By LDS Family Services
When counseling those who are involved with pornography, you can refer to the booklet Helping Those Who Struggle with Pornography. You can also refer members to the booklet Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts. Both booklets are available from Church distribution centers. The following additional suggestions may also be helpful to you.
Talk openly about the problem in special meetings for the Melchizedek Priesthood, Relief Society, and older youth. Your openness and concern will encourage those who need help to seek your counsel.
Meet Regularly and Encourage Repentance
When Church members meet with you to discuss a problem with pornography use, carefully interview them to assess the extent of the problem. Then, as you work together, meet regularly (weekly in the beginning) to provide support and accountability, assess progress, and reinforce success. Provide counsel, offer love and encouragement, and help them through the repentance process.
As prompted by the Spirit, remind those you are helping of the following principles of repentance:
- Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father is always willing to help those who pray to Him with a repentant heart. Those who are seeking to overcome a pornography problem must turn to Him and trust that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they can be healed and cleansed.
- Sorrow for Sin. To fully repent, those you are helping must acknowledge within themselves—without rationalization or excuses—that they have sinned and that pornography is damaging to them and to their relationships with others, particularly family members. This honest acknowledgment can lead to godly sorrow, a decision to stop using pornography, and a sincere desire to change.
- Confession. In coming to you for help, those who are struggling with pornography use have likely already confessed. Encourage them to be honest in their confession to Heavenly Father, to you, and to their spouse, if applicable.
- Abandonment of Sin. Those who are striving to overcome a pornography habit should understand that when they stop, they will experience a transition period that is similar to withdrawal from a drug addiction. To successfully endure this transition period, they must identify and eliminate everything that feeds the habit.
- Righteous Living. Remind those you are helping that it is not enough to simply stop pornography use and empty their lives of sin. They must fill their lives with good things. Encourage daily activities such as service, prayer, physical exercise, affirmations, scripture reading, and other edifying reading assignments. Also encourage them to fast monthly or more frequently (within reason). Those who fast learn to master physical appetites and gain control over their body.
Break Addictive Cycles
Recognize and understand pornography's addictive power. This addiction follow a cycle:
- First, addicts dwell on sexually stimulating thoughts and fantasies.
- Becoming sexually aroused, addicts engage in routines that lead to pornography use, such as searching the Internet or going to adult bookstores.
- The next phase involves viewing or using pornography, often accompanied by sexual self-stimulation.
- The cycle often ends with despair, self-loathing, and a sense of hopelessness, making addicts prone to repeat the cycle as distraction or relief from emotional and spiritual pain.
Help individuals disrupt the cycle early by replacing improper sexual thoughts with edifying and spiritually uplifting thoughts and behaviors. Assess the context or environment of their addictive behavior. What are the triggers and temptations to the behavior? Help develop a plan to avoid and resist triggers and temptations. This is a key issue in relapse prevention.
Encourage individuals to change routines, habits, purchases, and other behaviors that are associated with the addiction. This separation from their previous lifestyle is essential.
Recognize that overcoming an addiction may take time. Though Church discipline may be needed for serious infractions, love and encourage these individuals. Focus on progress being made rather than upon problems that recur during the process. (See the "Repentance and Addiction Recovery" section of Preach My Gospel, pages 187–88.)
Enable a Support System
Identify people who can provide support. Having a strong support system is critical to overcoming an addiction and being healed. A support group can consist of family members, Church leaders, and friends who provide a good influence. By affiliating with a strong support system, people who are struggling are less likely to feel isolated and alone. The value of a strong support system cannot be overestimated.
Consider Professional Assistance
Refer members to a trusted professional when needed. Participation in professional counseling, including individual and group therapy, has been helpful for a majority of those who recover. While this professional assistance does not need to continue indefinitely, it may take some time. Encourage participation in support groups that are designed to offer strength to addicts and help them maintain "sobriety."
Consider professional help if:
- There have been repeated failed attempts to quit in the past.
- There is considerable pain for the person who is addicted, a spouse, or family members.
- The consequences of the addictive behavior have a significant impact on members' lives or level of functioning.
Remember the Family Members
Remember that spouses of recovering individuals may also need assistance from leaders, professionals, and support groups. For more suggestions for counseling loved ones of pornography users, see "Do's and Don'ts for Bishops."
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