Nov 23, 2019

How To Tell If Your Therapist Is Covertly Victim Blaming

  A recent poll suggests that 93% of betrayed wives have had an experience with a therapist blaming them by using the codependency model in the last five years. Another ongoing poll indicates 74% of wives have had experiences with a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) who still use victim blaming modalities like the codependency model. This is shocking because CSATs "claim" they've been trained in the trauma model and the facilitator of the CSAT training, Dr. Stephanie Carnes, has even recently stated on a podcast that only 1-2% of CSATs still use the codependency model. Why the discrepancy? 

Sadly many therapists SAY they understand trauma and use the trauma model, but will still covertly use the outdated codependency model (they just won't mention the actual word "codependency"), and other victim blaming labels like, Trauma Bonding, Stockholm Syndrome, Prodependency, Drama Triangle, Learned Helplessness, Reactive Abuse, etc. This leaves many unsuspecting traumatized wives following the codependent/victim blaming beliefs, and in danger of being re-traumatized by a well-intentioned therapist.

This doesn't automatically mean every therapist who gives out this advice is "bad," it just means they don't yet fully understand trauma and need further education so they don't continue to inadvertently harm their patients (and I mean more trauma education outside of the Carnes sphere, like maybe Response Based Practice, perhaps?😊). I’m not saying to instantly leave your therapist, I’m just saying to educate yourself on victim blaming language and ideas.

Knowing these warning signs can help protect you so you can better know when to stand up for yourself. πŸ’—

What is the victim blaming language that you should be aware of? Here are the most commonly used phrases and ideas, followed at the end by a break down of each one :

If a therapist ever:

1.    Implies you, the victim, have been abusive in any way, or that you both have been abusive to each other, aka. "Mutual Abuse" or "Reactive Abuse"
2.    Refuses to acknowledge that a lot of the sex addicts behavior is abusive to his partner and family, believes calling the addicts behaviors abusive is "too shaming" for the addict, refrains from using the word abuse, doesn't acknowledge the gaslighting, minimizes husbands behavior, tells you to forgive your husband and move on (ie. the "past is in the past,”), etc. 
3.    Doesn’t put your safety FIRST.
a.    Discourages you against separation or divorce or anything that will help you be safe.
b.    Doesn't understand how the addict’s acting out or negative behaviors are extremely dangerous to you and/or your kids.
4.    Discourages internet/device monitoring or filtering (aka discourages anything that resembles “snooping” or “policing”), says monitoring is controlling or "What's the point? You can't control him, he's going to find a way to act out anyway. He should be the one to do that himself," etc.
5.  Tells you that you're Trauma Bonded, have Stockholm Syndrome, learned helplessness, are addicted to your spouse, etc. 
6.    Uses the Karpman Drama Triangle (or pursuer/rescuer/distancer/victim-aggressor  type language)      
7.    Implies your emotions are shaming.                                
a.    Advises you not to show anger or strong emotion after he relapses or abuses you, “It'll only shame him.”
b.    Believes your reactions are what caused him to act out or feel shame & insecurity.
c.    Blames you in any way for your husband’s actions.
8.    Says or implies that you are NOT a victim, insinuates being a victim is negative and weak, talks about the word “victim” as if it's a mood, stance, or state of mind, implies you're in victim-mode or victim mentality, tells you to stop “playing the victim”, or "It's tempting to be a victim", etc.
9.    Wants you to join a 12-Step group. 
10.    Tells you you’re both equally unhealthy:
a.    Uses words that implies you and your husband BOTH played a part in this or are on equal ground (ie. “We’re all sinners,” “It takes two to tango,” etc.)
b.    Asks you to list out YOUR faults so “you can be accountable too”.
11. Uses marriage therapy or Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is contraindicated when there's abuse or addiction present 

12. Uses Family Systems Theory. FST is also contraindicated since it blames the entire family system for the addiction and abuse, instead of one person's choices to abuse or act out. 

