Treating a person suffering from the illness of addiction presents a complex psychotherapeutic problem which is further confounded when the illness includes a sexual addiction (Wilson, 1999; Virshup, 1985). According to Wilson, “83% of sex addicts report multiple addictions” (1999). The focus of this paper will be about Joe, whose substance addiction was the presenting problem, yet the severity of his illness was confounded by a vast array of co-existing trauma, loss, mental illness and sexual addiction.
The consequences of addiction in general are familiar and grim: unemployment, financial devastation, loss of shelter, physical illness, criminal behavior, and seem to damage many aspects of psychosocial life: family relationship,
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The patient facing addiction tends to feel a great deal of shame (Wilson, 1999; Wilson, 2003). This factor is a major hurdle in treatment and recovery (Matto, Corcoran, & Fassler, 2003). Shame isolates this population from seeking healthy interaction and discourages the addict from treatment. Maintaining isolation to avoid the confronting this shame often leads to relapse (Wilson, 1999; Wilson, 2003). The relationship with the addiction “keeps painful feelings and associations… at a distance” and is a way to deny, or at least and avoid confronting, the feelings of shame (Wilson, 2003, p. 281). Wilson (1999) also notes that sex addicts “have learned to unconsciously become invisible…” yet art therapy “ provides a tangible representation of the disease” while providing a safe “distance necessary for integration” (p.10).
Professionals working with this population widely espouse the importance of group therapy while working with addiction (Wilson, 1999; Adelman and Castricone, 1986; Matto, Corcoran, & Fassler, 2003). Group art therapy can surpass the feeling of shame by providing “a healthy detachment from the problem in order to gain a more objective perspective and to expand opportunities for solutions to emerge,” change expected schemas of relating to others, “provide new interpretations and behavioral