IACSAS Conference, May 2014
I didn’t wake up that Saturday morning expecting I’d end the day by putting my coaching career on hold. After crawling out of the sofa bed, following two days of emotion-and-information-packed IACSAS conference sessions, I dressed then quietly left the hotel room I shared with two other women. I knew they’d join me soon.
Since I’d arrived early at a breakout session led by Barb Steffens, I began moving chairs into a circle. Connections were forming from this conference: as women arrived in pairs or groups they continued their conversations as they settled into their chairs. Attendance was greater than recommended for optimum support group outcomes, so Barb shifted her plan from leading us through how she facilitates PSA support groups to modeling just the check-in experience. After explaining what to do and the check-in purpose, we began introducing ourselves, stating whether we felt a need to share or pass. Most of us passed.
However Sally (pseudonym) expressed a desire to share. ‘This is the first time I’ve told my story publicly.’ She spoke quietly and we all instinctively leaned forward. What she described was a journey through humiliation, isolation, fear and terror after confronting her husband about his out-of-control sexual behaviours. Some nodded understandingly, others wept as she linked her survival to the community she encountered through Marsha Means' Journey to Healing and Joy groups.
Our souls absorbed her visible and visceral pain as we witnessed again the depth of destruction trauma can cause. But we also witnessed the healing possibilities through a community of faith. Partnering with those who understand the multi-dimensional issues around sex addiction can help a partner move forward in her healing journey. In Sally’s words, because she experienced a safe, equipped, Christ-centered community when she was the most desperate, she chose life.
As she ended her story we caught our collective breaths. I exhaled, ‘Okay, God. I’m in.’ Where did that come from?
Sally’s story had reignited my passion to see affordable PSA (partner of sex addict) training materials developed. My plans were interrupted because God was opening a new door. He was offering an opportunity to collaborate with Marsha Means in an IACSAS initiative to create PSA facilitator training curriculum.
Our vision for these materials? To create trained PSA facilitators who assist the local church in becoming a safe place where PSAs heal from relational and sexual trauma. The second phase will include ensuring PSA facilitators receive ongoing support through moderated, online support, peer supervision groups, and further education opportunities.
While I came away with a reignited passion and purpose, it wasn’t my primary takeaway from the conference. No, I felt at home among ‘my’ people. Sarah Morales (CPC, CRC, APSATS trainee) agrees.
‘I went to the IACSAS conference to make professional connections. What I took away, in short, was life-changing. I connected professionally, but even more, I connected personally. The passion that I had in working with PSAs became intensified and more focused. And I made connections on a deep level with other PSAs - laughing, crying, and becoming life-long friends – even across continents and oceans.’
After attending the 2014 conference, Sarah completed her APSATS training and is working toward fulfilling supervision for certification. You can contact Sarah.
Wherever you are on your journey, I encourage you to attend the 2015 conference. Why? IACSAS is committed to training and equipping clinicians, pastors and church leaders to recognise sexual addiction or compulsive sexual behaviour, its effects on the addict, his/her partner, family, community, church and culture; women and men who can then have a transforming impact in our world.
With nationally and internationally recognised leaders in the field speaking, the conference offers a time for growth and networking for social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, drug and alcohol counselors, marriage and family therapists, life coaches, pastors and ministry leaders.
Another woman, Gina, encourages others to attend. ‘I appreciated being with real, authentic people who understand the complexities, truth, and pain of problematic sexual behavior. I was inspired to join the movement to increase public awareness and education about the epidemic of sex addiction. (After the 2014 Conference, Gina completed her CPSAS training and helped found the Global Recovery Village.
See you in St. Louis, and who knows? Your plans might be interrupted too!
Donna M Dixon, CCLC, CPSAS IACSAS Board Member
International Association of Certified Sexual Addiction Specialists
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