13. Discourages you from asking certain details about his disclosure, implying it’ll only cause you more “pain”, (ie. Handling you with kid gloves), and/OR tells the addict that they don't have to tell you details of their acting out “because it  might be too ’triggering’ for them to re-live.”
14.  Says you chose him on some level because of your own issues. You “knew”:
a.    Insists your issues, or your childhood dynamic, is why you married a dysfunctional person, and/or why you didn't see his behaviors for what they were, didn't know he was lying, didn't set boundaries or enabled him, etc.
b.    OR that he chose you because you were weak/had a history of abuse etc.
15.  Uses lingo like stay on “your side of the street” (lane, grass, etc) and basically encourages you to not focus on anything he's doing, implies you aren't doing "your part" in the marriage and/or aren’t “meeting your husband in the middle”.
16.  Promotes "Prodependency" (which is a nicer stealthier version of codependency, but still victim blaming)
17.  Calls your behaviors a "relapse/slip". 
18.  Uses words like "Attachment issue/ wound/ disorder" when explaining your trauma. 
19.  Doesn't want you to make any big decisions for 6-12 months, OR wants you to wait 6-12 months for a full disclosure
20.  Believes polygraphs aren't going to help you or the addict.
21.  Suggests you have sexual/intimacy anorexia.
22.  Advises you not to tell anyone about his addiction without his permission, it’s “not your story to tell.”
23.  Encourages you to find ways to connect to your husband (ie. date night, etc.) DESPITE the fact that he's been rude, acting out, lying, gaslighting, defensive, pressuring you, abusive, etc., and hasn't done the necessary things to become a safe person. 
24.  Your therapy or marriage therapy is centered around what will, ultimately, help HIM and his addiction, OR, on the flip side, your therapist doesn’t want you to ever mention him at all, "only focus on you". 
25.  Gives you the impression it’s your fault you don’t trust him. Tries to guilt you into believing your husband is doing so great, ie. "Do you see him crying right now, look how vulnerable he is, this is a man in recovery. Why are you still so apprehensive? Why don’t you trust him? He’s doing great!"
26.  Wants you to accept slips & relapses and says they are a part of recovery, believes masturbation for a sex addict is healthy, etc. 
27.  Believes the codependency model and the trauma model can be used together, and doesn’t have to be either/or.
28.  Recommends the Facing Heartbreak workbook by Dr. Stephanie Carnes (or any Carnes book), or uses language from it like  "secret cloak-like behaviors", “Crazy-making reactive choices” which are part of the “toxic dance”,  "Dagger-like behaviors:......"A dagger brings to mind the potential for pain and damage....emotions that are not expressed appropriately in the relationship can "cut" the addict....Circle all the destructive dagger-like behaviors you have used when reacting to your partner’s sex addiction". Some of the behaviors listed in the workbook are:
§  Snooping
§  Searching files
§  Canceling magazine subscriptions
§  Searching the home
§  Searching his phone
§  Installing computer Spyware       
§  (FYI, this is also called Monitoring software)
§  Hiring a private detective
§  Throwing away porn stashes
§  Yelling
§  Silence
§  Blaming
§  Gaining Weight    (!!!?)
§  Profanity
§  Telling children of partner’s addictions
§  Calling addict names
§  Threats of telling church leaders
§  Monitoring progress with anger
§  Interrogating
§  Demands for attention 

Now, let's talk about why these things are harmful for a therapist to promote:

1.    Self-Defense : "a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm."
Sometimes a therapist will claim that a wife was being abusive, as well, when she yelled back, slapped, or pushed her husband. Let’s get one thing straight here, there is no such thing as mutual abuse. Someone will always have more power in the relationship. For example, If a husband repeatedly abuses his wife for years (mentally, emotionally or physically) and in a bout of gaslighting her during an argument she screams at him to stop lying and throws something across the room, this is called a self-defense reaction. No one is saying it's the "best" response, but it's self-defense NOT mutual abuse. Let’s say this same wife tries to walk away to get into a safer space and the husband blocks the doorway, refusing to let her leave and she screams and pushes him? Again, this is self-defense. Both times her safety was threatened. The problem in that situation isn't the wife, her anger, her trauma or anything to do with her. The problem is the abuser who is harming her. Read these :
2.    It is abusive when an addict continually lies, manipulates, & gaslights their partner. Plain and simple. This should be common sense by now.
Are Porn Users Abusive?
Are Pornography & Infidelity Abusive To Your Spouse
3 Reasons Why Pornography Is An Abuse Issue
3.    You are the victim. Your husband is the perpetrator. The victim’s safety should ALWAYS come first, even if it means separation or divorce. An addict’s acting out and abusive behaviors are extremely dangerous to the welfare and safety of the family. I've known mothers who have passed on an STD to their newborn child, become infertile, ended up with cancer, had a child molest a sibling, become depressed, become unable to do normal daily tasks, developed autoimmune disorders, etc. (the list is endless) all because of a husband’s acting out & abuse. Pornography itself is the only drug in existence that is evil, and from personal experience from being hooked on a drug 50x more potent than heroin, pornography is far more addictive. We must take this seriously.
4.    Part of this safety includes being able to do anything and everything possible to protect one's self and one's home from pornography and/or abuse. Wives have a fundamental right to know what danger their husbands are putting them and their children in. More explanation here: To Filter or Not
5.  Stockholm Syndrome:
     "'Stockholm Syndrome' was invented in 1973 after a hostage taking at a bank in central Stockholm, Sweden. One of the hostages, Kristin Enmark, criticized police and government responses as dangerous and disorganized and [for being] aligned tactically with the hostage takers. 

