Section 3: A ReDirection of my life: How can I stop using CSAM?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Section 3 of the ReDirection Self-Help Program will help you to make long term sustainable change for the future. When you begin to change your behavior for the better, it is natural to encounter setbacks, but it is important that you learn how to overcome these setbacks. In this section you will learn how to move past relapse and how to ensure that you maintain your progress towards a life without CSAM. To help your ReDirection of your life, you can consider further ways to support your wellbeing, including therapy, psychotherapy, medication, and other means such as peer support groups. It can be difficult to seek help to support you stopping your harmful behavior, as you might have feelings of shame, fear or guilt. There are fully anonymous resources that you can use without fear of punishment or ostracization, with specialists who are there to help you further.

It is difficult to change habits and behavior. Habits are like paths, strengthening the more you repeat them. When you are traveling on a familiar path, you do not need to think about where you are going and why you are choosing that path. It takes you where you want to go. It may seem safe because you have traveled it so many times before. However, some paths lead us to trouble, and cause harm to ourselves and others. The path to using CSAM is one of these dangerous paths. However, change is possible. With the help of this program, you have started to make a new path, which leads you to new, better places. This section will help you stay on track on your new path. It can be difficult at times, but it is important to continue on your new path to keep strengthening it. Be patient and remember that change does not happen overnight. If you are motivated to change your life for the better and live a good life without CSAM, you need to practice and constantly work on yourself. Small steps lead to a big change.

 Overview of tasks

Section 3 includes the following tasks:

  • Task 1: What is a good and meaningful life to you?
  • Task 2: A meaningful life led by your values
    • Task 2(a) My meaningful life without CSAM
    • Task 2(b) Setting goals: ReDirection towards a meaningful life
  • Task 3: Relapse and how to move past it
    • Task 3(a) What did I learn from my relapse and how can I act differently to avoid it in the future?
    • Task 3(b) Identifying and minimizing the risk of relapse
  • Task 4: Compassion for yourself
    • Task 4(a) Compassionate letter to yourself​

Tasks

 Task 1: What is a good and meaningful life to you?

Through completing this program, you are ReDirecting yourself towards a better life. How do you want to build this new life without CSAM? How do you want to live your life? What makes life feel good and meaningful to you? Answering these questions will help you understand your long-term goals of what you want to achieve and how you want to live your life. A meaningful life is not necessarily a life in which you are happy all the time. It is normal to experience different emotions and sometimes you may feel sad, angry, lonely etc. However, if you work on creating a meaningful life for yourself, even in the tough moments you will still feel as if you are living a worthwhile life.

We often make decisions that are not the best for us in the long run. For example, using CSAM is harmful to your life as it can make it difficult to achieve things that are important to you, such as maintaining close relationships. Partaking in illegal or immoral behavior often raises feelings of shame, which drives individuals to hide this part of their life from those close to them. Feeling that you are not able to reveal your true self to the people closest to you can make relationships feel distant and “lukewarm”. Therefore, using CSAM holds you back from pursuing a meaningful life.

The contents of a meaningful life may be difficult to recognize. To figure out what is meaningful to you, start by considering your most important values.

In our survey we found that 60 % (N=1596) of the users of CSAM had never told anyone about their use of CSAM.


 Task 2: A meaningful life led by your values

According to the GLM theory, individuals are always striving to fulfil the nine primary needs. The GLM theory emphasizes that the goal to achieve balance between the nine primary needs is always appropriate. However, the method that individuals choose to achieve their goal is where they may go wrong. Choosing inappropriate methods to achieve your goals can cause harm to yourself and others.19

One of the needs that the individual strives towards is mental balance and alleviating emotional stress. An individual who is experiencing loneliness or who is constantly worried about things may have difficulty in achieving peace of mind and may try to alleviate negative emotions through inappropriate cognitive problem-solving methods, such as using CSAM. The problem with this is that the methods used to achieve the goal of inner peace of mind are unlikely to be successful in achieving this goal in the long run. Consider the ways in which a primary need is pursued, rather than just focusing on overcoming negative emotional states. If the deficit is related to the application of wrong means, the focus of rehabilitation should be on finding new ways to achieve peace of mind.20

With some individuals, intimacy deficits become evident in the way they seek intimacy exclusively through sexual encounters or using CSAM. In this strategy, the individual combines two Good Life goals: they use sex to seek sexual gratification and a connection and intimacy with another person. In addition, they may be seeking experiences of autonomy while enhancing their self-esteem.21

