Perhaps some of the most heartbreaking clients who have approached me for sexuality counseling have been those who have already decided (or been told) that they are “sex addicts.” And while I have done my best to reference the experts I trust on this topic (David Ley, Marty Klein); loosen the constrictions of this label; and try to assist the clients to re-examine what’s going on that troubles them in their sexual behaviors, in some cases these have been confused or even displeased when I don’t join them in this label.
And so it is extremely helpful to have a definitive statement on sex addiction now from AASECT – especially in a time when some U.S. policymakers and certain religious fringe groups seem to be hell-bent on dragging the general public back into a stone age of sexual ignorance.
Here is the statement, which I believe is not only a practical tool, but may also end up a beacon for sexuality professionals in the stormy days ahead.
AASECT Position Statement – Sex Addiction (Nov. 29, 2016)
Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.
AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.
AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.
[Source: Aaron, Michael. AASECT Releases Historic Position Statement on Sex Addiction. Psychology Today. ]
Dr. Aaron notes in his blog that there is a precursor to the above statement, which you may find below.
AASECT Position on Sexual Expression Including Orientation and Identity (n/d)
Sexual Expression Including Orientation and Identity: Treatment and Education Foundations
It is the position of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists that we oppose any and all therapy models and interventions as well as any educational programs and curricula that seek to pathologize, dictate, or prescribe a person’s sexual orientation, identity, and/or consensual, sexual expression, whether or not it is conventional or atypical. Regardless of how such clinical interventions or educational programs are labeled or named, AASECT recommends all helping and educating professionals to utilize best practices and culturally relevant resources for foundation and reference.
AASECT affirms that sexuality is central to the human experience and sexual rights must be honored in order for sexual health and overall well-being to be obtained. Informed by the best empirical research, AASECT recognizes human sexual experiences as diverse and supports the acceptance of sexual diversity while embracing consensual sexual expression within the framework of human rights and social justice.
AASECT accepts the evidence that human sexual experience includes a vast spectrum of sexual expression, orientation, and identities. These sexualities, are typically not psychopathological behaviors. Indeed, recent peer-reviewed research on these sexual experiences shows no correlation to pathology.
AASECT further asserts that all people seeking treatment and education about consensual sexual behavior, identity, or orientation deserve accurate information. AASECT accepts that the empirical evidence is reasonably complete on reparative and conversion therapies that attempt to change sexual orientation or identity and shows that these techniques are experimental at best and overwhelmingly ineffective, with harmful consequences for clients widely documented.
AASECT takes the position that social justice plays an essential and foundational role in the organization’s mission. Individuals have the right to be free as possible from undue constraints (e.g. discrimination, stigmatization, oppression and violence) along with the freedom to consensual sexual expression. Destigmatizing human sexual expression and experiences as well as creating and maintaining safe space for those who have been traditionally marginalized are essential practices for AASECT members who are predominately mental health practitioners and educators. This overarching goal compels AASECT to disavow any therapeutic and educational effort that, even if unwittingly, violates or impinges on AASECT’s vision of human rights and social justice.
I feel a personal and professional debt of gratitude to all who worked on developing and refining the above statements. I understand that key members of the team include Ian Kerner, Doug Braun-Harvey, Michael Aaron, Michael Vigorito and Russell Stambaugh.
Today I am even happier and prouder to be an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor and member. Thank you, AASECT!