IACSAS PowerPoint presentation on Healthy Disclosures by Troy

Therapeutic Disclosures
Ella Hutchinson MA, LPC-S, CCSAS
Troy Snyder MS, LPC, CCSAS
Professionally-guided Clinical
 Well-intentioned helping professionals are often misinformed and because
of this partners are experiencing more trauma than is necessary and
marriages that might have survived and even thrived are falling apart.
 We are learning that telling a partner her spouse “isn’t ready” to do a
disclosure is harmful to both the addict and the spouse. It is dismissing her
needs and feelings as well as holding him back in his recovery. It is putting
the addict’s desires and comfort level above what is best for the partner and
the marriage.
 Dr. Doug Weiss, in his DVD for addicts entitled Helping Her Heal, states
that this is “the most painful and damaging thing that can happen in a
marriage”. To the partner, “everything is a lie. She doesn’t know what is real.
She asks herself, ‘who is this man I married and who am I to him?’”
Professionally-guided Clinical
 Too many partners have to endure the effect of small bits of
information coming out at a time, either through their own discovery or
their spouse’s confession.
 A clinical disclosure eliminates the repeated trauma of multiple “mini
disclosures”, most of which are full of half-truths and/or blatant lies.
 At this time, most sex addiction professionals advise against doing a
disclosure “too soon”.
 Others who have little to no training in sex addiction, including
counselors, pastors and other clergy, often recommend that a
disclosure never be done. They fear the information would be too
hurtful to the partner and would do too much harm to the marriage.
Professionally-guided Clinical
“It’s like you shot her with an oozie. She’s lying on the
floor bleeding. She needs your help and she doesn’t need
to hear how sore your finger is from pulling the trigger!”
Dr. Doug Weiss, speaking about addicts who refuse to do
recovery activities such as disclosure with excuses about
their own trauma and not being ready.
When a disclosure should not be
 The addict refuses. (don’t sugar coat or make excuses)
 The partner does not want a disclosure
 Ideally a therapist should explain to the partner the benefits of
disclosure as well as the risks to the recovery of the partner, the addict,
and the marriage if disclosure is not done.
 Richard Blankenship, in his book, Spouses of Sex Addicts: Hope for the
Journey, states, “Sexual integrity issues result from issues with
intimacy. The ultimate purpose of disclosure is to be able to participate
in the healing process, and build genuinely intimate relationships. We
believe that disclosure is necessary in order to experience genuine
connection in marriage.”
 However, she of course cannot and should not be pressured to
participate in a disclosure.
When a disclosure should not be
 The partner is mentally unstable. When symptoms of Major Depressive
Disorder, an anxiety disorder, or other mental illness are present, treatment by
a psychiatrist may be necessary before a disclosure is done. If the partner has a
mental illness but is under a psychiatrist’s care and stable on her medication
there is no reason a disclosure should not be done.
 The partner is pregnant and the OBGYN, after being fully informed of what a
clinical disclosure is and the benefit of disclosure, feels that the mom or baby
would be at risk if the partner does not wait to do the disclosure until after
giving birth.
 The addict is not willing to get into recovery and stop acting out. This will only
result in putting the partner through additional trauma down the road with
another disclosure, if the partner chooses to stay.
Why is a disclosure necessary?
 Secrets put up a barrier between two partners, even when one is unaware there
are secrets.
 Intimacy is impossible when one partner is hiding something from the other.
 Secrets fuel shame. Shame fuels the addiction. Many addicts that struggle with
multiple slips and relapses find that once they get out all their secrets they are
finally able to remain sober.
 Although the partner is likely to have a strong reaction, evidence has shown
that a very small percentage of wives leave because of what comes out during
the disclosure.
 If they leave it is because their husband does not get into recovery and remain
 This debunks the core belief that “No one will love me if they really know me”
Why is a disclosure necessary?
“Secrets have shame attached to them. As long as a sex addict
has a secret of any kind, it will act like a magnet to draw him
back in to his addictive behavior again and again. Many of
the clients I work with have been caught numerous times
before and each time have made a promise that they will stop
their acting out. Some even make vows to God. Yet they got
back to their behaviors not because they were not sincere but
because they still had unconfessed secrets accompanied by
Dr. Milton Magness, CSAT, speaker, and author
Why is a disclosure necessary?
 Most partners cannot heal until they know what they
have to heal from.
 The possibility that their spouse has acted out in ways
they are unaware of plagues them constantly.
 What they create in their minds, plus what they read
in books about sex addiction, can make their fears
even worse than the reality.
 Fear of if/when they will discover (accidentally or
through searching) new information can be crippling.
 “Playing detective”
Why is a disclosure necessary?
 Knowing there are no more secrets in the marriage is a
freeing feeling for both addict and partner, although it may
take the partner longer to feel this freedom.
 The vast majority of addicts and partners do not express
regret for participating in a clinical disclosure when done
 However, some partners express horrific disclosure
experiences with therapists that they wish they had never
to endure.
 Frequently these negative disclosure experiences involve a
great deal of support and preparation for the addict, but
not for the partner.
Why is a disclosure necessary?
 Information is often nothing more than what the
wife already knows, as the addict has not been
encouraged and guided to be completely upfront
and truthful.
 In fact, addicts frequently state that they had many
doubts and were even advised by their therapist,
pastor, or sponsor not to do the disclosure or
polygraph. But afterwards they realize that without
this they would still be stuck acting out and in a
broken marriage.
Why is a disclosure necessary?
“I feel a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I feel like
my addiction has lost so much of its power over me. It
was the best and worst day of my life all in one. As hard
as it was to confront the truth and have to hurt my wife, I
no longer have to live with all those secrets I carried
around for years.”
One addict’s comment that mirrors that of so many
Why is a disclosure necessary?
“I feel like everything that needed to be said was said,
everything that needed to be dealt with was dealt with.
Everything is out of the shadows now! I know ALL his acting
out behaviors, I know the reality of my marriage for the past
9 years, I know he has no more secrets...what a relief! I am at
peace with those things now. Yes, we still have to be in
recovery and yes, we still deal with triggers and thoughts, but
they are not paralyzing anymore because we know the
TRUTH and the TRUTH really does set you free!”
A partner on clinical disclosure and polygraph, a few weeks after
participating in an intensive, This resembles feelings and thoughts
shared by countless other partners after disclosure.
Myths / Miss beliefs about disclosure
 What are some of the reasons you have heard to down
play the necessity?
 What do you struggle with about disclosure?
 What is your view on confession?
 Will this do more harm to the marriage?
 What is the role of pain?
When should a disclosure be done?
When asked his opinion on therapists asking
partners to wait months or more for disclosure,
Dr. Doug Weiss, author, speaker and counselor,
who has been working with sex addicts for over
20 years and using polygraph with disclosure for
over 10 years, stated a disclosure should be done
on “day one…as soon as possible” after initial
discovery of the sex addiction. He adds, “Wives
deserve to know the reality they are actually
living in”.
When should a disclosure be done?
When asked about therapists who tell partners the addict is
not ready Weiss stated, “Therapists babysit the addict to the
point where he relapses. Once an addict realizes he is in a
system where he can lie, he will. The therapist creates the
system. The therapist is colluding with the addict by not
giving the wife a choice to know….It is unethical not to give
the wife a choice. The therapist and addict are not giving wife
fair choice. Why should an addict have that power? Why
should he make the decision as to when she can know the
truth? He is the perpetrator. She is not the perpetrator…..
Making the wife wait puts her at risk. I’m not willing to ask
the wife to take that risk. People are suffering because of this
When should a disclosure be done?
 The addict also suffers when a disclosure is
 By spending months preparing for his disclosure
he is being forced to live in his trauma much
longer than necessary.
 His anxiety is just as high as hers in the time
leading up to the disclosure.
 By doing the disclosure sooner rather than later
both parties can begin to move forward.
When should a disclosure be done?
 Stop living in the past (his past is her present)
 By asking her to she is being asked to stifle her feelings and will not heal.
 Partners can be discouraged from attacking her spouse’s character and to
focus on expressing how his behaviors hurt her instead.
 He can be taught how to support her and listen to her. Often this simply
involves asking what she needs and being prepared to either give her space
or hold her. Her needs will change from day to day, if not moment to
 He can be taught that the reality is that she will heal more quickly when
she is allowed to grieve at her own pace.
 If a partner’s feels rushed to “get over it” she will remain stuck. Intimacy
will not be allowed to be built.
When should a disclosure be done?
 Rob Weiss, CSAT, states that an addict should expect
his wife to remain in the active grieving state for 9-18
months post disclosure, provided they are both in
active recovery.
 The book, Mending a Shattered Heart, edited by
Stephanie Carnes, gives a five year time line for full
healing to take place. The bottom line is that, just like
with the death of a loved one, a partner can heal, but
will never forget.
