Sex addiction therapist uses personal experience to help patients

Sex addiction therapist uses personal experience to help patients

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - About 12 million people struggle with sex addiction in the U.S., according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

In Hattiesburg, Pine Grove is one of the few places in the nation that offers a sex addiction program.

One therapist has worked with patients for 13 years at Pine Grove and uses her personal story to connect with patients struggling with addiction.

"I think partners blame themselves; I thought it was my fault," therapist Caroline Smith said.

After spending many years in a committed relationship, Smith decided to call it quits with a man who struggled with sex addiction.

"I always just thought it was his personality, he was very friendly and engaging but little did I know what was happening behind the scenes," Smith said.

After this experience, Smith went back to school to study therapy. Now she works with families who are going through the same experience that she did.

"This is my niche, I have so much compassion for families struggling with this disorder it thrives in secrecy and shame," Smith said.

Director of the Sex Addiction program Deborah Schiller said this addiction is not a joke because people who suffer from this engage in compulsive sexual activity. Several patients in the program struggle with issues like pornography, voyeurism, affairs and other problems.

"Often people will come into our program after a psychiatric ward after an attempt to commit suicide because they cannot tolerate their brain," Schiller said.  "The thoughts in their brain are so disturbing that they would rather be dead."

Pine Grove helps these patients through their "Gratitude" program. The patients  live in cottages on site for a 45 to 90 day period and go through therapy, group meetings and several exercises to overcome their addiction.

"For somebody who has been acting out all day everyday for decades maybe it doesn't just change over night when you walk through the door," Schiller said.

However, at the end of the program therapists said they see results especially with their patients relationships.

"There's hope you don't have to suffer," Smith said. "Your kids don't have to take this legacy to the next generation of suffering."

Pine Grove is very well known across the country and the world.