LDS Doctrine and Therapy Are On A Collision Course

What do you do when the consensus of experts in therapy and counseling is in direct opposition to core church doctrine? Jeff Bennion, an LDS therapist, discusses his take on the conflict of church doctrine versus the code of conduct for therapists and counselors highlighted by the Natasha Helfer disciplinary council. Can you trust your LDS therapist or that of your kids? Can the two co-exist? Find out more on this episode of Cwic Show.


 Raw Transcript

i think we turned uh what is often an
existential crisis of meaning
into a sickness well you can't heal an
existential crisis
by saying you're sick because you're not
all right welcome to quick show i am
your host greg matson i am with
lds therapist and blogger
writer uh jeff benion and we are going
to be talking about the lds church
in therapy a week or two ago we had
the disciplinary council for natasha
and this really brought to light a lot
of things about
the at least a perceived conflict
therapy and the lds church and its
and i think natasha helfer
represents one side of this conflict and
i think that jeff
probably represents another side of this
so what i want to do in talking with
jeff here and bringing him on to
the show is get his perspective on this
what are the conflicts where might this
be going
and i mean jeff we live in
much more of a therapeutic world these
days right i mean
i guess that's good for you and your
business but it's
you know that's therapy is a big deal i
mean i hear it all the time everybody
should be in therapy
everybody should go to a therapist isn't
that right
you know i uh i i can't necessarily
argue with that i think everybody would
benefit from therapy i don't know
that everybody needs to do it and on the
other hand some people have been to too
much therapy
okay probably again in the minority in
my profession and saying that but
i'll stand by it okay so i want to bring
and i want to use a little bit about
what natasha helford said
um for those of you who may not have
seen the previous episode or or don't
know who she is she was
she had a disciplinary counsel she was
excommunicated she
came out and said that because she was
in in
conflict with lds church doctrine and
she was
very publicly you know going out and and
talking about how
uh uh you know basically preaching
against church doctrine
and perhaps influencing people against
church doctrine
but here here's something that she said
i want to go through a few of these
points and you tell me what you think
about these and
and uh where therapy stands
in terms of lds members of the church
who are in therapy may want to go to
therapy in the future
and uh what their trust level can be i
know there's a lot of really good lds
therapists out there
but she brings up a couple points one
here is
she says in starting out first of all
she says that
she the reason i'm being called to such
a meeting being her disciplinary counsel
all have to do with the fact that i am a
mental health professional
and certified sex therapist and i am
public and vocal about my stances
supporting and educating about
sexual health which it seems they
being the church do not see as within
compliance within their doctrine
where is this right now i mean this
brings up something i hadn't even
thought about i mean
obviously there's always the uh the
conflict between jerusalem and
alexandria right there's always this
the the uh the conflict between academia
and and theology in church right babylon
and zion
exactly exactly so yes what does this
mean what is she
saying here well here's
here's what might surprise you i'm not
that she's wrong about that okay in
other words
uh i look at the state of my profession
i look at uh
you know it's it's world view and uh
it is in conflict uh with religion
uh to a substantial degree now that's
not to say all therapists
are on board with what uh natasha is
saying here
but she to give her credit she's
the mainstream view and the view you're
going to hear from me
tonight is definitely i think it's
empirically scientifically and
religiously but
it is not the majority of you i am not
in the mainstream as a therapist and you
know maybe it's always been historical
you go back to sigmund freud wilhelm
vent vunt
and some of these early psychology you
know the people the psychiatrists and
psychologists that started the field in
the late 1800s
and all of them but william james i
think were pretty much
hostile entirely to religion
so you know freud saw it as this
displaced father figure
looking for the this the sky god with
displaced father and there's this
rebellion you have to kill
your father anyway there's this whole
thing about killing god and
so uh you know you got off we got off on
the wrong foot
for sure okay so
so you're saying you're saying that the
the precedent originally
in in the field of psychology
has a nietzschean uh component to it
it's just
yeah that that it's not taking into
consideration religion it's not taken in
a consideration of belief in in and
can i can i say a belief in morality to
some degree
spiritual morality yeah i mean maybe
uh freud freud would kind of rationalize
morality as kind of a neuroses
neurotic response to certain drives so
he wasn't
himself i couldn't say it would be
unfair to say he was hostile
to traditional morality but but he had
uh certainly a an anti-religious view of
how it formed and certainly some parts
of that
he's he saw as unhealthy uh
and and the other interesting thing is
he he really talked a lot about eros
the uh it's kind of a
freudian test how you define heroes
some people say it's the life force some
people say
it's the sex drive uh and maybe that
tells you more about the person defining
it you know
then than it does freud but uh certainly
this the life force in the and the sex
sexual drives are active uh he believed
in humans from very
young age now i do also need to say i'm
i'm being historical with freud
we don't even cover freud hardly at all
in our
in our graduate program so probably all
my colleagues are getting mad i'm
bringing him up because he's really more
relevant in
english literature programs than uh
