School of Behavioral Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)
John C. Thomas
unsuspecting wives, sexually addicted spouses, out-of-control behavior, MPTM, intimate betrayal trauma, counseling messages
Dillenbeck, Johanna, "Seeking Help for Intimate Betrayal Trauma: The Lived Experience of Unsuspecting Wives Receiving Counseling Messages from Mental Health Professionals after Discovering Their Sexually Addicted Spouse's Out-of-Control Behavior" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4405.
After unsuspecting wives (UWs) discover their sexually addicted spouse’s (SAS’s) out-of-control behavior (OCB) outside of their committed relationship, they may seek support from mental health professionals. Depending on a mental health professional’s theoretical framework for treating sexual addiction (SA) and partner betrayal, women may receive messages based on a family systems approach for addiction counseling or from a trauma model that prioritizes the client’s need for safety, stabilization, and grief work, with the goal of reconnecting the UW to a redefined sense of reality. Components of trauma work along with validation of an UW’s experience offers UWs the safety to cope with the nature of an intimate betrayal trauma (IBT) and experience growth as part of the process. This transcendental phenomenological study explored the experience of UWs who sought counseling after discovering their SAS’s OCB, and how messages they received from their mental health professionals impacted their recovery. Semi-structured interviews were used for data collection, and data were analyzed and coded based on conceptualizations from the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model (MPTM), transcendental phenomenological approach required the researcher to suspend bias and work intentionally to honor participants' narratives with objectivity and curiosity. Phenomenological data analysis revealed three themes and eight subthemes. A subsequent discussion included an expansion of the literature, its application in practice, implications, recommendations for actions, and recommendations for further study.