Couples, Children and Sisters
Walking into the St. Louis Ballpark Hilton, I felt doubtful that the IACSAS 2015 conference was going to be able to top the one from the year before. How wrong I was.
Thursday night, IACSAS President, Richard Blankenship knocked one out of the park as he talked about the need for therapists to fully embrace the trauma model for partners of sex addicts. He made it clear that bandying the term ‘trauma’ around for marketing purposes would leave partners hurting and confused. He went on to talk about the need for more research on and resources for the treatment of the whole family (including children). Et voila: he introduced a new IACSAS curriculum (for churches, youth groups, etc) on healthy sexuality — aimed at children 12-18.
The next day there was a number of excellent workshops: many of which focused on working with couples. Dorit Reichental and Janice Caudill — who I quote a good deal in Beyond Betrayal in the chapter on intimacy anorexia — discussed how husbands can help their wives when they are triggered. In April I discussed some of those techniques, and will doubtless follow up with more ‘grounding exercises’ I learned in this session.
Next Ella Hutchinson (whose blog posts on Covenant Eyes I absolutely love), and Troy Snyder, discussed how implementing some of the usual couple therapy models too early after discovery can be detrimental to the couple. This was a topic I was already interested in as JHJ coach, Jennie Gill, also trained in Imago therapy, had recently expressed something similar to me. While I didn’t agree with all of Ella and Troy’s thoughts on disclosure (I don’t believe every disclosure should be delayed so it can be therapist monitored, nor am I the biggest fan of polygraphs for disclosure, as documented in Beyond Betrayal), I loved the rest of it. I also find it encouraging to see so much wisdom in these younger therapists.
The final workshop was the piece de la resistance: Dr. Barb Steffens (Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, co-author) and husband, Steve, talked about their emotional and spiritual journey as a couple. Steffens shared the pain of the early years after her husband’s disclosure at a profound level, so much so I suspect there were few dry eyes in the room. She went on to discuss the fundamentals of forgiveness in the marriage… in much the same language I use in Beyond Betrayal. I will say that her list of ‘what forgiveness is not’ is slightly longer than mine, but I feel that her additions are bang on.
Other highlights of the Friday included plenary session with Nelda Sue Law (a partner with a fantastic story of therapist-induced trauma — who has definitely found her voice again) and Nate Larkin, founder of the Samson Society. Other fun moments from that day and the next: a visit from St. Louis Cardinal’s own ‘Fred Bird’, a performance by Juggling Jeff, and the opportunity to worship together each morning (this was both fun and moving).
Saturday: Children of Sex Addicts
This morning I was delighted to attend the plenary session with Dr Stephanie Carnes. Carnes shared her personal story as both the daughter and wife of a sex addict and talked about disclosure to our children: sharing the results of a recent study she has conducted on children being treated at her clinic. What the study uncovered: kids benefit from knowing about their parent’s addiction/infidelity. The caveat is that disclosure to them be done with careful planning on the part of the parents, and ideally not before the mid to late teen years. This new research has got me quite interested in doing a follow up book on the topic of the effects of betrayal on children.
Sound like a pretty full day and a half? Well I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. An evening with JHJ coach Sarah Fletcher and the super-amazing Donna Meredith-Dixon (IACSAS board member) was like balm on a blistered heart and water to a parched soul. Amongst the many topics discussed: how every wife of a sex addict needs to attend a conference like this one. With her people, her sisters. The benefits to broken-hearted women (most of whom can’t afford to attend IACSAS conferences) would be enormous.
And if the funding ever falls out of the sky for us to put on such an event, we have plans to offer childcare — and a spa session.
Dream big or go...
As it so happens I’m dreaming big and going home.
Josh Garrels, from Home