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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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New Mormon mental health group to take less-churchy approach

Next week, a group of newly organized mental health providers, clinicians, educators and advocates — interested in or working with the LDS population — will meet in Utah.

Organizers created the Mormon Mental Health Association in June to provide "training, research, strategy, collaboration and education in the mental health treatment of Mormons, helping ensure that this population’s needs are being met by trained professionals who adhere to their professions’ code of ethics."

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There already is the long-standing Association for Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, established in 1975 for LDS professionals who wanted to "acknowledge their spirituality in the context of their professional training and experience," and whose "members share adherence to the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The main difference between the two groups? LDS membership and a commitment to "center their professional lives upon Jesus Christ through service to their brothers and sisters in need."

The new organization, MMHA, will not limit members to Mormons, according to founder Natasha Helfer Parker, a marriage and family therapist in Wichita, Kan., nor its approaches to LDS-approved therapies.

Instead, she says, MMHA would "open the field to discuss current issues with which our LDS clients ... and we ... are heartily grappling with in a wide-open, information-rich, relationally connecting world."

Organizers hope to "extract the best and most liberating beliefs and practices of the LDS religion from the most damaging," they write on their website. "What themes do we need to be most aware of that may come up when working with LDS clients? How do mental health professionals navigate their own spiritual or religious journeys after years of empathizing with the marginalized? How do we check our own biases along the way? How do we manage when best-practice treatments do or seem to contradict LDS belief and practice?"

The group will discuss how to "respectfully and adequately treat/educate Mormons self-identifying at any point of a faith-belief spectrum, a sexual-orientation spectrum, a gender-identity spectrum, or any other concern they may find themselves in through an evidence-based, best-practice approach."

The first meeting will be July 31 from 6 to 9 p.m. at 10695 Auto Mall Drive in Sandy.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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