Facilitator Guide

The Augustine Way

Requirements for Facilitators

Only basic leadership skills are needed to lead a group. No advanced degrees are necessary for the facilitator. While material in Augustine Way includes theology, psychology, and biology, information from each discipline is explained clearly and is readily accessible to leader and participants. As a facilitator, you must:

1. Be in support of Church teachings regarding pornography, masturbation, and chastity.

2. Believe in the power of God’s grace.

3. Be patient with and respectful of group members and their struggles.

4. Provide confidentiality to all participants, disclosing information only with their consent.

5. Understand that growth is often slow and episodic.

6. Desire what is good and helpful for the group.

Please note: We never press anyone for details or descriptions of habits that they do not want to reveal. We must be mindful of balancing privacy with disclosure.

Important Considerations

It is important to point out that the result of The Augustine Way will be much more than “sexual sobriety.” Counting days of chastity is too basic for growth and will discourage members. The premise of Augustine Way is based on a few basic principles:

1. Pornography and masturbation usage can be viewed not only as sinful but as an unhealthy habit of behavior.

2. Unhealthy habits, once learned, remain but can be displaced with healthy virtuous habits.

3. We can learn to recognize what cues the habit, what reinforces the habit, and the routine of the habit. Put simply, the approach involves noticing the unhealthy habit, interrupting it, and replacing it with healthy behavior.

Overview of The Augustine Way


The main idea of this module is that we are not hopeless, defective, or alone. God is attracted to our weakness, but we must cooperate with His grace, and put in the work necessary to overcome our unchaste habits. In this module, we’ll review what the Augustine Way requires of us, because the process works only if we work! We will work to understand clearly the depth and breadth of our habit by being open with ourselves and completing the IFACTS and Internet Usage honestly. We will also understand what God’s desire for chastity looks like. Focus on the fact that this habit is long-term and did not develop quickly, so recovery will take time for you and God to transform it. Pray as if all depends on God, and work as if all depends on you.

Points to Emphasize

1. Make sure that members and group understand consent to group rules and processes.

2. Read aloud the sections regarding the Church’s teachings on chastity, lust, pornography, and masturbation.

3. Review together the information on IFACTS and Levels of Usage. Stress the importance of being honest with self about the habit. Participants do not need to share these details with the group but should be encouraged to talk about their reactions to these self-assessments.


Creating a Desire for Change
Finding the motivation necessary for change


This module points out the importance of an active, committed desire for change. Going through the motions of habit change without a true want for chastity will not suffice. We will require not only a firm desire for change, but the assistance of God and significant others to support us. Accountability partners will play a key role in keeping us on track, and our honest and regular check-ins with them will be foundational.
Focus on praying for a desire to chastity, and trust that God will provide the people and resources necessary to help you.

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize the importance of I WANT POWER. Have participants write and share with the group what they really want.

2. Read the Great Divorce excerpt out loud in the group and discuss the questions together. Emphasize love, hate of this habit.

3. Emphasize the difference between continence and virtue in the Christopher West article regarding the story of the Two Bishops.

4. Important: Emphasize the importance of an accountability partner and review as a group the article “Finding an Accountability Partner”. The main homework assignment for this module should be finding an accountability partner.


How to preserve and build willpower for change



This module helps us understand the science of willpower and how healthy self-care strengthens it. We examine the negative behaviors that diminish willpower and how when it is depleted, we are more susceptible to temptation. We are introduced to the role our thoughts play in affecting our choices and behaviors. We learn that we have power to change thoughts and that practices such as mindfulness and meditation can be very useful tools. Focus on cognitive distortions, negative self-talk, and permission beliefs as forms of self-deception which challenge the truths Christ taught for us. Re-frame unhealthy thoughts and reform unhealthy behaviors to build willpower reserves.

Points to Emphasize

1. Make sure participants understand that willpower reserves are finite.

2. Emphasize what depletes and builds willpower in Module Teachings and the Worksheet on Building/Depleting Willpower for each participant.

3. Make sure to point out how our thinking and feelings impact our behavior. Review Cognitive Distortions and Ego Defense Mechanisms.

4. Summarize how our willpower affects and impacts our brains.


Understanding Habits
The components, creation, and functions of habits


The content of this module presents an understanding of the three-part structure and staying power of a habit. We examine the effects of pornography and masturbation on brain chemistry and brain change. We learn that because of brain neuroplasticity, we can retrain our brains. We explore how and why our habit began and begin to understand why bad habits persist and worsen. Focus on our unique pornography/masturbation habit and the effects of dopamine/adrenaline boosts that worsen our habit and cause secondary problems in our lives. Examine attitudes about ourselves that are affected by this habit, but remember that chastity is always possible.

