Reparative and similar therapies
2007: APA to study reparative therapy
At the request of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Concerns Office,
the American Psychological Association (APA) has created a "Task
Force On Appropriate Therapeutic Responses To Sexual Orientation." A main
function of the task force is to review its 10-year-old policy concerning the
counseling of gays and lesbians -- commonly called reparative therapy
or conversion therapy. The five-member task force had its first meeting on
2007-JUL-17. (Some sources say that the group has six members). 1 The task force is
expected to produce a preliminary report in 2007-DEC and a final report by
The task force includes:
- Dr. Judith M. Glassgold, a board member of the Journal of Gay and
- Dr. Jack Dreshcher, a psychiatrist who, according to the conservative National Association for Research and
Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), is "one of the foremost opponents
of reparative therapy".
- Dr. A. Beckstead is described by a conservative group, LifeSiteNews, as
being "openly skeptical of reorientation therapy,"
- Dr. Roger L. Worthington who allegedly received an award in 2001 from
the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Missouri, for "speaking up
and out and often regarding LGBT issues." 3
No supporter of reparative therapy was allowed to join the task force.
Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for Research and
Therapy of Homosexuality NARTH, was nominated but rejected.
Warren Throckmorton, a psychology
professor at Grove City College, PA, was also rejected. He commented:
"We work with clients to pursue their chosen values. If they are
core, unwavering commitments to their religious belief, therapists
should not try to persuade them differently under the guise of science."
Reactions by gay-positive groups:
Many gay-positive groups and individuals hope that the task force
will conclude that any attempt to change a person's sexual orientation
through the use of reparative or similar therapy is
futile and perhaps unethical.
- Richard Rothstein, a regular columnist/blogger at Queersighted.com,
"If the APA does in fact ban reparative or conversion therapy, we
will at long last have a solid legal argument for shutting down such
groups as Exodus International and Homosexuals Anonymous.
... This will also mean that under standard and existing malpractice
laws, psychologists and therapists who continue to advocate and practice
such therapy would be subject to license revocation, hefty fines and
even imprisonment." 4
- 2007Pride Depot commented:
"The usual suspects are lined up at the
door to denounce same-sex orientation as a normal fact of life. ...
In what has got to be the pot calling the kettle black is this remark
from Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family, 'The APA does
not have a good track record of listening to other views'."
"Responding to that thinking is Drescher, editor of the Journal of
Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, who said, '[Religious conservatives]
...want a rubber stamp of approval for a form of therapy that's
questionable in its efficacy and they don©t want to deal with the issue
of harmful side effects'." 2
Reactions by conservative Christian groups:
Over 100 Christian fundamentalists and other evangelicals -- mostly religious
leaders -- wrote a joint
letter to the APA on 2007-JUN-29 expressing concern about homosexuals whose religious faith
condemn same-sex sexual activity. 5
Among the signatories were:
"Bob Stith, the new national strategist for gender issues for the
Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics &
Religious Liberty Commission; and James Dobson of Focus on the Family; ...
Alan Chambers of Exodus International and Tim Wilkins of Cross Ministry. ...
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary;
Stuart W. Scott, associate professor of biblical counseling, Southern
Seminary; David P. Nelson, senior vice president for academic
administration, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Sam R. Williams,
associate professor of counseling, Southeastern Seminary; and Larry L.
Cornine, pro temp director of counseling, Midwestern Baptist Theological
The letter said, in part:
"We are writing to express some concern that the mission of the task
force may not recognize same-sex attracted persons who also have solid and
unwavering religious commitments which lead them to avoid homosexual
behavior. ... Such persons frequently experience significant religious,
spiritual and emotional distress and as a consequence seek psychological
"We strongly believe that psychologists can offer a valuable service if they
respect the religious commitments of their clients to the same degree that
they respect sexual orientation diversity." 4,5
Nicolosi of NARTH issued a press release on 2007-JUN-20 stating:
"This new APA task force was created to monitor 'reorientation therapies'
- therapy for people who want to decrease their homosexual attractions and
develop their heterosexual potential. But the APA has sent the foxes to
guard the henhouse. Reorientation therapy is for people who don't want to be
gay--and it is now being monitored by gay activists who believe there is no
such thing as a formerly gay person!"
