Recent news that Anthony Weiner has entered an in-patient cybersex rehab facility in Tennessee has generated some interest in what type of treatment he’ll receive and whether it can help the disgraced political figure.
Addiction experts say that Weiner’s rehab will likely use some of the same treatments that are used for people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
“He [Weiner] might get various types of treatments including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which is a type of treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors,” said Puja Hall, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of sex addiction and is also the founder of the New York Center for Sexuality and Sex Addiction Treatment.
CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders including phobias, addictions, depression, and anxiety.
“You also need to address the underlying issues, such as the need for adoration from people and validation…these are all connected to strong compulsive and in this case self-destructive behaviors that led to his sexting,” she said.
The report about Weiner entering cybersex rehab follows a string of sexting scandals that forced the former congressman from office, derailed his bid for mayor in 2013, and threatened to impact Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s chances in the presidential election.
Weiner’s sexting recently attracted national attention when investigators looking into his alleged contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl found emails on his computer from Hillary Clinton’s private server.
Soon after that revelation, he separated from his wife, Clinton aide Huma Adedin.
Hall said Weiner’s treatment might include group and individual therapies, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, similar to 12-step programs for alcohol abuse where “sponsors,” or designated people, are used as support mechanisms.
Such rebab centers typically ban electronic devices and patients are separated by gender.
Cybersex addiction isn’t uncommon, Hall said it.
“Anybody can be vulnerable, it’s so prevalent nowadays especially with all that’s out there including online porn and dating sites,” she said.
Dr. Jennifer Schneider, a specialist in addictive sexual disorders, seemed to agree, writing that “cybersex is particularly dangerous because it can rapidly lure in someone who has never had any kind of Internet addiction before.”
She notes that “The financial cost is low, the rewards seem immediate and it’s available around-the-clock – causing cybersex to be compared to some types of addictive street drugs.”
Hall was careful, though, about speculating about Weiner’s specific condition, saying although Weiner certainly appears to needs a lot of attention; a thorough interview would be required to fully assess his condition.
“He repeatedly put himself in risky, dangerous situations that were very damaging…it is heart-breaking in a way,” she said, adding that there was “certainly some level of compulsivity he didn’t have control over.”
Hall is optimistic about Weiner’s chances for recovery.
“If he is motivated, then he has a good chance for recovery,” she said.
“People can recover, they do it every day, but they have to be motivated themselves.”