353–354: Championing the “Addiction” Paradigm with Regard to Pornography/Sex Addiction

sexual-addiction1This two-part episode is a response to a panel of therapists and a neuroscientist who in an earlier episode (347–348) challenge the idea that pornography is physically addicting, suggesting instead that problematic pornography usage is a symptom of deeper issues and therefore the best therapeutic approaches focus less on pornography and more on uncovering these underlying pathologies. In this episode, a panel of therapists and a neurosurgeon whose research centers on the biology behind why the brain seeks what it seeks present why they believe the “addiction” model is appropriate, and share how much richer and more diverse are the therapeutic models they employ than what the earlier panel believes, and is even richer in options than traditional approaches. This discussion also looks much more broadly than the previous episodes into “sex addiction” and its treatment.

This panel, featuring Jackie Pack (LCSW, CSAT–S, CMAT), Alexandra Katehakis (MFT, CSAT-S, CST-S), Stefanie Carnes (Ph.D., CSAT-S), and Donald Hilton (M.D.), along with Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon, dive deep into brain structures and pathways, dopamine and reward and seeking centers, and ways that today’s pornography might be classified as a supra-normal stimulus—meaning that it can elicit responses in humans that are much greater than occur in natural situations. The team dives into a great deal of complex scientific material but keeps things understandable and maintains terrific balance. In the final sections of the podcast, they also discuss misunderstandings about Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) certifications, introduce its therapeutic models, and discuss the role that religion can play in both creating difficulties for and helping bring about increased sexual health.

ATTN (Wed, 16 November): We have just now closed the commenting for this episode. Much has been shared here, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness many showed in sharing their views and arguments. We will keep the comments closed but still visible. 



Donald L. Hilton, Jr. MD, “Pornography Addiction–A Supra-normal Stimulus Considered in the Context of Neuroplasticity,Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology 3 (2013).

Donald L. Hilton, Jr. MD, “‘High’ Desire or ‘Merely’ an Addiction? A Response to Steele, et al.” Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology 4 (2014).

Donald L. Hilton, Jr., Stephanie Carnes, and Todd L. Love, “Neurobioloy of Behavioral Addictions: Sex Addiction,” in Neurobiology of Addiction, Alan C. Swain, MD, F. Gerard Moeller, MD., and Marijn Lijffijt, Ph.D., eds (Oxford University Press, 2016)

The list of 10 Criteria for Sex Addiciton (that I mentioned in the episode I would post) can be found in the chapter from the book linked to immediately above.

Alexandra Katehakis, Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment (Norton, 2016)

Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D., Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts (Gentle Path Press, 2012)

Jackie Pack, co-host, Thanks for Sharing podcast

351-352: “The Policy”—One Year Later

lgbt-policy-rallyOn Thursday afternoon, November 5th, 2015, a leak of new directives regarding LGBT Latter-day Saints was made public, kicking off a tumultuous year within many Mormon circles. What came to be known informally as “The Policy” required stake leaders to excommunicate for “apostasy” any Latter-day Saints who were in same-sex marriages regardless of their belief level in Mormonism and to withhold a baby blessing (which includes having that child entered into the records of the church), baptism, and priesthood ordination and advancement to any child or teen who lives in the home of a parent who is in a same-sex relationship, whether married or not. These directives, published in the church’s Handbook of Instructions to bishoprics and stake leaders, both astonished and struck many Latter-day Saints as flying in the face of their own spiritual sense of what is right and wrong, as well as what Christ would do. It seemed to them, at best, an institutional response (perhaps guided by attorneys who proposed possible legal exposure the church might have on various fronts without clarifying the status of married LGBT Latter-day Saints) to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier in the year legalizing same-sex marriages throughout the country.

The year since “The Policy” offered several indications that the church was standing firm in its position, in one case even seeing the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles referring to it as a “revelation,” but also both anecdotally and in some actions that came to be known publicly that it might be losing favor and status among the leading quorums. 

In this two-part episode, a wonderful panel of church members—Jana Riess, Benjamin Knoll, Mitch Mayne, Laura Root, and Walt Wood—who have carefully watched from various and interesting vantage points the year unfold with regard to The Policy join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon. What is their sense of how things stand today? What signals are they seeing about the Policy’s waning? What do survey responses reveal about its reception within the church as a whole, and among members from various generations and other categories and life experiences? What do panelists feel about the long-term impact of The Policy within the church? Ultimately will it prove to a pivot point that will actually serve to move the church’s membership more quickly toward acceptance of LGBT members in full fellowship? What are the main sources for optimism about the direction things seem to be moving? How are they themselves maintaining energy to keep engaging in these conversations?

