Watch Along on YouTube
This week on Therapy Talks, therapist Barb Gladue joins Hailey Kanigan to share her insights into sex addiction, relationship issues, and the challenges faced by parents in dealing with their children's online behavior. Listeners can expect to learn about the biological roots of sex addiction, the importance of rebuilding trust in relationships, and how psychoeducation and addiction training can help people overcome many forms of addiction. Barb's expertise and insights make this podcast a must-listen for anyone interested in understanding the psychological issues that affect individuals, couples, and families. Stay tuned until the end to hear about Barb's experience as a therapist and the courageous people she has worked with over the years.
Barb Gladue brings over 20 years of experience to her practice and has her Masters Degree in Counseling. She is also a certified Sex Addiction Therapist. However, has had a lot of experience in the areas of Domestic Violence, and Relationship issues.
Find Out More About Barb:
Learn More About Switch Research:
Disclaimer: Therapy Talks does NOT provide medical services or professional counseling, and it is NOT a substitute for professional medical care.
Hello. Welcome back for another episode of Therapy Talks Hailey. Here today we have Barb Ladue joining us. With her 23 years of experience as a sex recovery therapist, as well as a sex addiction therapist. We deep dive into where sex addiction comes from and her time and experience working with couples to help form healthy and meaningful relationships.
Could you share a little bit about your domestic violence experiences? The reason why I actually got into that was that's what I grew up with at home. It was crazy and I'd wanted to figure out and make sense of. some of that. So when I actually started out in therapy, I started out as a music therapist and worked with a lot of people who were recovering from sexual trauma.
And I don't even know why I ended up with that client clientele, but that's who I did. And. I found out quickly that I don't, I didn't know that music therapy was enough for me. I needed to go back to school and get some more information so I could work specifically with people with sexual trauma.
So I went back and became a sexual recovery therapist so that I could actually work with both a perpetrator and those who had suffered under the hands of sexual trauma. I don't know. I don't think I answered your question there, . No, I think you did for sure. So what would be the way that you would approach a case, depending if you were working with the victim or the perpetrator?
I've had most of the therapists that I've worked alongside when I talk about some of the court mandated clients most people don't get a chance or an opportunity, I would say, to work with the perpetrators. And at first I was a little bit, it was a little bit daunting because that was my history grow.
And I wanted, I really wanted to make sense of it really, why people would go down that route. And don't even have words to tell you when you have someone sitting in front of you that says, I'm not safe, and I don't know how to change it. And or weeping. Weeping, because, They feel like they are, some sort of a monster that can't be in society anymore.
So to offer assistance and guidance to someone who is in that spot. I actually considered it quite a privilege. and I would tell them, I don't mind sitting with you in dark places. This is okay. And just for them to be able to really work through that, not knowing at all why they were acting out like that.
So I actually considered it quite a privilege. . And so what type of therapies would you employ in those situations? Which modalities? A lot of psycho. for sure, so that they would understand the biological root of all those things, the biological root of sex addiction as a whole.
So that there was a lot of psychoeducation that went down and and then of a lot of addictions training around that. Could you share some of the psychoed between, around sex addiction? Okay, so what are the, if I was to draw a pitch of the brain, And have a line that would go one side of the brain, Jordan, to the other side of the brain.
I'll give you an example. If I was as a kid, if I was hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, my mom would give me black licorice. . And so over the years there's thousands probably of lines between hungry, angry, lonely and tired. And my electric addiction, which I'd have to say I actually have. And so there's a highway in my brain, literally between one side of the brain and the other side of the brain.
And the same thing happens with sex addiction. So for example if porn is. Form of acting out, ev if I'm hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and I act out all the time using poor. And there's a highway in between that side of the brain and the other side of the brain. And when I was, when I took the extra training for sex addiction, one of the things that our director said was that the chemical that's released at the point of orgasm actually is 600 times.
Potent than heroin. So not only is there this pathway in the brain that's become default, there's also the chemical reinforcement that happens there and it messes with people's heads, literally heroin. So you're trying to share and normal, create some normalcy or understanding or to reduce shame around that.
