The Mormon Mental Health Association

Supporting Mental Health Within the Mormon Community

Full Program of 2017 4th Annual Conference

The Collision of Belief & Practice: How to Maintain Appropriate Boundaries while Working with Mormon Clients

WHEN: Thursday, July 27th, 2017 7-10pm

WHERE: Student Union, The University of Utah, Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, UT

WHO: Natasha Helfer Parker, Dr. Marty Erickson and Kristin Bennion 

Depending on membership status, student discounts, etc. cost will range from $35-$75


Faith, religion and spirituality are important aspects to consider within clinical treatment. At times these can even be part of a client's primary concern for seeking treatment. Research shows that therapists with religious traditions of their own struggle to keep their own biases from becoming issues of countertransference. How do we as clinicians best go about checking our own relationships with spiritual/religious matters so as to not interfere with our clients' journeys? How do we manage our own beliefs, traditions and faith shifts in light of the work we do? How do we hold space for advocacy and social justice positions (which are often public stances), while still offering safe spaces for clients to do their work? How can we become more ethically aware as we apply cultural competence to Mormonism and the work that we do in its various communities - especially when our beliefs don't match our clients'? These are many questions that we usually see members of MMHA wanting to address and have dialogue around. Concerns in regards to how these questions affect the Mormon community which we serve are what led to the founding of MMHA to begin with. This 3-hour conference will offer insights from 3 seasoned professionals who have worked primarily with a Mormon clientele and spent much time researching and considering these questions. It will also hold significant space for open dialogue and questions from attendees so that we can process and network with one another in an area that affects us all.

3 Continuation Education Credits

Will count towards "Ethics" requirements

Full Program of 2015 2nd Annual Conference


9:00-10:30 am

Research & Clinical Implications for Working with Feminist Members of the Church

Verlyne Christensen, MSc

In this presentation, Verlyne will address the emergence of feminist consciousness and the experience of feminist women in a patriarchal religion. Based on her research and professional experience, she will provide a review of the challenges/personal growth within the context of human development. Also, she will address cognitive and psychological implications and provide suggestions on how to approach such matters in a counseling setting.

Verlyne Christensen is a psychologist offering counseling and consulting services in private practice. She has extensive clinical experience working with individuals, couples and families. She is passionate about the study of religion and feminism and has written on various topics including feminism, religion, relationships and mindful parenting.

Being an LGBT and Religion-Affirming Therapist: Avoiding the False Dichotomy 

Dr. Ken Roach, Ed.D., LCMHC

This session will explore some of the attitudes and skills involved in being an LGBTQ-affirmative therapist, ways to affirm the different dimensions of client identities and how to avoid the pitfalls of false dichotomies for ourselves and our clients.

For 15 years, Ken worked as a therapist for Salt Lake County Youth Services, where he provided in-home family therapy for court-involved and SED adolescents. For 13 years, Ken was a victim advocate for the Rape Recovery Center; he continues to assist the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) in providing state-mandated victim advocate trainings. Ken served on the Board of the Utah Pride Center (2007-2010) and currently serves on the Board of the LGBTQ Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah. Ken is currently the Clinic Director at the University of Phoenix. 

Addiction to Prescription Medications 

Dr. Vicki Winkel, MD

Addiction to prescription medications has been on the rise in recent years with particularly high rates in Utah. Dr. Winkel will discuss recent demographics, outline which medications have the potential for abuse, and discuss implications, as well as why this might be of particular concern amongst Mormons.

Dr. Vicki Winkel earned her bachelor's degree in Human Development from Brigham Young University in 2002. She graduated from the University of Utah's School of Medicine in 2007 where she subsequently completed a four-year residency in psychiatry. She is currently the medical director of Ascend Recovery, a dual diagnosis residential treatment center in Utah.


“I’m a Pilgrim, I’m a Stranger:” A Historical and Cultural Perspective on Substance Addiction in the LDS Church 

James Ott, LCSW

The LDS Church has a history of trauma and transitions that has become part of its culture and identity as a whole.  We will look at the historical and cultural perspectives and use of mood-altering substances, and it’s connection to trauma and transition.  Lastly, we will explore the impact a strong spiritual community and family have in the role of healing from trauma and addiction.

James Ott is Founder, Executive Director, and a therapist at Red Willow Counseling and Recovery, a mental health and addiction clinic in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  He is a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP) and a Certified ARISE Interventionist (CAI) and part of the core ARISE clinical team.  His outpatient practice helps people with general mental health difficulties, relationship challenges, and life transitions, and specializes in substance abuse and it’s impact on families.  As an interventionist, he provides a family centered invitational intervention to promote whole family healing.  He consults with facilities to become compliant with and accredited by the Joint Commission, and is the Board Chair of a non-profit agency that provides scholarships for addicted individuals to receive appropriate treatment.  He is the past clinical director of a residential treatment facility and of a tele-therapy outpatient program. 

Pausing at the Intersection of Faith, Race, and LDS Culture

LaShawn Williams-Schultz, CSW

Clinicians serve clientele best when they are able to provide culturally sensitive services to build therapeutic relationships and provide best practice services to clients experiencing crises related to their identity development within the LDS faith. Often times, cultural and racial issues can impact the development of a faith identity.  Cultural differences are experiences of nuances and connections that clinicians can learn to recognize and incorporate into treatment planning. In this workshop, we will review three parts of building multicultural competence and confidence in clinical practice.  The workshop will discuss the learned cultural concepts of identity, how to affirm cultural differences, and use differences as connection points in therapy.

