Tiger’s ‘Therapy’ Stokes Debate
He went public on live TV, and now Tiger Woods is under wraps and back in treatment. But the 12-step program most likely being used to help him may or may not be the best course for the famed - and now infamous - golfer, experts say.
Therapists disagree on whether the program, which is similar to that used for alcohol and drug dependency, will benefit Woods, who on Friday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., publicly apologized for his multiple infidelities and the pain he has caused. Several times during his brief statement, Woods referred to his "therapy," but he gave no details about it.
Relationship therapist Bonnie Eaker Weil of New York City says she's 100 percent convinced that the 12-step program is behind Woods' re-emergence in public.
"What he did - where you actually publicly apologize - is the first step in any addiction program: You must show remorse," Weil says. The program requires "taking your inventory about what you've done and who you have hurt."
Such treatment includes eight to 12 hours a day in group therapy, and the size of the group ranges from as few as six to as many as 30, Weil says. She says the treatment will help, but she advises additional measures, including diet, exercise, medication and couples sessions.
But psychiatrist Dennis Lin, a physician who oversees pychosexual medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, says he doesn't believe the 12-step approach is right for Woods. The program is for addicts, and Lin doesn't believe Woods is an addict.
"I think he's somebody who has most likely narcissistic personality disorder," says Lin, who also has a private practice. "He really thought he could get away with doing this really irresponsible behavior.
"It's the sign of somebody who thought he could get away with anything and was above the normal rules of marriage."
Weil agrees with Lin about a possible narcissism element of Woods' personality.
"He kept saying 'I felt entitled,' " she says. Often people who enter such therapy are narcissists, she says, and they "go in thinking they're above the law and rules don't apply to them."
"The hardest thing for them is to apologize and take responsibility," says Weil, author of the newly revised Make Up, Don't Break Up, out next month. "For the first time, they're experiencing consequences. Before, it was all about them and pleasure."
Lin recommends psychotherapy focused on Woods' own flaws, as well as couples therapy - if Elin Woods wants to continue the marriage.
There is little research on marriages that weather cheating, says David Atkins, a research associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. He plans plans a new study to "look squarely on the association between infidelity and divorce with as much clarity as we can get."
Atkins says a majority of couples stay together, but "it seems infidelity raises the likelihood of divorce two or three times." He cites a study in 2004 by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, along with a preliminary look at data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of about 20,000 people from 1991 to 2008.
Weil predicts the Woods marriage will endure.
"He's going to work harder, and she's going to work harder since she comes from a divorced family," she says. "Their marriage has a better chance because there is more incentive than most people."