After the hostage taking, Kristin became the first person said to have “Stockholm Syndrome”, a new label invented just for the occasion. Since then, “Stockholm Syndrome” has become a received truth, a concept that both reflects and upholds the habit of finding pathologies in the minds of victims of violence, particularly women. Oddly, the psychiatrist who coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” never spoke with Kristin Enmark. Neither have present day experts who present misinformation and perpetuate the myth."

Trauma Bond :
The term "Trauma Bond" is incredibly victim blaming and a dangerous term for abuse victims. I'm not saying people can't bond while in trauma, that definitely happens and is a good thing. I'm referring to the term Trauma Bonding created by Patrick Carnes and influenced by the bogus Stockholm Syndrome. 

To put it simply, the whole foundation behind Trauma Bonding is that there is something wrong with the woman (victim) and THAT'S why she stays with an abuser. Ie. She has childhood trauma, and that's why she accepts the abuse / She has a mental disorder, and that's why she accepts abuse / She has insecurities, and that's why... etc etc. This is complete bulls** and is wrong.
      Learned Helplessness:
6.    Involvement in a Drama Triangle is not something another person is doing to you, it's something you are equally doing WITH another person. It implies that both people are acting upon their own selfish needs. The reasons BEHIND the drama triangle are completely different than an abuser-victim situation where the victim is being injured and is not on equal ground with the abuser. Even the creator of the Drama Triangle stated that the "Victim" in the triangle is not a real victim and is just playing one. Therefore, if your spouse is abusive, you are NOT in the drama triangle. 
7.    It's perfectly healthy and understandable for a wife to be angry, scream out in pain, yell expletives, etc. after she's repeatedly been run over by a diesel truck… which her "drunk" husband was driving. If a husband didn't want his wife to be angry, he shouldn't have betrayed her. Furthermore, a wife’s natural reaction to being run over is NOT what creates an addict to feel shame, to act out, or to have insecurities. Addicts felt shame, acted out, and were insecure long before they met their wives. Blaming the wife would be like me punching you, and after you said "OUCH, why did you do that!???“ I started crying and replied "Why are you so mean to me!??? Why can't I do anything right in your eyes?". Also see #1 about self-defense.
8.    When did “victim” become such a negative thing? "Victim" is simply a word used to describe a person who has been harmed, injured, attacked, or fooled by someone or something else. It doesn't define who a person is. It's not a mood or frame of mind. It doesn't mean weakness. Also, the term "victim mode" is for someone who acts like a victim who is NOT a victim. If you truly are a victim, by definition you cannot "act like a victim" or be in victim mode. 
    When Did Victim Become A Bad Word?
9.    12-Step groups for wives are ALL codependency-based, whether they use the word or not. They were CREATED from the belief that wives are just as diseased and addicted as the addict, therefore, needing 12-Step just like the addict. (Yes, even S-Anon, who doesn't use the actual word codependency, but S-anon still believes wives are just as "diseased" as the addict.) Picture from Sanon book :
10.    Just read these: 
     History of Codependency and why it isn't real
     Codependency Harms
Do I Attract Sex Addicts 
11.  Marriage therapy and/orEmotion Focused Therapy is contraindicated when there's abuse or addiction present. Sue Johnson, the creator of EFT has also stated this several times  Yet, why do so many therapists still use it? Why don't they care about victims' safety first?  Marriage therapy puts the marriage first, not the victims' safety first. Which ultimately only coddles the abuser and caters to him. 
12. Family Systems Theory puts blame on the victims instead of solely the abuser. Everyone in the family is at fault and contributing. This is why many state gov't Intimate Partner Violence agencies refuse to use it, because it fails to identify who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Read more HERE
13. It's 100% up to the wife how many details she wants or needs to hear. "Disclosure to the partner is also a question of ethics. As human beings, we are all entitled to certain rights. Among these is the right to relationship choice and freedom from exploitation in relationship. Informed consent is a concept which entitles each partner to all information which bears upon the other person’s well-being, including their rightful choice to continue in a relationship. This is a fundamental individual right.  Keeping someone in a relationship under false pretenses represents exploitation.  Every partner is ethically entitled to relationship-relevant information and the freedom to make decisions based on this information. Relationship decisions are rightly made by both adult partners. If the sex addict keeps secrets in order to maintain the relationship, control is unjustly seized by the addict – a paternalistic abuse of power."
14.  Again, just read these : 
      History of Codependency and WHY it isn't real
15.  It's kind of difficult to "stay on your side of the street" or "mind your own business" when your husband is flinging his crap all over you. This lingo came from codependency-based 12-Step groups.
16.  Prodependency was created by Dr Robert Weiss. Here's examples of what he's said that is victim blaming ** FYI, I do NOT recommend Rob Weiss in any capacity :