Please listen and then join in below with your own stories, observations and comments!


Links: Forthcoming

Announcing a New Survey about LDS LGBT Policies

Let your views be heard about current LDS policies and teachings about LGBT persons and issues!

cover1-1_mormonrainbowTwo social psychologists, Michael Nielsen and David Wulff, have launched a survey with the hope of learning from all across the spectrum of belief and activity more about LDS understandings of and about LGBT Mormons and issues. This survey offers chances in various places for respondents to type in longer answers to open-ended questions, making it a bit difficult to accurately predict how long it will take to complete the survey. The current estimate is 30 to 40 minutes.

Here is a link to the survey’s landing page. There you can learn more about Michael and David, privacy of your data, and more.

To learn more, please listen as well to the 11-minute interview with Michael Nielsen linked below.

Be part of this potentially important qualitative as well as quantitative survey. Only through means like this can we fully understand how Latter-day Saints connect various parts of their Mormonism with different ideas and experiences.

Take the survey—and then share it with friends and family members. Especially those who may see things differently than you do!

Take the survey here.

Listen to the interview with Michael by clicking the arrow below.

350: The LDS Church’s New Mormon and Gay Website

580-photo-1470596914251-afb0b4510279On October 25, 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new website, “Mormon and Gay” (www.mormonandgay.lds.org) an update of its previous site articulating LDS positions on various aspects of same-sex attraction. What is the new site like? In what ways is it an improvement on the previous site and its messaging? Did the church make any big missteps through anything on the site? Who is the site’s primary audience?

About five hours after the site’s launch, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon was joined by Boyd Jay Petersen, Jody England Hansen, Wendy Williams Montgomery, and Christian Harrison to talk about these and other aspects of this site and its launch.

Please join in the discussion in the comments section below!



Mama Dragons’ “Prayer for Open Hearts” Event, 5 November 2016

Boyd Jay Petersen, “Reaching Out and Embracing Ambiguity,” post at Deadwood and Rushing Water blog, 25 October 2016

Jana Riess, “Re-tooled LDS Website Says People Can Be Mormon and Gay–But They Need to Stay Celibate,” Flunking Sainthood blog, 25 October 2016

“Same-Sex Marriage”—LDS Church, newest Gospel Topics essay

349: The Leaked Videos: A Church That Is Also a Corporation

leaked-videosOn October 2nd 2016, the final day of the LDS Church’s October General Conference, a dozen or so videos were leaked online that show the briefings of various topics given to the church’s top leadership, and one of a general staff meeting of the Church History Department. All videos were from 2007 to 2012, and all were officially recorded by the church for record keeping purposes as well as for viewing by those in these leading groups who may not have been present. The videos range from just a few minutes in length to an hour or longer, with topics as diverse as updates about marijuana legislation and on world affairs, to new scientific findings that challenge the notion of human’s having “consciences,” to Wikileaks (including warnings to leaders about the church’s own vulnerabilities), to how to hold onto the Church’s single young adults, to religious freedom, and also the Church’s influence in the U.S. Congress. In addition to presentations, the videos show various exchanges among members of the Quorum of the Twelve as well as with the presenters.

The videos have created a stir among many Latter-day Saint discussion groups, causing some consternation for some, reasons for optimism among others–and typically a bit of both. In this episode, three keen observers of the church and discussions among various constituencies, Boyd Jay Petersen, Kristy Money, and Mark Crego, join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for an overview of the videos and the discussions, especially noting themes, purposes, and inter-personal and other dynamics they see at play in the videos and among those speaking in them. They also speak extensively about the many ways in which what we view in the videos, including much of the participants’ rhetoric, are very similar to what goes on in business board rooms.

The panel raises a lot of issues, but we know there are more! Please join in the discussion below!



“Leaked Videos Show Mormon Apostles Discussing Political Influence, Gay Marriage, Marijuana, and More,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 2, 2016

MormonLeaks on YouTube (can view the videos there)

“Gems from the Leaked Videos…” (ex-Mormon reddit that has links to the videos plus time-codes for going right to particular spots)

“Ryan McKnight on MormonLeaks and the Underground Handcart Company,” Mormon Transitions podcast, October 4, 2016

347-348: Challenging the “Addiction” Paradigm with Regard to Pornography

Porn buttonThe past two weeks featured two opposing Op-Eds in the Salt Lake Tribune (here and here) focusing on the issue of pornography, and especially if an “addiction” model (“pornography is highly addicting”) is appropriate to be taught in high school settings. The impetus for the initial opinion piece was the propriety of allowing the group “Fight the New Drug” (FTND) to offer presentations in public school assemblies or other gathering types, especially since the science behind the claims FTND makes about pornography as “addicting” is not credible (at least that is the claim of the writers). Leaders of FTND and others who work with clients under the “pornography addiction” model and the therapies it suggests wrote a response challenging the claims made in the first Op-ed, linking to studies they say supports all the arguments they make or that challenge studies that underlie the thinking of those who oppose the “addiction” model. It is a fascinating back-and-forth that highlights a major division within helping communities with regard to the effects of pornography upon the human brain and body, and the best approach(es) to take when someone comes to a therapist for help with a level of pornography usage they feel is is problematic.