Where should a clinical disclosure be
 One of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is to try to
do a disclosure on their own.
 A couple’s intensive can be an ideal setting in which to do a
 Multiple couples have said that without an intensive their
marriage would not have survived.
 The type of couple’s intensive being referred to here
consists of one couple participating in what is usually 2 to 3
days of intense therapy and exercises, with one or two
counselors, designed to help the couple learn how to
recover, heal, find hope, build intimacy, trust and find
forgiveness (although a partner should never be rushed to
trust or forgive)
Where should a clinical disclosure be
 Some intensives are intended only for couples who have
decided they want to stay together and where the addict
expresses and exhibits 100% commitment to recovery.
 Other intensives have a different focus and do not have the
same requirements.
 A little research can help couples find the intensive that is
best for them.
 Some sound intensives we are familiar with are: Comfort
Christian Counseling, Safe Passages Counseling, Hope and
Freedom, Heart to Heart, and Paraclete Counseling Center
Where should a clinical disclosure be
 The reason an intensive provides an ideal setting for a disclosure is that
the couple is offered a great deal of support throughout and after the
disclosure process.
 Unlike doing a disclosure during a regular or extended therapy session
where the couple has a short amount of time after the disclosure to
process the information that was revealed before being sent home to
deal with the multitude of emotions (shock, depression, anger,
confusion) on their own, an intensive provides days of support so that
the couple can leave armed with tools on how to handle all of their
feelings when they get home.
 Follow up counseling, ideally weekly, is crucial after an intensive.
 An excellent option for some therapists is to encourage couples to
attend an intensive and then follow up with them afterwards.
Ideal and sound alternative
 Ideal : intensive min. 2 day
 ½ day in office with strong preparation
 2 hours session with follow up the same week
 What must be included:
 Willingness
 Preparation
 Support
 Follow up
Preparing the couple for disclosure
When asked how much preparation is needed for
disclosure Doug Weiss said,
“Not a lot of prep is required. This is as
complicated as the therapist makes it”.
Preparing the couple for disclosure
 Will there ever come a time when the addict or partner
feels completely comfortable and at peace with giving a
disclosure? Is a couple ever really ready for a
disclosure? Will the couple ever really be excited about
doing a disclosure? Probably not.
 Why prolong the angst that goes with the waiting?
Preparing the couple for disclosure
 One month is a good amount of time to prepare,
usually the minimum amount of time a couple will
have to wait anyway if they choose to participate in an
 However, disclosures have been done in as little as two
weeks with very motivated couples without
Preparing the Partner
 The partner must understand that new information will be
revealed, without exception
 The partner should be in weekly therapy and have a
support system in place
 How to find safe people
 When the addict doesn’t want her telling anyone
“This is her story too”
Marsha Means
Preparing the Partner
 Give her the opportunity to express her fears and ask any questions she
Let her know exactly what to expect when it comes to the disclosure
Have the partner read Dr. Magness’ new book, Stop Sex Addiction: Real
Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners
The successful disclosure process described by Dr. Magness, which has
been used for years, by Magness and others, is described in detail in his
This excellent resource is a great way to prepare both the addict and
partner for disclosure.
Preparing the Partner
 Encouraging a wife to educate herself about sex addiction before a
disclosure can help her to better handle the information that will come
Although most partner-sensitive therapists disagree with much of
what Patrick Carnes teaches about partners and about marriage, he
may explain sex addiction and its origins better than anyone else.
Carnes’ book, Out of the Shadows, is extremely beneficial reading for
both the addict and partner before they do a disclosure.
The better the partner understands sex addiction, the better she is able
to understand that her husband’s behaviors were not about her or her
husband’s feelings toward her.
“Your sexually addicted spouse” by Barbra Steffens and Marsha Means
Preparing the Partner
 Let the wife know she will have an opportunity to ask
questions of her own after the disclosure.
 It is wise for her to prepare these in advance and write them
down as she may not be in a place right after the disclosure
where she is able to recall all the questions she wanted to
 Go over the questions with her. You may want to make
some suggestions.
 There is controversy over what questions a partner should
be allowed to ask. This will be addressed in the next
Preparing the Addict
 The addict needs clear guidelines on how to prepare a
 If he has done his first step (what 12 step fellowships call it
when an addict shares an account of his acting out with his
group, with guidance from a sponsor) he can use this to
help him prepare the disclosure for his wife.
