Overcoming Voyeurism: Peeping Tom Spying; Sex Therapy Techniques for Voyeuristic Disorder Behavior

voyeurism, boston sex therapy

Portraits of Voyeurism

Christine has always kept to herself. However, recently on a summer camping trip she realized that from her dormitory she can see right into the boys shower room. She tried to ignore the opportunity to “peep” but couldn’t help herself. Now she’s always looking for another opportunity to take a peek.

“You don’t understand I live in New York City — everyone looks!” says Bob, at his court appointed counseling session. I’m not the only person with a telescope in his apartment, and if people cared, even a little, they would draw their blinds!

Voyeurism: Definitions and Key Thoughts

Voyeurism is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a paraphilia, which is a sexual disorder characterized by socially inappropriate behaviors (other paraphilias include exhibitionism, and frotteurism).

Some experts has made cases that the United States is becoming a more voyeuristic culture with the introduction of “reality television.”

A person to practices voyeurism is known as a voyeur.

A voyeur derives sexual pleasure from secretly observing (either directly, or by recording) another person nude. Some voyeurs seek to see others bathing, defecating, or engaging in sexual activity.

A variant form of voyeurism involves secretly listening to erotic conversations, or other persons engaged in sexual activity.

Voyeurs will often fantasize about engaging in sexual activity with the target.

Legal statutes vary greatly between states in regards to the seriousness of voyeurism. However, laws have been becoming stricter, internationally, against voyeurism.

Action Steps: Treatment for Voyeurism

1. Want to Change

Though it seems simple, the first step to overcoming voyeurism is having a desire to leave the practice behind.

Many voyeurs never seek treatment out of embarrassment, or because they do not want to change. This is why a large percentage of persons who seek treatment for voyeurism do so because of a court order.

2. Treat it Early

Preventing voyeurism while it is in its early stages, or before it has begun, is an effective treatment for some persons.

Early treatment involves psycho-education. The client is taught socially appropriate behaviors—such as to respect others’ privacy.

3. Limiting Exposure

In some instances, a person struggling from voyeurism can be helped by others drawing their curtains, and protecting their own privacy.

Avoiding places where one will be tempted to participate in voyeuristic practices can be helpful to a voyeur.

4. Group Therapy and Support Groups

One of the most beneficial aspects of group therapy is that the client learns that he or she is not alone in their problem with voyeurism.

With a twelve-step support group program (such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, or Sexaholics Anonymous) a person can learn from, and even be mentored or “sponsored” by, others who have successfully stop participating in voyeuristic behaviors.

For more information on sexual health related issues and to schedule an appointment with a Thrive Boston sex therapist, visit our Boston Sex Therapy page. Appointments scheduled within 24 hours.


Abouesh, A., and A. Clayton. “Compulsive voyeurism and exhibitionism: a clinical response to paroxetine.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, no. 1 (1999): 23–30.

Furnham, A., and E. Haraldsen. “Lay theories of etiology and ‘cure’ for four types of paraphilia: fetishism; pedophilia; sexual sadism; and voyeurism.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, 54, no. 5 (1998): 689–700.

Rosler, A., and E. Witztum. “Pharmacotherapy of paraphilias in the next millennium.” Behavioral Science Law, 18, no. 1 (2000): 43–56.

Simon, R. I. “Video voyeurs and the covert videotaping of unsuspecting victims: psychological and legal consequences.” Journal of Forensic Science, 42, no. 5 (1997): 884-889.

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