Points to Emphasize

1. Review information about habits in Module Teachings.
Ask what information is new to them.
2. Spend time allowing participants to understand the genesis of their habit.
3. Read aloud in the group the article titled “Your Brain on
Pornography”, emphasizing the serious biological and physical
changes in the brain. Discuss participant’s reactions.


Transforming Habits
The beginnings of habit change



The main teaching in this module is that unchaste habits can be interrupted, and with repetition, be replaced with holier, chaste habits. We learn to identify the three parts of our unwanted habit. We also explore simple truths about forming a new habit and begin to gain insights into our personal path for change. Focus on becoming more watchful and observant of your habit. Realize that interrupting an old habit requires a mindful understanding, with small repetitions of new behavior

Points to Emphasize

1. Discuss and emphasize the three parts of a habit.

2. Emphasize the Augustine Way process of becoming mindful of the unchaste habit, interrupting it, and replacing and repeating a new healthy, holy habit.

3. Work as a group on the “Beginning to Change a Habit” example.


Cue Recognition
Examining and managing our cues and trigger types



This module emphasizes the beginning step in every habit (the cue or trigger) which sets the habit in motion. If we are not mindful, cues will initiate a habit without our conscious awareness. Cues also act as temptations, and may manifest as moods, fantasies, people,
places, or objects. While temptation is not a sin itself, we need to control exposure to thoughts, memories, or behaviors that stimulate unchaste choices. Focus on the cues you can control in your environment. Work to minimize or eliminate them by “detoxing” your environment. Remember that some cues are less obvious than others. It is helpful to discuss moods, ideas, and memories thoroughly with your accountability partner.

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize the three types of cues and how they serve to trigger a habit.

2. Spend a few minutes explaining the importance of Christian mindfulness in “A Word about Mindfulness.”

3. Allow participants to complete the two worksheets (in group or as prior homework) on Personal Cues & Cue Detox.

4. Review together how fantasies act as cues. Invite discussion here.

5. Read together the article on “What do I do when tempted to impurity.”


Habit Recognition
Examining the steps in a habit



The main point of this module is that we have more ability to control the routine components of a habit than either of the other two parts.
The routine is simply the steps we take to enact the habit. We have the power to interrupt the old habit by substituting, deleting, or modifying any step in the sequence. Like dominoes poised to fall, we remove or change a behavior and the unchaste habit is derailed! Now we can begin to insert alternate healthier, holier behaviors to begin to build a new chaste routine. Focus on examining the early steps on your pornography/masturbation sequence. Experiment with small changes in the routine. Repeat positive behavioral changes to begin to build a new habit.

Points to Emphasize

1. Be sure to emphasize that the routine is the part of habit over which we have the most control.

2. Focus on the Routine Change worksheet and emphasize early routine change.

3. Have participants assess and discuss “Making the Most of your Accountability Partner”. Have participants discuss barriers to effectiveness and suggest improvements with their accountability partner.

4. Discuss the “Four False Arguments” by Bishop Loverde.


Examining the role of reward/reinforcement



This module reminds us that the brain seeks to continue behaviors that are rewarded. For the brain, this is usually a simple change in brain chemistry, resulting in mood alteration. We will not achieve chaste behavior if we continue to focus on mood change only. We will have to focus on real needs and wants – like the rewards of healthy, holy self-care, relationship building, and meaningful professional or personal pursuits designed to draw us deeper into relationship with God and others. Dopamine and adrenaline-driven rewards may overpower these new rewards initially, but will create long term growth and happiness. Focus on dialing down dopamine/adrenaline mood changes and begin to find meaningful self-care, relationships, leisure, and hobbies. Remember that new rewards may not be as exciting, but they will become preferred in your pursuit of chastity and well-being.

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize that both positive and negative reinforcement works to strengthen habits. Negative reinforcement is not punishment.
Punishment effects our willpower reserves by depleting them.

2. Review “Meet Authentic Needs—Don’t Just Alter Moods” to emphasize that a new healthy habit must be instilled to dispose an unhealthy habit and create healthy self-care.

3. Make sure participants complete and discuss together the two worksheets, “Healthy Rewards for Healthy Needs” and “Building a Menu of Time & Limited Healthy Reward Behaviors.” Remind group that these activities may not initially be as exciting as high dopamine-driven pursuits.

4. Review together the “How to Change a Habit” diagram.

5. Have participants prepare their reflections on The Augustine Way to share before beginning Module 9 material.

Craving Control
Examining the role of cravings in our progression towards virtuous behavior



This module teaches us that a craving is the brain’s way of demanding what it wants. Like a child having a tantrum, eventually the energy dissipates. Cravings are dopamine driven anticipations. They will decrease with time, and if we learn how to calm our body, we can learn to calm our mind, and get in touch with our brain’s impulse control system. Our sympathetic system yells, “I want it”, but our parasympathetic system can reason, “not good for me.” When we learn to relax and engage this calming system, we can ride out a craving. Focus on learning to recognize your cravings and work to relax and calm your body. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and prayer, help the rational part of the brain to take over. Examine what thinking distortions you might engage in during a craving. This is a good time to call your accountability partner.