modern mental health interesting
but but i think historically you know
like i say we got off on the wrong foot
so she says this about and and and her
argument was
kind of she she she wanted
to make the conflict right she brings up
the conflict and that's her
her battle cry right that that's her
line in the sand
is saying here's my profession and and
here's the church over here
and there is a line in the sand and she
wants the church to change
exactly right and and not the field to
change her
her feelings she says this when a church
which refuses to accept science
and this is any church our church is
it and discredits the people that can
most help that community
is is the church's stance if they hang
tight to the law of chastity
are they discrediting members of the of
your community
discrediting uh you mean uh disavowing
or disagreeing well i don't know i'm
just i'm just
i'm just repeating her words right right
yeah our
yeah i mean so you can kind of tell
there if we pick that apart i mean that
is really a great
quote to kind of dissect uh her world
and and i don't want to pick on her
because no
like i say she's she's representing the
mainstream and let me also say
i have no opinion on on where what her
membership status should or shouldn't
been nor do i all i would say is you
it was it was not it's not illegitimate
to have disciplinary councils in
uh is all i'd say i think it's a
legitimate and necessary
function and and i'm gonna leave it to
the local leaders
to make their decision and i understand
she's appealed it so
i i i'm perfectly happy to stay out of
that i i don't have an opinion and i
don't care yeah and then we're not going
down that road at all so
but but if we because again i think she
the dominant view in especially in the
therapy the asect aligned as i talked
about in in my article
will you just say who that who that is
that's the organization
okay that's the american association of
sex education
counselors uh
therapists and uh
anyway i can't remember i think that's
it actually yeah yeah
so they uh and let's so she says
she said something like science my
the church will not accept science
and it's kind of my job
to call that out and and
say it needs to be corrected and let's
take that word
science uh and there is a
philosophy that i call uh scientism
i didn't coin that word there's a lot of
people but some people disagree on what
scientism means so i'll define what i
mean by that
in my view scientism is
a misplaced faith in the conclusions of
while neglecting the process of science
in my mind so i i totally believe
and support science i totally reject
scientism to me it's an idol it's an i
false god you worship science is a mode
of inquiry
so you're saying scientism is like a
religion it's you're putting it up at
your highest level right it's what you
and and scientism in my opinion
is more about the mainstream consensus
it's more about the accepted
wisdom of whatever the age is
so scientism would say well whatever
the mainstream opinion is in whatever
scientific field that's
science whereas i reject that and i say
science is a way
to examine certain questions that are
to empirical answers so
how do people do better you know
what is the are there more or less
effective ways to treat unwanted
pornography use which is in you know
that's one of the controversies here
and whereas scientism would say well
what's what's
the dominant world view there what's the
dominant opinion
science would say well let's look at the
let's look at that research were those
studies well sampled
were the statistical methods applied
uh were the conclusions really powerful
enough to really warrant you know or is
it being oversold
is it generalizable uh let me teach you
another acronym
weird w-e-i-r-d a lot of research
is on weirds western educated
industrialized uh
oh brother now i'm forgetting the uh
the art forgot the r but the last one is
anyway this is the wealthy modern uh
world view this is europe uh especially
western europe
it's the united states the privileged
view yes
exactly and there's about five billion
in the rest of the world and most of the
research that we've done
is on weirds interesting we're weird
it's a funny acronym because you know we
are the minority so we are kind of the
weird ones
in the world right now and so a lot of
and then the other piece i wanted to
tell you about is we are in the middle
in my field we are in the middle of
what's called a replication
crisis what that means is they have
a bunch of scientists and this is really
all this is science greg
okay they said let's take some of these
studies and let's reproduce them
let's reproduce them in india let's
reproduce them here
let's see if we get the same result
greg they can only do it half the time
and these
aren't fringe studies so
it really gets my dander up when people
i mean natasha does this but she is you
know this is everybody
almost you know there is a lack of
humility which
uh bothers me in this and other
scientific fields because
the replication crisis now is extending
to other things and
then the behavioral sciences but it
started there so there are some really
do we can we really say we know what we
know in other words about half the
studies you would read about in your
psychology class are wrong or at least
i i shouldn't say wrong cannot have not
been proven
but it's not as empirical as worse is
it's being represented
right and that is what i call scientism
scientism says
look we have this thing and it's
unimpeachable there's there's no way to
dispute it and i'm saying wait a minute
uh even well-sampled famous studies
have have not been able to be reproduced
and and the studies that
you know if we were to drill into this
with people a lot of the studies they
use are not even
you know as well done as some of these
studies you can't reproduce so
so i i won't i won't claim that i can
demonstrate unequivocally
my position because particularly in the
behavioral sciences it's very difficult
to do this research
uh let me give you another example uh
outcome research is really hard to do
when you're talking about therapy so
outcome research says all right
uh what kind of therapy is best to treat
