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Kevin Theriot: The Role of a Professional in Repentance

After our interview with Brad Wilcox last month, Riley and I sat down to discuss how to approach the next episode of The Repentance Podcast and we came up with a few questions:

  • How does somebody know if they should be working with a professional in the repentance process?
  • What are all of the different types of professionals that someone could work with?
  • How would they know who is the right professional for their situation?

Not long afterwards, while perusing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints‘ website I came across an article that seemed to answer every single one of our questions: Finding a Mental Health Professional Who’s Right for You by Kevin Theriot.

I told Riley that we had to get Kevin on the podcast.

There was only one problem: we had no idea who he was (and we had different opinions on how to pronounce his last name).

I searched for him on LinkedIn and saw that he was currently working as a Program Manager at LDS Family Services so Riley and I decided to call one of their offices in Provo and one of their offices in Salt Lake City. The Provo office got a hold of us first and told us that we would have to contact Church Headquarters.

A voicemail and a couple of phone calls later, we were on the phone with the Kevin Theriot.

It seemed too good to be true.

Amidst the excitement of talking to Kevin, I had to settle the debate between Riley and I once and for all, “How do you pronounce your last name?” “Teh-ree-oh,” we came to find out (neither Riley nor I were correct).

More importantly, though, Kevin said he would be visiting Utah the following weekend and later confirmed he could stop by our podcast studio in Provo, Utah for a live interview with us. Our dreams became our reality—Kevin Theriot came on the show.

I believe Riley and I were inspired to ask the questions that we asked, I believe that Kevin Theriot was the person who needed to answer them, and I believe there are people in the world who need to hear his answers.

And so, without further ado, we present to you our interview with Kevin Theriot.

Episode 2: Interview with Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot was a full-time employee of LDS Family Services from 1979-2019. He earned his Bachelors of Social Work from Brigham Young University and his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Social Work from Arizona State University.

While working for the Church’s welfare department, his assignments included the Addiction Recovery Program, the Addressing Pornography website, the Adjusting to Missionary Life booklet, and consulting with various church departments on issues related to mental health.

In this episode, we discuss with Kevin (1) how to know if you should be working with a professional in the first place, (2) how you should go about deciding who to work with, and (3) how to ensure that you are really getting the most out of your treatment.

As with other episodes, this episode is available on every major streaming platform—Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and YouTube—but you can also listen to it right here:

What is the Role of a Professional in the Repentance Process?

Some of the incorrect beliefs that Riley and I have had throughout our repentance process are believing that:

  • The bishop can “solve all of our problems”
  • If we were more faithful, we wouldn’t have our problems in the first place
  • Working with a professional will lead us away from our faith

But through our experience, we’ve come to see things differently.

We believe that working with professionals can play a critical role in helping an individual repent from sin.

We also believe that faithful members of the Church can struggle with sin—even “serious sins”—because of the conditions of mortality.

And we have come to see that working with professionals can actually deepen our faith in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the Church.

Fortunately, these are not just our beliefs, but are beliefs that are also taught by leaders of the Church.

As Kevin points out in our interview with him, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said (in his talk Like a Broken Vessel):

If you had an appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

So, it’s not only okay to work with professionals in the repentance process, it’s encouraged.

But that brings us to our first question in our interview with Kevin:

How Do You Know if You Should You Be Working with a Professional?

Kevin answers this question with an age-old saying:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

He goes on to say, “If [working with a bishop] ain’t working, then you might need to look at some other avenue or some other intervention to add to—not take away from or diminish—that spiritual power [that comes from working with a bishop].”

He explains that repentance often involves four, very specific areas that need to be addressed:

  1. Biological
  2. Psychological
  3. Sociocultural
  4. Spiritual

Sometimes, just one of these areas needs to be addressed to help someone repent, but more often than not, all of them need to be looked at and addressed to really help an individual see the lasting change that they are hoping for.

Biological Factors

Kevin says, “There are things that can happen within our bodies (our physical bodies) and within our brain structure (within the chemistry that exists within our brains) that can leave us predisposed to sin.”

