What is a Full Therapeutic Disclosure?
Just finding out that your partner is sexually addicted can cause the natural question: What else don’t I know? The desire and process of knowing the truth (i.e. the extent of the addiction and the behaviours your partner engaged in and with whom) is something that can be critical to rebuilding trust, healing from betrayal trauma, as well as making an informed decision to stay or leave the relationship.
It is important to seek out therapeutic support for this process, both for yourself and your sexually addicted partner. Having a trained, supportive therapist to help you prepare yourself can help you through what will likely be a very painful event.Betrayed partnerswho have reported doing disclosure without therapeutic support, or inexperienced therapeutic support often share that the experience can be unhelpful and even more damaging.
What a Therapeutic Disclosure Typically Looks Like
Although disclosures can look different depending on what therapist you talk with there is a general outline to the process that most follow. Typically, the person who is sexually addicted shares their acting out in the entirety, meaning that the events, facts and behaviours (not the emotions, motives or personal revelations) are shared. The reason why the disclosure is factual in nature is to provide information to you, the partner, without engaging in any form of emotional manipulation or confusion.
Many partners need breaks during the disclosure process, and are often encouraged to prepare and ask any clarifying questions they may have. The level of detail provided during disclosure can be discussed beforehand with both yourself and the therapists to determine what may be the most helpful level of information provided. Its worth mentioning again that the event of disclosure will almost certainly be painful and even triggering. This is normal. The hope is that going through disclosure can help you (and if you choose, the relationship) to heal in the long term.
Benefits to Disclosure
Having your partner be honest with you can help remove the barrier to trusting again
Gaining a clear understanding of what your partners sexual acting out looked like can be empowering and validate your reality
Being able to have the facts of the situation can provide more agency in deciding to stay or leave the relationship
Making Disclosure Safe for You
Although disclosure is often encouraged by therapists it is important to note that you do not HAVE to do a therapeutic disclosure if you do not want to. If you are concerned that choosing not to do a disclosure may hinder your partner’s recovery please know that this is not the case. There are many ways that people with an addiction can engage in disclosure (they can disclosure to their support group, their therapist or another trusted individual in their life).
Please make sure that if you make the choice to do a therapeutic disclosure that you work with a therapist whom you trust and you feel is able to help support you through this process. The following can be some helpful guidelines while preparing for disclosure:
Predetermine how much detail you would like to have in the disclosure.
Discuss with your therapist what triggers feel like for you and any grounding strategies that may help in the moment
Consider making separate arrangements for arriving and leaving your therapists office separately Identify a 24hour- 48 hour safety plan for yourself (you can ask yourself the following questions: Where will I sleep and where will my sexually addicted partner sleep? Who will look after the children? Would it be helpful to take time off work? Do I have food in my fridge that is ready to eat?)
Make sure you drink water, engage in self-care and be generally compassionate to yourself during the process
If you have someone or a support group that you trust and knows that you are going through disclosure reach out to them for support