Referring Individuals to Professional Therapists


Bishops and other Church leaders may need guidelines to know when the members they are working with who struggle with pornography need additional help from a professional experienced in the treatment of these types of problems. Bishops play a vital role in recovery and receive inspiration and guidance to help individuals as they work to overcome these problems. Often the addiction has progressed to the point where more help is needed.

This document is designed to help bishops know when a referral is appropriate. However, it is critical that the bishop and professional work together and that the bishop continue working with the member to address the spiritual aspects of the recovery process.

As a general rule, professional help should be sought when the individual has made repeated attempts to resolve the problem without success. Bishops and stake presidents may call LDS Family Services or other trained professionals experienced in treating this problem. Bishops and stake presidents can consult with a professional regarding the problem and whether a referral is needed. If requested, the professional will meet with the member to assess the problem and then make recommendations to the leader on how to best proceed.

Recognizing an Addiction

Four factors influence addictive behavior: frequency, duration, intensity, and risk taking. The more these factors are present in an individual, the greater the likelihood of an addiction problem. These factors apply to all addictive behaviors, including drugs, alcohol, pornography, food, shopping, gambling, and so on.

  • Frequency – Frequency refers to how often the individual engages in the behavior. If a person views pornography once a year, that person's behavior is not likely an addiction, although the conduct is clearly inappropriate. If the person views pornography three or four times a day, the presence of an addiction is much more probable.
  • Duration – Duration refers to how long the problem has lasted. Enduring problems often reflect the person's inability to resolve them. A recurring problem may indicate that problem-solving skills by the individual and others have been inadequate or insufficient. The longer a problem has continued, the more it may require professional assistance. Some problems require more time and expertise than family members and Church leaders can provide.
  • Intensity – Intensity refers to the nature of the material viewed. While all pornographic images and content are inappropriate, some types of material are significantly more intense. Movies that depict sexual acts are more intense and graphic than photographs of individuals wearing little or no clothing. The viewing of hard-core, intense pornography increases the likelihood of an addiction.
  • Risk Taking – Another primary factor of addiction is the level of risk-taking behaviors presented by an individual. The stronger the addiction, the more the person is willing to take risks to satisfy the addiction. Risk-taking activities in youth may include escalating immoral behavior, skipping school, sexual abuse, any unlawful or covert behavior, and so on. Risk-taking behavior in adults may lead to loss of employment, marital problems and divorce, family disruptions, or criminal activity.

Individuals exhibiting any of these addictive risk factors may benefit from professional assistance, including counseling, 12-step programs, or medical interventions.

The individual must understand why the addiction occurred and how to change emotional and behavioral patterns that will lead the person back to the addictive behavior.

Often addictions of this type may create or are accompanied by other social-emotional disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, attention deficit disorder, and so on. These problems often require professional assistance that can have a positive effect on the ability to overcome the addictive behavior.