47: An Experience Going through the Church's Sex Addiction Program - Part 1
Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Ryan Flake, who was referred to the LDS Addiction Recovery Program by his bishop due to confessions about viewing sexually explicit material and masturbation. They discuss his upbringing as a Mormon and the many messages he received from an early age that contributed to quite a bit of sexual shame by the time Ryan was preparing to go on a mission, even though he was not having any relational sexual experiences. Ryan’s story does a good job of highlighting how certain rigid expectations and attributed meanings can do harm in regards to self-esteem, anxiety management, relational dynamics, sexual development and self-identity. Ryan talks about his experience with the ARP and how he found the messaging shaming and unhelpful in his particular situation where “addiction” was not a correct assessment.
It is the hope of podcasts like these to educate the public about the difference between things such as chemical dependency from relational and behavioral problems that are more common among the general population. It is important to get help and find adequate resources for whatever issues one might be facing. Correct assessment and competent professional help are vital first steps. Unfortunately, the research shows that mental health professionals who come from a religious background themselves, will be more willing to follow a “sex” or “porn addiction” model even though there is no such formal diagnosis. Therefore, the Mormon community needs to be aware that getting adequate help for this topic is complicated and one needs to use caution and good research to get appropriate help.
Natasha Helfer Parker runs a private practice in Wichita, KS and writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith. She also hosts the popular podcast, Mormon Mental Health.