LaShawn is a Multicultural Advocate and Practitioner aiding individuals, couples, and families to embrace their differences as seeds for lasting connection. She received her MSW in 2006 and has been a practicing social worker for almost 15 years.

Counseling Competencies when Working with Transgender Patients

Dr. Hollie Hancock, PhD 

Many health care and mental health care providers are eager to provide a safe, welcoming treatment environment for members of the Transgender community.  However, these providers have not had the opportunity to access information or training regarding serving this highly marginalized population.  This workshop will cover introductory information related to improving services for members of the Transgender community, provide a brief overview of WPATH standards, and tips for working in concert with other health care providers to create a consistent level of care for mutual patients. 

Dr. Hollie Hancock is the Clinical Director and a psychotherapist at Iron Mountain Counseling.  Hollie holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah in Women’s Studies (now Gender Studies), a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from Argosy University.  As a psychotherapist, Hollie is an LDS LGBT affirming therapist, trained and specializing in helping those experiencing sexual, religious and social conflicts.

12:00-1:00 pm LUNCH

1:00-1:30 pm

MMHA business and updates from the board

1:30-3:00 pm 

Return with Trauma: Understanding & Assisting Early Returned Missionaries

Dr. Kristine J. Doty, PhD

There is a growing trend of missionaries returning early for mental and physical health concerns.  This session will focus on recent research conducted to understand this phenomenon and specific ways clinicians, families, and church members can support ERMs in their adjustment.     

 Dr. Kristine J. Doty is a graduate of Utah Valley University, having received her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science.  She earned a Master of Social Work degree from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in social work from the University of Utah.  Her research interests include cultural considerations surrounding Mormonism, welfare reform, and program evaluation.  Kris is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialty in crisis intervention. Her practice experience includes working in the emergency room at Utah Valley Hospital, and conducting individual and group therapy at a residential treatment facility for adults with learning disabilities.  Kris is currently a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross and maintains a small private practice.  She has served on advisory boards for several local organizations.  Kris currently teaches social work and is the Chair of the Behavioral Science Department at Utah Valley University.  She has five children (four of whom served missions) and six grandchildren.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Scrupulosity: A Mormon Perspective

Dr. John P Dehlin, MS

In this session John will discuss the findings of his published research study on the treatment of Scrupulosity (religion-based OCD) using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (a mindfulness-based form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  He will also discuss his experiences treating scrupulous clients as a counselor at Utah State University.

John P. Dehlin received his PhD in Clinical/Counseling Psychology from Utah State University in July of 2015.  He is also the creator of several Mormon-themed podcasts, blogs and websites, including Mormon Stories Podcast.

Families in Mourning: Managing the Contradictory Grieving Tasks Surrounding Faith Transitions in Family Systems

Peter Danzig, LCSW

When one or more members of a family experience a faith transition and are no longer able or willing to participate in the religion of the family in the same way anymore, the whole family system must work to process the change and deal with losses incurred. Ironically, though family members on both sides of the religious fence are facing very similar loss, the processes each individual must go through on their path toward healing are often contradictory.  Reframing many of the common frustrations, arguments, and communication difficulties in this light allow for the family system to better support each member through the process of appropriately grieving the changes they have experienced.  This presentation will examine the framework for this type of work with families and individuals as well as explore common difficulties and roadblocks along the way.

Peter Danzig LCSW is a therapist in private practice in Salt Lake City specializing in working with individuals and families around faith transitions. He has deep experience both personally and professionally working with families, individuals, and couples around these issues. He graduated with a masters in social work from the University of Utah in 2004 and began his career in a small rural community in Utah where he became the lead therapist on the local drug court and represented the mental health agency in community interdisciplinary teams. He relocated to Salt Lake City in 2008 and has worked as a counselor at Primary Children’s Outpatient Mental Health Clinic, manages the Prevention Therapy and Case Management team at the University of Utah HIV/AIDS Clinic, and works as a private practice clinician focused on issues surrounding faith transition.

3:00-5:00 pm


Dr. Caitlin Ryan

Director of the San Francisco based Family Acceptance Project

Dr. Caitlin Ryan is the founder and director of San Francisco State's nationally acclaimed Family Acceptance Project and is a leading expert on the psychology and sociology of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The Family Acceptance Project, which Ryan developed in 2002, is the first initiative in the country to study the effects of acceptance and rejection on LGBT adolescents. Its research has shown a clear link between family rejection of LGBT adolescents and health problems in early adulthood, and between family acceptance and general wellbeing. In 2012, its educational booklet, "Supportive Families, Healthy Children," was designated the first "best practice" resource for preventing suicide among LGBT children, youth and young adults by the national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. Ryan and her team have also been developing the first evidence-based family support model to teach providers across all systems of care including schools, primary care, foster care and juvenile justice systems how to help ethnically and religiously diverse families support their LGBT children.

Ryan's work with the Family Acceptance Project has been recognized by such major mental health professional organizations as the American Counseling Association's Counselors for Social Justice division, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.  The Family Acceptance Project has published the first faith-based version of "Supportive Families, Healthy Children," targeted toward Mormon with LGBT children.  The project is developing materials for Jewish, Catholic and evangelical Christian families, African American clergy members, families with little formal education and families for whom English is not a first language.  MMHA is honored to have Dr. Ryan agree to be our keynote speaker for our second annual conference.