 Ideally, an addict should also be in weekly counseling and
attending a minimum of one to two weekly 12 step
 He should have a sponsor or be in the process of finding
Preparing the Addict
 One frequently seen problem that arises from 12 step
meetings, sponsors, counselors, and pastors is that the
addict is discouraged from participating in a disclosure,
especially if it includes a polygraph.
 The addict must be reminded that his fellow 12 step
members and his sponsor are not experts, especially in
 When he is discouraged from doing a disclosure from his
counselor or other helping person it is likely due to a lack
of education on the part of that professional of the process
and benefit of disclosure.
Preparing the Addict
 Sometimes communication with the therapist who will be
facilitating the disclosure can resolve this issue.
 However, a partner should be informed that it is perfectly
okay for her to set a boundary that a disclosure must be
done in order for her to remain in the marriage.
 Many addicts will receive guidance that this is his wife’s
way of trying to punish him or control him. This is simply
not usually the case.
 “Your sexually addicted spouse” by Barbra Steffens and
Marsha Means
“Refusing to do a disclosure is loving their addiction more
than their wife.” Dr. Doug Weiss
What information should a disclosure
 While a partner should be reminded that she cannot un-
know anything and she should carefully consider any
questions she asks, partners who do not feel shut down
when they try to ask certain questions feel more
empowered and tend to fare better than those who are told
what they can and can’t know.
 Most partners, after some guidance, do not choose to ask
questions about graphic details.
 However, therapists must remember that partners will be
plagued for years to come with images in their head
regardless of what details are shared. They will create these
images on their own.
What information should a disclosure
 So many partners have endured so much treatment-induced trauma
that to be told they can know whatever they feel they need to know is a
breath of fresh air.
 Once they know they can ask whatever they want, most are very
conservative in their questions.
 For those who did want more details, such as what an acting out
partner looked like or what kind of pornography he looked at, they
usually do not regret asking these questions.
 Discussing the questions in advance and offering suggestions, possibly
gently discouraging certain questions without forbidding them, can
help prevent the risk of regret.
During the disclosure
 In order to decrease trauma to the partner, a clinical
disclosure should take place in one sitting, not over several
hours or days.
 One partner whose husband’s disclosure was on the
lengthy and severe side, stated “It feels like one big ball of
crap, which makes it feel like one BIG thing instead of a
bunch of little things. So, to me, it felt like one big piece of
information. It makes it feel not too big because I got it all
at once instead of in small doses”.
 Another partner said, “It feels like one big wound instead
of many”.
During the disclosure
 In an ideal situation the therapist present should
be neutral in that they have not spent a
significantly larger amount of time with either the
addict or partner.
 The other option is that there are two therapists
present so that each partner feels supported
through the process.
During the disclosure
 Before the disclosure the partner should be
asked to allow the addict to read the entire
disclosure without interruption.
 There should be some exceptions to this.
 The addict should be aware of these
During the disclosure
 The therapist should also be paying
attention to these things so that if they
notice the addict talking very fast or very
quietly they can gently point this out.
 He also should be watching the partner for
signs that she is dissociating and may ask if
she needs a short break.
Polygraph and disclosure
"Because of the core belief of sex addicts that 'people will not
love me as I am,' I believe it is virtually impossible to get a
complete disclosure without a polygraph exam to verify that
the disclosure is not just a sanitized version of events the sex
addict hopes his partner will forgive. Unless the whole truth
is told, the sex addict does not have the opportunity to get
free from his behaviors. And unless the addict can get honest
with his partner, they do not have the opportunity of ever
restoring trust in the relationship." Dr. Milton Magness
Polygraph and disclosure
 A polygraph is only as good as the polygraph examiner
 One of the most controversial elements of disclosure is the use of
Many say it is not necessary.
Those who have done disclosures with and without polygraph will tell
you that it is the rare exception that the full truth will come out without
the polygraph.
Even if the addict is honest the partner will most likely not believe him.
She has been lied to for so long she has no reason to believe him.
Polygraph is a great tool for many reasons.
Arguments against polygraph
It is not valid
Stephen Cabler, an experienced polygraph examiner who
contracts with 26 therapists in the Houston area, states that
those who do not think the polygraph is a valid way of getting
the truth, “are uninformed and uneducated on the subject.
