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Religious Tolerance logo

Reparative therapy

Recent news items from the media

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bullet1998-AUG: "Focus on the Family" Devoted Attention to Reparative Therapy: James Dobson, host and founder of "Focus on the Family" led a discussion on reparative therapy during a three-episode series of their radio program for 1998-AUG-5 to 7. A representative of NARTH was interviewed.
bullet1999-JUL: Exodus conference: Delegates from 131 ex-gay ministries in the U.S. and ministries from 15 foreign countries attended a conference sponsored by Exodus International in Chicago, IL. It started on JUL-26. Charisma, a conservative Christian news service explained that "Exodus teaches that 'freedom from homosexuality is possible through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ' and seeks to provide help for 'men and women who desire to overcome their homosexuality.' A report released by the Associated Press this week said the organization recognizes that some homosexuals cannot change their orientation and should practice celibacy." 1 1200 delegates attended -- an increase from 850 in 1998. This is attributed to the "ex-gay" advertising campaign by conservative Christian groups.
bullet2000-APR: PFOX Conference: PFOX is the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays. Their annual conference was held in Alexandria VA. One of the speakers, psychotherapist and author Richard Cohen, said: "There's a tremendous amount of misunderstanding surrounding homosexuality. I call it the mythology about homosexuality...There is no scientific data that substantiates a genetic or biologic basis for same-sex attraction. Anybody can change." Referring to liberal politicians, he commented: "They have been enrolled into the mythology that 'people are born this way' and 'people cannot change.' This is not a political or a civil rights or a human rights issue. It's a moral issue and an issue of psychology...It is our responsibility as people who believe in hope of healing through psychology and the responsibility of the religious community to offer hope and healing to those men and women who wish to change. I don't call it the gay lifestyle, but the SAD lifestyle, the Same-sex Attachment Disorder lifestyle. Men are looking for attachment and bonding with their dads through other men and women are looking for attachment and bonding with their mothers through other women. The problem is, sex doesn't heal wounds or fulfill unmet primal needs."
bullet2000-MAY: American Psychiatric Association discussion: A panel discussion of whether sexual orientation can be altered through reparative therapy had been scheduled at the APA's conference in Chicago, IL. Dr. Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University was scheduled to be the moderator. Two psychiatrists withdrew from the panel, stating that the topic is too politically charged to permit scientific discussion. The debate was then cancelled. According to the APA:

"The doctors who were to debate on the topic decided there was not enough scientific information to have a proper debate. They felt that any debate would turn into a political debate and not a true scientific debate. While there is information on reorientation therapy, there have been no controlled research studies." 2

Dr. Spitzer said:

"I think we ought to be able to talk about anything in a dispassionate way. ... I think they [the psychiatrists who withdrew] felt that to even debate it was to legitimize the topic and they felt that since the groups that they regard as their enemy were kind of salivating over having the debate, they didn't want it." 3 More details on this study.

bullet2001-MAY: Study on the effectiveness of reparative therapy: Dr. Robert Spitzer is a psychiatry professor at Columbia University. He conducted a study of 143 ex-gays and 57 ex-lesbians who report that they have become "straight" as a result of reparative therapy. He reported his findings at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association on 2001-MAY-9. He concluded, as a result of 45 minute interviews with each subject, that 66% of the males and 44% of the females had arrived at "good heterosexual functioning." Many news reports implied that many subjects in this study became heterosexual as a result of their therapy. In fact, most reported that they are currently bisexual. It is not known how many subjects were bisexual when they entered therapy. Unfortunately, this study is seriously deficient, because the subjects appear to have been carefully selected by groups that promote reparative therapy from among their "success" stories. No attempt was made to select a random group of gays and lesbians who entered therapy. A meaningful evaluation of reparative therapy remains a future hope.
bullet2005-OCT-11: Lou Sheldon suggests exorcism needed to convert gays: According to Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, Christian therapists believe that only exorcism can release a person from the homosexual "lifestyle." Exorcisms are used by conservative Christians, and others, to liberate people from what they believe are indwelling demonic spirits. Apparently ignoring statements by the large mental health professional associations, and referring only to NARTH, he said that the psychological community regards homosexuality to be a mental disorder. Sheldon is reported as saying:

"I've talked to many psychotherapists who are Christian, and they say once you enter into that lifestyle -- Now, you may have gender identity conflict -- that's the medical-scientific name for homosexuality -- where you're attracted to the same-sex person, but once you enter into the culture, into the music, into the gay bars, into the gay literature, into the gay theater, and all of that kind of -- and gay travel -- once you immerse yourself into that, you have really put yourself into a groove that only a sort of an exorcism can release you from." 4

