Yesterday I was sent a few questions from a grad student in a local counseling program, she wanted to interview me for a project about why people choose therapy as a career. One of the questions was simply “why did you want to be a therapist?” I only had a few minutes to try and answer her questions so I made it brief, that I had always been interested in people, what makes them tick, and more specifically I felt a strong “calling” to become a therapist and work with men. I wanted to try and help men become better husbands and fathers. For as long as I could remember I wanted to be a husband, and a father, it was ingrained in me, and, quite frankly, I enjoyed doing both (husbanding and fathering).
I then shared a tiny bit more about sitting on that “calling” for a couple of years, probably trying to ignore it and see if it would eventually go away, while enjoying a fairly successful software career that paid pretty well and sent me all over the world for various tradeshows and meetings. But I wasn’t even remotely satisfied, or fulfilled, selling software. I wasn’t passionate about it. In my mind I was just selling a “widget” and meanwhile I kept feeling this calling toward therapy.
So I decided to go back to school and get my masters in counseling. I was in my early 30’s (if you’re a visual learner, like me, and you’re picturing these events in your mind, I was already bald, that happened a decade earlier, thankfully after I had already convinced my wife to marry me!) I decided that another two years would pass and I would either have my masters, or I wouldn’t, so I might as well get it. I look back on those two years with sincere feelings of gratitude, as I felt like I truly was lifted up and supported by God. I was still working full time, I had four small children, I was active in my church, and I was just discovering my passion for ultra running (distances of over 26 miles). I had always tried to maintain a “zero impact” policy to my family for my running, I had started getting up around 3:30 AM to run before anyone else got up, and I decided to embrace a similar policy for school, I would do my school work after the kids went to bed (I was in a program where I attended class one evening for 4 hours, and there were A LOT of papers and projects in between). This was when I started getting by on very little sleep, yet I was able to excel in grad school (I loved the material, I graduated with a 3.92 and I’m still bummed about my A-, I think the teacher was trying to prove some point, yeah, I should let that one go) and be present and available for my wife and children. Again, I felt the hand of God in allowing me to accomplish all that I needed to during that time.
Fast forward to the start of my therapy career, I was ready to help as many men as possible! And that’s when I realized that a lot of men, OK maybe most men, don’t typically come to therapy! I worked with some early on in couples settings and a few more when they had to see me, i.e. they had been caught doing something they shouldn’t have, or they truly were at their wits end and were finally looking for help. In hindsight that was a wonderful time where I truly learned how to help people with a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, OCD, and several others that I have now spent thousands of hours working with and build the foundation of many therapist’s practices.
During this time, almost a decade ago, I also started noticing more and more men starting to come into therapy and the request of their wives, or ecclesiastical leaders or sometimes on their own volition because they were struggling with an addiction to pornography. Pornography access was becoming easier by the day, and with that access came more and more cases. I started seeing more teenage boys, and eventually some women as well, but it was clear that the problem was getting worse, and the ramifications were still unclear. But what WAS clear was that people were reporting that they had tried and tried to break the habit, sometimes going weeks or even months without viewing pornography, only to return to it when certain life-triggers occurred. I sought more training, and continued to work with more and more men, and at that time it became crystal clear, that my “calling” to work with men was in fact coming to fruition.
Since that time I have now worked with hundreds and hundreds of men, and teenage boys, as well as some women, who have been unable to break the chains of pornography addiction and compulsive sexual behavior. The research is continuing to come in, that pornography warps sexuality, it causes people to objectify men and women, son’s and daughter’s of God, it perpetuates unhealthy sexual relationships and causes feelings of low self esteem, it leads to body shaming, struggles being with real people, I could honestly go on and on and on. I’ve had debates with people who feel that a little bit of pornography doesn’t hurt, but upon further review it’s clear that it has an incredibly negative impact even in “low doses.” I’m not trying to guilt or shame people who are stuck in the trap, because that’s not even remotely productive and actually only feeds the addiction even more! I’m trying to promote a message of hope, because I have literally seen hundreds and hundreds of people leave pornography in their past and THEN realize the true negative impact that it had on them. There is so much more to share on this topic, and in the coming weeks, months, and years, I will share more of what I see daily, in sessions, of how pornography impacts marriages, families, friendships, relationships in general, and more importantly, how one can overcome it, and become an instrument in God’s hands to help even more of His children.
I now know that the launch of The Path Back was what God had in mind when he started planting those seeds so long ago to look into this career, and more specifically what I could do to help my brothers, and sisters. I am grateful to be on the front lines of this fight, because it’s one that isn’t going away, but the more people that we can help and put this problem behind them the more people that we’ll have on higher ground to lift their brothers and sisters, and the victories will be contagious, and we will save lives along the way. And there will be a rainbow with a pot of gold and a unicorn… I realized that I was getting a little bit fired up there! There is hope for ANYONE struggling with pornography addiction, all it takes is a few steps down The Path Back to a better YOU (yeah, you know I had to throw The Path Back in there at the end, it was just sitting there, tee’d up, I had to take it!).