Difficulties in emotional regulation are associated with difficulties achieving peace of mind and inner peace. This again may lead to using sex and CSAM (masturbation, sexual fantasies, sexual acts) as coping mechanisms to regulate their negative emotional states. They have difficulty controlling their emotional impulses. If they rely exclusive on sexual acts for emotional regulation, this is an indication of a major emotional control deficit. From the GLM perspective, this is also associated with fulfilling the need for autonomy and sense of control.22

In the previous exercises you have already established which GLM-needs you are aiming to fulfil by using CSAM. In the next exercises you will be assessing why you use CSAM to fulfil your GLM-needs and what other means you could use to fulfil your needs instead of using CSAM. You will also think about the life you want to live, how can you meet your GLM-needs, and through what goals can you start building your meaningful life.


17. Harris 2016.

18. Pietikäinen, 2020

19. Ward, Yates & Willis, 2012; Ward & Brown, 2004; Barnett & Wood 2008.

20. Barnett & Wood, 2008.

21. Barnett & Wood, 2008.

22. Barnett & Wood, 2008.​

 Task 2(a): My meaningful life without CSAM

Return now to the motives and needs that are connected to your CSAM use that you have listed in Section 2 Task 3(b). Begin to think about ways in which you could reach for and achieve the same goals in legal, risk-free ways which do not cause harm to anyone. You can also use the values you listed out in Section 1 Task 3.

If previously this has been the case:

I feel lonely (relatedness), I use CSAM and loneliness decreases (inner peace), I get sexual satisfaction by watching the images (sexual wellbeing). How could you try to meet these goals and needs without CSAM?

  1. Could a reliable person close to you help?
  2. Could you benefit from learning skills to manage and accept your feelings and desires?
  3. Could you find new ways to achieve sexual wellbeing?

When you start to come up with new ways, you might discard them as stupid or impossible. Just try to write them down, without judging yourself. You can use the table below.

GLM Needs:

  1. Wellbeing
  2. Knowledge
  3. Self-efficacy
  4. Agency
  5. Relatedness
  6. Inner peace
  7. Spirituality
  8. Happiness
  9. Creativity
What do you gain from using CSAM? Which GLM-need does the use of CSAM fulfil? How can I meet these needs without using CSAM?
"I was stressed but using CSAM made me feel more relaxed." 6. Inner peace - I use CSAM to make me feel better and more calm. In what other way, other than through CSAM use, could I feel better?
"I get sexual satisfaction." 1. Sexual wellbeing - I get sexual gratification from using CSAM. In what other way, other than through CSAM use, could I achieve sexual gratification/satisfaction?
"I feel less lonely/ I don't feel lonely." 5. Relatedness
6. Inner peace
4. Agency - I don't feel lonely when I watch CSAM, so using CSAM is a way to control my emotions. I feel capable when I watch CSAM.







 Task 2(b): Setting goals: ReDirection towards a meaningful life

Many of us have attempted change our behavior in some way but have failed in doing so. For example, many people want to get healthier, but they set unrealistic goals (e.g. going to the gym every day), which often lead to failure and disappointment.

To increase your chances of success, set SMART goals for yourself, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. Having a good goal will make you more likely to achieve it.

SPECIFIC

Specify the main goal you want to achieve. Now specify the concrete steps you need to take to reach your goal. It is useful to divide the goal into smaller steps. It is especially helpful to think about the concrete actions you can take already now: today, this week, this month.

MEASURABLE

Define how you can assess reaching your goal and realizing the necessary steps. How will you know when you have reached your goal?

ATTAINABLE

Is it realistic that you will meet your goal? If your goal is to stop using CSAM straight away, this might be unrealistic for some people. A long-term plan to change your behavior over time may be more attainable.

RELEVANT

Is your goal relevant or meaningful to you and your well-being?

TIME-LIMITED

Establish a timetable for reaching each smaller goal and the bigger goal.

You can begin to rule out impossible or unsuitable measures that you wrote down in the table in the previous task. Pick out the most important or suitable means and begin to make a concrete plan on how you could make use of them.

