Addiction expert weighs in on Mayor Bob Filner's therapy plan

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, 70, announced Friday that he will enter a “behavioral counseling clinic” on Aug. 5 to deal with issues relating to the multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. Although details of his treatment plan are scarce, he said he plans to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy, then return to work Aug. 19.

We spoke with addiction expert Adi Jaffe about what Filner may be facing and how treatment might help him. The executive director of Alternatives Addiction Treatment in Beverly Hills, Jaffe runs an intensive outpatient therapy program for people suffering from substance-abuse addiction and process addiction, which includes addiction to sex, food and gambling. He also teaches at Cal State Long Beach. His comments have been edited for clarity.

Question: Based on what has been reported about this case, what kind of therapy might be recommended for Filner?

Answer: It seemed like he made very inappropriate, forward approaches to specific people he was working with. A lot of times that might just get managed with simple psychotherapy. A relatively light form of intervention may be enough: going to therapy, figuring out why these unwanted advances seemed appropriate to the person, what sort of issues might be playing out — pretty simple, run-of-the-mill self-discovery psychotherapy.

Q: Could this be a case of sexual addiction?

A: Just because somebody is making inappropriate advances, it does not necessarily mean that sexual addiction per se is the situation.

Q: What kind of behavioral therapy do you think he might get?

A: Although I’m not privy to any of the individual details of what’s going on, my sense is that he is probably submitting to an intensive therapy in a facility that specializes in sexual issues. I won’t even say sexual addiction, but sexual issues.

Q: What’s an example of the kind of treatment he will receive?

A: Especially around sex issues, some of the things that come up relatively frequently are early trauma,  especially sexual trauma, or physical abuse. Aside from that, a lot of this has to do with stereotypical psychotherapy, just a very intensive level of it.

One other important piece is that almost always sexual disorders have to do with intimacy disorders — discomfort with intimacy, detachment from intimacy and things of that nature. So a lot of the work focuses on the source for that and trying to come up with a treatment plan that will help restore that ability to connect with others in an intimate way.

Q: Realistically, could two weeks have much benefit?

A: That’s a really good question. Two weeks are a good opportunity to delve into what exactly is going on and will give him an opportunity to work directly with specialists. A client spends essentially the entire day getting treatment. Those two weeks are a really good way to build a deep understanding of what’s happening, why these issues keep coming up, and develop a longer-term treatment plan.

Q: Filner said he’d get right back to work after his treatment ends. Is that a good idea?

A: Our clients do their intensive week, and then they do go back to work, but they continue receiving treatment. Just because he’s going back to work doesn’t mean he’ll stop receiving treatment at that point. It just means the level of intensity of treatment will go down.

Return to Science Now.

Follow on Twitter: @BradBalukjian

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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