When discussing sexual addiction, there is a misconception that adolescents with inappropriate sex issues are either sex addicts or sex offenders. In the clinical realm, they are neither addicts nor offenders; the reality is one leads to the other. Kids get curious, or they have been exposed to it or have been abused.
This doesn’t mean every person who has sexual issues or who views pornography will eventually offend someone else, but for some people, pornography is the gateway that will lead to more problematic sexual behavior without early intervention. That is the benefit of the Oxbow Academy 90-day assessment; we can truly evaluate what is going on with each student that comes to Oxbow, and help get to the truth of what they have been involved in. Then we can tailor our treatment plan to meet the needs of each student. We do not take a cookie-cutter approach to treatment; we adjust treatment to meet the needs of each individual student. They are in a safe environment where they can appropriately share, address the shame, find support, learn how to have healthier relationships, and find their pathway to sobriety.
Addressing Parental Concerns about sex addiction treatment
There are some concerns that parents have with placing their son in a sex-specific program. They don’t want their son to associate with other boys that have a pornography addiction. They feel if they place their son with other kids that have sexual issues that they will become worse. The reality is, they are just further along in the process of addiction meaning that many teenage boys are exposed to sexual issues in this day and age, and where they fall on the spectrum of exposure and engagement differs.
Using proper language when it comes to adolescent sexual addiction and concerns.
Often, we are asked if we work with sexual offenders or predators, and the most pressing concern – will my son be safe in a residential treatment center? Let’s address that by first explaining the concept of an arousal sexual template. In an adolescent, the arousal is very adaptable and about what feels good in the moment. When they are thinking about sexual behavior, they are more focused on their own anatomy and how it is going to feel, rather than being aroused by a specific person or age (i.e., child pornography). Contrast that with an adult that you may see on the news, being arrested for abusing a young child. When you are an adult your arousal template is set. There are certain things you are aroused by and other things you are not. For children, the arousal template has not been set; it is still about gratification and what feels good to them. Age is not a criterion for kids acting out with other kids. This is a major difference between an adult who preys on children, versus an adolescent who may be displaying deviant sexual behavior. We do not address our students or see them as predators or sexual offenders, due to their sexual arousal template not being set yet. Often times, more than half of our students don’t have hands-on victims.
At Oxbow Academy, you have an environment where students are working to identify their sexual issues, as well as, learning how to be truthful and accountable, owning their story, improving relationships and giving direction to their life. In group therapy, which is similar to an AA group meeting, there is always a therapist present, guiding students, so they will appropriately share who they are and what they have done, use accountable language, that is not glorifying their behavior. This is a much better environment for these types of discussions to take place, as opposed to talking in middle school or high school with friends that may have unfettered internet access, smartphones, limited supervision, and secretive conversations about sexual issues happening. The truth is, students are talking and sharing sexual experiences; and with access to the internet and smartphones, there is exposure to sexual material more now than ever before. In our environment, we work to create an open and honest culture to help students heal and progress in their healthy relationships. The bottom line is – we take safety very seriously and have taken precautions to keep our students safe. We have a one-to-four, staff-to-student ratio, and work extremely hard to enable 24-hour supervision.