Guarding the Temple – Managing Chronic Stress
Dealing with Loss & Grief
Holiness and Healthy Spirituality
Interview from Canadian Salt And Light TV
Don Marks, Psy.D., HSP
Mr. David Shellenberger
Fr. Jim Flavin
Sounds for Reflection
Glimpse of Bali
Lost in Tanah
Saint John Vianney Center Wellness Journey Podcasts
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Below are select listings for 12-Step groups. Some meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend, while others are closed to members only. It is best to check ahead by calling a local hotline number; this will help determine the best choice of meeting. The hotline numbers will usually confidentially take your name and number and call you back with meeting information or provide a recorded announcement.www.sa.org
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
A national 12 step program for sexual addicts and sexual offenders. This group is for people who feel powerless over lust. SA’s standard of sexual sobriety is total celibacy except with a marriage partner. According to the SA website, for the sexaholic, “any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive. We also see that lust is the driving force behind our sexual acting out, and true sobriety includes progressive victory over lust.”
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)
National 12 step program for sexual addicts and those with patterns of unhealthy romantic relationships. This group is for people who feel powerless over sex and love addiction. According to the SLAA website, this includes “love addiction, relationship, and sexual anorexia.” They tend to look at both the physical and emotional components of addiction.
Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
A national 12 step program for sexual addicts and some sexual offenders. Scattered meetings have female attendance. This group is for people who feel powerless over addictive sexual behavior, focusing more on acting out sexually. The SAA website states that a sex addict realizes “we were powerless over our sexual thoughts and behaviors and that our preoccupation with sex was causing progressively severe adverse consequences for us, our families, and our friends.” SAA was founded by therapist Patrick Carnes as a place to refer his patients after their stay at Golden Valley. Carnes drafted the original “green book” for SAA. The group tends to his philosophy that sex addiction is a behavioral disease as opposed to a moral failing. Their members define their own sexual boundaries with the guidance of their sponsors and other group members.
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA)
Mostly urban 12 step program, primarily for sexual addicts. This group is for people who feel powerless over having compulsive sex. According to the SCA website, “Our primary purpose is to stay sexually sober and to help others to achieve sexual sobriety.” Further it states, “We believe we are not meant to repress our God-given sexuality, but to learn how to express it in ways that will not make unreasonable demands on our time and energy, place us in legal jeopardy, or endanger our mental, physical or spiritual health.”
Sexual Recovery Anonymous(SRA)
12 step program similar to SA except “committed relationship” is used instead of “marriage”. These meetings are limited in number but open to everyone in sexual recovery. This group is for people who feel powerless over sexual obsessions. For SRA “sobriety includes freedom from masturbation and from sex outside a mutually committed relationship.”
Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH)
NCSAC is a resource providing information for professionals and recovering people regarding therapists, treatment centers, support groups and written materials.
SLAA Online Group
SLAA Online Group is part of a 12-Step, 12 Tradition recovery fellowship. We recover by sharing experience, strength, and hope using online chat. We conduct international online meetings to aid our mutual recovery patterned after Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and are a registered group with them.
Sex Help is an online resource developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes offering books, exercises, and referrals from an acknowledged leader in the field of sexual recovery. The site primarily focuses on sexual addiction.
Your Brain On Porn
This site focuses on porn’s effects on the brain—male or female. This site grew out of a decade of research analysis on the effects of sex on the brain, and six years of listening to recovering porn addicts. There’s a vacuum of critically important information about porn’s effects on the brain.
In helping oneself or others who are or may become involved in the compulsive use of the internet, pornography, or other addictive behaviors, there are two stages to be considered. Prevention strategies are considered to prevent usage from becoming compulsive, or to prevent relapse for those already in recovery. Intervention strategies are considered when usage and behaviors have become out of control and jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of the individual.
- When in doubt, talk to someone. Talking to a trusted friend or colleague can offer valuable insights into one’s behaviors. Addictive behaviors are fueled by secrecy.
- Seek out a clinical professional for an objective assessment.
- Keep and use the computer in a public space.
- Have a general plan for the management of devices – use technology, don’t let it use you. Such a plan might include setting time limits on the use of devices, having periods of the day when one is ‘free’ from technology, or limiting, realistically, how many devises one needs.
- Use of a parent control or monitoring software (see Parental Control Softwares below). Parental control software products are installed by sex and love addicts on computers, laptops, ipads, smartphones, and other mobile devices for two primary reasons: To help the addict stay away from inappropriate digital content and interactions, and to create accountability within the addict’s recovery.
- Educate oneself about the dangers of internet and pornography addictions.