depression right this is the most common
and depression of the two most common
mental health complaints in this country
and so we often we're looking at you
know how does
how well do people treat depression
well is a cognitive behavioral approach
good is a dialectical behavioral
approach good as a narrative approach
good as an internal
systems approach good i mean there's all
these modalities that we learn
they're all supposedly empirically
but it's actually really hard to say
okay let's randomly assign
some depressed people to these two
and then let's measure you know well one
is our measurement good
everybody uses the depression inventory
and it's probably a good one so i i
don't quibble with that but it's not
always so easy
in other fields and then so we measure
at the beginning of this study we
measure them at the end
and you know what's the change we also
need a control group of no
treatment because uh 50 of
depression major depression will go into
spontaneous remission within
12 months so people get half of the
people that have it
actually get better without any therapy
within 12 months and so you've already
got 50
you kind of just knock off right that
you could just say
so the other differences are really hard
to tease out and then how do you make
sure you're doing the exact same
therapy right is this clinician doing
cognitive behavioral therapy the same
as this clinician is and are all
clinicians the same are we little cookie
cutters that you can just
so it's it's hard to really do research
particularly on you know oh this therapy
is is the best one
so again i mean just just summarizing
that then
then the consensus i mean what you're
you're you're shooting holes into the
consensus in in therapy right you're
saying that uh
we may not be even though the consensus
maybe your field is against
some of the church doctrine that
consensus may be incorrect
right so the truth there may not be
a conflict there between the two rather
it's the scientism of the consensus that
that is causing the problem this is uh
this leads me to this
because because again if that's the true
then that that
that brings up several problems i mean
here's one thing that you had stated in
your article that that you had written
on this you said even in the empirical
literature we
we refer to what matters is what
mental health and well-being
which is which is immediately makes you
think okay so what
how does that determine for example the
how does that determine the questions
that you're asking
right with a client et cetera i'll get
to that in a minute as we ourselves
define it
if truth or even someone else advocating
you continue
for their understanding of truth
on someone's mental health it is bad
and wrong and needs to stop so
here's one of the big things i really
wanted to get out of this
this this interview here is
what it is is is would the consensus
in your field then be exactly that what
is the short term because i think you
have to define
that you have to say is it is it the
short term
well-being and emotional health
today and this week until i meet with
this client again next week
the most important thing or is it how
do i help this client improve
and progress by having to work through
hard things
yes you're getting to something even
more foundational greg than the
empirical questions
because the the the the practice of
doesn't happen in a vacuum it isn't like
where these detached
totally objective people formulating
these hypotheses
and then we test through science and
you've hit on
a really fundamental one which is what
is the good life
you know this this question goes back to
aristotle plato
not to mention you know the old
testament you know
all the way to adam and eve we could say
as latter-day saints right
so what for
uh and this i i i called therapist
in in my i saw that and and i
i it's self-deprecating it's appealing
it's all right
it was a strong word but but here's what
i mean
it elaborates on this point so we have
we deal with the individual or the
or social workers will sometimes deal
with a community
but uh we don't deal
with norms what are norms
we therapists never think about how
norms are established and maintained
and why they are important you think
about social norms
for example yes right and even think of
one that's not controversial right you
go to
a store you buy some frozen yogurt and
the guy says
sorry i'm not giving you your yogurt and
you know i'm not giving your money back
we have a norm that's established there
you know i give you money at a set price
and you give me a good in service
what would happen if that norm broke
uh the problem is we therapists don't
care about norms and and
to be fair it's not our job right we're
sitting with an individual
but we call them norms not universals
right and so by the very name there are
people who fall outside the norms
and we therapists are caring we're in
the caring profession so we care about
those people that fall outside the norms
and so we'll often say
oh my gosh these norms are hurting you
know you imagine the bell curve
the norms are hurting these people we
need to get rid of
the norms and you know sometimes maybe
norms need to go i'm not saying we're
always wrong about that but
in our narcissism in our caring
well-intentioned narcissism
we look at these people that fall
outside of the norms we feel bad for
them and we want to reorder society
to do that and so we'll look at things
like well
uh people you know that are uh
have you know non-conventional uh sexual
proclivities uh we need to
we need to embrace them and normalize
that and
and do that and and we don't even and
then and then we tie it to your idea
which is well-being
what is healthy right we'll you'll often
people sex servers talk about healthy
and there's healthy ways to engage in
them and there's unhealthy ways to
engage in them
but their definitions of well-being
happiness healthy
have very little to do with the way a
religious view would have or even if you
go back to aristotle
aristotle would take issue with
his you know aristotle's idea of
happiness was really
a life well lived whether you know
whereas we talk about
