How did this diverse group come together?

In March 2013, the LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah sponsored a workshop on respecting religious and sexual/gender identity differences.

The primary objective for the workshop was to create a safe space for dialogue about responses to distress around same-sex attractions and non-traditional gender. Ninety-six people representing a wide spectrum of viewpoints participated in this workshop. Through a structured process of respectful dialogue, the gathering was successful in defining common ground and achieving greater awareness of others’ perspectives.

Emerging from this workshop experience, a group of eight mental-health practitioners and academics—who represented seemingly opposite ends of the sociopolitical spectrum—agreed to meet for ongoing dialogue.

What does the group hope to accomplish?

With a shared commitment to better understand our different viewpoints and establish an inclusive and comprehensive therapeutic approach, this group has met for two hours twice monthly since March 2013. The group seeks to define a set of standards and practices that are ethical and fair in order to:

  1. Provide guidance for individual mental health providers,
  2. Provide a framework of ethical practices to guide professional and licensing boards in regulating the work of mental health providers, and
  3. De-escalate the polarized battles around legislation and litigation regarding these matters.

These standards and practices are described in our Guide for Mental Health Professionals and Peacemaking Protocol.

Lee Beckstead, PhD

Lee is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City. He was part of the American Psychological Association’s task force from 2007-2009 to evaluate interventions to change sexual orientation and make therapeutic recommendations for those desiring such a change. He conducted two studies investigating LDS/Mormon individuals who tried to change their sexual orientation and what helped and harmed resolution of their conflicts. He is a member of the International Academy of Sex Research and The LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah.

Jeff Bennion, LMFT

Jeff Bennion, LMFT, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Utah, and a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Argosy University. While much of his working life was spent working for software companies and real estate finance, he is also a part-time therapist. In addition to having personal experience with same-sex attraction as an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has also worked with countless individuals who identify as gay or bisexual, particularly those with deep devotion to traditional religious faiths in all three major religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) for the last 25 years. He co-founded North Star International, a religious ministry for Latter-day Saints in 2007. He has been married to his wife Tanya for 19 years. They live in Utah with their son Nate. He has been a member of the Reconciliation and Growth project since the spring of 2018.

Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen, PhD, LMFT

Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Flourish Counseling Services, PLLC, at the Encircle LGBTQ-SSA Youth and Family Resource Center in Provo. She received her doctorate from Brigham Young University and also sees clients at the Provo Center for Couples and Families. She specializes in couple and adolescent-family relations, including addressing LGBTQ issues and stressors in family context with respect to the LDS community. Lisa has received national awards for her research (AAMFT) and is guided as a therapist by both current social research and spirituality fostered by her worship and activity in the LDS Church.

Chelsea Johnson, LMFT

Chelsea is a Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Paideia Therapy in St. George, Utah. She works with couples and parents wrestling with differences related to sex, identity, and religion and supports them in finding ways to meaningfully connect and preserve personal integrity. She has published articles on psychological topics in Psychology Today and Public Square Magazine and hopes to do more writing when her four children can mostly fend for themselves.

Ty Mansfield, PhD, LMFT

Ty is a practicing marriage and family therapist and an assistant professor in Religious Education at Brigham Young University. He is also a co-founder, past president, and current board member of the nonprofit North Star, a faith-based support organization for Latter-day Saints addressing sexual orientation or gender identity. With a focus on personal narrative and faith-based approaches addressing sexuality and gender, he chronicled his own journey with same-sex attraction as co-author of In Quiet Desperation and later compiled Voices of Hope, an anthology of personal essays. He also co-directs the Voices of Hope Project, a website extension of the book, and the Journeys of Faith Project, which features the stories of transgender Latter-day Saints.

Candice Metzler, PhD, LCSW

Candice is a licensed clinical social worker and maintains a private practice at Metzler Counseling & Education Services LLC. She served as the Executive Director at Transgender Education Advocates (TEA) of Utah from 2015 to 2022. Candice has also served on several boards, including those for the LQBTQ Therapist Guild of Utah, Equality Utah, and Transgender Education Advocates of Utah. She continues to provide consultation and education services to organizations, groups, and individuals. Candice has been involved in community organizing and public education for more than 25 years and has guest lectured on many college and university campuses throughout Utah. She also conducts workshops for mental health and medical professionals to improve access to quality care for LGBTQI people.