17.  A wife is not the same as the addict. The wife is not the perpetrator. Her actions or intentions behind those actions are not the same as a "slip/relapse." Addiction lingo should not be used for wives with trauma & PTSD! 
18.  When someone injures you it's not because you have an "attachment issue". Plain and simple.
19.  Refer back to #10. A wife shouldn't be kept in a marriage under false pretenses. Plus, it doesn't take an addict 6-12 months to be honest, that's ridiculous.
20.  Polygraphs have helped so many wives AND addicts. Heck, I think the polygraph helped my husband more than it did me. : 
21.  Sadly, therapist Doug Weiss labels wives with "Intimacy Anorexia" all the time πŸ˜”. If a wife doesn't feel safe having sex with her husband, for ANY reason, then she DOESN'T HAVE STUPID SEXUAL ANOREXIA. She's just wanting to stay safe! ** FYI, I do NOT recommend Doug Weiss in any capacity
22.  It became YOUR story the second he chose to betray you and put you in danger. You can talk to anyone and everyone you want about what happened to you πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—. If someone mugged you, would you think it reasonable for the mugger (or anyone) to ask you not to tell people what he did to you? I think not 😊. 
23.  Why would anyone in their right mind tell an injured victim to spend MORE time with their abuser who is still abusive and unsafe? In what world would that ever be healthy!?!???
24.  Both extremes are harmful to traumatized wives. Many sex addiction therapists are trained to help the addict (help the addict get sober, help the wife better respond to the addict, help the wife fix her "issues" so she doesn't trigger the addict, etc). This is called "Addict-Centric". But, on the flip side, some therapists also will tell the wife not to pay attention to anything her husband is doing and only focus on herself (which is also addict-centric). But, like #12 states, it's kind of hard to "mind your own business" when the addict is flinging his crap all over you. Plus, even if you COULD mind your own business, that doesn't mean you necessarily should. "Never focusing on the addict" is like telling someone to not focus on the shark swimming around them.  It's kiinda important to know where the shark is so you know where to swim away or how fast to build a cage, eh?😜
25.  When the person you loved the most runs you over with a diesel truck, repeatedly, should you trust them!??? Trust is earned. If an addict wants to be trusted, they should prove they are a trustworthy person. Trust is never something that someone should be forced or pressured into. When an addict is truly a safe person, trust will naturally come. Refer to #20.
26.  Slips and relapses (or ANY acting out) are NEVER a part of the recovery process. You can't act out and still be sober or IN recovery. Does acting out sometimes happen if an addict chooses to? Yes addicts sometimes choose this, it but it should never be expected or tolerated.  
          What is Recovery? Read this list :
27.  The codependency model and the trauma model are TWO completely different things. Entirely different. Like oil and water. There's no way for them to be hybrid, they contradict each other :
      History of Codependency and why it isn't real
      Codependency Harms
28.  Although, Stephanie Carnes came out and "said" she never liked the codependency model and is pro-trauma model now, what she REALLY has done is just slapped the word "trauma" over the codependency model. Just switched those two words and BAM, she's now a trauma therapist! πŸ™‹‍♀️πŸ‘ In her Facing Heartbreak workbook, behaviors like "Searching files, searching the home, searching his phone, installing computer Spyware, hiring a private detective, adopting a victim stance (πŸ˜‚huh? We ARE victims, wth?), yelling, silence, blaming, gaining weight (Whaaat!?? 😳), telling children, telling church leaders",...the list goes on and on. Aren't those such amazing gems? The whole workbook has little gems like this woven into it. So ladies, shame on you for choosing to engage in such "toxic crazy-making reactions". Don't ever try to find the truth for yourself in order to keep yourself and your home SAFE. Don't you dare gain weight while in trauma, that would be a dagger-like behavior and would cut the addict and hurt both of you, and don't blame him for something he really did do, that's bad. Also, even though you're in such horrible pain and trauma and are so confused and gaslit you don't know up from down, DON'T EVEN THINK about having any negative emotions that could lead to yelling, profanity, or even telling your children, church leaders, or basically ANYONE, because that would be viewed, by your husband, as a threat. 
     BOTTOM LINE, if you’re still unsure, the best way to know if your therapist is using the codependency model is to ask yourself after the therapist gives you advice - "Would this therapist say the same thing to me had I been brutally raped?". If the answer is "No", then chances are the advice is rooted in victim blaming beliefs.πŸ’—πŸ’—

***Special thanks to all the amazing courageous women who helped me. I love my tribeπŸ’–


How To Find A Therapist 

A Needed Change by Barbara Steffens

I Am Not A Co-Addict (Codependent) and Neither Are You

Blaming the Victim: Domestic Violence and the Codependency Model - PDF Download

Are Pornography & Infidelity Abusive to Your Spouse? Podcast/article with Dr. Omar Minwalla (I no longer recommend Minwalla, however this article is still good) 

What's Wrong With Codependency 

The Truth About 12 Steps