Sunday, April 12, 2015

Choosing a Therapist

"Do I need a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist?"

I don't (don't hate me) believe a CSAT is necessary. Actually, in most cases a CSAT is more harmful, due to the CSAT certification teaching victim blaming and addict coddling. I think the trick to finding a great therapist is by researching and asking the therapist lots of questions about what they believe, NOT by solely going off of a CSAT certification training that some sexist guy made up. I mean, this is the came guy (Patrick Carnes) who believes parents are sexually attracted to their children, and that wives are just as addicted, diseased, and messed up as the addict abuser. Should we really trust anything he says or created? 😳

For a therapist, I would choose a Psychologist who is certified in EMDR and specializes in abuse, trauma, violence against women, sexism, etc., over a counselor (especially a CSAT) ANY day. I mean, there ARE many many great counselors who know a TON about abuse and trauma from their own life experiences and who intuitively "get it", but they are harder to find. No matter what, it's good to be aware that great therapists are rare, they are not the norm. 

What's the difference between a Counselor and a Psychologist?

Counselors are trained to target a particular symptom or problematic situation and offer suggestions and advice for dealing with it by learning specific techniques for coping with or avoiding problem areas.

Psychologists can do everything a counselor can do, but they are trained to be experts in human behaviour, thoughts, and emotion, and can do assessments and help diagnose. They focus more on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. The underlying principle is that a person's patterns of thinking and unconscious awareness affect the way that person interacts with the world. The goal is to uncover those patterns and become aware of their effect and then learn new, healthier ways to think and interact. (Aka, fix the CAUSE of addiction, anxiety, depression, fears etc.)

Think of it like this, let's say your sitting in a boat and there's a leak and water is gushing in. The water is getting everything wet, making the boat slowly sink and is causing all sorts of huge problems.

A counselor is trained to help you learn how to effectively get the water out of the boat so you don't sink. They give you great tools and tips and even give you a giant huge bucket to scoop water out with. With smaller issues and leaks, this may be just what a person needs to learn in order to get the water out of the boat long enough so they can figure out how to fix the leak themselves.

A Psychologist is not only trained to help you scoop water out, they are also trained in helping you learn about WHY the water is gushing in, what caused the leak, and how to fix a leak so you can effectively heal your boat.

Regardless of what therapist you choose, always ALWAYS ask them questions about what they believe :

Do they understand abuse? 
Do they understand trauma?
Do they believe pornography is always harmful? 
Do they ascribe to any victim blaming beliefs like codependency, trauma bonding, learned helplessness, etc (and if they do and are unaware they are victim blaming, are they willing to change their views?) 
Do they believe masturbation is harmful for a sex addict? 
What is their take on honesty and full disclosures with a polygraph? And will they support you in this? 
Will they support you in your religious or non religious views? (a therapist pushing either on a client goes against the Code of Ethics and is wrong)
Are they certified in EMDR? I hugely recommend a therapist who is licensed to do EMDR. It's a life safer for all things trauma related. EMDR basically gets all the fear and negative gunk out of a trauma memory.

And most of all, remember that all therapists are people too. They have their own opinions and beliefs and make mistakes too. Listen to your gut and don't ever blindly believe a therapist and go along with everything they say just because they say it. If something doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to question it and even disagree and tell the therapist how you feel about it. If a therapist gets defensive with your questions, then they are not a good fit. REMEMBER : Therapist's are not one size fits all, it's ok to shop around for the right fit. In the end you have the final say in everything, let your intuition be your guide 💗


  1. I am a little confused , this is a counselor / psychologist for the spouse , both or the addict your talking . The EMDR sounded so helpful , so I pursued it with two different ones and never got to actually DO it because they want to spend so much time "" preparing "" for it and teaching me other trauma relieving techniques . That was a bummer .

  2. Oh , and thank you for this , it is very helpful to discern between the two ...thank you !

  3. I just wanted to add some clarification to this post from the perspective of the counselor. I don't quite agree with your definitions of a counselor vs. a psychologist. I am actually a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have a bachelor's degree in social work, and a Master's degree in social work as well. I don't tell people I am a social worker, because they assume that social workers are case managers. They are at the bachelor's level. However, with a master's degree in social work and a full clinical license, I am trained to do all those things you defined under a psychologist.

    But I actually call myself a counselor or therapist, because people know what that means. As with social work, you can have a degree in psychology at the bachelor's, masters, and doctorate levels. While there are some small differences in background, any degree that has a master's level with a focus in counseling, has the qualifications and training to complete detailed assessments and diagnosis.

    I have a background in trauma and abuse issues. I started working with women with a history of sexual abuse as a child, and that recently expanded to wives of pornography addicts, because the elements of trauma are so similar. It is also why I read a great deal of WoPA blogs, so that I can keep up to date on the issues that they are dealing with, and because I am genuinely invested in the women who share their deeply personal stories. I cheer for you, weep with you, and root for you.

    I know I am getting technical here, but I would hate for any of your readers to feel like they were in the wrong place just because the professional called themselves a "counselor", and the potential client didn't believe they were qualified to find the root of the symptoms, such as the messages they received from past abuse/trauma.

    Having said that, I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. I find that most of my clients end up with me for a reason. But occasionally, I have a client that even I recognize that I am not a good fit for. Ask questions about their background and their focus. If you don't feel that you are on the same page, clarify your feelings for them and point it out when you disagree and why. As a therapist, we have pretty good skills (hopefully...) that help us to use that information for the client's benefit. And we can admit when we are wrong or on the wrong track if you share your perspective. And if you are still not feeling that the counseling is helpful, then absolutely, look for a better fit.

    I don't usually post, but since I am here, I just wanted to thank you for the post about what women wish their bishops knew. I have forwarded that to friends of mine who are bishops, and that was also helpful for me as a counselor. I work with bishops regularly, so it is great information for us to use with the clients and with the bishops. Thank you!

  4. In the United States, licensure as a licensed professional counselor occurs at the state level and requires a master's degree in counseling or a related field. My old supervisor was an LPC, but he had a master’s degree in psychology. I have also heard professionals with a degree in psychology call themselves "counselors" and/or "therapists." More important than the title is their background and the relationship that you have with them.

    1. A psychologist may choose to use the term counselor,to make their title feel less intimidating to those who feel seeing a psychologist means they are messed up, rather than just needing help. But an LCSW may not choose to go by psychologist, because they don't meet the requirements to do so. The titles and qualifications are not interchangeable.

  5. I googled the name of your blog, and this post (which I was looking for) was the second hit. Thanks!

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