David Clarke Pruden, MS

David is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity, the managing editor of the Journal of Human Sexuality, and is an adjunct faculty member at Eagle Gate College and formerly at Utah State University teaching human development, human sexuality, and family relations. For twenty years he has worked with families and individuals experiencing homosexual attractions and has written and spoken widely on subjects related to adolescent sexuality and same-sex attraction.

Former Members of the Group

The following individuals have participated at various points within the group and we express gratitude for their contributions.

Jerry Buie, MSW, LCSW

Jerry established Pride Counseling in 1996 to enable LGBTQ clients seeking competent mental health services find a safe place for therapy. Jerry is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah School of Social Work teaching issues of diversity as well as clinical practice. Recently he has established rapport with social workers in Mongolia addressing international issues around social work. He has served on many boards including the Utah Aids Foundation, Pride Center Advisory Board for Mental Health, The Naraya Cultural Preservation Council (addressing Native American Traditions) Gay Men’s Health Collective and recently Sage Utah serving the 50+ LGBTQ community). Jerry facilitates workshops and trainings nationally regarding issues of Reflexive Practice and Social Justice issues as well as Secondary Trauma and Self Care. For the last three years Jerry has been active with the Reconciliation and Growth group addressing issues regarding sexual orientation and religious conflicts. A father, future grandfather and husband. For the past 20 years Jerry and his husband have been exploring spirituality of indigenous societies throughout the world and in particular Queer Spirituality. Jerry often facilitates international and local workshops/retreats as well as facilitating guided processes through ritual and ceremony.

Shirley Cox, PhD, LCSW

One of the founding committee members and now serving a Church mission in Brazil, Shirley has a PhD/DSW in Social Work and has spent 50 years in direct practice and 27 years as a social work educator at Weber State, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Brigham Young University. She has received numerous awards for her teaching and community practice including: the Liberal Arts Outstanding Faculty Award, the Morris Committee on Excellence in Teaching Award, the NASW Nevada Chapter Social Worker of the Year and the John R. Christiansen Honored Educator Award. Her individual and jointly authored publications appear in outlets such as: The Journal of International Social Work and the Journal of Social Work Education.

David Matheson, MS, CMHC

As an author and psychotherapist, David has advocated for the well-being of individuals experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction. He co-founded Brother’s Road and co–created the Journey into Manhood and Journey Beyond experiential weekends. And he authored Becoming a Whole Man: Principles and Archetypes. Practicing psychotherapy in Los Angeles, New York and Salt Lake City provided opportunities to work with people from a wide variety of ethnicities and faiths. This heightened his awareness of the role of culture and religion in the therapeutic process. He has also gained extensive experience working with individuals struggling with the effects of trauma, abuse, addiction and attachment disruption.

Marybeth Raynes, MS, MSW, LCSW, LMFT

Marybeth Raynes is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She maintains a private practice with Crossroads Psychotherapy, a group of independent practitioners. She has worked with LGBT people and their families for over 30 years, most of whom are either LDS or have an LDS background.  She also works with individuals, couples, and families with many types of mental health concerns.

Jim Struve, MSW, LCSW

Jim has been a practicing clinical Social Worker since 1976 and an LGBTQ activist since 1978. He currently maintains a private practice in Salt Lake City. Jim is one of the founding members of The LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah and he has been Coordinator for that organization since 2004. He was instrumental in convening the dialogue process that has evolved into the Reconciliation & Growth Project. Jim is also a founding member of – an international organization that works with male survivors of sexual abuse.

While all these individuals serve on many boards and advisory committees for various organizations or may be employed by a group, program or university, their work on this project does not represent those institutions or their employers in any way. They are working independently and solely as individuals on this project and this website is not intended to indicate or imply an endorsement by anyone they associate with professionally.