2024 MMHA Annual Conference: Influencing the Influencer- Media, Mormon Culture and Mental Health – University of Utah, Pano East Room

Thu Aug 1, 2024 9:00 AM - Fri Aug 2, 2024 6:00 PM MDT
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Influencing the Influencers: Media, Mormon Culture and Mental Health

Thursday, August 1, 2024 and Friday, August 2, 2024

In-Person at The University of Utah

6 CEUs available per day

Day One Conference Agenda – August 1, 2024

8:00 am

Registration/Check-in Opens

8:45 – 9:00 am


9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Media, Mormon Culture & Mental Health Keynote and Panel

Presenters: Peggy Fletcher-Stack and Tamarra Kemsley from the Salt Lake Tribune

Session Moderator: LaShawn C. Williams, EdD, LCSW

This session will focus on helping participants to increase their understanding of the impact of mainstream media’s history with the Mormon faith as well as present day impacts and evolutions of Mormonism as a cultural identity in social media and popular culture spaces. Movies, documentaries and true crime podcasts all have debuted Mormon identities with high profile stories. The identity of the obscure religion when thrust into public discourse is an area of intrigue and mystery with undoubted impacts on Mormon faith identity both explicitly and implicitly. The ability of the institutional faith to “bounce back” from mainstream press whether the focus is on finances, family, or conspiracy theories at the height of alleged insurrectionist activities, murder, betrayal and more, there is no doubt that the relationship of Mormonism and mainstream media cannot be ignored. Keynote participants will detail their history in covering Mormon culture via mainstream media and panelists will explore the ethics of Influencer culture and Mormon Influencer personalities as well as Mormon-identified therapists as influencers. The presenters will use direct instruction, interactive Q and A, and a processing panel to help meet the session objectives.

12:00 – 1:00 pm

Break for Lunch (lunch available for purchase in the university food court)

1:00 – 1:30 pm

MMHA Annual Business Meeting

1:30 – 4:30 pm(1:30 – 3:00 pm – presentation; 3:00 – 4:00 pm – panel discussion)

Working with LGBTQIA+ Mormon Clients: Integrating Queer Joy into Your Mental Health Practice (3 Ethics CEUs)

Presenters: Dr. Lacey Bagley and Colette Dalton, LCSW

This training will equip mental health professionals with strategies to integrate the concept of queer joy into their therapeutic practice. Attendees will explore the significance of queer joy in enhancing the well-being and resilience of LGBTQIA+ Mormon clients. The session will cover practical techniques to create an affirming environment, challenge pathologizing narratives, and celebrate positive aspects of queer identities.

Day Two Conference Agenda – August 2, 2024

9:00 - 10:00 am

CONNECTING THROUGH THE DISCONNECT: Highlighting Pasifika communities & Mental Health

Presenter: Elsie Pulupuna

Clients seeking treatment for religious trauma is increasing in demand across the United States and beyond. benefit from understanding more about in complex intersections of religion and trauma and learn about the protective factors of religion as well as the risk factors in the treatment of trauma survivors.

Within the Polynesian and LDS cultures, there are a number of similarities and parallels. The tenets of these cultures can diminish the opportunities for personal and individual development, especially in light of the high focus on communal needs and community values. Clinicians attending this session will learn about the impact of religious institutions on marginalized communities. This presentation will explore and better understand the complexities of navigating racial/ethnic identity within the context of religion, with a focus on the LDS context. Participants will learn about how the mental health of racial/ethnic minorities is impacted within religious institutions.

10:25 – 11:55 am

Session Moderators: LaShawn C. Williams, EdD, LCSW and Ariel Wootan Merkling, LCSW

The first panel will continue the theme of the morning keynote by hearing from Pasifika clinicians and their lived experiences and clinical expertise. The second panel will discuss the impacts of mental health on BIPOC Social Media Influencers who are identified with Mormon Faith and Culture.