Yeah, pretty much all of that, right? I think for them to understand why they can't stop or haven't been able to stop first is really important. And that I do draw the brain up for them, even though I would be fully admitting that I don't draw very well. I always laugh with my clients. If you don't get what I've drawn you, it's okay.
You can tell me . So I do that first so that they can see it. I also show that how that messes with later sex life for them if the default keeps defaulting over to the porn. So I do that all the time. I also. Of late have with quite a few clients have linked their addiction to anxiety. And most of the guys that I've worked with wouldn't know that they're acting out because of anxiety.
And so even for them to realize that is, has been fairly powerful. Yeah. Could you illuminate that cycle between anxiety and sex addiction? Some of the chemicals that are released when people think they're sexually excited can feel their very same as anxiety and not even realizing that I'm actually not sexually excited.
I'm actually super anxious and I would say in the last couple of weeks, probably 80% or more, Of the guys that I've worked with have stepped back to go, okay, for real, it's anxiety . Which is different because then we deal with the root of anxiety and it helps to catapult that addiction.
So what I'm hearing from you is sex addiction isn't necessarily the core issue. It's like the resulting behavior that comes from possibly an anxious route or possibly. , would there be anything else that would be the original challenge that, that would lead into a sex shape? There can be sexual trauma.
So one of the things as a sexual recovery therapist that I often focus on is when there's been sexual trauma of some form, our body is created to try to write it. and I don't mean make it right, I mean trying to write it in our brains about it. So if I am molested as a child by a male parent, as I'm going through teenage dumb higher, I might try to, I might say, I don't want anything to do with men or I might need to dominate over.
Or I might say, I'm for sure going towards women because I just can't even handle whatever happened down there. Being able to try to help the client understand that part of the process is trying to write it in our brain somehow. The way I wanted to write it was to get more education around it so everybody's got a different form of how they're trying to write it, and that's normal.
So when I have clients that come in here and they don't know their, what their sexual orientation should be or could be or whatever that is, it's it's a process. Let's just see where you'll land because we have to process this whole sexual trauma business and it doesn't go away overnight.
And it's interesting to me also when I talk. Men who have been abused as children and they describe their abuser and the kind of partner that they're looking for, it's identical quite often, even for them to realize that's what they're doing. It can be very powerful as well. , building that awareness and understanding of why we're doing what we're doing.
Yeah. The whole field of psychology as a whole, technically . , yeah. . So once they have those awareness and you're saying it's so powerful, how would you guide or support them forward? Depending on what that awareness ended up being, I would say if it's anxiety based, we deal with the anxiety.
A lot of it is porn based at the moment. A lot of addiction is porn based. , which can then go into acting out other ways like online crazy things and paying for things and . So even for them to know that's part of their acting out and there is a a check-in that we do every week. Have they acted out in any way, shape, or form?
Have they reinforced that pathway. We look for that. And one of the, one of the ways that I was taught to help with this part of the addiction is that there'd be a consequence if there had been acting out. And depending if they're in a relationship or not, I often have the partner come in and we talk about what that could look like.
So it might. If I'm acting, if I've acted out these are not my ideas, these are my client's ideas. I have to sleep on the couch for a week or I have to pay a fi a fine. To the other person's political party. . Just, there's some really funny one, one fellow said I promise I'll eat a whole raw onion if I get caught.
And of course that happened. And ah, I was like, oh gosh. So anyway, there's, if there's a punishment involved, , it makes the pleasure not so pleasurable. So that can be part of the process as well. Trying to deter the acting out or those actions. Yeah. . And meanwhile of course, you're trying to get the root of it all, either the trauma or the sexual molestation or the anxiety so that it becomes easier to not act out.
Yeah. What is the prognosis for and sexual addiction? Wow. I think to the degree that they're willing to be honest about it. , I would say there's a direct correlation between how successful they'll be. If I'm gonna give you 5% of my truth and hide 95% of what's going on over here I'm pro the odds of me being successful or 5%.