"NARTH nominated a list of highly qualified names to serve on this new
committee, but none were chosen. Out of the six individuals finally approved
by the APA, five of them are committed gay-affirmative activists who are
openly hostile to the reality that individuals with unwanted same-sex
attraction can be helped."
"The eventual findings of this committee are already predetermined. I
predict that once this task force finishes its investigation into
'appropriate responses to sexual orientation,' it will issue a report
calling upon the APA to declare reorientation/reparative therapy to be
unethical and harmful. It will then call upon all psychological groups to
ban such therapy."
"If this activist-committee succeeds in its efforts, thousands of
individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions will be unable to have access
to qualified therapists to aid them. This is a clear violation of patient
autonomy and self-determination, and a blow to the same diversity that the
APA claims to champion." 6
Warning: personal opinions expressed below. They may be lacking in
By restricting members of the task force to those experts who have based
their conclusions on a scientific rather than a religious foundation, the group
and its reports will probably lose total credibility among religious and social
This is the third instance when the APA has refused to engage in dialogue
with supporters of reparative therapy:
During the 1990s, NARTH
offered to join with the American Psychological Association (APA) in
conducting a detailed study of the effectiveness of reparative therapy. The
APA refused to cooperate in a joint venture.
During the year 2000, a debate
over reparative therapy and the changeability of sexual orientation was
scheduled for the APA's annual convention. It was cancelled at the last
My personal belief is that the debate over the efficacy and safety of
reparative therapy might benefit from the "One Million Dollar Paranormal
Challenge" of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). It
also involves people in conflict who are deeply committed to revealing the
truth. JREF has
challenged individuals to prove the "... evidence of any paranormal,
supernatural or occult power or event." JREF and the applicant jointly
design a testing protocol that would prove or disprove the existence of such
powers or events. 7
In the case of reparative therapy, there many religiously-motivated
psychologists who are convinced that sexual behavior and perhaps sexual
orientation in adults can be changed. There are many more secular and religious
psychologists who are convinced that sexual orientation -- homosexuality,
heterosexuality and bisexuality -- is always or essentially always fixed in
adults. It seems reasonable to me that a group composed of equal numbers from
the two groups could engage in dialogue with the specific goal of developing a
test protocol or protocols to determine:
What percentage of persons with a homosexual orientation can achieve a
long-lasting change in their sexual orientation as a result of reparative
What types of adverse reactions to reparative therapy occur; how serious
are they, and how often do they surface?
A study could then be conducted using the agreed upon protocol(s), and the
results published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Without this type of study, the status quo will continue. Tens of thousands
of clients with a homosexual or bisexual orientation will enter years of
reparative therapy costing on the order of $15,000 per client, without knowing
the treatment's efficacy and safety. Probably a similar number of gays and
bisexuals will avoid reparative therapy because its effects have yet to be
studied in depth, and there are many anecdotal stories circulating of clients
becoming deeply depressed, and some committing suicide.
IMHO, no therapy should be widely practiced until its effectiveness and
dangers are carefully studied and published in peer-reviewed journals. This is
the standard to which the FDA holds new medications. Anything less than this is
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"American Psychological Association Reviews Policy on Counseling Gays and
Lesbians," Associated Press, 2007-JUL-10, at:
H. Lukas Green, "Psychologists to assess conversion therapy on
gays," PrideDEPOT.com, 2007-JUL-10, at:
Elizabeth O'Brien, "APA Appoints Gay Activists to Monitor Homosexual
Reorientation Therapy," LifeSiteNews, 2007-JUN-22, at:
Michael Foust, "APA study on ex-gay policy causes concern," Baptist Press,
Letter 'To the Board of Directors of the American Psychological
Association'," Focus on the Family, 2007-JUN-29. at:
http://www.citizenlink.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
Joseph Nicolosi, "American Psychological Association Appoints Political
Activists to New Committee," NARTH, 2007-JUN-20, at:
"One million dollar paranormal challenge," James Randi Educational
Copyright © 2007 by the Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-09
Latest update: 2007-AUG-09
Compiler: B.A. Robinson