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Reparative and similar therapies

2007: APA to study reparative therapy

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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 2008-MAR. 2

The task force includes:

  • Dr. Judith M. Glassgold, a board member of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy.
  • 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." 1

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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, wrote:

"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 donęt want to deal with the issue of harmful side effects'." 2

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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 Seminary." 4

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 therapy.

"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

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Webmaster comments:

Warning: personal opinions expressed below. They may be lacking in objectivity.

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 conservatives.

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 moment.

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 therapy.

  • 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. Some develop suicidal ideation and some complete 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 too dangerous.

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2018-JUL Update:

During 2012, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) speculated that a homosexual orientation might be pre-determined prior to birth by epigenetics. The latter refers to a layer on top of a person's DNA that remains constant throughout life and turns various genes on and off. Subsequent studies developed an epigenetic test on a person's saliva that successfully determines homosexual orientation in males with an accuracy of 83%.

With this proof that sexual orientation is determined before birth, the likelihood of conversion to heterosexuality through counseling and therapy becomes very unlikely. Increasing numbers of jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada are banning reparative therapy.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "American Psychological Association Reviews Policy on Counseling Gays and Lesbians," Associated Press, 2007-JUL-10, at:

  2. H. Lukas Green, "Psychologists to assess conversion therapy on gays,", 2007-JUL-10, at:

  3. Elizabeth O'Brien, "APA Appoints Gay Activists to Monitor Homosexual Reorientation Therapy," LifeSiteNews, 2007-JUN-22, at:

  4. Michael Foust, "APA study on ex-gay policy causes concern," Baptist Press, 2007-JUL-18, at:

  5. Letter 'To the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association'," Focus on the Family, 2007-JUN-29. at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

  6. Joseph Nicolosi, "American Psychological Association Appoints Political Activists to New Committee," NARTH, 2007-JUN-20, at:

  7. "One million dollar paranormal challenge," James Randi Educational Foundation,
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Copyright ┬ę 2007 to 2018 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-09
Latest update: 2018-JUL-26
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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