A few examples that Kevin mentions in our interview with him are: (1) ADHD being linked with impulsiveness and (2) diabetes being linked with depression.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors deal with how an individual perceives their world, and what they believe about their past, present, and possible future.

Kevin says, “Life experience can [predispose us to sin]… I divide life experience into three different areas: (1) early life/early childhood; (2) present life (ex. What is going on in my life right now); and (3) future life (ex. Things that I might be anxious or worried about that I think are going to happen in the future).”

Sociocultural Factors

These are things that are happening around us today.

Kevin references a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer called Our Moral Environment and says, “I love [this talk]… Given in 1992… [That] talks about how the environment that we live in today—meaning 1992 (you can draw your own conclusions on whether or not that environment has gotten better or worse)—makes it almost impossible to live a moral life because of all of the things that surround us.”

To quote directly from Elder Packer’s talk:

It is a great challenge to raise a family in the darkening mists of our moral environment.

It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons or daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should.

Biopsychosocial

Kevin says these first three factors are often referred to as biopsychosocial and mentions, “More often than not, where I [and other mental health professionals] begin to earn [our] money… is helping people figure out which one (or combination) of those might be contributing to the challenge that [they are facing] in their life.”

You can find more of Kevin’s commentary on these topics in the two articles that he has written for the Church, entitled Overcoming the Plague of Addiction and Finding a Mental Health Professional Who’s Right for You.

How Do You Know What Type of Professional Should You Work With?

Kevin starts his answer to this question by pointing out, “A lot of that depends on where you are at. Here in the United States we have access to some of the best medical care in the world. In fact, I would argue [among all of] the industrialized countries’ mental healthcare. Whereas, in third-world countries, grandma is sometimes your best resource.”

He references a book called The Heart and Soul of Change by Barry L. Duncan and says, “The therapeutic relationship between you and the person you are talking with is the primary determinant of success… If you don’t feel like you get you, if you don’t feel that empathy and that interest in you, if you don’t feel like they are helping you, fire them and get someone else.”

Kevin points out that people are often reluctant to reach out to mental health experts because they are either anxious, worried, nervous, embarrassed, etc. to say, “I need help.”

He says, “The best way to find a mental health professional is word of mouth. Ask someone who might know. And, who are those people? Often—especially in the United States—your priesthood leader: your bishop; your elders quorum president; your relief society president. Those people know the mental health resources in your community and they know the ones who are either LDS or are based in a religious philosophy close to yours.”

The first task you might have to do is swallow that anxiety that you’re feeling about telling other people that you’re struggling and need help so that you can ask them, “Do you have a resource?”

For more information, we would encourage you (if you haven’t already) to read Kevin’s article that inspired this podcast episode, Finding a Mental Health Professional Who’s Right for You.

How Do You Ensure That You Are Getting the Most Out of Your Treatment?

Kevin’s advice is to not hesitate to share feedback with the professional that you are working with—let them know what is helpful and what isn’t.

He believes that your biggest successes in therapy will be between sessions.

In our interview, he emphasized the importance of completing the homework assignments that you are given by professionals.

A vital part of your success will come from implementing the advice they give you into your daily life.

Conclusion

Repentance is complex.

As much as we wish it could be as simple as just confessing our sins to the bishop, praying, and reading our scriptures, it’s often not that straight-forward.

As Kevin taught us, sinful behavior is influenced by biological, psychological, sociocultural, and spiritual factors—all of which need to be addressed for an individual to experience lasting change.

Bishops primary help with spiritual factors, but mental health professionals are usually more qualified to help with the biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

Finding the right mental health professional for you can take time, effort, and money, but the Godhead—our Heavenly Parents, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost—promise to help us as we seek Their help through prayer and revelation.

Listen, Share, Review, and Send Feedback

We hope you enjoy Episode 2 of The Repentance Podcast (our interview with Kevin Theriot).

Please take some time to listen to each episode, share them with friends or family in need, write a review, and/or send us feedback through the contact form on our website or by e-mailing us at hello@therepentancepodcast.com

Until next month,

Maxwell and Riley

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