- Stress management – maintain healthy, enjoyable, and relaxing activities that lower one’s overall stress level and improves psychological resiliency.
- Stop compulsive/addictive behaviors immediately and seek professional help
- Reach out to others: Diocese or Community, therapist, spiritual director, support team, accountability person, sponsor (if applicable)
- Go to 12-step meetings and obtain a sponsor
- Begin psychotherapy with a qualified therapist with addiction expertise. Develop a relapse prevention plan including psychological, social, physical, and spiritual strategies.
- As part of the relapse prevention plan, organize a Support Team of 3 to 5 members to meet with on a monthly basis to review recovery progress. The Support Team is intended to offer support by helping the recovering person stay on track with their wellness goals – going to 12-step meetings, seeing a therapist, managing stress, keeping up with self-care behaviors, etc.
- Regular spiritual direction
- Join a priest support group if available
- Limit exposure and temptation to pornography. This could entail limiting use of a computer and disabling smartphone capabilities
- Obtain and utilize an ‘accountability partner’. This is an individual one empowers and entrusts to ensure one is following a recovery plan. This individual will have access to all devices to check for usage and potential lapses. The accountability partner could be a member of the Support Team.
- Utilize relapse prevention strategies
Parental control software products are installed on computers, laptops, ipads, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
Digital interaction is, for nearly all sex and love addicts in today’s world, the gateway to a plethora of regrettable behavior—sexual chat rooms, pornography, webcam sex, alternate reality sex games, prostitutes, sensual massage, sexting, affairs, casual and anonymous hookups, etc. Just a few years ago, the majority of this activity took place via computers and laptops. Nowadays these activities are equally likely to be carried out “on-the-go” using smartphones.
What to look for in a filtering and accountability software
1. Customizable Controls. The better products have various present filtering levels, as well as blacklisting or whitelisting of certain sites—meaning sites that would normally be allowed can be manually blocked (blacklisted) and sites that would normally be blocked can be manually allowed (whitelisting).
2. Specific Features. Various softwares offer different degrees of functionality. In addition to customizable filtering, sex and love addicts should also look for some combination of the following:
- the ability to monitor social media sites
- the ability to block obscene language
- the ability to stop the user from uploading photos and videos
- the ability to monitor online conversations (emails, IMs)
- the ability to block virtual sex games and other potentially addictive activities (violent video games, gambling sites)
- key-logging (the ability to monitor everything the user types onto a digital device)
- the ability to take and record screenshots (“photos” of what the user is looking at online)
3. Accountability. The software should notify an “accountability partner” about the nature and extent of the user’s digital activity. The accountability feature should be flexible, meaning the partner can get reports at regular intervals or on demand, and alerts in real-time if the addict uses (or attempts to use) his or her digital device in a prohibited way.
4. Proxy Blocking. Tech savvy addicts sometimes try to use proxies (intermediary servers or browsers) to circumvent filtering software. The best softwares prevent such abuses. Ideally, the program will notify the addict’s accountability partner if the addict attempts to uninstall or circumvent the program.
5. Ease of Use. The software should be easy to install and to customize. Ideally, you should be able to globally configure the software, establishing settings on all of the addict’s devices simultaneously instead of dealing with each machine individually.
6. Availability for Your Device. Not all softwares work on every digital device. In fact, many are quite limited. It is important to make sure a product works on your device before you purchase it. It is also important to see how many devices the license covers. Ideally, you want to cover all of your digital equipment with only one license.
It is important to remember that even the best parental control software is not perfect. As such, these software programs should not be viewed as enforcers of recovery; instead, they should instead be looked at as tools that can help an addict maintain sobriety (through the filtering features) and rebuild trust (through the accountability features).
Internet Probation & Parole Control (IPPC) technologies are developed for the specific and sole purpose of managing high-risk computer users. IPPC’s technology-service solution, featuring Impulse Control, is the benchmark solution for real-time, remote computer and Internet management.
Judy Hogaboom, Founder
Telephone (D) – 610-337-3964
Telephone (TF) – 888-932-4772
Email – email@example.com
Net Nanny offers top-notch filtering and accountability for your entire system of digital devices, both Windows and Mac. Happily, Net Nanny’s availability and functionality on mobile devices has caught up with its overall quality on computers and laptops. As such, all of the major features recovering sex and love addicts need are now available for all of their devices.
AVG Family Safety
AVG Family Safety offers useful filtering and accountability features for Windows based computers and Android mobile devices, along with iOS mobile devices. However, it is not available for MacOS computers. For PC users this may be a good option. For Apple users, it probably isn’t.
