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April conference topics to include interaction of substance, sex addiction

March 19, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Tabulating data from a year’s worth of initial interviews of patients being treated at Caron Treatment Centers, leaders of the addiction treatment organization found that just over 1 in 5 of the interviewed patients scored at an at-risk level for sex addiction. A team of professionals from Caron next month will discuss the phenomenon of the interaction of substance addiction and compulsive sexual behaviors at an inaugural international conference to be held in New York City.

The First International Conference on Sex & Love Addiction, to be held April 4-6 in Brooklyn, will serve as the forum for Caron’s message that substance addiction cannot be effectively treated if other compulsive behaviors that could endanger prospects for recovery aren’t addressed as well, says Cheryl Knepper, a clinician and clinical supervisor who serves as Caron’s vice president of continuum services.

Knepper on the afternoon of April will be joined by Caron colleagues Michele Pole, PhD, Christopher O’Reilly and Sharon Matthew to present a 90-minute workshop session titled “Understanding Addiction Interaction: Sex Addiction in a Chemical Dependency Population.” The three-day conference is being co-hosted by Caron and U.S. Journal Training, Inc., and will offer information on sex addicts and their loved ones, relevant brain research, and assessment and treatment strategies.

Caron does not treat patients who present only with a process addiction issue such as sex addiction and no substance use problem, but Knepper says that around 20 of its clinicians across its continuum of services have become certified as therapists specializing in sex addiction. All patients at Caron facilities are asked questions about relationships and sex in their initial clinical interview, and affirmative responses to questions on sexual risk behaviors signal to staff that these issues must be addressed during substance addiction treatment.

“We have psychologists, counselors and clinical supervisors all trained in this area,” says Knepper.

Survey results

From January 2012 to January 2013, Caron surveyed 185 of its adult inpatients using a sex addiction screening tool developed by Patrick Carnes, PhD, a leading expert on sexual trauma and sex addiction. A total of 21% of the patients were classified as being at risk of sex addiction, based on engaging in risky behaviors of a sexual nature in a compulsive fashion.

In other findings from this data analysis, 83% of patients indicated that they had experienced an interaction of sexual acting-out and substance use—the practice of using while engaged in risky sex. Also, Knepper says, young adult patients in their early and mid-20s showed a higher risk for using the Internet to engage in sexually risky behaviors.

Knepper says of the themes her team and other presenters will discuss at the conference, “My hope is that it educates and brings awareness to the professionals out there who are treating chemically dependent individuals that you can treat [these issues] cohesively. You can approach this treatment in an integrated fashion.”

Carnes is serving as honorary chair of the conference, which is being held in the 30th anniversary year of his book Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction.

For more information about the First International Conference on Sex & Love Addiction, visit www.usjt.com/2013/353/index.aspx.

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