Reparative and similar therapies
Introduction, Part 3:
Acceptance. An Email. Safety.
Effectiveness. Exodus International reverses course.
Acceptance of conversion therapies:
Within the mental health community there are two schools of thought
about these therapies:
||Many hundreds of conservative Christian therapists and ministries promote
as effective and safe. These therapies mesh well with their fundamental religious beliefs:
||Almost all of the hundreds of thousands of remaining mental health
professionals feel that therapy is:
||incapable of changing a person's sexual
||may be damaging to
the client, and
||has the potential to cause serious depression
||triggers suicide in some cases.
How we answered an Emailed inquiry:
We received an Email from an evangelical Christian who wants to start a
ministry for gays and lesbians, and asked for help. We responded:
We have studied a bunch of services to gays, lesbians and bisexuals, ranging
from transformational ministries, to reparative therapy to psychotherapy.
One concern we have is with terminology. Religious and social conservatives
typically define "homosexuality" in terms of behavior -- what a person
does. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious and social liberals, therapists, human
sexuality researchers typically define "homosexuality" in terms of sexual
orientation -- what a person is. Sexual orientation is mainly defined in
terms of the gender of persons to whom one is attracted -- opposite sex for
heterosexuals, same-sex for homosexuals, or both sexes (but not necessarily to
the same degree) for bisexuals.
The lack of consensus on definitions causes immense confusion. For example, a
homosexual who decides to become celibate is referred to as an ex-gay by
conservatives and as a celibate homosexual by others. A bisexual who decides to
confine their relationships to opposite-sex persons is referred to as an ex-gay
by conservatives and as a bisexual by others.
What I see lacking in many of these efforts is objectivity and truth. They often
talk about "change" and "freedom from homosexuality". Their potential clients
and the public often interpret this as the possibility of changing their sexual
orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual.
But that is never -- or almost never -- possible.
If you are going to start a ministry to gays and lesbians, I suggest:
1) that you expand your range to include bisexuals.
2) that you tell gays and lesbians that the only path out of homosexual behavior
with a significant chance of success is via celibacy.
3) that you tell bisexuals that, with effort, they can choose to confine their
relationships to opposite-sex persons only.
If you don't do this, then: many of your gay and lesbian clients will expect a
change to their sexual orientation. All, or at least the vast majority, will:
- experience failure, leave the program, and become depressed; suicide is a
major possibility, or
- experience failure, leave the program, realize that they cannot change their
sexual orientation, accept themselves for what they are, and pursue a
relationship with a person of the same gender, perhaps with the aim of attaining
a loving, committed relationship, perhaps with the goal of
marriage or civil
union and raising a family.
Safety of these therapies:
Within medicine, there are strong governmental controls that govern the
introduction of new medications and treatment regimens. But mental and
physical therapies are largely unregulated. Anybody can introduce and
promote a new, totally unproven, form of
experimental therapy. If it catches on, thousands of therapists may
adopt the concept and start treating their patients. Over the last two
decades we have seen treatments based on therapists' beliefs in: abuse of
patients during former lifetimes, abuse during UFO visitations, facilitated
communication for autistic children, indwelling
demonic spirits, mind
control within religious Cults, multiple
personality disorder/dissociative identity disorder, recovered
memory therapy, ritual
abuse in day care centers, Satanic ritual
abuse, and therapeutic touch.
All of these treatment methods have a few points in common:
- None are currently accepted by most therapists.
- None were accepted by most therapists at any time in the past.
- All are, or have been, widespread forms of therapy by a minority of
therapists and clergy.
- None have been meaningfully researched and shown to be helpful.
Most of these
have been shown to be frauds; all might eventually prove to be
ineffective. Many generate a trail of devastated lives; some have been
shown to trigger deep depression and suicide.
According to Wikipedia:
"While no comprehensive study has been yet carried out into the
long-term consequences of conversion therapies, the
Schroeder and Shidlo study...found that
the majority of respondents reported being left in a poor mental and
emotional state after the therapy, and that rates of depression,
anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse and suicidal feelings were roughly
doubled in those who underwent reparative therapy. Of particular concern
was the lack of support given by reparative therapists and counselors to
those who found their program to be contributing to psychological
No consensus exists on the safety, effectiveness, and possible adverse
consequences of conversion therapies at this time. We urge extreme caution.
From our study of reparative therapy, we suspect
Many bisexuals have been convinced, during therapy, to
confine their relationships to the opposite gender. This is commonly
referred to by therapists and Evangelical Christian ministries to
gays and lesbians as "leaving the homosexual lifestyle,"
"changing their homosexuality," "becoming
an ex-gay," "set free from the addiction of
homosexuality and lesbianism," "seeking freedom from
homosexuality," "called...to a new kind of life,"
"being a recovered gay," "redeem
their lives from the pit," etc. Note that their sexual orientation is
unchanged; they simply decided to behave differently -- to only
become romantically involved with members of the opposite gender.|
||Some homosexuals have been convinced during therapy to choose celibacy.
promoters generally use the above terms to describe this group as
well. Note that their sexual orientation is unchanged; they remain
homosexual; they simply
decided to not act on their sexual longings -- to not have a sexual partner,
and to accept a life of loneliness. |
||Some homosexuals have completed therapy in a temporary euphoria. They believe that they have changed their sexual
orientation. Some are even able to engage in sexual intercourse with
members of the opposite gender, by closing their eyes and fantasizing
that they are actually making love to a person of the same sex. The belief
that they are now heterosexual always, or almost always, fades with
||Some have entered therapy with great anticipation that they will be
able to change their sexual orientation. When it proves unsuccessful:
||Many become severely depressed. Some of these have attempted or actually
||Some have the opposite reaction. They achieve greater self-esteem. They finally realize that they
have exhausted all their options; their homosexual orientation cannot be changed. They accept
themselves for what they are, and pursue gay/lesbian
relationship(s) without guilt.
||We have been able to find a few documented case of individuals with a
homosexual orientation who report having changed to a heterosexual
orientation. Almost all of the cases that we have located turned
out to be false leads: the individual later admitted that he/she had
not changed their orientation. Many have left the "ex-gay"
movement to become an "ex-ex-gays." |
Unfortunately, these suspicions are based on inadequate evidence.
Certainty awaits a meaningful, credible study by mental health professionals.
Unfortunately, the studies that have been made to
date are seriously flawed.
We wrote those words in 1996. The world is still waiting a comprehensive, valid study.
Related essays on this web site:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Reparative therapy," Wikipedia, downloaded at 2006-JUN-04, from:
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.
Erik Eckholm, "Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ Is Renounced," New York Times, 2012-JUL-06, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2012-PCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson