Verdict In: APA Rejects Sexual Orientation Change Efforts
The American Psychological Association rejects sexual orientation change efforts. In fact, "practitioners should avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight."
There is "no evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work." This was the American Psychological Association's verdict on "ex-gay" therapy after an appointed task force of experts studied the issue for two years.
This conclusion did not surprise those of us who work with people who have been harmed by such programs. For example, I just videotaped Patrick McAlvey, who entered therapy to change his sexual orientation at the age of 19. His counselor, Mike Jones, is the director of Corduroy Stone, an affiliate of Exodus International.
McAlvey says that his sessions included prolonged hugs, the suggestion that he use handyman tools to increase his masculinity and questions about the size of his genitalia. There was also an episode of "holding therapy" where he reclined into the lap of his supposedly "ex-gay" counselor for an hour. The goal, according to McAlvey, was to get comfortable with his own manliness by "feeling the strength" and "smelling the smell" of another man.
What Jones and other ex-gay counselors routinely call "therapy" can seem a great deal like foreplay to the rest of us.
"I think it does a lot of damage to peoples' mental health," said McAlvey. "If I had had a fair representation (of gay life) I could have avoided a lot of suffering."
Of course, such therapy and ministry programs can only exist by grossly distorting the lives of gay people. For example, in a recent radio interview, ex-gay activist Charlene Cothran claimed that gay people do not want legal equality and are really only interested in the "freedom to be a homosexual in a park with no clothes on."
The APA deserves credit for taking ex-gay therapists to task for twisting the truth and holding them accountable for their scare tactics, such as claiming that there are no happy gay people.
"The limited published literature on these programs suggests that many do not present accurate scientific information regarding same-sex sexual orientations to youth and families, are excessively fear-based and have the potential to increase sexual stigma,"
said the APA report, "Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation."
It was encouraging to see the APA question the ex-gay tactic of teaching vulnerable clients to live in a fantasy world. Groups like Exodus and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), regularly encourage clients to say they have converted, even though they are still gay. The idea is that by proclaiming a false heterosexual identity in advance of any legitimate change, the desired transformation will eventually come.
To counter the APA's rigorous effort, NARTH produced a shoddy report that cherry picked outdated research, including dated shock and aversion therapy experiments to "cure" homosexuals. It is telling that NARTH included examples of torture to support its tortured attempts to make ex-gay therapy appear ethical and effective.
The APA pulled few punches and couched its top-notch report in direct terms. Hopefully, this effort will limit the number of psychological casualties produced on the couches of ex-gay therapists.
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