, that's a big deal actually because usually if somebody gets caught doing something and so there's a little bit of a confession only cuz they're busted usually the partner is willing to try to forgive and try to move on. But if the person keep, keeps withholding the truth I usually say there's usually a one time.
Confessional attached to most relationships that if I can at least be honest about it, they could be choked for a long time because they're mad about that, but they don't necessarily walk away. But if they're both adamantly going through this treatment of recovery and the partner finds out more things, after six months or a year, yeah, the odds go.
quite a bit. The relationship will actually make it through that. It sounds like such a challenging thing to overcome and you really speak a lot about clients coming when they are in a relationship. It sounds like the relationship is a huge motivator for recovery. It's probably the only one. Yeah. I don't think I've ever said that before, but I think that's true.
I don't think I've had, I have to think about it, but I actually don't think I've actually had anybody who's just come in and said, listen, I got this thing going on and I'm not in relationship. No, I, that's never happened. So there's usually ultimatums unless you, I won't, or I, unless you, I'm going or whatever that is.
But on their own.
it sounds like such a challenging space for you to be in as a therapist, because generally speaking, when we think about couples counseling, there has to be both a leveled commitment to charge. Yeah. Quite often when I work with couples that have had some go down like this, especially if there's been a war going on at home about it and rightfully people are hurt and hurt people.
That's how it usually goes. . I usually recommend a trial separation. Actually. The goal reconciliation, absolutely the goal reconciliation. But in that trial separation, one person isn't under a magnifying glass for everything they do, and the other one's not feeling shameful every single moment of their life.
And so then while the couple is separat, We have a series of goals that they need for each other. I need to work on this. You need to work on that as a couple. We need to work on this. And there's no sexual contact that whole time so that they can have a, they can figure out what it feels like to be without the person.
Cuz I think that's really important. To see how valuable this relationship is. Are they committed to it? One of the underlying rules that I have all the time when it comes to that though, is if at any time either one changes their mind about hanging in there for the Reconcili reconciliatory part, I have to, they have to own it right away because it's not very fair if you're trying to build up hope.
that the relationship's gonna, go forward and then one person's already out. Definitely. Do you find that there is more of a proponent of males with sexual addiction? Yeah probably. I think the last statistics was about 10% women and 90% meals, women. Are sneaky in their sex addiction and and the number one thing that they use is the their clothing, their attire.
It's really funny, I, when people come in and say, I think my wife's having an affair, or my wife's doing, I don't know what I'll say have they been chopping lately? Oh man, you wouldn't believe the outfits and the things, and that's how I usually know that we need to start that process of going a little bit.
Yeah, I can imagine just because of some of the tendencies between males and females, right? Just like women have this desire to look and be seen a certain way per competence and things like that. And so it's just really interesting to think that they're the ones then going out seeking extra clothing or different outfits.
and that would be that shift, right? Yeah. Very much for power and control. Which is interesting when you speak about power and control cuz it's like they are trying to reclaim that power or that control that they maybe didn't have in their younger years. Yep. And I think, let me think. All of the women that I have known who have acted out in this way have also been molested earlier as a kid or whatever, would you, why would you think that there maybe aren't a lot of therapists in this field? Just because from my basic research, I feel like it's harder to find therapists that offer these services. I would say that in Canada, Where I studied in the States, cuz they didn't have a, they don't have a program in Canada actually for sexual recovery or sex addiction that I know of unless it's come up in the last year.
But there's six or seven of us that have the qualifications from the states to do it up here. And there's a lot of people that will say because they work at addictions, that they work in sexual recovery. and I'm, I don't know I work in addictions, but I don't think I'd wanna work with gambling.
Like I, I just think I gotta stay in my lane, cuz I know that lane. And I don't know that every kind of addiction is always represented properly. , like of course there's some similarities. Like we can say that a lot of addiction comes from trauma, right? So there's that similarity there, but the way that you would recover from them, would be a lot different.