it the the term in our field is called
you demonic
eudaimonia or you demonic happiness and
it just
it means feeling good right and and
uh uh well that was aristotle's sorry
i'm mixing them up we would call it
and then there's you demonic and you
demonic is that well-being
that sorry that living well kind of idea
and this is more congruent you know when
when we say
when lehigh says men are that they might
have joy
what does he mean and if you take a
modern therapeutic view
of that word joy
joy equals feeling good about yourself
and your life uh yeah sometimes the
commandments aren't going to lead
follow keeping the commandments aren't
going to lead to that
and yet that idea
you can even graft it under religion and
it's and it's the idea that our goal
in therapy is to help people feel secure
and content
and anything that challenges us or makes
us feel uncomfortable or unhappy
uh could be seen as detrimental to
mental health
and if you graft and so that's the
therapeutic way but there are a lot of
therapists who graft this idea onto god
god would never want me to be unhappy
god created me to be happy
see it's in the scriptures right there
in second nephi
and so we call that therapeutic deism
god is basically talk about narcissism a
in the sky that is just you know trying
god's never going to ask hard things of
us he's never going to ask us
to be an outcast or on the outside or
out of the mainstream
he just wants us to be happy he just
wants us to be well adjusted
well that seems to me just let me enter
that that seems to me
to be where he is evolving to
based on based on our society right
as as i heard uh earlier uh yesterday
a a term where he's he's the teddy bear
yes yes and it's like well
and i get this all the time when i when
i put this this episode on on uh
natasha out there last week that's what
came up in the comments a lot also right
it's a matter of you know it's a
non-judgmental god he's not going to
of course he's going to tolerate
everything because because he's
right and and and so the issue there is
is if
you know because you bring up another
point there if if the goal the goal
almost seems like the same thing
between the religion and and therapy
right it's well-being it's happiness
right but it's just it's just the
interpretation of what that
is well it's ultimate versus proximate
i would say right like i had a pioneer
ancestor who
was well to do uh
and she was a good methodist family i
don't remember if she was methodist or
not but she was well-to-do
a good person and you know she comes
across the planes and
gives up everything husband dies on the
plane you know she loses kids and
she does all that she comes here
would she have been happier just staying
uh and not converting she was not like
she was a bad person right
why put yourself through that a modern
therapeutic deistic god would never
ask you to make that kind of sacrifice
or sacrifice period
how much is sacrifice involved in that
therapy is sacrifice a a point at all
for someone to grow and be strengthened
and progress personally
is that a part of what you would see in
the mainstream at all
in therapy you can you can be stronger
if you face this you can be stronger and
i can help you do that
i can you know step by step
stepping into the fear a little bit or
stepping into the norm or whatever it
might be
right is that a part of it or are we are
the exact opposite of that in the
i i think we do both you know the term
we use in therapy
for that kind of sac we don't call it
sacrifice we call it
resilience okay and what that means is
you know
can you pick yourself up do you have the
social support and the
individual strength uh to to keep going
in the face of what can be really
difficult things and we work with people
that have
done you know that are tremendously
disadvantaged that have gone through
horrifying traumas you know and and
we we i think we help most of them
really well and we help them find
and this is where i think there is some
correspondence between therapy and
religion which is
we help our clients find meaning
in that suffering we help them find
purpose and then growth
out of it and and we narrate that in a
that they're no longer victims you know
survivors and growth and and maybe they
would have rather never been through
that but they
having been through that they they have
gained certain things
that can now benefit them and and the
the system they're in so so we do
have that idea but we also have this
idea oh
if if you're unhappy you know we're just
try to soothe you too uh and so
particularly here i'll take pot shots at
my colleagues in psychiatry but a lot of
the medications we give
sometimes those might be necessary but a
lot of those medications are to
um solution
yeah yeah they're they're a band-aid or
they mask you know
we've got these emotions and we don't
know how to handle them so those drugs
will just smush you down here so you
don't have the highs and you don't have
the lows
and it just keeps you in this narrow
band where you're you're not really
alive now again
sometimes it wasn't necessary i'm not
i'm not making any blanket prescriptions
here except i think
we probably are over prescribing those
let me take another example if you will
greg which is suicide
uh we
well it goes deeper so mental health
i say me and my colleagues and i include
in this we made a deal with the devil
when we agreed to medicalize our
in other words we said well we doctors
insurance counselors should get
payments too we need to be paid by
insurance companies
and the deal we made with the devil is
we said okay
if people are coming to us and we want
to get paid
by insurance companies uh
we need then the people that are seeing
us are diseased
so it's called the medical model or the
disease model
but we're automatically pathologizing
that do that and a lot of my colleagues
we kind of universally united in hating
insurance companies but i'm like do you
take the money
we take the money so we're complicit in
this system
of pathologizing people that come to see
us and i think it does
tainted and you see that in suicide 1999
if you look at suicide rates they were
declining until 1999.
