Twelve steps to fidelity: Jesse James and Tiger Woods have entered treatment for sex addiction — what’s it all about?

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Jesse James on Wednesday became the latest in a string of high-profile celebrities to enter rehab for a pathological inability to remain faithful to his wife. The Daily Caller engaged in some hard-hitting journalism to figure what the ado about sex addiction therapy is all about.

Let’s be clear — it’s not about sex.

“Sexual behavior is a symptom. It’s about the hunt, the chase — it’s about the process of losing yourself in the pursuit of the behavior. It’s not about the orgasm,” said Rob Weiss, director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Southern California.

It turns out it really is a legitimate disorder — one from which Tiger Woods and David Duchovny have suffered — but therapy is not just for the rich and famous who need reputation repair. The public seems to think celebrities sign up to fix their image, and sex therapists say there’s no better reason to face your demons.

“Most of the people who come into treatment come in because they’ve experienced serious consequences. It’s amusing to me that they’re saying these people are going into treatment only to cover their reputations and I say, ‘Why not?’ That’s a great reason,” Weiss said.

“There’s no guy who comes in just because he wants to be a better person. They come in when they’re in crisis like any addict who wants help — it’s usually because their wives caught them.” Weiss has treated more than 1,000 sexually addicted males since 1991. “No one comes in and says … this has nothing to do with my wife.”

Weiss says 85 percent of his male clients are heterosexual.

“The bottom line is that 7 out of 10 are in their mid-30s, have some kids, been married eight or nine years and their wives found out they have secret lives — either porn or prostitutes or multiple affairs. And she usually found out over a period of time,” Weiss continues.  “Your wife don’t come after you with a golf club because you lied to her once — it’s the 19th time and she’s fed up and afraid because there are children and health issues. That’s when 75 percent of the guys come in.”

About 10 percent of sex addicts seeking treatment are women, and Weiss explained that while women come in with all the symptoms of sexual addiction, they don’t identify themselves as addicts. “Where men will be on porn sites women will be in chat rooms — they’re often thinking about it more relationally. Even though she’ll go out and have casual sex, she will still think about it in terms of, ‘Oh, he was a nice guy’ — she’ll still believe her problem is picking the wrong guys.”

The common thread that defines all sex addicts is compulsion.

“We define sex addiction as having to do with things like loss of control — the person has said they’re not going to do it anymore and they do it anyway. We also define it in terms of negative consequences — if they’ve been caught but keep going back. The third criteria is preoccupation — someone who’s always thinking about where can I get it, hanging out in places to meet girls, where they can readily hit on people and so on.”

Here’s an online test to see if your sexual behavior qualifies you for treatment.

The Sexual Recovery Institute treats 130 men a week – and it all starts the same way: confronting the denial and distortions they’ve lived by. Patients have to admit the reality of what they’re doing.

“Guys who think they were great fathers but bad husbands — we have to tell them they can’t be a bad husband and good father because how you treat your wife affects your children — we have to break down those distortions and they have to grieve.”

Patients often have to move past the idea that they’ve just made one little mistake, and look at the patterns affecting their lives. They’re also usually encouraged to remain celibate while undergoing treatment. Weiss said there are standards stages patients go through, but that outpatient treatment can take up to two years, while inpatient stays are 45-60 days, with a year of outpatient follow-up.

It’s been widely reported that during rehab Tiger Woods had to undergo a “disclosure day,” where the cheater reveals all the details of his affairs to his betrayed wife. But Weiss said full disclosure can be a sticky subject. “Secrecy is problematic for relationship, and we believes spouses have a right to know. But in general, we have to make sure the wife is taken care of, has a support group around her and so on. Disclosure is only something we do if the couple is going to end up together, there’s no point in having those secrets end up in a lawyers office.”

Jesse James has checked himself into the Sierra Tucson center which is a multiple addiction center that treats sex addiction along with a number of other problems. The Gentle Path program at Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where Woods checked in, is exclusively for sex addiction.

“You can’t call someone a sex addict just because they went to Sierra Tucson, there is a track there for that but they treat lots of addiction. You can say someone is a sex addict if they went to Gentle Path.”

Even though VH1 devoted an entire show to celebrity sex rehab, it’s not a problem exclusive to the rich and powerful.

“People have problems at every class and every race. Part of the reason that wealthier people get into treatment is they’re more empowered. If you’re a poor woman and you’ve having sex with 12 guys, you might need that guy around to pay rent.”

There have been many reports of what a day in the life of sex rehab looks like, but intensity and individual attention vary from program to program. Perhaps the most important step for keeping families together is relapse prevention. Weiss explains that most men will have to examine painful experiences in their past — usually some sort of neglect or abuse, to truly heal. Psychology Today did an in-depth examination of what could be afflicting Woods.

“We have to come up with a life plan as to how they’re going to go out there and not do that. Whether it be joining a gym or other things we can do to meet that need.” Helping patients fill their emotional needs without running to strangers for sex is what sex rehab is all about.

Rob Weiss will appear on Larry King tonight to talk about Jesse James and sex addiction.

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