The Use of the Polygraph in Sex Addiction Recovery

At Transformed Hearts, we believe in full disclosure, because secrets in any addiction recovery keep you sick and give the addiction power.

Among my colleagues, the use of a polygraph can be a controversial topic.

However, for the women who come to our office, it is very black and white and provides the truth quickly and accurately.

No more lies.

I do not claim to be an expert.

I only write from my experience working with polygraph examiners.

It is controversial for a few reasons.

First, some clinicians believe the spouse should not know all the information in regard to how the sex addict has acted out.

Now, I agree that specific gory details are not wise to be shared with a spouse.

However, I do believe it is wise to have full disclosure in regard to the number of times a sex addict has acted out with porn, masturbation or sex outside of marriage.

In my opinion, names of people, frequency and most recent relapses are wise to be disclosed to rebuild trust and to determine health risks.

I have yet to see a woman that I have worked with who cannot handle the information she longs to know.

Now, most women, if not all women, want to know the truth.

In fact, women cannot survive in a dishonest relationship.

Lying can kill a woman, and I have had several women who I believe have died inside from his continued lies and a broken heart.

We believe taking a polygraph is a loving thing a sex addict can do for their partner.

It helps validate their partner in what she has known to be true.

It will also put to rest the thoughts and fantasies she might have that are not true.

A polygraph is a great way to get rid of years, and sometimes decades, of secrets so that the couple can now begin to heal.

Second, some clinicians and clients argue polygraph results will have a false positive; meaning they are telling the truth, but the polygraph indicates it’s a lie.

In my experience, I have never seen this occur.

I am not saying it never occurs, but it is extremely rare.

Third, some clinicians do not believe in involving the spouse in his recovery.

In my experience, if anything, a mistake is made in believing recovery is all about the sex addict.

Meanwhile, weeks, years or even decades go by, and the partner has been given no support or validation in her pain, as full disclosure has never occurred.

In my opinion, this is foolish.

At Transformed Hearts, we want the sex addict and the partner to be involved and supported from the very beginning, as we have found this provides the best results.

Finally, some argue that anyone can “beat” the polygraph, as you can research countermeasures online.

While it is true you can research countermeasures, polygraph examiners have told me the only way to beat the polygraph is by practicing with a polygraph.

Very few have the time or resources to do such.

Also, a person can pass the polygraph if they believe a lie to be true; however, this is also extremely rare.

I have only had two clients who have been able to do this.

Typically, this occurs because the person does not care, or they have issues of psychopathy.

However, this can generally be detected if the person “flat lines” the exam – meaning their physiological response is the same to an easy question (i.e., “Is your name Bob?”), as well as to a relevant or significant question. (i.e., “Have you had any sex acts outside of your marriage?”)

If the polygraph examiner indicates he is flat lining the test, I recommend a Psychological Evaluation by a Psychologist who can administer a Millon or MMPI-2 to help determine what specific personality disorder(s) are present, such as Narcissism, Borderline, Schizoid or Anti-Social Personality disorders.

Finding a Polygraph Examiner

Typically, there are two types of polygraphs.

The most popular is a “criminal” or forensic polygraph.

We use a “therapeutic” polygraph.

We do not allow incriminating questions around sexual abuse or minors, as those clients are referred out; and typically, the legal system is already involved.

The traditional analog polygraphs with “needles” have been upgraded to digital polygraphs now.

State of the art rental polygraph equipment is coming soon, which will be even better.

I tell my clients a polygraph examiner is working for you.

Fees range from $300-1500, depending on where you live.

A polygraph can take 1 to 4 hours, depending on the experience of the polygraph examiner and type of polygraph being performed.

The number of questions allowed will range from 3 to 8 questions.

It can be difficult to find a polygraph examiner; however, you can contact your local court house, police department, yellow pages, or do a search online.

You will want to find someone with certifications and membership to an accredited group or association.

We also recommend when sex addiction recovery is an issue that a therapist be involved as part of the process to help the couple navigate the polygraph.

The Polygraph Cannot Measure Feelings, Fantasies or the Future

Polygraph exams cannot measure feelings.

Many partners want to know if their partner loves them.

The polygraph does not measure love.

What happens is that, at the moment while taking the polygraph, most will pass this question.

However, we teach individuals to “believe behavior”.

Do not believe what your partner says.

Because an hour after the polygraph, they may exhibit unloving behaviors even though they just passed a polygraph that indicated they loved their partner.

The polygraph cannot measure fantasies or thoughts.

Once in recovery, many women want to know if their partner is thinking about or fantasizing about other women; however, this is not a good polygraph question, as it is impossible to measure this behavior.

Finally, many women want a guarantee that their partner will never act out again or plan on grooming other women in the future.

Unfortunately, the polygraph cannot predict the future with do-you-intend-to questions.

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Cory Schortzman, Executive Director

Cory Schortzman, Executive Director

Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.

Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.

Kerry’s books include: Ashes to Beauty the Book and Ashes to Beauty the Workbook

Co-authored books include: 101 Blogs to Transform your Life, Volume I and Offended Deceived Addicted

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One Comment

  1. […] lives on a regular basis. One of the best forms of accountability for a sex addict is to take a polygraph test on a regular basis. Depending on the severity of the addiction, most of my clients take a polygraph […]

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