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Studies of reparative and similar therapies

Anecdotal observations on Reparative Therapy.
What a proper study might look like.

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Anecdotal observations on Reparative Therapy:

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Dr. Jack Drescher, a medical doctor who works extensively with gays, commented:

"My own clinical experience with gay men who failed to change in reparative therapy is that they suffered damage to their self-esteem, experienced resultant anxiety and depression, and often felt a deep mistrust of mental health professionals. This mistrust and shame may explain why no good follow-up studies of these individuals exist." 3


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A representative of the Honolulu, HI Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation (at HawaiiGay1@aol.com ) wrote that over a 25 year period, hundreds of their members had tried reparative therapy groups. He commented:

"I can honestly say, I have never seen one of them claiming they were cured or felt better until they began to accept their goodness as a Gay person."


bullet Mel White, a prominent Evangelical Christian, unsuccessfully attempted to change his homosexual orientation over a period of decades. His book describes his experiences. 4

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Investigative report of ex-gays: In 1995, reporter Justin Chin joined an ex-gay program which is affiliated with Exodus Ministries in California. His study was funded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and was published in The Progressive. 5He found that:

"Ex-gays are sexually celibate but homosexuality is still central to them: Everything in their lives revolves around homosexuality and avoiding it. Listening to Exodus conference junkies and ex-program members speak, it is easy to see how this subculture is maintained. Ultimately, the difference between gays and ex-gays is like the difference between cheese and cheddar. The ex-gays try to drown their homosexuality in Bible verses, marriage, family, and their own new subcultural niche, but their homosexuality remains."


bullet The author of this essay attempted to survey each of the 36 websites of the GayChange WebRing. 6 These are mainly Internet sites created by individuals or small Christian transformational ministries. From the sites' content, all appear to be conservative Christian in outlook. Five returned "404" error message meaning that they were no longer online. One was a discontinued site. Two did not publish their Email address. On 2000-MAY-20, we sent a survey by Email to each of the 28 accessible websites.  

The core of the survey letter asked:

"Considering all of the persons who have entered your program and who have made a sincere effort to change, please estimate what percentage of individuals fall into each of the following categories:

  1. Entered the program with a homosexual orientation and left with a heterosexual orientation.
  2. Entered the program with a homosexual orientation and left with a homosexual orientation, but committed to celibacy.
  3. Entered the program with a homosexual orientation and left with a homosexual orientation, and open to future gay/lesbian sexual relationships.
  4. Entered the program with a bisexual orientation and left with a heterosexual orientation.
  5. Entered the program with a bisexual orientation and left with a bisexual orientation, but committed to pursuing only relationships with the opposite gender.
  6. Entered the program with a bisexual orientation and left with a bisexual orientation, but open to gay/lesbian or heterosexual sexual behavior.
  7. Don't know.
  8. Other (please define)

We received 7 replies:

  • Four stated that they had no results to report. Some of their reasons were:
    • They dealt with gays and lesbians only by Email or phone.
    • They met with clients only briefly.
    • They kept no records.
    • They dealt with clients anonymously.
  • One group reported three successes over 7 or more years:
    • Two clients entered therapy with a homosexual orientation, and left with a homosexual orientation. Both decided to remain celibate.
    • One entered therapy with a bisexual orientation, and left with a bisexual orientation and has developed a committed relationship with a person of the opposite sex and is now open to marrying them.
  • One group refused to reveal their results because they felt that our website is biased.
  • One suggested that we contact NARTH for data.

Our survey produced very little meaningful data. The few results that we were able to extract support the concept that RT does not change a person's sexual orientation, but can occasionally motivate individuals' behavior, largely by choosing celibacy.


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What a proper study of Reparative (or similar) Therapy might look like:

Although tens of thousands of individuals are (or have been) involved in these forms of experimental therapy, very few studies have been made of its safety or effectiveness. Those that have been made are very seriously flawed.

An meaningful study could be conducted along the following lines:

bullet Try to organize a  research group containing scientists who have no preconceived beliefs about the nature of sexual orientation. Since this is probably impossible, then the group should at least include balanced numbers of therapists who hold various opposing views on the safety and effectiveness of these therapies.

bullet Design a study to:

bullet Determine the sexual orientation of a large number of clients entering reparative therapy. Document their sexual self-identification, fantasies, feelings of attraction, past sexual activities, reasons for seeking conversion, etc.

bullet Study them periodically during the progress of therapy.

bullet Repeat the evaluation as they leave therapy.

bullet Follow them for at least 5 years after therapy. Periodically assess their sexual orientation by evaluating their sexual self-identification, fantasies, feelings, and behaviors.

bullet Determine how many persons with homosexual orientation before therapy were able to change their orientation to heterosexual or bisexual during therapy and maintain this for many years after therapy.

bullet Publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal.

bullet Have the study independently replicated by one or more additional groups.

The cost of such a study would be miniscule when compared to the expense of blindly continuing reparative therapy at its present level.

This type of study has never been conducted. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has called for a review similar to this, to be designed jointly by themselves and the American Psychological Association. Unfortunately, the APA refused to cooperate. Such a study has little chance of being performed in today's religious and social climate.

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Related essays on this web site:

bullet Menus:
bullet Homosexuality - all aspects
bullet Reparative and similar therapies
bullet Statements by professional groups:
bullet about homosexuality
bullet about reparative therapy
bullet "Cure rate" of reparative therapy
bullet Homosexuality: fixed or changeable; genetic or chosen?
bullet Ex-gay newspaper advertisements

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References:

  1. Masters and Johnson, "Homosexuality in Perspective", 1979
  2. "Ex-gay men and women needed for new study," NARTH, at: http://www.narth.com/docs/newstudy.html
  3. Jack Drescher, MD, Letters to the Editor, Psychiatric News" at: http://www.psych.org/ 
  4. Mel White, Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America", Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, (1994) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store  
  5. "Our Reporter Survives the Ex-Gay Ministries. Exodus International Programs To Cure Individuals of Homosexuality," The Progressive, 1995-DEC.
  6. A list of web sites in the GayChange Webring is at: http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=gaychange;list 
  7. "Answers to frequently asked questions," at: http://www.barna.org/PageStats.htm
  8. "Study suggests some gays can go straight," CNN.com news, 2001-MAY-9, at: http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/05/09/sexual
  9. Malcolm Ritter, "Some gays can turn straight, controversial study suggests," Associated Press, 2001-MAY-8.
  10. "Changing sexual orientation: Does counseling Work," at: http://www.jasperweb.com/therastudy/index.html 
  11. "Survey -- Homophobic therapies: Documenting the damage," at: http://www.oasismag.com/Issues/9605/
  12. "Reparative Therapy," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  13. Erica Goode, "Scientist Says Study Shows Gay Change Is Possible," New York Times, 2001-MAY-09, at: http://www.nytimes.com

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Copyright © 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-OCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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