiction typically follows the same basic approach that has proven to work in the treatment of sexual addiction and substance use disorders. If you or a loved one decides to work with a therapist or counselor, treatment will likely involve counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), coupled with group therapy, 12-step and other social support groups and perhaps alternative therapies such as art therapy, equine therapy (working with horses), EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and the like.

Committing to a Contract

The biggest difference between recovery from sexual addiction in general and porn addiction in particular lies in the definition of sobriety. Whereas sex addicts typically focus on behavior change (eliminating problematic sexual behaviors while agreeing to engage in non-problematic sexual behaviors moderately and appropriately), porn addicts want to permanently and completely abstain from porn use. If the porn addict is also engaging in other addictive sexual activities, then he or she must look at those — usually with the help of his/her treatment team — to determine which are problematic and which aren’t. The porn addict then commits in a written “sexual sobriety contract” to change his or her behavior. It’s important to understand that the definition of “sexual sobriety” varies from addict to addict. Some may have only one problem to eliminate — such as porn use — while others may struggle with other sexual activities. As such, sexual behaviors that are problematic for one addict may be perfectly acceptable, perhaps even healthy, for another.

Early treatment for porn addiction usually focuses on two main issues: first, separating the porn addict from his or her addiction; and second, combating the denial the addict uses to make his or her behavior acceptable (in his or her own mind). As mentioned above, CBT is the backbone of most porn addiction treatment regimens, especially early on. CBT differs significantly from forms of psychotherapy that typically examine how someone’s past is affecting his or her present. CBT is much more focused on the here and now, attempting to stop the addict’s problematic behavior before dealing with other, longer-term issues. CBT specifically looks at things that trigger emotional discomfort and the desire to escape through compulsive porn use and sexual fantasy; therapist and client will then identify ways to short-circuit this pattern. In short, CBT teaches porn addicts to recognize when they’re triggered to act out, and to then stop their sexual fantasies and porn use by thinking about and/or doing something else — whether that’s calling a supportive friend in recovery, going to a 12-step meeting, cleaning the house, meditating, journaling, going to the gym or another activity.

Finding Support and Understanding

As with other addictions, recovering porn addicts tend to do best with the support of others who are also in the process of healing. To this end, sex and/or porn addiction-focused group therapy is often useful. In most groups for sex/porn addiction, a treatment specialist (sometimes more than one) works with between six and 10 addicts. Addicts learn that their problem is not unique, which helps with the shame, guilt and remorse almost all feel, and that triggers their desire to act out. Group therapy is also ideal for confronting and overcoming the denial that drives porn addiction — the rationalizations and justifications that addicts rely on to make their behavior seem OK in their own minds.

Most porn addicts attend 12-step sexual-addiction recovery meetings such as those held by Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous and Sexual Recovery Anonymous. These support groups serve much the same purpose as group therapy, but on a longer-term and somewhat more social basis. Formal therapy with a trained, certified sex/porn addiction treatment specialist is often a bridge into one or more of these addict-run self-help groups, though many addicts choose to remain in individual and/or group therapy while also attending 12-step meetings. After the first year or so, formalized therapy usually focuses on the resolution of longer-term underlying issues such as childhood trauma, with external support groups helping the addict to maintain sexual sobriety.

Some porn addicts struggling to establish or maintain sobriety will benefit from either residential (inpatient) or intensive outpatient treatment. These programs may last as little as two weeks or as long as several months, depending on the treatment facility and the needs of the addict. Inpatient treatment offers the added benefit of physically separating porn addicts from the sexual images, emotional situations and problematic people that trigger their compulsive sexuality. Both inpatient and intensive outpatient programs typically offer not only individual therapy, but the group work that’s often essential to the healing process.

It’s important to recognize that every porn addict’s path to recovery and a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life will be different. Each addict arrives with a unique background and a distinctive pattern of problematic porn use and possibly other sexual behaviors. As such, every addict needs to find or create a program of recovery tailored to his or her particular needs. To learn more about treatment, visit the Get Help section.

Sources: American Society of Addiction Medicine; Archives of Sexual Behavior; Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence, and Treatment; CyberPsychology & Behavior; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5); European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience; Journal of Substance Abuse; Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (3rd Ed.); Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction; Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity; Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction: A Comprehensive Guide for People Who Struggle with Sex Addiction and Those Who Want to Help Them.

  • 877-825-8131