Yeah. Maybe if someone was struggling with a substance abuse addiction, for example, misuse, you wouldn't necessarily recommend that person takes a trial separation from their partner. Yeah, no. Interesting. The other half of sex addiction is something called sexual anorexia, and I don't know if you've ever heard of that.
Have you? So if there was a pendulum, each extreme swing of the pendulum. Is totally dysfunctional. So if I'm all things to all people over here, it looks great. Looks like I'm running around like this great woman that's helping everybody. But usually if I'm over here, it means I don't think you can take care of yourself.
I need to do it. So it's extreme on the other side of I don't give a rip about you at all or anybody. It's the opposite extreme. Equally as dysfunctional, this just looks better in. , but it can be as debilitating for family members. If I take over and I don't think you're you're even worthy of doing it on your own.
That's a different form of manipulation. So it's the same with, so a sex addiction would be on one side and sexual anorexia would be on the other. So acting out is over here in the addiction side. I'm looking for partners. I'm. Sneaking around doing things. The anorexia side is to the degree that I withhold from my partner.
I'm withholding love, I'm withholding praise, I'm withholding sex, maybe money. And so it's the opposite extreme and it's almost easier to deal with the addict cuz it's overt. Sot I can see what you're. . We gotta deal with that. Why are we doing it? We gotta deal with that. The anorexic side, that is the harder side, and that's part of the sexual recovery piece that
you just can't wing it with because it's actually, it's quite intense, the anorexic side. Just so many thoughts are coming to mind and just trying to picture like what this would be like to facilit. Because not only are you working with the one partner, you're working with the couple, so you're having to manage like those dual relationships and being unbiased and supporting both and making sure they're both committed and, working through the trauma.
So there's so many pieces that go into this and the other ex in the in society, you would think they're the number one community member they're serving in all these places and all these boards. Rotary and all that, and they're like God's gift to the community. That's what they look like in society, yet when they come home, they absolutely isolate their partner and and sometimes partners become anorexic because the addict.
So I don't trust the addict. I'm shutting down sexually. I'm not good. I, so you can have it as a me jerk reaction to the addict as well. . But I think there's more I dunno, there's a challenge on both sides of that equation, but the anorexic is equally as important as the addict. For sure.
So I'm just also curious I saw that you offer imago therapy, I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right, imago ? Yeah. Yes. What is that? It's a form of communi. . Okay. That's very it's listening to understand. So if I gave you an example about it if you and I were having an argument about money, and I know every time we bring up money you're gonna say these things and I'm gonna say these things and I don't even listen to anymore cuz I, as soon as you start, I roll my eyeballs and and I go, yeah, whatever.
So I'm not listening to you at. imago makes you, listen, so I'm listening to understand. So then let's say, you said to me that you're going to the store today to pick up a few things. It's a way of reflecting what you've said. So I would say, oh, so you're going to the store to pick up milk, peanut butter, and jam.
Did I get it? . And so then you would either say yeah, or you didn't get it right. So you tell me again. And I'd say, oh, so you're gonna get those three things. Is there more? And so the whole conversation is, did I get it right? And is there more, and I don't have to agree with what you say, but you will have felt understood in a different way than you would've if I just kinda, yeah, sure.
I. . So it's there's a bunch of videos on YouTube about it. The it's quite cool actually to watch it. And I can see how that would be used a lot in your practice because you're helping those two partners in the relationship be able to truly understand one another with sex addiction or ever overcoming past sexual trauma.
Just like that true understanding. Yeah. Yeah. It's different than I, I think I got, or if the one partner thinks you're not listening and it just adds coal to that fire of mistrust or whatever. So to feel understood, even if you don't agree is totally different. Yeah. Interesting. And is that similar to a speaker listener type of exercise?
Yeah, I would say yep. But I think it has a bit of a different flare to it. Like I think it has a little bit of, not only did I understand you, but the more peace, like seeing if there's more to share or more to understand. Yeah. , I think it's very honoring. And life giving and conversations, especially when there's been mistrust.
And of course most of what I deal with is mistrust. So it's how can we build that trust? , absolutely. And part of building that mistrust is owning some of the stuff. So it's being able to say, I acted out again today, which is shame-based, but at least it's truth. At least where you stand every day.
