Mission and Vision
Bethesda Workshops encourages sexual wholeness by ministering to those damaged by sexual sin and addiction. We provide a place of healing where people can begin a process of restoration with God, themselves, with others, and within their marriages. We use the best clinical strategies, coupled with Christian principles, to achieve spiritual, emotional, and relational healing for sexual addiction.
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization, Bethesda Workshops provides Christian-based, clinical excellence at an affordable price to those in need.
Our vision is of restored lives and marriages. We believe fellowship with God and with others is vital. We pray for safe churches to bring grace and help to those who are sexually broken and those they have harmed, and we want to equip churches with tools for that purpose.
Founder Marnie Ferree completed her master’s degree and joined the full-time staff of the Woodmont Hills Counseling Center, a ministry of the Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville. Her practiced was devoted to working with sex addicts and sexual abuse survivors.
Based on the need she saw in her practice and beyond, Marnie Ferree created an intensive workshop called Healing for Women, which was the first gender-specific treatment program for female sex and love addicts. The workshop model was developed from a similar program created by Mark Laaser, Ph.D., and Eli Machen, MSW, who began conducting workshops for male sex addicts in the early 1990s and added a program for their wives in 1995.
The workshops for male sex addicts and wives of addicts associated with Dr. Laaser, which were conducted through other organizations, needed a new home. With the approval of the Woodmont Hills church, Marnie offered to expand her program to the include them. Thus an entire workshop ministry for sexual addiction recovery came under Marnie’s direction. Bethesda Workshops was chosen as the new name to reflect the core teaching from John 5, “Do you want to get well?”
The ministry thrived, and Marnie left the counseling center to devote full-time to its oversight. The Woodmont Hills Church continued its financial support and provided free office space.
Bethesda Workshops became a self-supporting parachurch ministry of the Woodmont Hills Church, opened its own bank accounts, and developed its independent accounting system.
After years of using conference centers and hotels to conduct workshops, Bethesda Workshops began holding workshops in an educational wing of the Woodmont Hills Church and housing participants at an area hotel. This move was a great financial boost that allowed the ministry to begin saving for the future.
Bethesda Workshops separated from the Woodmont Hills Church to become a non-profit corporation with an independent board of directors. The church continued to provide free office and workshop space.
The ministry received approval as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which allows contributions to Bethesda Workshops to be tax-deductible.
The Board of Directors conducted a visioning retreat and outlined parameters for the kind of space the ministry needed. Received a $250,000 gift from an alumni couple, who challenged others to match their donation.
After beginning a campaign to match the challenge gift, Bethesda Workshops identified a stand-alone building perfect for our use. When we weren’t able to secure financing, an angel investor stepped up to buy the building and personally finance it. After extensive renovation, we moved in just before Christmas.
We completed our first year of conducting workshops and trainings in our own space. Supporters, alumni and professionals attended various open houses and celebrations.
Bethesda Workshops offered another first: a clinical intensive workshop for teen females who are acting out sexually (along with their parents.) Normally, around 25 different clinical intensives are held each year.
Bethesda Workshops couples the best clinical practices with a Christian worldview. Our approach is grace-based and emphasizes a relationship with God over rules-based religion. We draw on familiar stories from Judeo-Christian scripture to illustrate recovery principles, and we weave Christian principles into every facet of our work. As a non-denominational program, we make no distinction between Protestants and Catholics.
Individuals struggling with sexual addiction (whether personally or in relationship with an addict) often suffer from profound spiritual shame. Addicts correctly view their behavior as morally wrong, yet most have found little help within their Christian communities. Partners of addicts also frequently find the church poorly equipped to respond to their needs.
Bethesda Workshops is sensitive to the spiritual wounding many addicts and partners have experienced, and we specialize in attending to that pain. We gently invite participants into a personal relationship with a loving God. We don’t get sidetracked by controversies about religious tenets or practices.
All are welcome at Bethesda Workshops regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Participants of Jewish faith, Muslim faith, other faiths, and those without any specific faith affiliation have found a Healing Workshop to be a welcoming, comfortable environment.
What We Offer
Our primary focus is offering clinical intensive workshops for male sex addicts, female sex addicts, partners of sex addicts, couples affected by sexual addiction, and teens (gender specific for males and females) who are acting out sexually (accompanied by their parents).
Other Ministry Areas Include
- Training for clinicians in the areas of sexual addiction and trauma
- Education for churches, specifically about pornography and sexual addiction
- Consulting and crisis intervention assistance for churches and Christian agencies confronted with sexual sin on the part of leadership
- The sale of books and other resources, visit our shop
- Referral to recommended resources such as support groups and suggested reading
Speaking Ministry: Providing education and seminars on topics including:
- Healthy sexuality
- Healthy families
- Sexual addiction
- Sexual abuse
- Talking to your kids about sex
- Healthy churches
- Pastoral sexual misconduct/abuse
What Sets Us Apart?
- Christian-based treatment (non-denominational, grace-based)
- Facilitated solely by licensed clinicians; majority are Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs)
- Similar intensive workshops available for sex addicts, partners and couples
- Help for adolescents who are acting out (the only intensive workshop of its kind in the country)
- Convenient 4-day workshop program provides huge jumpstart or boost to recovery process
- Multiple staff at each workshop offer different styles and therapeutic expertise
- Affordable fee includes all lodging and meals for duration of workshop
- No interest payment plans and limited scholarships available
Staff & Board
All of our clinical staff are Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT®), or Certified Partner Trauma Therapists (CPTT) through the Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). This training, developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes, requires attendance at multiple training modules and supervision with a CSAT®/CPTT supervisor. It also requires ongoing education requirements so that CSATs/CPTTs are experts in providing the latest innovations in sexual addiction therapy. CSAT®/CPTT training is a rigorous process designed to help professionals best serve their clients.
Led by Mike Vaughn, the Bethesda Workshops’ clinicians were described by a participant as “professional, incredible counselors who are passionate, compassionate, and exceptional at what they do.” Another attendee said, “The office staff were efficient and helpful from start to finish. They made me feel comfortable about attending and were great at communicating all the details about getting here.
The Pool of Bethesda
The name “Bethesda” is taken from a New Testament scripture in John 5: 1-9:
The Healing at the Pool:
“Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people – blind, crippled, and paralyzed – were in these alcoves. From time to time an angel would stir the waters, and whoever was first in the pool would be cured of his disease.
“One man had been an invalid there for 38 years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
– The Message as translated by Eugene Peterson
The account continues to describe the healing Jesus did in this paralyzed man’s life. He took up his bed and walked! It also outlines the criticism Jesus received by the so-called religious people because he performed this healing on the Sabbath, which was a day when no one was allowed to work. Sadly, for some, the rules of religion are more important than the relationship with Jesus.
For those who struggle with sexual brokenness and those paralyzed by sexual sin and addiction, Jesus’ question rings clearly:
Do you want to get well?
Jesus, the Great Physician, challenged the man at the Pool of Bethesda to embrace the healing that was offered. Jesus extends the same opportunity for wholeness today.
In a religious climate that often condemns sexual sinners and the sexually broken without providing any help, Bethesda Workshops exists to provide a place of healing. We point the wounded toward the grace of Christ and provide them with knowledge and tools for a lifetime of healing.