what happened in 1999 bill clinton had a
national suicide task force
and we put it in hands of the caring
loving therapists
what and that that was the all-time low
and it has not
been as it's gone up since and all this
effort and all this work we've done
uh has actually not made the problem any
uh and and i think has it directly made
it worse
it you know it's really hard to prove
and i don't want to oversell that
i suspect though that here's what i
think and again it's hard to prove
uh there's no proof of this there's just
correlation and we know correlation is
not causation but
i think we turned uh what is often an
existential crisis of meaning
into a sickness interesting and you
heal a sickness well you can't heal
an existential crisis by saying you're
because you're not sick you you need
help finding
meaning and purpose in your life but
you're not necessarily
got some mental disorder right you don't
have a chemical imbalance
sometimes you do of course very
but i think what we're again like this
is just my opinion
and the opinion of some others i can
give you some sources if you want
that do agree with me but this is far
from settled question
i think we really have here a crisis of
or people just don't feel like they feel
like they're a waste of space or they
don't matter
and they're not making a difference and
i think
i mean that's not meaning meaning and
yeah i feel like i am acting in the
world in a way that is noticed
and that matters and makes a difference
and you can do that you know some people
do that in a negative way by joining a
or some of these serial these mass
murderers they want their names in the
headlines and so the media is complicit
in that
but there's all kinds of sick ways
people want to get feel meaningful and
and the people who can't even do that
will you know the sick ones
some of the sick ones will turn it on
the world i shouldn't say sick i see i'm
buying in the medical model right people
the evil ones will turn it out in the
world and the
the more inward directed ones will just
try to kill themselves
so that i don't think sometimes that is
a disorder
but i think most the time it's not these
philosophical religious uh
you know questions that i think
therapists can help with
but sometimes maybe in pathologizing
that and medicalizing that
we might be making it worse because we
say to somebody oh you're sick
and is that really the best thing to say
maybe we should be saying oh
we need to help you find your meaning
and purpose in life i can help you
understand this yeah
but you see insurance companies won't
pay for that yeah well that was you know
what i was just going to say then do do
how much do the insurance companies
affect the course of therapy
a lot a lot yeah okay
and we're ethical about it we we find
diagnosis but sure of course
we have our little bible it's called the
diagnostic and statistical manual and
we're in our fifth edition
and if we can find if you can fit one of
those criteria
usually you know there's some at the end
then the insurance company will pay for
yeah uh yeah
and of course that's more and more
centralized into a small committee
that's going to be directing how that
works and
handshaking between the insurance
company and the the experts in
psychology and therapy etc
right right very centralized okay so so
what that does is it builds more
okay that's why we call it the bible not
ironically but it literally too
yeah exactly exactly okay so i wanted to
bring up this contrast here between your
your comment in your article and uh
natasha helfer's comment here on
shame so you say here
the goal of therapists aligned with this
point of view
isn't to change these behaviors and that
would be
as you put here behaviors that are
manifesting in a pathological sense
um let's see let me back up and make
sure i've got this wrong here
certain practices sexual practices and
other things that some of these
organizations seem to promote
you see the goal of therapists aligned
with this point of view isn't to change
these behaviors
which could be hurting people themselves
but rather to reduce the shame
and increase acceptance right
both among the clients themselves and
society at large which is interesting
if that is the goal of the therapist
then natasha helper was following
exactly what that goal is the dual goal
which is both with her cl her clients
and society at large
i'll get to that in a minute with her
with some other therapists that signed
on with her
in talking about this social advocacy
but so she's saying look we've got to
reduce the shame that's the primary
reduce the shame very that's what you're
saying that that's what they say right
so he she goes right along with that
here she says i was receiving a flow
she's talking about
as an adolescent when in the church
growing up in the church
and so she says i was receiving a steady
flow of
abstinence-based fear-based and
shame-based sexual education
and here are some of the experiences and
messages i was grappling with
and feeling in constant tension with
and she has several quotes i could pull
here that are are about this
another one here on teens our children
and teens deserve a home
where they are not shamed for their
sexual feelings
thoughts and actions right
how again the the
to me and at least in a gospel sense
if you're removing shame completely but
you know feeling shame yourself and we
might have a uh
a i'll think of the word here in a
minute but
um we might uh be we might have
different ideas of what shame means and
what it is
but if that's the primary focus again
it goes back to what you were saying
about kind of the short-term thing
where i don't need to go through
anything tough and anything that is
going to
be an obstacle for me
the instead of me changing behavior
i need everybody else to change i need
the norms to change
right right because if i feel if i feel
ashamed the norm that's what we need to
get rid of i need to clorox
my environment the problem with that is
then you're not
you're that much more susceptible all
the time
to shame right it's like a germ right if
i'm if i'm
constantly in a purified clorox
environment and i step outside for a
second i'm that much more
susceptible to to the germs isn't that
right right and i make that point
when i say look uh well first of all
natasha is not wrong again
all of our professional associations
have varying
ways we describe that we have an
to advocate for you know
things that promote our profession and
our best practices
so she's she's again not wrong that she
you know you have an ethical obligation
to do that but where i disagree with her
is and where i was alarmed what really
promoted me to write that article
is for her to say my way is the only way
and i have to tell the church that
they're wrong and
it's only now i'm only following the
canons in my profession when i do that
