>> Have you sought therapy?
Yep. More than once, and seeking a new one now. It’s been a mixed bag, but with a silver lining. Sorry in advance for the rambling to follow...
>> Did you learn things about yourself that were a revelation? Were you able to address/confront the presented issue and move beyond it? Other?
On the surface, therapy has been a bust for me, in that I was successful at picking crappy therapists who wouldn’t admit they were treading outside their area of expertise. I was bad at hiring, and got poor results; not entirely surprising, since that’s how it’ll work anywhere.
First experience, I ended up at a generalist who tackled it as depression. I wasn’t depressed, I was sad because my marriage sucked - that reaction was healthy; he tried to put bandages on the scratches, and overlooked that the limb was broken.
(Side note: Letting him code it as depression because it was easy to get insurance to cover it proved to be a pain in the ass because the diagnosis gets recorded to a central bureau. Years later when I applied for life insurance, they declined me until I tracked down the shrink and had him document that the condition had cleared.)
Second experience, she was a young, inexperienced “marriage counselor” who was a one-trick pony - she facilitated couples talking to each other while she watched. We didn’t have a communication problem, we needed problem-solving help. I think I fired her after the second joint session; maybe the first.
Third round, I found a sex specialist via aasect.org
, an association of sex therapy specialists. This one seemed to have more of a clue, but eventually became focused on invalidating / curbing my desire and getting me to accept whatever W wanted to handout. She was right that all I could hope to effect change in myself, but I think her attempts to suppress my sexuality were a disservice. I later stitched together some clues and realized that she worked with sex offenders and addicts, so her focus was probably appropriate for her main clientele, but I’d screened her poorly.
More recently, I’ve found a therapist (also through the same site) that specializes in marital / relationship sexual dysfunction, which sure sounds like a home run and somebody who “gets” ILIASM. She’s got a whole practice with multiple therapists. But they’re all completely booked, as are their waiting lists. Crazy. I can’t get in.
All that to say... therapists are not Swiss Army knives. And they work for you - you need to interview them like you’re hiring a position.
There are generalists, and there are specialists. I’d argue ILIASM issues demand a specialist like the one I described above; anything less will get you the clueless “lingerie & bacon-scented-candles” advice.
Now... have I benefitted? Not directly, because I sucked at hiring. But, the whole process (many sessions) has caused me to see myself in a much different way that has been very beneficial - almost like looking in from the outside.
Like, noticing a strong reaction and questioning / analyzing my own triggers. “That’s clearly a hot button for me... but, why? Was my reaction appropriate, or exaggerated because something unrelated in my past caused me to read more into the situation than was really there?”
That has also proven useful in interacting with other people, including my customers. Being a lot more aware of what’s probably motivating their behavior, and enabling me to address things that are important from their perspective instead of mine.
For where I’m at, the whole process has helped me to become more accepting of my situation. Not beat into submission or giving up, but accepting that it’s the result of an incompatibility that just “is”. She’s not evil; I’m not broken; but we are a bad match that’s persisted for a very long time.
I could still use some help on that part, which is why I’m seeking out a new / better sounding board. I wish I’d been better about interviewing therapists 20 years ago, knowing what I needed, but “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” and unfortunately they didn’t refer me along to a better fit like I might have expected they would.
So, do I recommend individual therapy? Definitely. It’s a really solid reality check, and it’ll help you be the best version of “you”. But you need to put effort into finding a therapist that fits your needs. And it’s not a fast process. It takes months, and it’s not necessarily cheap.
For this crowd, I’d suggest looking at resources like aasect.org
as a starting point. Then filter through their experience, their approach / style, and see if they sound like a fit (e.g., sex addiction vs relationship dysfunction). Schedule an initial session; you’ll get a bit off your chest, and a face-to-face assessment of whether you want to hire this therapist.
If you’re feeling good about them, book a double session for the next visit - you’ll have a lot of background to unpack before useful stuff starts happening. If you’re really confident about your online screening, do this for the first session.
Plan on doing a session every couple weeks initially to get the ball rolling, then maybe back off to every 3-4 weeks. They’ll guide you; this is just to give you an idea of what to expect. Their schedules fill up weeks ahead, so committing to a cadence sooner will keep you from waiting 6 weeks between appointments.