Therapy may not help sex addiction

From top: Golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas have battled sex addiction.
Golfer Tiger Woods (above), rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas have battled sex addiction.
From top: Golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas have battled sex addiction.
Golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne (above) and actor Michael Douglas have battled sex addiction.

MIAMI • Can Harvey Weinstein mend his sexually deviant ways?

The producer has reportedly checked into a United States rehabilitation centre that treats male sex addicts, but experts said such therapy is unlikely to be of help.

English comic actor Russell Brand, golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas are among the high-powered celebrities who have proclaimed they were battling sex addiction - after their philandering was revealed.

While psychologists typically refrain from diagnosing someone from afar, some said Weinstein fits the profile of a sexual predator, not an addict.

"I think you can control your impulses. He just decided not to do so," said Ms Holly Richmond, a sex therapist in Los Angeles.

Therapists are also divided on whether sex addiction even exists.

The leading psychiatry reference, known as the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, updated in 2013, does not include sex addiction.

 Golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas have battled sex addiction.
Golfer Tiger Woods, rocker Ozzy Osbourne and actor Michael Douglas (above) have battled sex addiction.

Said Ms Richmond: "It is a behavioural issue. Sex is not the problem."

Entertainment site TMZ reported that Weinstein intended to fly to Switzerland for rehabilitation, but decided to check in at The Meadows in Arizona instead.

The facility is home to what it calls the "nation's premier in-patient treatment for sex addiction" - a 45-day programme titled The Gentle Path that Woods attended after his cheating scandal.

It features group talk sessions, interactions with horses - coined "equine-assisted psychotherapy" - yoga, art, meditation and one-on-one counselling.

A number of celebrities have sought treatment for drugs, alcohol and other problems at The Meadows.

But when it comes to treating sex addiction - and such programmes are offered at hundreds of clinics in the US, costing from US$10,000 (S$14,000) to US$30,000 - some experts are dubious about the effectiveness.

"There is no evidence that sex addiction treatment actually works," said Mr David Ley, a psychologist in New Mexico and author of the book The Myth Of Sex Addiction.

"After 40 years, there is not a single published study that shows that sex addiction treatment has a positive effect or actually help people change their sexual behaviour."

He noted that sex addiction is often just an excuse for avoiding personal responsibility.

Another aspect is cultural, part of living in a nation that elected Mr Donald Trump as US President, even after he was heard on tape bragging about how he grabbed women.

"These problems are occurring in a society that tolerates, allows and even may encourage powerful, wealthy men to do things that they can get away with," Mr Ley said.

Ms Charlene Lewis, a sex addiction therapist in Miami, said any patient who wants to heal must really have the desire to change, recognise the harm his behaviour has caused and be willing to probe the root of the problem.

"It goes back to what are the core issues. What are you medicating? What are you overcompensating for?

"Especially someone with that much power and that much prestige, what is really going on inside him?"

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Therapy may not help sex addiction'. Print Edition | Subscribe