well like i say she is probably in the
mainstream of at least the sex therapist
i don't know about therapists in general
but uh i i i it is
not congruent with traditional
religion any any of them uh
and so and i think that goes back to
i really feel like my personal religious
belief is i want to be aligned with the
truth you shall know the truth and the
truth shall make you free
but you talked about you use that word
norms again because what natasha is
is look some people can't aren't
you know for whatever reason we won't
judge but
they they can't fit that norm right
they're not we we have this ideal in the
and i'll i'll meet her halfway too where
i think we don't always talk about this
in a in the best way i think you pointed
that out too
but where i differ from her is i don't
think we need to get rid of the law of
in fact i think as a church
the law of chastity is actually one of
our best features
the metoo movement has demonstrated an
elder christopherson talked about this
i think it was october conference when
he said consent alone
is not sufficient to prevent people from
getting hurt
right and we see this in me too and
these women are right oh i was
manipulated into having
sex that i didn't want to have so i
could get a harvey weinstein movie or
because my boss did this well you
right you were over 18 and you consented
what why are you complaining now
well they should complain i i agree with
that they they uh they were put in
positions that was unfair
and that were difficult and and that
caused them harm
but what can the world say there that's
than our law of chastity they don't dare
say don't be a cad
to the men right and they don't dare say
to the woman
you know don't don't give it up so easy
you see this on
campuses nowadays uh where you know
young women will go to parties
and they'll a guy will hit on them at
the party and want to
have sex with them and she'll turn them
down and
she'll say and they'll they'll call her
the b word
they'll call her an ice queen well
after being called a b word 12 times
you're kind of sick of it and so maybe
they just decide to give in because
they're tired of getting hated on
isn't it really better to have a norm go
back to these norms that says
don't have sex before marriage i think
again this is with my religious hat on
not my therapist hat on
but these are things that therapists
can't answer right
so back to natasha's point uh
and you made this point too in your last
podcast there are ways to address shame
there are ways to talk about chastity
and celibacy
and being single without chucking out
the law of chastity
yeah we could probably teach it better
we could teach it in age-appropriate
we can teach it uh less shame based
but the principles themselves
i believe and i say this as a therapist
and i say it as a
as a member of the church are true
and sound and i have a testimony of them
and i see it in my clients now
again some people in reacting online to
article think i just preach you know we
read we read the scriptures all day
in session and i my clients aren't
in that and they've got their life goals
i work with them within the parameters
they want
sure but i there's nothing i've seen in
in the therapy chair that has ever told
oh boy the law of chastity just doesn't
work for those people
i get that they've got their agency and
they want to pursue their life and they
have a right to do that and i
it is not my right as a therapist to
tell them they're doing it wrong and so
i don't
but at the same time i think natasha and
i differ because she sees these people
that have the hard time meeting that
and yes some of them do have an
shame right about this and i say there's
ways we can work on that unhealthy shame
without saying oh porn porn can be okay
sometimes or
it's not that bad or you know uh don't
don't worry about it
there's ethical porn we maybe we want to
go into that or not but i think it's
nonsense but there's this idea of
porn so you can look at ethical porn and
it can spice up your marriage and
and i just don't agree uh even though
again this is
probably a mainstream belief she's not
she's not
well off what hills are there right
right i get that
but why does it go inside only because
for example let's say i go to a therapy
and i'm a member of the church and i
believe in the law of chastity
right what about the norm is not the law
of chastity
so i'm outside the norm so why is there
not an
advocacy to change the other way
what about what about me i mean i'm i'm
outside of that i'm on the fringe as far
sexual activity goes well you clearly
need therapy greg because you have this
internalized shame
from this patriarchal religion that has
taught you to hate your sexuality so
that's interesting because that's that's
where the shame then comes in right it's
brought in then at that point
to say that what i need to do is just
not worry about it right just not have
the shame
right instead of saying here's the
standard let's work on
uh you know if you if again this is your
belief right so we're assuming here
you are a believing latter-day saint
with a test option
this is your own right this isn't your
parents this
isn't inertia this isn't cultural this
is really you you have
you believe this and you want this for
yourself okay so let's grant all that
don't forget any of that because that's
all really key
and sometimes it takes a few sessions to
figure out
you know what people's motivation is but
at that point
i would argue that i am ethically
required to help you find a way and
because i have the cultural competence
and the shared testimony of that
i think a believing latter-day saint
is uniquely positioned to help somebody
like you if you were looking for therapy
and i i would do harm
if i said you know well greg yeah
you're just you've got a hang up here
you know in the church the church is
wrong or the church is going to change
on this
right oh maybe that's what they say
today but they're going to come around
uh i think that makes you more fragile
and either you're going to
you're going to be harmed by that
therapy uh
and you might leave you probably won't
even tell me you'll probably and by the
we can send the link in your piece but
my co-writer
a colleague at public square magazine
christopher cunningham wrote a piece
uh in public square magazine called
health their uh
uh it's uh our latter-day saint
therapist is meeting client expectations
and this was an informal
survey this isn't any kind of
peer-reviewed anything but i still think
it should be a wake-up call for us
lds therapists of the 70 people he got
120 people to respond to his survey
70 of them said they specifically sought
a therapist
that would affirm them in their goals of
staying a church member and they wanted
therapy that would stay within the
more or less i mean there's some things
