Harvey Weinstein is reportedly going to rehab for sex addiction — here's what that means

Harvey Weinstein is reportedly heading to rehab for sex addiction, after accusations of rape and sexual harassment. Here's what rehab can do.

  • Harvey Weinstein is reportedly going to rehab for sex addiction.
  • At this point, it's not clear whether Weinstein is a diagnosed sex addict.
  • Business Insider spoke to an expert on intimacy and sexual disorders to find out what rehab for sex addiction might involve.
  • A person in a situation like Weinstein's would likely be in residential treatment for at least six months and might never be able to return to the entertainment industry.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is reportedly going to a rehab center in Europe, to be treated for sex addiction, according to TMZ.

Last week, The New York Times uncovered years of sexual-harassment allegations against Weinstein; The New Yorker followed up with an article in which three women accused Weinstein of raping them.

As Business Insider's Erin Brodwin reported, right now it's unclear whether Weinstein is a diagnosed sex addict, and the term "sex addict" may not apply in this situation.


Robert Weiss, a clinical expert in intimacy and sexual disorders and the author of multiple books on the topic, told Business Insider he considers Weinstein's behavior a form of sexual offending because it allegedly happened without consent. The cause of his behavior might be sex addiction — but importantly, not all sex addiction results in sexual offending.

Weiss founded the Sexual Recovery Institute and is the senior vice president of clinical development at Elements Behavioral Health, a treatment center for sexual addiction and sexual compulsivity. He said the center would take someone like Weinstein for treatment.

Weiss emphasized that he's never met or evaluated Weinstein — legally, he wouldn't be able to say if he had — but surmised that there would be a few distinct components to treatment in for someone in Weinstein's situation.

First, Weiss said, the therapist would focus on stabilizing the patient, who's coming in during a moment of crisis. Weiss said that while everyone else is looking at Weinstein with disgust, Weiss is "looking at someone on TV who just got hit by a truck."

Since The New York Times report was published, Weinstein has lost his wife, the company he founded, and his global reputation. "I worry about people like that killing themselves," Weiss said.


The stabilization process might take a week, after which the therapist would "invite [the patient] into the process." This is the wake-up call — the part in which the patient starts to see his behavior for what it really is.

"They [the patient] don't see how obvious it is to us," Weiss said, because the patient is typically in some sort of denial. Certain exercises — like bringing in victim statements or role-playing — might help to open the patient's eyes to the harm they've caused.

At this point, Weiss said, "they fall apart, generally, and are a big mess because then they hate themselves." The therapist's role is to figure out how the patient ended up there, often by digging up past trauma — for example, if they themselves were abused or raped as a child.

The residential piece of the treatment process (in which the patient lives in a treatment center) might take around six months, Weiss said. After that, he added, "this is not somebody who should return to this industry for a very long time" — if ever.

Weiss is hopeful that people with sex addiction, and people who have committed sexual offenses, can be helped through treatment. It depends largely on the patient's level of psychopathy, he said — if the person is a sociopath and can feel neither empathy nor remorse, they might not be helped through treatment, and might eventually wind up in prison.


Not every therapist agrees that a sex addict is able to be helped. Joseph Burgo, a clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote in an email to Business Insider:

"In my experience, most rehab facilities (including those for drugs and other types of addictions) have a low success rate and there's a high incidence of relapse. For celebrity 'sex addicts' like Weinstein, going into a rehab is usually part of damage control and a public relations makeover after they have been exposed.

"It's a kind of public mea culpa with little true remorse or genuine acceptance of an ongoing problem, and the rehab facilities resemble country clubs or spa retreats. Success rates are low, especially when the celebrity only wants to control his image, rather than feeling shame about his psychological struggles."

Generally, Weiss said, a sign that a patient is progressing is when they realize they can't live the same lifestyle anymore.

The litmus test Weiss uses is asking the patient whether they think they'll ever commit the same transgressions. If they say "never," Weiss knows they're still in trouble. If they say something like, "I have to watch myself. I can't risk being in those situations," he knows they're in a better place.


Part of treatment, Weiss said, is "realizing they have lifelong intimacy, relationship, or sexual problems."


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