You, you're not wondering about, all of a sudden there's gonna be major backlash about this tomorrow or whatever. So yeah, listening to understand is a big. . . And what type of things do you help partners do to rebuild that trust that you speak of? Accountability and it's ruthless accountability.
So I give the partner the option of the person having an accountability partner outside of the relationship. So that they don't feel like they have to be a parent in it. So let's say if I'm, I have another fellow that I'm talking to that I'm gonna check in once a day. That's part of it. I have offered in the past groups first sex addiction, and so the men are accountable in the group.
So most partners need to know that they're attending those groups or they're attending their sessions, so that builds the trust. There's something called the faster scale and have you heard of that? , it's a scale for addiction, so it's not just for sex addiction for sure. It's a lot of people use it for alcohol.
I don't know that AA would like, I don't, AA doesn't put it out there, but I know a lot of members of AA do use it actually. And. Levels of behavior, excuse me, that kind of rev up. And as they get down further down the scale, they rev up to the point of acting out. So it's almost predictable. I can tell if you're gonna act out this week, because I can see that you're down in the high revving behaviors.
Some partners require. Acting L partner to do that faster scale every week and they wanna see that where they're at. So that's another way, for sure. Open communication about things. What would be some of those behaviors that you speak of that show like that? Likelihood to Acton. Oh, you secrets. It's one of the I, one of the foundational ones.
I'll just ask. I ask guys when they come in. So many secrets. and the first week they'll go maybe, but they don't know why. What I'm really asking them. And then I tell them what I'm asking them and I'm like, yeah. The more secrets we have, the more we have to act out so that nobody, it's just that it breathes anxiety, which again, that's why am I acting out because I'm actually getting more and more anxious cuz I'm worried that I'm gonna get caught And So for sure boundaries is another one.
So here's an example of the boundary, if I use it in the terms of alcohol. So I had a friend of mine that was a very good friend of mine, crazy alcoholic. And I would say to him you're welcome to come over. I just don't want you to bring any alcohol. But come over. So the first few times he came over, it was great, and then a couple times I would get texts on my way home to say I had a really crappy day.
Hope you don't mind. I brought a bottle of wine, so by the time I get to my house, it's half drunk. And so there's no point in really having that conversation at that moment. At least that's what I felt because of the kind of person he was when he was drinking. So I would leave it and I wouldn't say anything.
And so then the next day I'd go, okay, I'm gonna call him up and say, listen, I had a line. You cross the line. And I never would, and I don't know why. So the thing with boundaries is we both have to hold the line. I ne I'm expecting him to hold the line. And when I finally did confront him about it, he said I didn't think cared anymore cause you didn't say anything.
So boundaries are a big deal. And I'll say to each of the partners, don't e don't even come up with one if you're not gonna follow it through. Don't cuz it's just a waste of You get all worked up over it and then you don't follow through. So we both have to hold the line on that, and that builds trust, right?
So accountability boundaries, both holding those boundaries, holding them accountable, holding them like to those boundaries. . Yeah. And there's another one, and mostly it comes from Brene Brown's book on braving. The gee for braving would be for generosity. So I'm going to assume the, I'm going to assume the very best in you.
I'm not gonna assume the worst, so I'm not gonna go I'm not gonna check your phone, I'm not gonna check your bank accounts of those. I'm going to assume the very best in you because if I'm al always sneaking around, , check it up on you. That doesn't build trust. It's one of those. So on one side of the pendulum is the addiction.
On the other side is me trying to control the addict equally as dysfunctional. Truly. Again, this looks better than that to society, but that's part of the thing we have to both. I'm reacting poorly to you acting out, and so then I'm becoming my own crazy person over here. . Yeah, no, for sure. I know Bre Brown's braving acronym because it does give a lot of tangible things of how to build trust and it's true, we have to think the best of someone.
