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B4U-ACT Holds Spring 2016 Workshop

B4U-ACT held its eighth full-day workshop, entitled “Mental Health for Minor-Attracted People: Keeping Wellness First,” on Friday, April 22, 2016, in Baltimore, MD. Approximately 35 people attended, including minor-attracted persons (MAPs), MAP family members, mental health professionals, graduate students, and professors.

B4U-ACT co-founder and board chair Russell Dick began the day with a brief history and overview of the mission of B4U-ACT, including a recognition of the contributions of dedicated board members Paul Christiano and Denise Sawyer who died this past year. Psychodramatist Steve Kopp then led an introductory activity which helped attendees get to know each other and become more comfortable discussing MAP issues.

During the first session, Richard Kramer, B4U-ACT’s science and education director, moderated a presentation and discussion of MAPs’ experiences of coming to an awareness of their sexuality and seeking wellness. Richard and another MAP told their personal stories, followed by a time for questions and comments from the audience, and discussion of factors that promote or inhibit attempts to achieve wellness. Some barriers to wellness identified by attendees included the risk averseness of the mental health profession (reflecting tendencies found in society in general) and the tendency to inaccurately think of MAPs and issues they face as being in a different category from those associated with other populations.

The purpose of the next portion of the workshop was to identify components of wellness and discuss how they applied to MAPs. Russell provided an overview of wellness from a mental health perspective, defining it as a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit that leads to a sense of well-being. He described eight components of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Then he described how he addressed these components in his own practice with clients, including MAP clients. This was followed by lively discussion.

After lunch, Richard provided an overview and update of B4U-ACT’s recent activities and accomplishments in four areas: MAP outreach, professional outreach, collaboration with researchers, and interaction with media.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to actions attendees could take to address the wellness needs of MAP clients, as well as possible initiatives that could help move the focus of the profession toward these needs. Steve led an exercise to help attendees identify their strengths and discuss how they could use them to address the wellness of MAPs through therapy or in everyday relationships. Attendees identified several things that MAPs and practitioners could do. For example, MAPs could tell their stories in a way that took account of their audience’s understanding, realize they can walk away from therapists who don’t seem to be a good fit, and work on self-acceptance rather than dwelling on the unhelpful ways that society responds to them. Mental health professionals could provide acceptance, listen and meet the MAP client where he or she is, help the client define wellness and determine areas where work is needed, and inform clients about the limits of confidentiality.

The final portion of the day was devoted to identifying initiatives to which attendees could commit in order to move the profession toward a wellness focus for MAPs. Participants brainstormed a list of about 15 ideas, then narrowed the list down to four initiatives that seemed to generate the most interest: presenting at conferences held by professional organizations, developing a handbook for therapists working with MAPs, creating a therapist referral system, and carrying out an anti-stigma/publicity campaign. Attendees divided themselves into groups corresponding to these initiatives and developed initial goals and action plans. Those who were able signed up to commit to working on these initiatives and selected one person to be the initial facilitator for the group’s continued work.

Comments(3)

  1. Reply
    Not so Dumb Blonde says

    I was molested from early childhood up until 13 years old. [I feel like] I’ve been damaged for life because of what was done to me. I’ve felt dirty and dumb all my adult life because I was too afraid to tell anyone what [that person] was doing to me. Almost all my life I’ve feared children, but didn’t understand why until recently while in therapy. [sentence removed]

    • Reply
      Shea Taylor says

      I sympathise with your history. You obviously have every right to the emotions you’re feeling around your abuse, and obviously nobody should have to go through what you went through! You didn’t ask for any of that.

      And neither did minor-attracted persons (MAPs) ask to have an exclusive or primary sexual orientation whose expression is illegal, nor did celibate MAPs ask to end up demonized by society not for their actions but simply for their attractions and feelings. I’m obviously not talking here about those who harm children or adolescents.

      People are sometimes surprised to learn that most people who harm children sexually are not MAPs, and most MAPs do not harm children sexually — in a similar way that most non-MAP adult men are not rapists.

      The biggest problems occur when someone is a sociopath (feels no empathy for others) and/or sadistic (enjoys inflicting pain on others). If they are then oriented towards harming others, it is a terrible enough thing when those others are adults, but feels like even more of a terrible thing when those others are children or adolescents.

      I wish you and anyone else in similar pain all the best going forward and that you continue to make healthy breakthroughs with your therapy so you can live the best life possible for yourself.

      Take care.

  2. Reply
    Sean says

    >>I’ve felt dirty and dumb all my adult life because I was too afraid to tell anyone what [that person] was doing to me.<<

    Which is exactly why minor attracted people are advocating a more open and honest, less shaming and punitive discourse around sexuality.

    One does not need to be an apologist for child molesting or an advocate of sexual conduct with children to point out that a great deal of the harm that can result from childhood sexual experience with adults is a consequence of guilt and shame, which are aspects of the policing of social norms and not intrinsic to sexual behaviour as such.

    'Paedophiles' are 'othered' in a way that seeks to erase their humanity. Sexual abuse survivors are similarly cast in a role. It would be better for everyone if fascist discourses were left at the door and both parties sought to foster empathy and trust.

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