He appears to be confusing homosexual orientation and gender identity disorder. 5 The two are unrelated.

bullet2006-MAR-09: Ex-Ex-Gay claims NARTH official asked him to lie: Daniel Gonzales claims that his therapist, Joeseph Nicolosi of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino CA and Executive Director/Secretary Treasurer of NARTH asked him to participate in Robert Spitzer's study of reparative therapy, but to lie when Spitzer asked him how he had heard of the study. At that point in his therapy, Gonzales was beginning to realize that he "didn't need to be cured." He "never took part in the survey...."
bullet2006-NOV-16: Scandal involving Ted Haggard reignites discussion of reparative therapy efficacy:  According to the Boston Globe:

"Evangelical leader Ted Haggard, in apologizing for contacts with a gay prostitute, said he had sought help to combat a 'repulsive and dark' side of his life -- but no approach had proven effective.

"Even as he pledges to undergo further counseling, Haggard's comments have rekindled debate over the premise that people can overcome same-sex attractions through "reparative therapy." It's a concept espoused by many religious conservatives, and disputed by many mental health practitioners." 7 More information.

bullet2007-FEB-02: Haggard is cured after a few weeks of therapy!: After three weeks of intensive counseling, Haggard left the treatment center. Rev. Tim Ralph, one of his team of overseers said: "He is completely heterosexual. That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."  8 More information.
bullet2007-FEB-23: APA plans to review policy on reparative therapy: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute (NGLTF) and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) have asked the American Psychological Association to follow the lead of many other mental health professional associations and review its policy on reparative therapy. Dr. Clinton W. Anderson, director of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns office at the APA, said that the groups:

"... came to us and said from their perspective issues related to reparative therapy are still very important issues that affect the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. They said, 'We think it would be a good idea if you took another look at it'."

The APA is now selecting a five-person task force to consider the issue.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy at Grove City College, said:

"The reasons they recommended it was for political reasons, not for scientific reasons. They didn't refer to new research, or new studies -- they referred to new policy statements from other groups. ... What we're talking about is the right of clients who are unhappy with their feeling [of same-sex attraction]Those people have the right to seek therapy to help them live the way they want to live -- the way they value."

He is concerned that if the APA bans its members from engaging in reparative therapy, then people who want to change their sexual orientation or behavior will have fewer options.

Editor's note: This will be a judgment call for the APA. One one hand, there is an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence that reparative therapy has triggered major depression and suicidal ideation in some clients. In addition, it is almost completely ineffective in changing the sexual orientation in adults. Finally, a person with a homosexual or bisexual orientation will have the same options for behavioral change available to them even if reparative therapy is no longer available: Homosexuals can decide to lead a celibate life. Bisexuals can decide to either lead a celibate life or to confine their relationships to the opposite sex. 9

bullet2007-JUL-17: USA: American Psychological Association reviewing policies: A six-member task force of the APA held its first session to review its 10-year-old policy concerning the counseling of gays and lesbians -- commonly called reparative therapy and conversion therapy. Gay-positive groups hope that the task force will conclude that any attempt to change a person's sexual orientation is futile. Many dozens of conservative religious leaders from groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family have written a joint letter to the APA expressing concern about homosexuals whose religious faith condemn same-sex sexual activity. More details.

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletStatements by Professional Groups etc. about homosexuality.
bulletReligious beliefs of ex-gay and similar ministries about homosexuality
bulletEx-gay newspaper advertisements

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  1. "Christian Ex-gay ministry hosts Chicago conference," Charisma. Online at Maranatha Christian Journal, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  2. APA response copied from a reader's Email
  3. Stuart Shepard, "Ex-gays protest APA," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/
  4. "Lou Sheldon suggested exorcism is necessary to "release" a person from homosexual lifestyle," Media Matters, 2005-OCT-13, at: http://mediamatters.org/
  5. George Rekers, "Gender Identity Disorder," at: http://www.leaderu.com/
  6. Daniel Gonzalez, "Nicolosi Asked Me To Lie To Spitzer - A Consistent Public Record," ExGayWatch, 2006-MAR-09, at: http://www.exgaywatch.com/
  7. David Crary, "Haggard scandal renews sex therapy debate," Associated Press, 2006-NOV-16, at: http://www.boston.com/
  8. "Minister called 'completely heterosexual.' Peer group recommends Ted Haggard move out of town," Associated Press, 2007-FEB-06, at: http://news.aol.com/
  9. Wendy Cloyd, "Gay Pressure Threatens Counseling," CitizenLink, Focus on the Family, 2007-FEB-23, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-FEB-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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