you can maybe negotiate on the fringes
we can talk about some examples that if
you want but basically these are the
boundaries i want
half of them said their lds therapists
did not support them yeah that's
interesting i mean
that's you wake up i said this is
interesting i want to go right to this
because you said
here in one of your paragraphs in that
article he said what too many mental
health professionals don't appreciate
is that religion is every bit a core
identity i think this is
key a core identity as other identities
like race or sexuality can be
different clients are going to
prioritize different aspects of their
and core beliefs it's like look i'm an
lds man i'm coming in here based on this
which is core to me and important to me
it's like if i'm going to go in
and i'm a gay man and i'm going in to a
talking and they're they're treating me
like i'm completely heterosexual going
along the same lines
with that it doesn't that doesn't work
that's not going to work
so that that's crucial now you said that
a number of them didn't
go along with what did you say go along
with uh
holding up the lds standards right they
these people in christopher's survey
half of them said
their lds therapists did not
support them in their goals to say they
undermined them
and the interest why this should be a
wake-up call is they all said
uh they didn't even tell their therapist
they just quit going right so we
we may not even know we're doing this
uh and and is it is let me energy is is
the is the lds therapist
putting those other values up because
because they're basically just putting
up the consensus the bible as you said
whatever that was
an acronym they're putting that up above
the lds
principles of their client
yeah i mean as a therapist i hear other
clients sometimes say their therapist
told them such and such and
i always say if a wife says well my
husband's therapist came back and said
it's okay to do this and that i said
call that therapist up and make an
appointment with her or him
and hear it from the horse's mouth
because people don't always report
accurately so i want to cut my
colleagues some slack here
but that's why i say it should just be a
wake-up call but it does appear
that a lot of us are not doing our job
because we all believe this is not a
controversy when we all believe in
we all believe that we are supposed to
help our clients achieve their their
and it seems like we're undermining that
in some of us are undermining that
sometimes and we're doing harm instead
of helping our clients
and that should be really sobering and
these are lds therapists right greg
yeah i mean that's i mean for me or my
family that would be the number one
issue right as far as choosing choosing
a therapist
that's going to be number one what what
is that divergence just going to grow
i think i don't know i i mean
i i'm i'm gonna talk to some colleagues
and see
if we can push back but you know it
takes a lot of
uh effort and research and can we even
get published
can we lay the groundwork for this
counter narrative
i i haven't given up but but i have to
tell you i'm not
very optimistic either i mean it just
seems like
you know we haven't created a new norm
we've just dissolved existing norms
right so
asex talks about now they talk about
or consensual non-monogamy they talk
about bdsm and kink
it's adultery uh yeah
they talk about these things and there's
healthy ways and there's unhealthy ways
to do it
it's back to consent isn't it yeah it's
like that's the issue
that's the only issue right and it is
again in my religious opinion it's not
sufficient but where's the new norm
the new norm is this fuzzy well is it
healthy this is more than your audience
wants to know
but they used to change it from safe
there used to be this acronym and it was
uh bdsm and kink and they changed that
from safe to risk aware
consensual kink it's called rack r-a-c-k
don't don't google it
but just trust me risk aware consensual
kink and what it means is
you might get hurt i i won't say okay
far enough we're good uh the new rule is
so long as your partner is aware
of the risks right where consensual kink
if they're aware of the risks and it's
it's okay this is just i i can't
imagine some of these things ever being
okay again morally
speaking from my point of view but they
what's happened is we don't have a norm
even though i think empirically
uh a child raised by its
a biological mother and father who are
married and committed to each other
is by far the best thing for society and
we've got about 30 000 studies
that say family structure matters and
that's the best in general
family structure there's always
exceptions and the family proclamation
talks about that right individual
but that should be in my opinion the
but that is see we have a totally
different idea my
biggest it's not the norm the ideal has
got to stay
i mean that's again my lds perspective
on that isn't it and i'm with you and
that's right even if it's not the norm
you've got to you've got to stick with
the ideal
we've got to there charles murray wrote
a book a few years ago called coming
and he talks about how the elites
actually live very conservative lives
they marry heterosexually they stay
mostly uh you know this is average he
says he wishes they would preach
what they practice because you know
if if madonna has five husbands and
three kids by that
her kids are probably still okay because
they've got tutors they've got all this
money they've got all this stuff
so madonna can kind of live that way
and her kids would probably be okay even
though i think they'd be better
with the father you know in the home
consistently but but they'll probably be
but some poor single woman
uh you know living in a urban area
she follows madonna's example she her
kids are going to pay the price
and they're the ones that that are going
to impact by the lack of these norms
so again this isn't this isn't the
therapist job necessarily to do but but
the therapists do see
the effect and the fallout of this we do
i see the impact of people not
following that standard so
what what's our new norm what is it can
if we talk about it
you know so my big beef with asic is
they have elevated
sexual fulfillment to the be all end-all
that is
and i'm i'm very i believe i'm very pro
i think our theology's
sex positive and i think we're created
as sexual beings and
and there's wonderful that but but
there's a kind of inversion that comes
you know
seek ye first the kingdom of god well
if we seek first our sexual fulfillment
we might not make the kingdom of god
again this is a religious thing but
but a lot of sex therapists think this
is the be all end-all
i have a friend who's uh he's got uh
same-sex attraction
and he's single and he's planning on
keeping church standards and it really
irritates him when people pat him on the