In this two-part episode, two of the authors of the first Op-ed, Natasha Helfer Parker and Kristin Hodson (both Mormon and certified sex therapists), along with neuroscientist and sex researcher Dr. Nicole Prause and counselor and sex therapist Jay Blevins (who are both non-LDS), join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a wide-ranging discussion of the research surrounding the effects of pornography and if it shows the markers typically associated with “addiction,” and why this group feels the model fails—not only scientifically but with the therapies that arise out of this framing doing more harm than good. The host and panel discuss the influence of religious framings on both therapists and clients that are likely very much at play in preferring the “addiction” model, what other factors might be at play in continuing to use this language and claims about pornography usage, the propriety of it being presented in schools that allow no teachings whatsoever about sexuality within the curriculum yet still allow scare-inducing warnings against pornography (which, in itself, seems incomprehensible apart from understanding healthy sexuality first), along with various other models for assisting those who self-report as pornography or sex “addicts”—and why they feel these other framings and therapies yield better results. Plus so much more!

In coming weeks, as Mormon Matters can gather a panel of persons supporting the addiction model and treatment programs that employ that framing, we look forward to letting them present their reasons for preferring it, and to challenge anything offered in this episode.

Please listen and then share your responses and experiences in the comments section below!


AASECT Position Statement on Sex Addition (released 29 November 2016)

Founded in 1967, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) is devoted to the promotion of sexual health by the development and advancement of the fields of sexual education, counseling and therapy. With this mission, AASECT accepts the responsibility of training, certifying and advancing high standards in the practice of sexuality education services, counseling and therapy. When contentious topics and cultural conflicts impede sexual education and health care, AASECT may publish position statements to clarify standards to protect consumer sexual health and sexual rights.

AASECT recognizes that people may experience significant physical, psychological, spiritual and sexual health consequences related to their sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors. AASECT recommends that its members utilize models that do not unduly pathologize consensual sexual problems. AASECT 1) does not find sufficient empirical evidence to support the classification of sex addiction or porn addiction as a mental health disorder, and 2) does not find the sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge. Therefore, it is the position of AASECT that linking problems related to sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors to a porn/sexual addiction process cannot be advanced by AASECT as a standard of practice for sexuality education delivery, counseling or therapy.

AASECT advocates for a collaborative movement to establish standards of care supported by science, public health consensus and the rigorous protection of sexual rights for consumers seeking treatment for problems related to consensual sexual urges, thoughts or behaviors.



Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed, not ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1 October 2016

Op-Ed: “Utah Students Need Real Sex-Ed and ‘Fight the New Drug’,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 October 201

Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Proudfit, G. H. (2015). Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with “porn addiction.” Biological Psychology, 109, 192–199. 

* The largest neuroscience study of cue-reactivity EEG, often called the “biomarker” of addiction, shows sex films do not behave like any known substance or behavioral addiction

Prause, N., Steele, V. R., Staley, C., Sabatinelli, D., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Prause et al.(2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions. Biological Psychology.

* The most succinct publication describing the many predictions, not just neuroscience, of the addiction model that have been falsified.

Balzarini, R. N., Dobson, K., Chin, K., & Campbell, L. Does exposure to erotica reduce attraction and love for romantic partners in men? Independent replications of Kenrick, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989) study 2. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2016.11.003

*The largest study to date on the effects of sex films on relationships finding they either increase desire and love for the partner or do not change it.

Klein, M. (2016). His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic with Honest Talk About Sex. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

* Building on decades of psychotherapy practice, the text reviews how sex films are often demonized to avoid addressing real, and more challenging, problems in relationships. Appropriate for lay audience, but also helpful for clinicians with case examples.

Natasha Helfer Parker, Mormon Sex Info website

Kristin Hodson’s therapy practice website: The Healing Group

Kristin Hodson, et al, Real Intimacy: A Couple’s Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality (Cedar Fort, 2012)

“Sex-Positivity in Mormonism,” Mormon Matters podcast episode, Nos. 314-315. December 17, 2015.

Dallin H. Oaks, “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography,” Ensign, Ocober 2015

AASECT: American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists website