Excerpt taken from "Spouses of Sex Addicts, Hope for the Journey Workbook, Francoise Mastroianni
The use of the sexual history by a therapist is the primary tool during counseling intake in evaluating secret sexual behaviors so destructive to the very core of any relationship or marriage between partners.
In most cases these secret sexual behaviors have been in play long before partners became one. However, they often escalate over time during relationships for a variety of reasons.
It is imperative for the therapist and then the unoffending partner to understand such medicating behaviors and their escalation. It is not unusual for those using masturbation to pornographic / lustful images to escalate to more dangerous voyeuristic behaviors or interactions with others which then ultimately lead to sexual contacts outside of a relationship.
Success in a client’s recovery is paramount on their being truthful and accountable for their actions so that appropriate counseling and boundaries can be established.
However, truth often takes a back seat to fear. As a result the client lies or minimizes their secret sexual behaviors and spends time stuck in denial and the fear of unknown consequences. This denial then undermines their credibility further with their partner as well as delays proper or affective treatment.
It is a reality of such addiction type counseling that fear will dominate both partners. The offending partner is fearful of the consequences of their actions (divorce, rejection, being cut off from their friends and family, hurting their partners more, etc.). The unoffending partner react further from the offenses admitted because of lies and manipulations from the past and investigative process often leading to counseling which then drive their fear of the unknown (divorce, not being worthy, getting a STD, losing the family unit, etc.).
Polygraph can play a unique role in this process after a therapist develops a sexual history with the client. Its use then shifts from a denial breaker (which it often is) to a tool of therapeutic evaluation to ensure that a full and complete disclosure has been made. Then and only then can a therapist be sure as to the behaviors they are treating and the establishment of realistic sobriety boundaries.
An important side bar to this therapeutic evaluation is that it also adds clarity to deal with the fear created by the infidelity process within the unoffending partner.
By the therapeutic utilization, set backs to counsel because of denial and lying can be prevented. Further disclosures of inappropriate behaviors coming after a disclosure is made and reconciliation is attempted is disastrous. A client will only get so many chances at reconciliation before the unoffending partner steps away. Therefore the offending partner must be truthful, show remorse, and be accountable or their chances of reconciliation are often doomed.
The basic thrust of a sexual history polygraph evaluation is to identify and clarify sexual interactions with others beside the unoffending partner (men, women, and children). This is crucial even when only inappropriate behaviors (pornography, voyeurism, masturbation, exposure, internet interactions, secret non-sexual relationships with others, etc.) short of sexual contact have been admitted. Not only is denial about contact with others often the norm for a lying offending partner, it will also be the worst case fear of the unoffending partner whether voiced or not.
Unoffending partners should be inventoried about what their concerns may be about their partner. Suggesting possible polygraph testing areas is a subtle way to identify them. Most unoffending partners may have pages of such questions; however it is the fear themes that dominate their questions which is revealing. This too can be a way of identifying areas for counsel as well for the unoffending partner.
Proper polygraph technique will only allow 3 to 5 relevant test questions depending on the examiner involved, and is also why the thrust at this point is to sexual contact with others. However fear of contact with prostitutes, co-workers, neighbors, relatives, or social acquaintances often surface and may need to be addressed.
If a number of questions persist with the unoffending partner, then additional testing may be suggested.
Sexual history disclosure polygraph testing protocol dictates the results should go first to the therapist. In this way the offending partner will have safety to discuss untruthful test results with the therapist in an effort to resolve areas of denial. This protocol then also does not set back the unoffending partner further with deceptive results. Once the therapist is satisfied that the offending partner’s disclosure is accurate, then a disclosure and reconciliation can be made with the unoffending partner.
Therapist seeking to learn more about polygraph testing for sexual disclosure should contact those therapists who use such a tool in their practice for further insight. Also the American Polygraph Association web site can provide
information on the suggested required testing protocol (PSCOT certification) necessary for such evaluations.
Further polygraph testing after the initial sexual history process is conducted to ensure that the offending partner is being truthful in maintaining their sobriety boundaries. Again the protocol is that results would first go to the therapist. Information as to violations or erosion of sobriety boundaries is then the offending partner’s home work with his therapist for the next few sessions. In this manner slips in the recovery process can be minimized, but also dealt with immediately to ensure total relapses back to previous destructive behaviors or sexual contact with others do not occur.
The continuing fears of the unoffending partner will also be an issue of review prior to such future tests after the sexual history. The idea being that the unoffending partner can reconcile with accountability while the offending partner re-establishes credibility with good polygraph results in the recovery process.
However, attention must be made to the unoffending partner’s concerns as the recovery process moves forward.
Written by Fred L. Hunter