head and say you poor boy
he's not a boy he's a he's an adult but
you poor young man
uh you you're in this oppressive church
and you're you're not going to be
sexually fulfilled
and he says who would presume to say
that to me
if i was wearing saffron robes and a
shaved head and i was in tibet
you wouldn't ever presume interesting
food on their culture
and but if suddenly it's okay for you to
my life choice that is a very spiritual
and sacred
thing for me yeah that's an interesting
two things i wanted to finish up on here
unless you've got something else to
to bring up that you thought was
important is it just two questions
what should an lds therapist be doing
to parse this out right actively
and secondly what does an lds
parent especially or individual even
need to do to make sure that they're
finding the right therapist
great questions uh first of all
personally you know back to what's going
to happen
uh i i i go back to what neil maxwell
where you know we we have to face
zion even if even if we have to live in
the world
we have to uphold zion and that may mean
there might come a time where i can't
practice my profession and be congruent
with my religious beliefs
and so do i serve mammon in the form of
the aamft the american association of
marriage and family therapists
or doppel the occupational licensing
board here in utah
or do i follow my religion so far i feel
like i
i can do that but uh if
if this dominant world view wins and
this i may not be able to and i know
which one i'll choose at that point
uh but there's a lot of my colleagues
who are concerned about this and they're
they're afraid and i don't blame them so
uh that's what so what
what lds what i would say what lds
therapists have to ask themselves is
where do i stand
and can i uh
in good conscience uphold
church teachings with with important
caveat with my lds clients
right my believing lds clients that want
want to pursue that can i in good
conscience encourage that
and i'm afraid too many of my colleagues
and i wonder about the ones that signed
the letter
i'm worried if they can do that and if
they can't then i don't know that they
have the cultural competence to treat
that population
you know if there's i don't have any
doubt natasha is a good therapist i know
people that's here and they like i'm
sure she's done a lot of good i don't
doubt that at all
but i would not refer somebody to her
who had this faith
reconciliation confidence and maybe
she's good at that too but
just based on her public comments i
don't see it
so uh that's that's where i'd say can
you really
support someone that wants to do it
there are therapists lds therapists
every day saying
men with same sex attraction who are
married to a woman oh
you know you'll never be happy that way
you need to experiment with sex with men
and see if you like that better or a
single man again who has a testimony and
wants to stay true to the church
no you should just leave the church and
and try that if
or oh hang on and just do what you want
and be as active as you can but
but date man and have be sexually active
with men or women and just hope the
church changes right i think that sets
people up for failure
because i don't think the church is
going to change but even if it does
eventually which again i totally
disagree with every time
there's a pro-family a pro-traditional
family comment or talk or article in the
end sign
these people are shattered again it
doesn't we need to help people
deal with the world that's a great point
that that that right there is a great
point because that's just going to bring
on more shame
yeah that's right right there right
so it almost seems like there's got to
be a deeper stronger message for that
than maybe we're sometimes getting and
i'm not talking about the brethren or
anything i'm just talking about as a
and we have screwed up ideas about
marriage about family about our
goals and all these play into it by we i
mean the larger culture here we always
beat up on lds culture and
sometimes it deserves it but the larger
is even more screwed up though its
ideals about love
and marriage and romance and sex are
very unhealthy
maybe we could have a whole episode
where i yell about the bachelor
right i think that's what it teaches
that would be
all you and enemy i've never seen it so
i haven't either
my daughter could tell me every episode
although i bet
but that is messed up that that is not a
way to find
a good mate so so i guess i'd say to
answer your second question
uh level with your therapist first of
all don't be afraid to fire your
i tell my clients that too i i
don't feel loyalty to me be a loyalty to
your growth and your healing
and even if i was the best therapist in
the world and i'm not natasha would
probably tell you that i'm not too
uh but even if i were it's not always a
good fit
and that matters that is in fact the
most important thing one of the
things that i am confident in is the
therapeutic alliance the relationship
between therapists and client
is the most important aspect more than
any theory or mortality or practice
that connection with your therapist is
important if you're not feeling if
you're not getting it or if you're not
growing or you've outgrown them
uh fire them uh don't feel bad about
that at all we all
i i want to say this i i i've criticized
my colleagues but i think i can
confidently say
we all want you to get better and we
won't feel bad if you feel like you can
get better
healing elsewhere and so likewise when
you're hiring us when you're doing a job
interview in our first session
say just what what you said can you
support me these are my goals i need a
therapist to support me
can you really do that do you believe in
me and do you believe in these
enough to help me yeah
well i appreciate that i i i
you're a little more optimistic than i
am on this too
i hope i can hope i can help things go
well but but in terms of behavioral
sciences or science as a whole or
the humanities anything coming out of
there it just it worries me because it's
there's so much divergence now i don't
know that it can be pulled back i don't
know that it can be brought back
together and
and uh you know you've got those that
are in the consensus in those
that are now looking across a larger
chasm over to the lds church for example
that chasm is not
shrinking it's growing and so
i i don't know i i hope things work out
and i hope there's going to be paths
where lds therapists are going to be
able to maneuver between those two and
and uh hang on to both sides of that
chasm and
i i hope i can be a positive uh
contributor to that and so maybe we'll
have more to say
but but your your diagnosis is
not wrong i hope your prognosis is okay
great jeff thanks so much really
appreciate your time
and uh we'll do it again okay

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