Now set goals for yourself regarding the GLM-needs that you are aiming to fulfil through your use of CSAM. Start by setting your main goal, e.g. ‘I accept the difficult feelings I struggle with, and I share my problems with someone close to me’. After this, divide the man goal into smaller goals, and list out the things you will need to do to meet those smaller goals. It is important that in your goals you aim to go “toward something”, not “away from something”.23

After making a plan on how to meet your goals, think about the skills and resources that you will need to achieve your goals. Which skills do you already have, and which skills do you need to work on? Think about the possible obstacles you might face on your path, and how you can avoid or overcome such obstacles. E.g. ‘I do not think that my abilities to control my emotions are very strong, therefore I will list out situations in which I have been able to control my emotions and have managed with them. If I begin to lose faith, I read through the list and remind myself that I have been able to do this before and I only feel that I will not be able to do it although I know I can’.

The GLM need: ____________________

The main goal related to the GLM need: ________________________

  1. Small goal to meet in one week, and concrete steps/measures to meet the goal
  2. Small goal to meet in one month, and the concrete steps/measures to meet the goal
  3. Small goal to meet in six months, and the concrete steps/measures to meet the goal
  4. Small goal to meet in 12 months, and the concrete steps/measures to meet the goal
  5. Small goal to meet in three years, and the concrete steps/measures to meet the goal

My strengths, skills, and abilities that allow me to meet my goals: ____________________

Obstacles that may make is difficult for me to meet my goals, and how I overcome/solve them: ____________________

Other things to note: ____________________


23. Mann, Webster, Schofield & Marshall 2004.​

 Task 3: Relapse and how to move past it

Changing habits and behavior is difficult for everyone. At first, change might feel easy as you will be very motivated to change your behavior. However, it takes time to change, and habits take a long time to unlearn. Habits are like a path: familiar paths are easy to travel along as they take you to familiar places. Taking a new path, or forming a new habit, can be difficult and even scary, however the more you travel the path, the stronger and easier it becomes. The more you repeat your new habits, the easier they will become, and you will be less tempted to continue your old habits. Nonetheless, it is inevitable that you will be tempted to return to your old habits at some point. This is normal, but it is important to prepare for this relapse and learn how to move past it.

Different factors may increase your risk of relapse, for example your emotional state. When you are feeling confident and happy, your risk of relapse may be quite low, however when you start to feel stressed or anxious, you may be at a higher risk of relapsing and returning to your harmful behavior. Bear this in mind and be prepared to overcome potential relapse.

Wheel of Change

There are different stages in changing behavior (see image below).24 The “Wheel of Change” might keep turning for a while before you can get rid of the old behavior. Because you are reading this ReDirection Self-Help Program, you have already recognized the need for change, and you have thought about giving up CSAM use (Stage 2 Contemplation). Maybe you are already prepared to change your behavior (Stage 3 Preparation), and maybe you have even already tried to live without CSAM (Stage 4 Action) but have gone back to using CSAM (Stage 6 Relapse). Relapsing is a normal part of life in all situations of change. Facing adversity does not mean that you have failed or that you cannot make a permanent change in your behavior. After experiencing a relapse, you can go back and continue on the wheel of change and learn from your relapse. In the next task you will learn to recognize the triggers that may lead to a relapse, and you will learn alternative ways to act in risk situations.


24. Prochaska & DiClemente 1996.​

 Task 3(a): What did I learn from my relapse and how can I act differently to avoid it in the future?

If you find yourself returning to use CSAM, it is important to recognize the relapse and stop for a moment. Look back and see in what situation the relapse occurred.

  1. Has there been a significant change in your life situation?
  2. How were you feeling/how was your mood before you relapsed?
  3. What kinds of thoughts did you have?
  4. What kinds of physical sensations did you notice in yourself?
  5. Were there any significant events in your personal relationships before​ the relapse?
  6. What external and internal factors triggered you into using CSAM?
  7. Try to form yourself an understanding of the path that took you to returning to the behavior (CSAM use).

Once you have completed this exercise you can congratulate yourself. You have learned something new. What you do with what you have learned is important. Use it to develop your self-regulation skills: what signs in your mood signal that the risk is arising? What kinds of events make you more likely to relapse?

Once you have dealt with the relapse, it is important that you return to making a change and do not remain frustrated by it.


 Task 3(b): Identifying and minimizing the risk of relapse

Certain variables can increase your impulsiveness and decrease your ability to make well thought out decisions. You can remember them easily with the HALT-acronym: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Try to take care of yourself and your needs.

Before you act, stop and ask yourself:

  1. Am I hungry?
    • Eat something that raises your blood sugar levels.
    • This can make you feel more emotionally balanced.
  2. Am I angry?
    • Why are you upset/annoyed?
    • Try some rigorous exercise, this can help relieve anger.
    • Try writing about what you feel angry about.
  3. Do I feel lonely?
    • Call a friend or family member.
    • Try to talk to someone close to you about how you feel.
  4. Am I tired?
    • Take some time for yourself, rest, listen to calming music.

