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  • Writer's pictureDagmara Svetcov LMFT,PSOT

Handbook of the Clinical Treatment of Infidelity

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Editors: Fred P. Piercy, Ph.D., Katherine M. Hertlein, Ph.D.,  and Joseph L. Wetchler, Ph.D.

Infidelity can take many forms. The focus on this book, according to its editors, is to help people survive infidelity.

Doctors Piercy, Hertlein and Wetchler brought together perspectives of a remarkable group of specialists speaking from various empirical and theoretical approaches on issues central to infidelity and identifying successful clinical strategies for addressing infidelity in the context of couples’ therapy.

The Handbook’s content is divided into five parts. First, the editors provide a critical overview of theory, research, and treatment related to infidelity. Issues such as the types of infidelity and effects on couples are discussed. They examine the role of the Internet in infidelity and review infidelity in the context of alternative relationships (i.e., open marriages swingers and polyamorous relationships). They provide brief overview of commonly applied approaches in infidelity treatment.

In Handbook’s Clinical Models’ part, the reader will become familiar with the work of infidelity experts; Susan M. Johnson, the co-developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Johnson discusses infidelity through the lens of attachment theory. She argues that EFT helps partners acknowledge and express pain, remorse, and repair their bond. David Moultrup takes a Bowenian approach to infidelity and focuses on the underlying dynamics of the emotional system. Brian Case emphasizes the significance of apology and forgiveness in the healing process. Adrian Blow describes how to help couples directly address their pain and talks about the challenges of the healing process. Emily Brown discusses the concept of the Split Self Affair – its origins, characteristics, and impact on partners, and detailed information for therapists on how to work with these couples. Don-David Lusterman offers suggestions on helping individuals who have suppressed or denied traumatic stress reactions to their partner’s affair. Lastly, Franks Stalfa and Catherine Hastings discuss the treatment of “accusatory suffering” – a hurt partner’s obsessive holding onto and retaliating for an affair long after it has ended, and despite the unfaithful partner’s numerous apologies and efforts at restitution

Internet Infidelity part of Handbook features two papers by Monica T. Whitty and Adrian N. Carr and Joan D. Atwood. Joan Atwood provides an overview of Internet infidelity – factors contributing to one’s involvement Internet infidelity, and treatment considerations. And Whitty and Carr discuss how object relations theory to explain how individuals might rationalize their Internet infidelity.

In the Special Issues part, Frank Pittman and Tina Pittman Wagers outline and dispel cultural myths about affairs. Michael Bettinger presents gay male polyamory as an alternative to the heterosexual model of exclusivity in romantic relationships. And Scott Johnson discusses myths about affairs, encouraging the reader to think systematically about affairs and to view the dynamics of infidelity as more complex and nuanced.

The last part of Handbook is devoted to research. Tim Nelson, Fred Piercy, and Doug Sprenkle report on the results of a study of the critical issues, interventions, and gender differences in the treatment of Internet infidelity. And Katherine Hertlein and Gary Skaggs report on the results of a study that looked at the correlation between one’s differentiation and their involvement in affairs.

Handbook is an important reading offering for clinicians who support couples struggling with this difficult, yet, a common presenting issue.

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