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize that cravings are the brain’s way of remembering and anticipating a reward.

2. Remind them that a craving is a temporary state of mind that will dissipate.

3. Review what happens to our brain during a craving and how to engage the parasympathetic nervous system to produce a calm body to ride out a craving.

4. Emphasize techniques to calm the body and mind: Mindfulness, vagal regulation, relaxation and meditation.

5. Point out that beliefs about cravings can serve to disempower us during a craving.

Relapse Prevention
Understanding and avoiding relapse in our progression towards virtuous behavior



This module reminds us that because old habits never really go away – if new habits are not established strongly, we will return to our old ways. Relapse simply means that we are not consistently working the new program. We need to assess what part of our new program is weak. Is it a lack in the spiritual or non-spiritual realm? When experiencing a setback or relapse, it is important to understand the benefits of guilt and healthy shame and to be careful to avoid
unhealthy shame that can attack our self-concept, drain willpower, and create spiritual desolation. Focus on what went wrong when you relapse. Do not become discouraged, but rather turn first to God in prayer, remembering that He never fails us. Make adjustments to your program and praise God for your successes.

Points to Emphasize

1. Remind group that relapse is about the old behavior not yet being displaced by newer healthier habits. Focus on “Understanding Relapse” article.

2. Review “Revisiting Goals” and encourage small successes.

3. Make sure group reads “Salutary Shame” and understands how to love themselves but hate the sin.

4. Review together the article on “Resisting Spiritual Desolation” and make sure group completes and discusses “Relapse Components” worksheet.

Configuration to the Heart of Christ
Creating an Enduring Plan



The purpose of this module is to remind us that we can do nothing apart from God. His designs for us and configuration to His will allow us to grow in an authentic expression of our sexuality.
Practices of prayer and asceticism (a training for a worthwhile end) can assist us in remaining chaste by holding fast to the Lord Himself.
Focus on the spiritual practices of prayer, works of charity, and penance to strengthen us in battling that which separates us from Christ. Plan to “spiritually exercise” each day.

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize the most common triggers for this habit: Indifference, loneliness, boredom, and fatigue.

2. Have group members complete and discuss “Virtue and God’s Grace” worksheet as a practical plan for new healthy habits. Keep goals doable.

3. Read in group “Virtue for Relationship” and discuss.

4. Discuss together insights from “Christian Asceticism” article and related “Ascetic Practices” worksheet. Focus on what is realistically achievable.

Maintaining Chastity
Ongoing Cooperation with God’s Grace



This final module points us forward to a transformation in living. We become mindful of the requirements for a chaste life grounded in love of God and cooperation with His designs for us and our sexuality.
We transcend the ordinary and move to practices and disciplines as our new daily way of being with and in Christ. Focus on daily disciplines and trainings to draw closer to God. Notice how your “doing” becomes your “being.” Every day begin by “putting on Christ.” Develop a Habit Routine of prayer, penance, and charitable works. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Points to Emphasize

1. Emphasize what participants have learned to cooperate with God’s grace as the pursuit of chastity is a life-long endeavor.

2. Ask participants to discuss their own specific practices and resources to remain connected to God daily.

3. Review “Reflection on the Fruits of the Augustine Way” worksheet as a group, sharing growth areas and successes.

4. Encourage group members to remember to consult each day “A Daily Prescription to Maintain Chastity”.

Format of Each Meeting

Each module is formatted with similar elements of prayer, readings, worksheets, and discussion questions. The Facilitator should always come to a meeting having read and highlighted the material to be emphasized. These are general guidelines for each module, but the Facilitator should exercise discretion in meeting the needs of the group. For example, some groups share experiences and may be more talkative than other groups.

The Augustine Way

 1. Read Objective • Read aloud the objective from this guide.
2. Pray • Use the opening prayer found in the module.
3. Check In • Invite participants to check-in, asking “What has occurred to you in these past weeks?”, or “What have you learned and observed in your life regarding these struggles?”
4. Read First Article • Read aloud the introduction article for each module in the meeting (allowing various participants or Facilitator to read aloud).
5. Discuss • Ask questions at end of readings and have members respond.
6. Complete Worksheets • Complete worksheets in session or assign as homework.
7. Read Additional Articles • Read aloud articles, or review them for highlights if they have been read prior to the meeting.
8. Further Discussion • Allow time for participants to ask questions or share experiences.
9. Assign Homework • Some good options are:
     A. Action Plan Complete the Action Plan at end of each  module consisting of three questions. In the next meeting it will be helpful to review answers.
     B. Reading Assign Readings from next module.
     C. Lectio divina found at end of each module.