Each of these variables make us more likely to make poor decisions. If you answer “yes” to any of the options above, follow the suggestions to try to fix the situation immediately. This way you can make better choices and act in the way you want easier. ​

 Task 4: Compassion for yourself

It is important to practice having compassion for yourself. Everyone deserves a good and meaningful life, even though sometimes it may not seem like it. By practicing compassion towards yourself, you can strengthen the feeling that you have the right to enjoy and good life, which is worth the effort you put towards working for it.

Having sexual interest in children is not accepted in society. This causes many individuals with sexual interest in children to internalize this negative feeling toward themselves. However, it is important to separate your thoughts and feelings from your actions. Feeling sexual attraction towards children is only one part of you as an individual, but it might grow to define you as a person. Being compassionate towards yourself makes growth and learning possible, as you put aside your shame and acknowledge your progress and look forward to the life you want to live. Compassion allows you to move forward and change your behavior in line with your own values. ​

 Task 4(a): Compassionate letter to yourself

Everyone has low moments when you feel like you are not good enough. In these moments, we may feel that we cannot change our behavior and we should just give up. In these moments of doubt, compassion to yourself can help you build the path you want to be traveling on. You can try to help yourself through these tough moments by writing a compassionate letter to yourself.

You can write the letter in three different ways:25

1. From a friend to yourself:

  • Imagine a friend who is smart, loving, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend sees all your strengths and weaknesses, including the things that you dislike about yourself. This friend understands that people are not perfect and their abilities are limited. The friend is kind, understanding, and forgiving.
  • Write a letter to yourself from the point of view of this friend and focus on what is on your mind/what is bothering you, what do you criticize yourself for. What would this friend say to you from the point of view of limitless compassion? If that friend were to suggest changes to you and your life, how would their compassion, support, and encouragement show through these suggestions?
  • After you have written the letter put it aside for a moment. Return to it later and read through it, really letting the words settle in. Feel the compassion, feel it sinking in, calming and comforting you. Love, connection, and acceptance are your right as an individual. To get those, you simply need to look within.

2. From you to a friend:

  • Write a letter as if though you were talking to a dear friend who is struggling with and pondering similar questions as you are. What kinds of words of compassion and support would you show them? Read your letter, directing the words at yourself.

3. From compassionate you to yourself:

  • Write a letter from the point of view of the compassionate you. This “part” of you wants to help you because he deeply cares about you. The aim is for your compassionate self to tell you “I love you and I do not want you to suffer”. Put the letter aside and read it later.

Writing and reading the letter can feel strange at first. However, it will get easier with practice. When you practice compassion toward yourself, imaging being like a kind friend to yourself. Remember that you are human with all your strengths and weaknesses. Flaws and ways in which you may lack are a part of humanity. Try to accept and take note of the uncomfortable thoughts without adding or removing anything from them. They are creations of your mind, and you can learn to live with them through practice.26


25. Neff & Germer, 2018.

26. Myllyviita, 2016.​

 Task 5: Sexual wellbeing and safety

Sexual wellbeing is important for every individual regardless of their sexual orientation and interests. If your interest is focused on underaged children, achieving sexual wellbeing can be difficult, because acting upon your interests is illegal and harmful to yourself and others. If you are masturbating while searching for and using material depicting children, the connection between sexual gratification and CSAM is strengthened. This, on the other hand, will increase the likelihood of you continuing your behavior and increasing the time you use viewing CSAM. Therefore, strengthening the connection will often lead to more suffering for you and other people.

This task presents an alternative method through which you can express your sexuality in a safe way without hurting others.

If you feel any sexual attraction to individuals over the age of consent you can try to strengthen that interest.

  1. Find legal material depicting individuals over the age of consent that arouses you even a bit
  2. After this, you can try whether you could masturbate using this material

It is possible that it will not feel as good or as satisfying at first. However, it is important that you keep trying to strengthen the connection between the legal material and the feel-good feelings. This helps you to avoid using CSAM whilst taking care of your sexual well-being. ​

Ending notes ​

 Other means to support wellbeing

Medication

If you are still concerned about your ability to control your behavior after completing this program, you may find medication helpful. There are medications available that can lower your libido and relieve your compulsive thoughts, which may help to reduce your urge to use CSAM. Such medication can also serve as significant help for psychological distress. Appropriate medical treatment can also relieve your psychological energy, which in turn makes it easier to maintain and uphold behavioral change. Medication does not have a permanent impact on one’s libido or sexual thoughts, but they return after discontinuing medication.