12:20 – 1:20 pm


1:20 – 2:30 pm

Understanding the Impact of Religious Trauma in LDS Populations: A Trauma Therapist's Guide

Cassidy DuHadway

Religious trauma is an often overlooked but significant area of mental health, particularly within the LDS community. This presentation aims to explore the multifaceted nature of religious trauma, examining both its immediate and long-term impacts on individuals and families. We will delve into the developmental and emotional neglect aspects that often accompany such trauma, providing insights into the underlying belief systems that exacerbate these experiences. Additionally, the role of social media influencers in bringing attention to these issues will be discussed, highlighting the gap between popular discourse and clinical understanding. This session will equip therapists with the knowledge and tools needed to understand religious trauma and how it impacts their clients and practice, fostering a deeper cultural competency and empathy for their clients.

2:30 – 4:00 pm

Fragmented Identities: Trauma Healing and Identity development for LGBTQ+ people from religiously conservative cultures

Presenter: Andres Larios Brown

Ongoing studies show that LGBTQIA+ people are at increased risk for a number of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Trevor, 2023). Given this, it is imperative that we understand how to better help LGBTQIA+ people thrive. This workshop is designed to help therapists and counselors better meet the mental and emotional needs of LGBTQIA+ people in our roles and capacities.

Focusing on LGBTQIA+ communities from religiously conservative cultures is especially important because these individuals often face unique challenges and heightened levels of stigma and discrimination. These additional pressures can exacerbate mental health concerns, making it crucial for mental health professionals to be equipped with the right tools and understanding to provide effective support. By addressing the specific needs of these communities, therapists can help mitigate the negative impact of cultural and religious pressures on mental health.

4:25 – 5:25 pm

Faith Crisis and the Perinatal Period + Navigating the Void: The Post-Religious Journey and the Promise of Existential Therapy

Presenter: Laura Parry, LCSW, PMH-C and Sara Rands ACMHC

Presentation 1: As a PMH-C (perinatal mental health certified) therapist working in an area in which many individuals seek therapy for both a perinatal mental health disorder (PMHD) and religion/faith related reasons, I began to notice similarities in my clinical work between those experiencing a PMHD and those experiencing a faith crisis/transition. In addition to my clinical practice, in 2022 I completed independent, qualitative research using an online form to survey individuals who experienced faith crisis, a PMHD, or both faith crisis and a PMHD. The presentation includes my findings on how these issues are similar, different, and how clinicians can best understand this population and best serve them. I will also discuss how media plays a role in both our perception of ideal motherhood and perception of faith crisis/faithfulness, which impacts the mental health of mothers and those experiencing faith crisis.

Presentation 2: What is it like to leave a high-cost religion? How can counselors help people cope? Leaving a high-cost religion is a dramatically life-altering process that impacts a person’s worldview, identity, marriage and family relationships, community, and meaning. For most, deconversion was not experienced as a choice. Existential therapy has potential to help deconverts rebuild their worldview and identities, cope with uncertainty, rebuild community, and find new meaning. This presentation will explore the four “ultimate concerns” of existential therapy, how they relate to the deconvert experience, and how sitting with death, isolation, and meaninglessness can actually be therapeutic.

5:55 – 6:55 pm

When it isn’t a faith crisis: Identifying signs of scrupulosity in Mormon context

Presenter: Claire Breedlove

Scrupulosity is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder focused on religious, spiritual or moral themes. For individuals associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, common symptoms of scrupulosity involve obsessive feelings on unworthiness, excessive urges to confess to ecclesiastical leaders or repent, overwhelming feelings that they don’t have enough faith, and high levels of anxiety associated with scripture study, prayer, and temple worship. Although some individuals leave the Church to try to escape their symptoms, scrupulosity is a problem of anxiety not of faith. As such, it is critical that affected individuals receive appropriate, evidence-based treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, primarily exposure and response prevention (ERP), so that they can deal with their underlying anxiety problem.

This treatment approach supports clients in making a values vs anxiety-based decision about whether or not to remain in the Church. It is especially important to treat this population with exposure because many other treatments, including all forms of talk therapy, that are widely used to support people navigating social and emotional dimensions of faith transitions can make OCD worse by creating unhelpful opportunities for reassurance-seeking behavior that fuels the OCD cycle.

I will provide an overview of the diagnostic criteria for scrupulosity, including assessments that might be helpful for clinicians, and common symptoms of scrupulosity I see in the Latter-day Saint clients with whom I work. I will also explain the fundamentals of ERP and give examples of common exposures used with LDS clients. Finally, I will give clinicians resources and referrals they can use when working with clients with symptoms of scrupulosity.