BSecure Family Safety
BSecure offers top-notch filtering and accountability for Windows based computers, Android devices, and iOS devices. It is not available for MacOS computers. One nice feature with BSecure is that a user can override the blocking of a website with a password, but the site visit will be logged and the accountability partner will know. This is good for adults doing research for work, etc., who may not have time to “get permission” to visit a perfectly acceptable (or necessary) website. Another nice feature is the safety lock option, which totally locks out the Internet if the user goes wild trying to access blocked sites.
For Windows and Android devices, CovenantEyes offers all of the basic functions that recovering sex and love addicts require. As of now, functionality on MacOS and iOS devices is limited to accountability, with no filtering. One nice feature is that if the software shows no Internet usage for several days—indicating the user might be circumventing the program by using another browser—the accountability partner gets an email. For PC and Android users this is a solid, though slightly expensive option. It is not a good option for Apple users.
McAfee Family Protection
For Windows and Android users, McAfee offers the full range filtering and accountability that recovering sex and love addicts seek. Unfortunately, McAfee no longer offers parental control software for MacOS and iOS devices, so Apple users are out of luck. If the software fits your devices, this is a good option. Otherwise, not so much.
Norton Online Family Premier
Norton Online Family Premier offers all of the filtering and accountability features that recovering sex and love addicts are looking for. Best of all, it functions on a wide range of digital devices, regardless of operating system. This product has improved in the last year, eliminating several minor flaws in the previous version, and it is now a recommended option. As of now it is slightly less expensive than Net Nanny.
Healthy Living Guides
Saint John Vianney Center is pleased to offer Healthy Living Guides to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Download the brochures below, or if you would like printed copies, please contact us!
Assistance for Confessors
Thank you for visiting our website. In cooperation with the USCCB, Saint John Vianney Center has developed these guidelines as a resource for confessors. Our hope is that these guidelines will help you offer sound pastoral care during the sacrament of reconciliation. Healthcare doesn’t always offer appropriate alternatives for people struggling with behavioral health issues, and they often find a welcoming home in our churches. At times, the issues they bring need additional care along with the healing and reconciling love of God. We hope you find this helpful.
Rev. James A. Flavin, M.Div., M.A., LMHC
Mental Health Issues Encountered During the Sacrement of Reconciliation: Suggestions for Confessors
As a confessor, you may experience confusion when ministering the Sacrament of Reconciliation to penitents who present psychological or addictive difficulties. Practical suggestions are offered to aid priests to serve more effectively as confessor while recognizing their own limitations regarding penitent’s emotional problems. The aims of this document include:
- Identify warning signs of addictive and psychological problems.
- How to make appropriate referrals to mental health professionals.
- Increase the confessor’s knowledge of mental health issues.
Opening of Confession
- The penitent may begin a confession with confusion or an uncertain purpose. For example, the penitent may say, “I don’t know, Father, if this is a confession. I just want to talk about my problems.”
- The penitent may remain silent for an extended period or cry, rather than talk.
While such openings are not evidence for mental illness, they suggest something is amiss. The person may be in distress or suffering psychologically, occupationally, socially or spiritually. In these circumstances, the confessor must be especially alert to the content of confession.
Attitude of the Penitent
- Some penitents may discuss the struggles of others (e.g., family, friends) in their life, rather than sharing their wrongdoings as would be expected in confession. Be alert to the possibility of social or familial discord.
- Some penitents may feel guilty for several interrelated issues such as substances, pornography, masturbation, anger outbursts, arguments or interpersonal conflicts, which could be suggestive of mental health or addictive symptoms.
- Some penitents may reveal guilt because they find their lives chaotic. Confessors must attend to possible depression or other mental illness that might cause this chronic dysfunction. For example, depressed individuals typically experience negative, punitive views about their lives. Thus, they may perceive the typical ups and downs of life as a punishment. Therefore, paying close attention to the penitent’s perceptions can give a clue about the possibility of a psychological problem.
- Some penitents might unusually confess the same guilt inducing thoughts repeatedly over a short period of time. While acknowledging the penitent’s concerns, be aware that individuals who are overly scrupulous and ritualistic may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
- Some penitents might come for confession with irrational and magical thoughts (i.e., thoughts that establish causal relationships between actions and events without basis in reality) that are rapid and incomprehensible, which might be indicative of psychotic symptoms that need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
Frequency, intensity and complexity of the warning signs
- The frequency and intensity of a penitent’s problem can become apparent by the timing of the person’s confessions. Inordinate amounts of time spent in confession may suggest elevated impact of these problems in the person’s life.
