Sunday, November 17

Reconciling Faith and Feelings: 2013 Conference

Sometimes I feel so out of place.

Yesterday was the Reconciling Faith and Feelings Conference, hosted by AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists), FAR (the Foundation for Attraction Research), and North Star International. It was at the Utah Valley Convention Center from 9-5.

I played a couple of different roles yesterday. A couple guys from my a cappella group Morris Code were willing to be dragged into performing; we were short enough members to make it work when we performed in the morning and the afternoon, so I grabbed some people I knew walking by. "Hey! Will you sing with us right now?" We opened the morning session of the conference singing "Our Savior's Love" and the afternoon session with "Let Us All Press On." So I got to be a performer.

After the opening song, I sat down in the one empty chair on the stand became part of the first panel - people who personally experience same-sex attraction. After long-ish personal introductions, we discussed a topic that roamed for an hour, then had a short break before moving to Q&A. I suggested to the moderator that we put 6 minute time limits on the questions... so that we didn't lose people to falling asleep and so we could get to lots of questions. They ended up doing it, which was really nice.

During the breaks, however, was where I felt out of place. If I know what I'm supposed to be doing, I'm okay. But if I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing... I'm like a fish out of water. Am I supposed to spend short periods of time with lots of people, so that I can talk with all of them? Spend longer talking with one person who wants to talk with me? Somewhere in between? Go meet new people? Talk with people I already know? So complicated.

I'm pretty sure I ended up brushing some people off and spending too much time talking with others. Standoffish to some, maybe arrogant or detached... yeah. Big, unstructured events hide a seething vat of bad impressions waiting to be born.

The conference itself felt like it went well, though as time went on I definitely got more and more tired. Next year, hopefully they break stuff up more, and I think that they should give more time to the first panel at the expense of the others. But it's a learning experience. I don't think we had any professional conference planners involved in the process.

I asked two questions during the Q&A. The first one didn't get asked, but the second one did - which was cool, because there were a lot of questions submitted through texting. This was my question:
"SSA is 1 of many issues I face. I can't find a therapist who can grasp all of them as a whole. After a dozen, each gets only part of it. How can I find someone?"

The first answer let me know that I hadn't put enough information in the question, by remarking that most therapists don't really need to 'specialize' in something to be able to help clients make improvements. And yet, at least from my perspective, that doesn't feel accurate. I've had therapists who felt like they didn't know how to address being autistic, and others (who were admittedly new in the field) who had no idea how to help me with autism, mood disorders, and SSA.

The conversation continued until Ty mentioned that he felt there were definite exceptions to the "find a therapist you can connect with and it's good" rule - mental illness. Obviously, since I'm not an expert in the terminology of social psych, I didn't know that mental illness doesn't count as an issue. It's something wholly different. *sigh* Next time, I'll ask something different. Or I'll just get up the nerve to ask someone in person. But either way, I got the answer - I need to find someone who specializes in each of the major mental disorders I face, as well as someone I can click with.

In that moment, I realized that I already have a great therapist, albeit one who makes me work for advice. Christ gets me, and He's pretty much a specialist in everything I face. And He doesn't ever tell me something that makes me want to find someone else to replace Him. Yeah. *sigh*

The conference was recorded, so you can watch it if you missed it when it becomes available, probably sometime in the next month. At least watch the first panel (not just to see my shining face... though that's not a bad reason), because most of the people I talked with said they liked it best.

1 comment:

Tricia S. said...

I love your comment about your Therapist being Christ. So incredibly true. I had difficulty connecting with the Therapist I went to, and he had little experience in dealing with what I was going through. I went through a year and half trying to find the trust to put Faith into God and Christ again, but it was a struggle. I longed for someone who was in my same situation to talk to, but everyone told me to talk with Christ, and he would help. Sadly this only angered me at the time and made me feel more lonely. A friend saw that and helped me find a path back to having Faith and trusting in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. With that being said, I totally admire your ability to see that even through all your trials. That's truly amazing!