The process is not short. It takes time to grow a painful reality, and it will take time to heal. Typically 3-5 years. But, if a recovery plan is followed in the first 18 months, then the individuals have a chance for a transformed life by the end of that time span. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. predicts sexual addicts may not relapse again if they follow the treatment plan he (and we) employ within the first 18 months. Now that's freedom! No more fear of negative headlines...maybe redemptive headlines though!
For a spouse, this means working through grief after the discovery/disclosure of the truth, and then working on themselves. It is important to do this as the betrayal is not about them but their identity work, boundaries, and self care certainly are. Marriage counseling is secondary, meaning less often than individual counseling. Typically people go to marriage counseling as the only treatment option, but you need two individuals to make a healthier marriage and that takes individual work.
For the one who has betrayed, assessments are important (addiction, mental health, family history). 70% of Sex addicts have untreated ADHD. So many people are self medicating and self destructing in relationships instead of treating the underlying issues. Accurate assessment is helpful, which leads to resources like groups, medical professionals as needed, trauma work, polygraphs, and individual therapy.
All of the above, to me, is spiritual formation. To be so broken that you injure yourself and your family reveals a spiritual need. The process of this recovery is just that... recovery, and also forming your spiritual bond. It is as if the clouds clear and the sun breaks through. You begin to hear the voice of the Lord and understand His Word like never before because your brain is healing. For pastors, they are not just living their "optimal selves" in the pulpit but most of the time (we all have our days). For their spouses, they are seeing congruency which helps trust to be rebuilt. We can be so much more of who God intended us to be. How do I know? This is my life now, and Shane and I have walked so many others through this journey as well.
In the early days of our ministry, Shane said to me before we were speaking at our denomination's yearly pastor's conference on this topic, "I hope when people think of pornography they think of us." Umm. I paused and laughed because I knew what he meant but it came out in a way I couldn't help but address: "I don't really want people to think of us when they think of pornography!" I got his point though. How about when people think of us they think about recovery from pornography addiction and the like?
This is the topic that joined Shane and me in our ministry. It is certainly not the only issue I treat, but because of the headlines, it will likely always be a portion of my practice. Shane holds several weekly pastor's groups where he does an excellent job leading men through the process of growth, creating bonds of friendship and accountability that is useful accountability because it is based upon recovering individuals. Change is possible if you are willing. Richard Blankenship, LPC, CCSAS says that brokenness and humility are the hallmarks of recovery. Neither are easy to start but once you do, half of the battle is won. Blessings to you and those you may know who need a process of change to avoid the headlines.
For more information on our seminars on this subject and others, visit missionariestoministers.com