Polygraphs are used everyday in law enforcement as well as
the court systems because they a valid method of discovering
the truth. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that
polygraph is the best method available to us, if not the only
Arguments against polygraph
Stress or anxiety could affect the results
Cabler states, “This is everyone’s fear. I have performed
polygraph exams on over 4000 sex addicts, most of whom
pass after the interview process. 99% of those who don’t pass
have come back later to admit the things they left out of their
original disclosure and interview.”
Arguments against polygraph
It is trusting a machine rather than a person, therefore
keeping the partner from learning to trust her husband
The polygraph may be the only way for a partner to begin to build trust for
her husband. The polygraph gives her faith that they can begin to move
forward with a foundation of truth. The peace of knowing there will be
follow up polygraphs allows the partner to relax in the knowledge that if
there is a slip or relapse she will find out. It can eliminate or decrease the
compulsion to check up on her husband in order to feel confident she
knows her reality. Further an addict learned to lie at a very young age.
One addict stated, “I don’t know how not to lie”. Knowing there is another
polygraph coming up can help motivate him to be honest, and in time it
will begin to feel more natural being honest. The polygraph can actually
train an addict how to be honest.
Arguments against polygraph
It is not biblical
Doug Weiss, who has been using polygraph with disclosure
for over 10 years states, “Polygraph is in the bible”. Numbers 5
says that if a man has a feeling of jealousy he can take his wife
to the priest. The priest has her “stand before the Lord” and
drink bitter water. If her abdomen swells she is lying and her
husband has the right to divorce her. Otherwise they leave
and he must let it go. Weiss states, “Truth is biblical – to not
tell the truth is unbiblical. Jesus said he is the way, the truth
and the life”.
Arguments against polygraph
The partner is just using this as a way of controlling the addict
This is simply an addict-centric way of thinking. It is using the co-addict
model, which views the partner as codependent, manipulative, sick and
controlling. Instead the partner is wounded, afraid, and needing to feel like
she knows her own reality for the first time. One polygraph will give her a
feeling of relief for a little while, but most addicts will go back to lying to their
wives, even if they are sexually sober. Wives know this. Some very wise and
experienced sex addiction therapists recommend follow up polygraphs be
part of the recovery plan every few months early in recovery and ultimately
every year for the rest of their lives. It is a way for an addict to hold himself
accountable and helping their wives to feel safe. These therapists understand
the power of addiction, especially sex addiction. This is not meant to replace
therapy, support groups, and other recovery activities for the addict, partner,
and the relationship. It is just a tool, but a very good one.
Arguments against polygraph
I don’t have a good polygraph examiner in my area.
Weiss suggests calling around for referrals, such as the
criminal attorney. Watch for the same name to keep
popping up. He even suggests to “do it yourself” and
even to “purposely lie” to determine if the examiner is
Polygraph and Disclosure
 Not all polygraph examiners are created equal. Stephen Cabler suggests
finding someone who “understands and can deal with the fact that this
is not a criminal exam and that sex addiction polygraph is different.
Find someone who wants to help these people and not judge them.”
 If a good polygraph examiner simply can not be found in one’s area that
is no excuse not to offer polygraph with disclosure. It is only fair to a
couple dealing with sexual addiction to send them to someone who
does use polygraph with disclosure.
 This is a time when referring your clients to an intensive can be a good
idea. You can communicate with the intensive therapist(s) so that the
best treatment can be offered before, during, and after the intensive.
Polygraph and Disclosure
Jeff Hutchinson, Certified Life Coach and Certified
Pastoral Sexual Addiction Specialist, tells addicts, “It
can be frustrating when you are telling the truth,
possibly for the first time, and your wife doesn’t
believe you. A clinical disclosure, with polygraph,
can help you to prove that you are not withholding
information. You will no longer have to hear
comments like, ‘I’m sure there’s more out there’”.
Polygraph and Disclosure
When asked why he thinks more therapists are not using
polygraph with disclosure Cabler stated, “I believe that a
lack of knowledge about polygraph is the starting point.
If every sex addiction therapist were required to do a
study on the success rate of addicts using the polygraph
compared to those who do not, they would all begin to
use it.”
Polygraph and Disclosure
Wives, husbands, and therapists alike are just human. We are
easily lied to and convinced by those who suffer from sexual
addiction that they are being truthful. However, they may
have been lying all along. If we were able to detect the lie with
out the machine, that would be great. Clearly we do not have
that ability. The threat of polygraph alone has produced more
truthful disclosures by far than those who do not use it.
Without polygraph there is no way to know if they are being
truthful and you can almost assume they are not.
Stephen Cabler
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