Sexual Health in Recovery (SHiR)

Recovery Support Services Designed with Respect to Sex and Relationships

Sex and substance use often intersect, sometimes by coincidence and sometimes on purpose. At least initially, alcohol and certain drugs can seem to make sex and intimacy more pleasurable by removing inhibitions, boosting confidence, increasing stamina and performance. It is no wonder that “partying and playing” (PnP) is embraced as a kind of subculture especially among gay and bi men. Because it works (at first).

Combining sex and substances can be so pleasurable that you may find yourself devoting more and more time and energy pursuing it, sometimes at the expense of work, relationships, finances, health and freedom. For others, alcohol and/or drug use interferes with experiencing sexual pleasure and intimacy, or using has become a way of coping with issues related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression. As these unwanted consequences rack up, substance use or sex life (or both) may start to feel “out of control.”  

When it comes to seeking help and support, LGBTQ+ folk often feel that we have to separate who we are from what we do, and try to address our substance use as separate from our sexuality and identity due to stigma and judgement. Very often this path leads to frustration, imbalance and recurrence of use. 

This is why the Montrose Center created the Sexual Health in Recovery (SHiR) program. SHiR is a combination of outpatient treatment and support services designed to help you reach your personal life and recovery goals, with special emphasis toward balancing pleasure and safety with respect to sex and relationships. The Montrose Center has been providing quality substance use disorder (SUD) counseling and treatment dedicated to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities and persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) for over 40 years.  

What is Sexual Health? 

Sexual health is the “a process of balancing of pleasure and safety, while ensuring sexual rights;” and is guided by other principles such as consent, nonexploitation, honesty, shared values, and protection from STIs, HIV and unwanted pregnancy. Sexual health treatment encompasses concerns about sex/drug-linked or “out of control” sexual behavior in the context of other goals, but is not based on a sex addiction model.

What is Recovery? 

The Montrose Center agrees that recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential” as defined by the Substance Use and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). For some, recovery may mean sustained abstinence from substances. For others, it may mean reducing or balancing use of substances. We believe that sexual health is an important component of wellness.

What services are offered? 

  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – State-licensed group and individual counseling (10 hours per week), culturally-appropriate curriculum emphasizing development of Sexual Health In Recovery principles and skills; emphasis on Cognitive and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills including mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness; psycho-education on the disease and recovery processes; relapse prevention tools and planning; family of choice participation. 
  • Supportive Outpatient Program (SOP) – State-licensed group and individual counseling (3 hours per week) to reinforce SHiR, DBT, and other skills as a means of supporting clients in building and sustaining recovery.   
  • Individual Therapy – For clients who are not ready for or in need of IOP or SOP, counseling sessions are offered with licensed therapists/counselors who specialize in the treatment of SUD and have been trained to deliver SHiR intervention on an individual basis. 
  • Case Management – Initial coordination of detox, pharmacotherapy, residential care and housing stabilization; ongoing linkage with community resources and assistance for housing, medical, transportation, nutrition, legal and other basic needs. 
  • Psychiatry – On-site initial consultation and treatment/stabilization, with follow-up and transfer/referral to ongoing care. 
  • Aftercare – Discharge planning that incorporates ongoing individual, group and family counseling, recovery coaching, and linkage with community supports; opportunities to participate in SHiR alumni social and educational activities. 
  • Family Support Group – A new open weekly support group for partners, spouses, and family members of individuals who are struggling with addiction and/or attempting to recover.  
  • Recovery Coaching – Peer support with an emphasis on harm reduction, recovery establishment/maintenance, life goals, and reinforcing clients’ natural strengths. 
  • Targeted Outreach – Indigenous leader outreach targeting MSM and trans POC at high risk due to sex-drug linked behavior.