- Many penitents mention the number of times they drank alcohol or viewed pornography since their last confession. Be attentive to the frequency of these behaviors since this would suggest the severity level.
- Penitents may reveal several interrelated warning signs such as feeling guilty about alcohol use, pornography, masturbation, anger outburst and arguments with family members. Be attentive to the possible co-occurrence of these issues. Intuitively, the interrelated warning signs provide a reasonable clue of the complexity of the penitent’s problem.
- Anxious, depressed penitents may cry while mentioning their problems, suggesting a negative impact on their lives. Confessors should attend to the consequence of the problems revealed on the penitent’s mental status and functions.
- Finally, a combination of a high frequency, intensity, complexity and the consequence of the warning signs might be the best clue and reason for making a moral referral for the penitent to a mental health professional.
- In order to discern the need for a professional referral, the presence of the above warning signs is insufficient, unless the symptoms are obviously severe. Consequently, it is challenging for the confessor to make quick, careful judgments about the severity of these warning signs. In order to do so, the confessor must pay attention to the frequency, magnitude and complexity of these warning signs.
- Confessors may be especially mindful of penitent’s who display signs of a personality disorder – a person who perceives, thinks, feels, and acts in an ongoing, consistently toxic, dysfunctional manner. Personalities are usually stable over time, which makes difficult personalities a challenge for those interacting with them.
- People with a personality disorder typically create interpersonal drama as a consequence of their inability to appreciate the role their own behavior plays in creating their difficulties. They tend to either shut down or become highly escalated when under strong emotion.
Warning Signs of Personality Disorders
- Penitent may not take responsibility for the role he contributes to the problems of his life. Likely to offer excuses to justify his behavior
- Penitent is driven by selfish needs along with an inability to emotionally connect with others
- Penitent seems unable to independently solve problems
- Penitent sees outside forces as controlling his life
- Penitent consistently creates interpersonal drama by upsetting others
- Penitent interprets events in his life differently than others
- Penitent has difficulties with impulse control.
Strategies for Referring to Mental Health Professionals
Acknowledging the penitent’s positive disposition (i.e., repenting their sins):
- Confessors may acknowledge the penitent’s decision to confess and to validate his/her guilty feelings. This recognition effectively creates a good confessional atmosphere, which further helps the penitent feel understood, accepted and recognized. This good rapport also allows a confessor to address the issue gently and make a smooth transition. For example, following the confession, the priest may say, “You are mindful or thoughtful about what you did in the past that made you feel guilty, and you are also responsive to your own conscience and God’s invitation to the Sacrament of reconciliation.”
Empathically rephrasing the penitent’s mental illness or struggles:
- If there are reasonable warning signs of mental illness, the confessor might need to gently rephrase the penitent’s presenting problem. For example, if the penitent mentions about a frequent use of alcohol, internet pornography, anger outbursts and conflicts, the confessor might rephrase it briefly, “You are honest and repent for your drinking, surfing internet pornography, feeling angry and having conflict. By your acknowledgement, the Holy Spirit is at work in you calling you to a new way of living.”
Gently referring to mental health professionals:
- Validate and empathize the penitent’s potential distress, frustration or helplessness. For example, “From what you shared, you appear to have a difficult life. It must be hard and frustrating for you.”
- Ask the penitent about the possible need for help. For example, “Have you ever thought of seeking help? Seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, for example?”
- Offer the penitents some options or give a brochure if available.
Better understanding of addiction and mental illness:
- Confessors have robust knowledge of morality and spirituality to discern a penitent’s feelings. Additionally, Catholic priests must possess sufficient understanding of addiction and mental illness in order to make reasonable referrals to mental health professionals when necessary.
- Priests should consider further education in mental health issues.
- Self-study such as reading literature regarding addictions and mental illness should provide deeper insight.
Importance of interpersonal skills:
- Many priests feel comfortable when compassionately discussing sin and forgiveness with penitents; however, formulating and communicating empathically about mental health issues may be more challenging.
- It will likely be beneficial for many priests to learn how to communicate with penitents about possible addiction and mental illness. These skills can be obtained through trainings that incorporate role-play, observation and video, etc.
- As expected, the effectiveness of a priest’s ministry in this regard will be commensurately related to his level of training and communication abilities.
Clear understanding of the professional boundary existing in the confessional:
- Distinctive knowledge of what sin is, what mental illness is, and how each operates within and both affect the human psyche.
- Clear understanding of what he, as a confessor, morally can or effectively cannot do with respect to the penitent’s presenting issues.
- Referring a penitent who reveals struggles with addiction or mental illness to appropriate mental health professionals.
For more information, please call 1.888.993.8885.