One of my favourite foods is cheese. There are so many varieties of cheese across the globe. I love absolutely all types of cheese, and I know I haven’t yet tasted all them in the world. The promise of more discovery is exciting. Eating too much cheese isn’t very healthy, but when I indulge, I am afraid I do eat a little too much of it.
When I first trained in sex addiction, the thinking was that if eating cheese was problematic (doing too much of it), then it had to stop. All of it. I remember asking the tutor: ‘is it possible to moderate eating cheese but still enjoy all of its variety?’. The answer was ‘no’. I was told that if cheese was a problem, it must never be eaten again, and I couldn’t even think about it, because that was bad too.
Back then, I was a young therapist, but already the concept of sex addiction jarred with me. I’m sorry but nobody gets between me and cheese.
Growing up gay in a heteronormative world, I understand very well the pain that is inflicted on people who feel that they have to hide, repress or put a lid on their sexuality. The result is unhappiness, distress, depression. By the same token, when one embraces their sexuality fully, well-being significantly improves, even flourishes.
In my time working in sex addiction, I felt sad that much of the treatment was teaching people to put a lid on their sexuality, without being curious enough about that rich, and yes, sometimes unruly and messy world, nevertheless still to be acknowledged and honoured.
Both the conceptualisation of sex addiction and its treatment just didn’t work for me and didn’t make any sense to me, both on a personal and clinical level. I searched for alternatives, but all the sex addiction models, both in the USA and the UK, even though framed differently, still followed the same addiction narrative.
My esteemed colleague Dominic Davies was one of the first people to point me to the literature critiquing the sex addiction model. The first book I read was Ley’s Myth of Sex Addiction. Just like that, I suddenly felt I was home, because, unlike the sex addiction texts, this one actually made a whole lot of sense to me, and it was congruent to my existing knowledge in psychosexual and relationship psychotherapy.
It led me to a path of fascinating and wonderful discoveries, books, research and innovative thinking on sexual compulsivity, from international perspectives. Along the way, I met many great clinicians from across the USA, Europe and UK; we debated, discussed and made some delicious learning together about the exquisite relationship between sex and culture, body and mind, cognition and existentialism, science and humanistic thinking.
It was scary to go against the grain of the big sex addiction industry. But I passionately believed that clients deserved better treatments. Asking clients to replace their love for cheese with a bowl of kale is simply unacceptable to me.
During my expedition in studying sexual compulsivity, I realised that there was something missing: a simple UK-based, evidence-based, sexology-oriented guide on treating sexual compulsivity. One day, a star descended upon me, named Julie Sale, who was crazy enough to give me a chance to present my approach on a 3-day CPD under her organisation CICS.
Teaching the 3-day CPD event was significant for me, because I realised that what made sense to me actually made sense to others too. It was the confidence boost I needed to sit down in front of my laptop and write the book that had lived in my heart for so long. I will be forever grateful to Julie for this.
So, here it is. I present to you my recipe for a sex-positive, pluralistic, ethical, safe, efficient, evidence-based treatment for compulsive sexual behaviours, helping clients find their own cheese boards and enjoying it fully.
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