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Reparative therapy

News items: 1998 to 2020

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About reparative therapy:

Religious conservatives have supported reparative therapy for decades, to convert persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation to heterosexual. Such therapies have also been called "conversion therapy," and "reorientation therapy."

  • 1998-AUG: "Focus on the Family" Devoted Attention to Reparative Therapy: James Dobson, host and founder of "Focus on the Family" led a promotion of reparative therapy during a three-episode series of their radio program for 1998-AUG-5 to 7. A representative of NARTH was interviewed.
  • 1999-JUL: Exodus International 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 [Exodus International] recognizes that some homosexuals cannot change their orientation and thus should practice celibacy." 1
    1200 delegates attended -- an increase from 850 in 1998. The meeting was preceded by a major "ex-gay" advertising campaign by conservative Christian groups.

  • 2000-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 [their sexual orientation]."
    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, [that] sex doesn't heal wounds or fulfill unmet primal needs."
  • 2000-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.
  • 2001-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 pre-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 remained a future hope.

  • 2005-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. Homosexual orientation defines the gender(s) to whom a person is sexually attracted; gender identity defines the gender or genders that a person currently identifies as. One source said that sexual orientation indicates the gender of the person you go to bed WITH; gender identity insicates the gender is the gender of the person you go to bed AS.
  • 2006-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...."
  • 2006-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." 7More information.
  • 2007-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.

  • 2007-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'."
    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

    The APA selected a task force to consider reparative therapy.

    • 2007-JUL-17: USA: American Psychological Association review: 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.

    • Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force reported that:
      "Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation. Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions.. ... At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."
    • 2009-AUG-05: The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution on reparative therapy: Based on their review of the therapy, they adopted a resolution stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."
  • 2012-DEC: USA: The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee defined "homosexuality" to include same-sex sexual attraction, and thus include the full range of homosexual and bisexual orientations. Researchers suspected that same-sex attraction may be caused or influenced by epigenetic markers. These are: "... chemical changes to DNA that affect how genes are expressed, but not the information they contain." Using an epigenetic text of men's saliva, researchers were able to identify which were gay with an accuracy of 83%. Their concept of the influence of epi-marks as the cause of homosexuality has rapidly attained acceptance among researchers. More details.
  • 2018-JUL: USA and UK: California and other states in the U.S. have banned the use of reparative therapy to attempt to change clients' sexual orientation. In 2018-JUL, the UK's Government Equalities Office (GEO) announced ia LGBT Action Plan for “improving the lives” of LGBT people. Calvin Freiburger, writing for Life Site News, said: We will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK, and take further action on hate crime as part of our upcoming refresh of the 2016 Hate Crime Action Plan."

  • 2019-APR: MA: Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that made Massachusetts the 17th state/district in the U.S. to ban conversion therapy (a.k.a. reparative therapy and ex-gay therapy) for minors. Such therapy is also banned in more than 50 municipalities for non-adults. 10

  • 2019-JUL-18: Life Site News, a conservative evangelical Christian web site, published an article stating that Amazon had stopped selling books that promote reparative therapy. 11 Amazon apparently took this action in response to major U.S. mental health agencies, many state legislatures, and many city councils having taking the position that reparative therapy has had a zero or near zero success rate at changing people's sexual orientation. Also, this form of therapy has been found to contribute often to mental illness among persons with a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation.

    The article is titled: "These books helped thousands quit homosexuality. Amazon just banned them." In reality, Amazon has not banned the books. They have simply decided to not stock them. The books are widely available from other book sellers. Amazon's decision gives reparative therapy web sites and groups a greater opportunity to sell them and raise funds for their cause.

    The Life Site News article begins:

    "On Amazon, you can buy almost any book written throughout human history -- from the Bible to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," or even a book glorifying pedophilia. As of last week, however, you cannot get any of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Sr.'s books about leaving homosexuality — because Amazon just banned them all."

    The late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi Sr. (1947 - 2017) was the father of the article's author. He was one of the leading proponent of reparative therapy. See: "If gay doesn't define you, You Don't Have to be Gay," 12

A petition has been organized to: "Tell Amazon to reverse their decision to censor alternative views on homosexuality." 11,12

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2020-JAN-24: State of Virginia bans some Conversion Therapy:

The Virginia Senate voted to ban counselors, psycholgists. etc. from performing conversion therapy to clients under the age of 18. Eighteen Republican members of the Senate voted agaisnt the bill.

Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, said:

"I think if we looked at 95 percent of it, we could all agree on it. There has been some activity over the past decade that we’d all want to ban. That would include shock therapy and € some odd camping where they took people to camps to do some odd things. But if you happen to be a counselor and happen to be a Christian, you are being told what you can and can’t say." 13

The government also remove a "zombie law" from the state statutes. A zombie law is one that was still on the books, but cannot be enforced. This law banned same-sex marriage and was nullified by a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015-JUN.

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Related essays on this web site:

bullet Statements by Professional Groups etc. about homosexuality.

bullet Religious beliefs of ex-gay and similar ministries about homosexuality
bullet Ex-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/
  10. Cindy Myers, via mailing from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2019-APR-17.
  11. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., "These books helped thousands quit homosexuality. Amazon just banned them," Life Site News, 2019-JUL-11, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  12. Joseph Nicolosi, Sr., "If gay doesn't define you, You Don't Have to be Gay," Joseph Nicolosi, undated, at: https://www.josephnicolosi.com/
  13. Amanda Casanova, "Virginia Passes Series of Pro-LGBT Laws, Introduces Bans on Conversion Therapy," Christian Headlines, 2020-JAN-24, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/

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Copyright 1998 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2020-JAN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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