I have been working with partners for over 15 years now, and advocating for appropriate treatment of partners for almost as long. Since helping to found APSATS, an organization that trains and certifies professional therapists and coaches in a trauma model approach, I have been hearing criticisms or concerns expressed about the dangers of this approach. The danger that is often expressed is that somehow, addressing and treating the trauma experienced by partners in response to sex addiction will enable partners to remain in a so-called victim stance or position. I know of no trauma treatment protocol that has the goal of creating victims or supporting a victim identity. Trauma treatment starts with a person who has been victimized, and then seeks to enable traumatic growth and resiliency! I located a blog I did on this topic, from the fall of 2011. I thought I’d bring it back out to help silence this mistaken belief that we are encouraging the partner to stay a victim.
“Everywhere I go to talk with partners, I am renewed in my belief in the resilience and courage of these women! I know I focus on trauma and the partner in attempts to help treatment professionals understand the deep emotional wounds often experienced by partners, so long overlooked or minimized. However, I also want to be sure that I clearly state that partners are not victims! I’ve not met a partner yet who wants that as their identity or label! They are powerful. They are survivors and are actively seek healing, restoration and growth in response to and in spite of sex addiction- related betrayal and trauma. They are moving forward and moving more deeply into who they were created to be. I am inspired, humbled, and encouraged in their presence!
If you are a partner, I encourage you to embrace this idea of being powerful and on the move. You are not alone. You have strength and gifts that cannot ultimately be stolen. If you haven’t already, work to find a place, group, therapist or friend who will support this part of who you are. If you are a helper, be sure to tell your clients about their strength and power to heal, restore, and soar!” (Steffens, 2011).