As gross as it is to hear your mom talk about Tiger Woods going to sex addiction treatment, it represents a hot topic that most of the nation has talked about over the past month. From the first rumors of Tiger’s unfaithfulness until today’s public confession, his sexual indiscretions have been spread across the airwaves and blogs like wildfire. The most relevant psychology topic from this scandal is Tiger’s subsequent attendance to a sex rehab facility in Mississippi. America is often considered a celebrity obsessed society in which we watch and follow celebrities every move. The sheer number and popularity of celebrity focused blogs, tv shows, and tabloids would certainly support that idea.
Maintaining patient confidentiality is a core ethical responsibility for psychologists. Unfortunately, the private and confidential nature of psychotherapy is often violated for celebrities. I certainly hope that the violation of Tiger’s confidentiality was not propagated by a psychology professional but by the ever watchful eye of paparazzi. While the public knowledge of Tiger’s engagement in sexual addiction treatment may be bad for Tiger, I think its great for psychotherapy. As I have listened to talking heads on tv discuss Tiger’s current predicament ad nauseum, there seems to be an overwhelming acceptance of his attendance to treatment. While this is the age of confessions (steroids, sexual indiscretions, etc.), very rarely is there any mention of engaging in therapy to change their problems. This admission from a prominent and wildly popular American athlete may do more to promote acceptance of psychotherapy than what any psychologist could do. As sad as that is to say, this dynamic appears to be true of American culture. In my opinion, anything that promotes the use and acceptability of psychotherapy is a good thing.
While we could debate the merits of a sexual addiction diagnosis (not currently listed in DSM-IV-TR), the criteria would likely be subsumed under Sexual Disorder NOS. There are peer-reviewed articles available that can further describe the diagnostic conceptualization of sexual addiction (Classifying Hypersexual Disorders….Stein, 2008).
It is also important to mention that proposed revisions to DSM-5 include a Hypersexual Disorder diagnosis. If Tiger truly wants his life to be different and to change his sexual behaviors, I hope that he engages sincerely and whole-heartedly in the therapeutic process. I wish Tiger the best of luck in coping with and changing his harmful behavior. I also wish his family great strength and courage during this time as they face an extremely difficult road ahead in coping with Tiger’s indiscretions.