Wasting time is one reason people contact me for help to stop or cut back on looking at sexually explicit images and videos. There are other reasons too. And there are reasons people start to use pornography in the first place. Opening up about about your relationship with pornography is a first step you can take to recovering a sense of control.
A man tells me he is spending up to 10, 20 or even 30 hours on ‘porn binges’ over the weekends. They are leaving him tired, lacking in concentration at work and he is presenting with dysthymia, a low-grade depression, unable to experience any joy in life.
Or a wife might email me after finding pornography on her husband’s computer – it might be heterosexual or homosexual porn – worried about their relationship or concerned that their children might be exposed to what she has seen.
Sometimes I am contacted by gay men who report that porn has taken over their lives, keeping them from forming relationships with other men, contributing to them barebacking (having unsafe sex) more often or returning to sex venues they would prefer not to visit.
Even women using pornography experience shame and speak of wanting more from their lives or wondering if it is affecting their relationships with their partners.
These are just a few examples and perhaps something here resonates with you too. There are many other kinds of circumstances that come up in my work. If you are in any of these situations or similar, don’t give up. There is help available and steps you can take, even from the privacy of your own home.
Three Steps to Dealing with Porn Addiction
First step: Act now. Today. Contact me and take the first step. Stop putting it off. Generally everyone who has approached me about problems with pornography has later told me how relieved they were to have taken this step. But by delaying and putting it off you can easily end up convincing yourself that you are beyond help, ‘disordered’, addicted or psychiatrically unwell in some way. Letting a problem escalate until the stress is unmanageable is a familiar pattern. Getting help can seem like an absolute last resort. But it doesn’t have to be. Don’t let it get to such a point of urgency.
Second step: Open up. I know that’s not easy. Most of us are conditioned from an early age to think of sex outside the ‘norm’ as shameful and to avoid talking about it. And sharing with a therapist takes trust. But I am bound by a code of ethics and accountable to a professional organisation (the AASW) to maintain your confidentiality. Opening up about your use of pornography is the start of recovering control over pornography.
Thirdly, you might be surprised. The approaches I take don’t start with a condemnation of erotic or adult websites. While it might be easy to assume that a therapist working with pornography use issues should be against pornography, there is obviously a danger to this. Are you really going to feel comfortable opening up to someone who is already prejudiced against what you have been doing?
What is the Best Treatment for Addiction to Pornography?
My professional experience is that we often have to talk about how sexually explicit images or videos came to take such a significant place in your life, or at least how they grew to take up so much of your time, before changing the place or time they take up. What is your porn use a response to? How has it been serving you? What do you get out of it that you haven’t been getting from other activities like work, partners, friendships, hobbies etc? Maybe there is some valuable function that the investment in porn has provided, even if its usefulness is no longer paying dividends. I’m genuinely interested in hearing about these things. Open, frank discussion often leads to insights.
Most of my work with pornography use is done online. Occasionally people want meet in person, particularly those in the big cities of Australia: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and so on. Due to travel and research commitments, I’m not currently available to meet in these cities in person but I don’t know of any other therapist, counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist in Australia who approaches pornography use problems the way I do. So I encourage you to try online consultations. The good news is that you can meet with me from anywhere and keep up sessions even if you travelling for business or living in a remote town (I’ve provided online counselling to Pilbara, Bowen Basin, Alice Springs and Nhulunbuy residents, as well as other isolated locations, in the past).
Many of the people who meet with me are fellow professionals: lawyers, doctors and other health professionals, journalists, engineers, business executives and web entrepreneurs. The threshold for online pornography counselling is easier to cross than going to a clinic in person and, if you don’t want to use webcam, you can also choose to do the entire session with the camera off (audio only, like a phone call) or even through instant message chat.
How Many Sessions of Therapy are Required for Porn Addiction?
There isn’t a simple answer to this. Often talking about porn use opens up more important topics. What I can say is that 5 consultations is a good start because it gives you time to get to know me and feel comfortable. 10 sessions is better. By 10 appointments people usually have a better handle on the reasons they are using porn and may be starting to change their relationship to it. Sometimes things happen faster, sometimes it takes more time, particularly when there are sensitive or personal issues to share or disclose. If using pornography has taken up more and more time over a number of years, that might also take time to shift, so sometimes it is beneficial to continue over a number of months. In saying that, even 1 or 2 sessions can be influential in starting to think in new ways or in getting a different perspective. The important thing is to give it a try.
Is There a Recommended Book about Overcoming Porn Addiction?
I am in the process of writing a book. The book is on its way. Join my mailing list and you will hear about it as soon as it is available. In the meantime, if you meet with me for an online consultation, I will offer to send you, at no extra charge, notes from the appointment that might be helpful with what you are trying to achieve.
There is no manual to dealing with porn use that works for everyone and in the years I have been working with this issue, I have not come across a single approach that fits all – and I have heard of a lot of different methods and techniques for ‘stopping’. Beware of promises and guaranteed methods. What I offer is a customised service that responds to your unique experience of using pornography, that draws on what others have shared as well as my own understanding and knowledge of what can work, developed over time.
To find out more, write to me now. Right now (preferred).
Or you can phone and leave a message if I don’t answer. I am usually in therapy appointments so it is rare for me to answer the phone.
In any case, make a start and get in touch. Start getting your time back from pornography.
Ash Rehn BSocWk, MA, MAASW (acc.)
online counsellor and webcam therapist
accredited mental health practitioner