If you think that medication could be helpful for you, please consult a medical practitioner.

Therapy

Using CSAM is often accompanied by strong negative thoughts and feelings which can be hard to deal with alone. In these cases, therapy can be a very helpful and important tool. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy have proven to be effective treatments for people who have problems with the use of CSAM. However, it can be very difficult to talk to people, even healthcare professionals, about topics such as the use of CSAM due to the intense stigma. Fortunately, there exists anonymous therapy online, which offers the benefits of therapy with the safety of anonymity.

In therapy you will, together with your therapist, analyze your use of CSAM and find ways for better life. Therapy will strengthen your skills to control your thoughts and behavior. With your therapist you will learn how certain thoughts can lead to certain feelings which in turn can lead to certain behavioral responses and vice versa. Therapy strengthens your responsible behavior and helps you to achieve healthier and safer life through cognitive, behavioral, and emotional change.

Anonymous online therapy:

Prevent It is a free of charge online therapy for decreasing usage of CSAM. The treatment is 8 weeks long with individual therapist support. It is anonymous with an option to use Tor. You are welcome to participate in the trial in which we evaluate.

Link to platform and registration Onion link to platform and registration

Other ways to support change

If your sexual interest is focused on underaged children, you may feel a strong sense of being an outsider. You might find it difficult to find people with whom you can discuss the things that are weighing on your mind. Furthermore, you may also want to find individuals who share your attraction to children but have found moral ways to live their life without causing harm to themselves or others. However, be careful when seeking out individuals living morally, as you may also meet others with similar sexual interest who may influence you negatively.

You do not need to be alone. To find more information on online support groups and organizations that may be helpful for you, you can visit https://helplinks.eu/.

In our survey we found that 60 % (N=1596) of the users of CSAM had never told anyone about their use of CSAM.


 Checklist to uphold change

Through this ReDirection Program you have entered a new area where there is no path yet. Now it is your job to start making the area you are in, into a new path which will lead you toward a meaningful and good life. This can only be achieved through concrete actions. You will now have to walk towards your goal on your path repeatedly to strengthen it. You are going to have to resist temptations many times during this. In those moments, however, it is important to stop for a moment, show compassion toward yourself and try to remember your values and goals. You are at a crossroad where you can either choose the old or the new direction.

Here you can find a checklist which aims to help you recognize your progress and maintain your new direction even in difficult times.27

  • Recognize your progress on your new path
    • Recognize the ways in which you have progressed. Compare your current situation to the one you started from.
    • Recognize what skills and methods have helped you on your journey.
    • It is important to practice continuously. Repetition strengthens change.
  • Try to implement what you have learned also to the other problem areas of your life
    • Remember that thoughts are just thoughts and you can change your approach to them.
    • Set goals for yourself so that you can recognize thoughts and decisions that are relevant for the desired end goal.
    • When difficult feelings arise, it is important that you stick to the goal you have set.
  • Recognize and challenge unrealistic expectations when they arise
    • Recognize unrealistic expectations (e.g., “I will never feel the urge to watch CSAM ever again”).
    • Progress includes continuous movement, and sometimes that movement is backwards especially in times of stress or sudden moments of adversity.
  • Moving backwards/relapse is not a catastrophe
    • Practice seeing a step back as an opportunity to hone your skills and practice the things you have learned so far: “This kind of a situation is surprisingly difficult for me. How could I manage it better in the future?”

In response to our “Help us to help you” survey, 30% of CSAM users (N= 1 787) said that they would like to stop searching for and using CSAM/illegal violent material nearly every time they view it.


 After completing the ReDirection Program: Reflecting on your progress

Congratulations, you have completed the ReDirection Self-Help Program! You have taken a very important step in ReDirecting your life for the better.

Now that you have completed the program, it is important to continue to work on your new skills and stay on track with the progress you have made. Set a time every week (even for 10 minutes) to check in on yourself and reflect on your progress. Remember to acknowledge the achievements you have made by recognizing the positive changes you see in your behavior and in your life. Watch out for any signs that you may be returning to your old behavior and think about how you can continue to support your behavioral change.

Week Date How do you feel about your progress? Acknowledge the achievements you have made. In which ways have you been successful? Are there any signs that you may be returning to your old behavior? How will you continue to support your behavioral change?
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