If we immediately judge someone with a negative perception, we're not giving the opportunity for them to be their full, authentic self or see the best in them. We're immediately casting them aside and not giving an opportunity to trust that they have something great to offer. Yeah. And. Yeah, that I highly recommend that.
And there's also another one men, women and men, women in shame. What Oh, men, women in Worthiness It. And it's only a available online as a ebook. But as far as how men and women act out in shame, it's powerful book. Okay. Very interesting. So where are you at currently in your. I am co-owner with Sarah Combs at Be Proactive Counseling here in Colonna.
We see people in person and online. During covid I did almost all my stuff online. I do E M D R, so I do that with a lot of the sexual trauma stuff. I prefer to do that in person, but that doesn't always happen as I've got clients actually in Alberta. I did a stint in none of it, so I've got some people up there.
And so in terms of our discussions around sexual addiction and sexual trauma what are we missing so far? What would be on a good topic to bring up? I don't think we've talked about the hope of it. There's actually, if you're willing to, I say face your buffalo. So my ki my kids are First Nations and their grandma would tell me a story that when they were.
On the prairies hundreds of years ago for Buffalo, they would circle the buffalo and try to outrun the buffalo. And depending what they were using to shoot the buffalo to live, to eat, you actually had to turn and face into the buffalo. And so she would say, you need to face your buffalo today. And I think a huge part of sexual recovery is facing the buffalo.
and it doesn't matter which side of it on if you were molested as a child or as an adult or if you're acting out as an addict sexually. Either way, I think you have to turn and face it at some point, and I'm living proof for sure that you can get through this side of the being molested. I am for sure living proof of that and I will tell that to my clients.
I'll say I know this seems daunting and completely overwhelm me, but I'm living proof that you can get through the other side of it and and for the addict for them to go. Is there anybody that you know of that's made it through the other side of this and to be able to say yes, for sure there is hope where it doesn't feel like they're hopeful.
Most of them, they know they're gonna lose everything. So that's a hard line. Different addictions can take your life. They usually always take part of your family with them. That's definitely a thing. And I guess, you know what, one more thing is I, lately, I would tell you that the number of sex addicts that are under the age of 16, Who have gotten themselves messed up in some things that they probably shouldn't have because it's all at the end of their phone.
It's scary for the younger people because they, that's how they grew up. Anything's available at the end of the phone and . Yeah. Tricky. It becomes so much more accessible. Yep. And so my warning to parents would be like, whatever you think about porn or don't think about porn, it certainly is a gateway drug to things that are crazy and in the sexual realm.
And so when I've had discussions with kids who thought, He thought, what one of my clients thought that people that he watched in porn do they love each other? Aren't they married? And do we have to say to him actually probably not. And probably they're getting paid in the form of crazy things.
The look at his face was mortifying. And so to be able to see They're not old enough to make those kind of choices. They get sucked in really too quickly and they don't really have any way of it. The part of the brain that figures that all out isn't even there yet. So let's just eliminate that for the moment, okay?
Make a decision better. So I would, if I had a little warning, I'd say that parents, do you know what your kids are looking at?
because that's, it starts from, and it starts like sneaking behavior of course. So when you learn that as a kid, there's a little bit of adrenaline that goes with that. Okay. So sticked to that as well. And yeah. . Interesting. I'd love for you to take a moment if we're gonna do this at the beginning, but I'd love for you to introduce yourself and for your professional titles as well.
Oh, . Hi, I'm Barb Gladue. I I'm one of the co-owners to be proactive counseling here in Colonna. I've been a therapist for probably 23 years, and a music therapist I was before that have had the privilege of walking beside. Some incredible people and courageous people that have had to face their buffalo over and over again and have stood valiantly in the face of danger.
So I'm super grateful for that. I've had a chance to work in a lot in Cologna here. I was in Colonna and then Fort Nelson, and then, and then back into Cologna and up in none of it for a time, and then back here in Cologna. So pretty grateful for that kind of variety. Yeah. I appreciate you so much taking the time to join us today and sharing all of your knowledge around these different topics.
So thank you so much. Thank you. Have a great day. Yeah, you too.