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With the rise of the internet and smart devices, pornography has become ubiquitous. One study found that in a sample of 1392 adults, 91.5% of men and 60.2% of women reported using pornography in the last month (Solano, 2020). This is concerning, as pornography use is associated with less sexual communication (Wright et al., 2019), reduced feelings of intimacy (Bergner and Bridges, 2002), and lower levels of commitment and greater risk of infidelity (Lambert et al, 2012). One might wonder how to escape and heal from pornography and its effects.
There are several programs and approaches currently available to address pornography use, although many are still in their infancy. One of these suggested approaches is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which focuses on accepting and processing difficult emotions instead of suppressing them. It also involves mindfulness, or being aware of what one is experiencing in the present moment (Psychology Today). This is believed to be beneficial in eliminating pornography use as many users struggle more with the thoughts and feelings surrounding pornography use than with the content itself. Crosby and Twohig (2016) conducted a study to examine the effectiveness of this approach. They recruited men who were experiencing disruptions in their lives because of their pornography use and had been unable to quit, even after seeking professional help. The men in the test group underwent 12 sessions of ACT, where they were taught strategies of how to address urges and encouraged to use these tactics in their day-today lives. They also were instructed to reduce their pornography use and increase activities that would improve their well-being. The participants showed a 93% decrease in pornography use from before their sessions to after the last session. Their pornography use decreased a further 86% between the posttreatment to following up 3 months later.
Another program that has been created and tested through research is Candeo, which is an online self-guided program that utilizes cognitive-behavioral approaches. Similarly to ACT, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on how thoughts and emotions influence one’s behaviors. The program also offers an online coach to provide support and reduce guilt and shame around one’s pornography use. In a study conducted by Hardy et al (2010), 138 individuals, almost exclusively male, were asked about the effects that Candeo had on their lives. They reported that Candeo was more effective than other methods of change they had sought, including talking to ecclesiastical leaders, engaging in 12-step programs, or individual or group therapy. They also reported that they had positive psychological change during their time using Candeo. This included feeling more connection with other people, greater control over their behavior, and feeling forgiven for their behavior. The participants were able to significantly change the amount of pornography and masturbation they engaged in, which was partially influenced by how much their psychological health improved.
These are just a couple of the programs that have been created to help individuals and couples heal from pornography use. Although the above programs were able to provide relief to the sample tested, everyone has different needs and paths to recovery. Therefore, it is important to find what works best for you or your loved one. Begin your journey of recovery today at: https://www.citizensfordecency.org/recovery
Bergner, R. M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The Significance of Heavy Pornography Involvement for Romantic Partners: Research and Clinical Implications. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28(3), 193–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/009262302760328235
Crosby, J. M., & Twohig, M. P. (2016). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Problematic Internet Pornography Use: A Randomized Trial. Behavior Therapy, 47(3), 355–366. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2016.02.001
Hardy, S. A., Ruchty, J., Hull, T. D., & Hyde, R. (2010). A preliminary study of an online psychoeducational program for hypersexuality. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 17(4), 247-269–269. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2010.533999
Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A love that doesn't last: Pornography consumption and weakened commitment to one's romantic partner. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410–438. https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410
Psychology Today (2022). Acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/acceptance-and-commitment-therapy
Solano, I., Eaton, N. R., & O, L. K. D. (2020). Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. Journal of Sex Research, 57(1), 92-103–103. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488
Wright, P. J., Sun, C., Steffen, N. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2019). Associative pathways between pornography consumption and reduced sexual satisfaction. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 34(4), 422–439. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2017.1323076