Thursday, August 6, 2009

American Psychological Association's Declaration on Reparative Therapy

I wanted to share my reply to Carleton1958's recent blog post entitled: My faith vs. the APA's declaration on reparative therapy

Here is the article from the Associated Press: Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy.

And my response to Carleton1958 (in quotes):

"Like you, I too exist, and I can say that my same-sex sexual attractions have diminished so significantly and my opposite-sex attractions increased that I would say that my orientation itself has changed. And this, due to what can be called "reparative intervention" although not formalized.

Nicolosi said that he and Jones and Yarhouse tried to get a representative into that small task-force in APA, but were not allowed (link). As a response, they created this document and insisted that the APA respond to it:

There is so much variation in sexuality and the article (and APA itself) failed to point out that the polarization of gay vs. straight is mostly political. Many fall under variations that if help for their unwanted same-sex desires were sought, could decide on nuanced paths that were more consistent with their faith beliefs. Clearly, the APA is still politically (morally?) biased, not scientific, if they dare to be really honest about it."

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Warren Throckmorton has also issued a response (link). I have not had time to read it in detail, but from what I have read (and all of my knowledge on SSA so far), questions begin to come to mind:
  • What is sexual orientation, and how does it differ from sexual identity?
  • Is there a monolithic approach to reparative therapy?
  • Is reparative therapy about re-orientation or identity development?
  • Who defines what is straight and what is gay? By what criteria? According to behavior? To identity?
  • What happened to me? Was it intervention on my reparative needs? Was it identity shifting? Was it the deep meeting of my male-attachment needs? Was it "all of the above" but reductionistic thinking wants to isolate it to one main thing?
The APA. Just a bunch of people trying their best to help people, but at a level that doesn't address my experience. Research is always limited, and hardly iron-clad. Social research, especially, is always morphing and emerging. So much depends on how things are defined, operationalized, measured, number-crunched, reported, and so on and so forth. What is statistically relevant in a population study means very little when it comes to a single individual's experience.

My advice to all of my friends who read my blog: submit yourselves to God and then let your experience--not institutional declarations--show you the next steps to take. Neither the APA, nor NARTH, nor Throckmorton, nor I ( O . O ), have all the answers. Instead, let's gather together and share what God is doing in our lives so that we can learn from each others' experiences.

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Edit: This just in. The Wall Street Journal also published an article on the topic (link). Haven't read it yet, but the byline reads: "Psychological Association Revises Treatment Guidelines to Allow Counselors to Help Clients Reject Their Same-Sex Attractions."


I need to find an actual statement from the APA and decide for myself what they said. Secondary sources. Meh.

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Final Edit: Here we go. The actual release summary by APA (link), and the actual report, all 138 pages of it (link)!


  1. I thought this was a good response. I don't know what the official reports says or whether or not they define their terms. But your post speaks to me clearly.

    What did happen to us? Why are we much happier? Why do i see the opposite sex differently?

    It can't just be a placebo effect, the methods correlate to closely and too many individuals describe their experience in similar ways. If it weren't true, then why do we speak the same language and understand one another so well?

  2. Great post. Thanks. I'll have to read Throckmorton's article in detail.

  3. Anonymous (and I know who you are): Exactly! What are we? Chopped liver? Do our experiences not count? ;-)

    Jeff: I just added in the WSJ article as well.

  4. I think Jeff's closing lines were a great summary of how we, as Christians, should respond to this very complex subject. Some men have experienced change in their SSA. Some have not. Some are pursuing celibacy instead of change. I think your advice for all of us to submit ourselves to God and let Him reveal which steps for us to take is wise advice. We just have to respect the diversity of the Church and SSA men in particular, and respect that the experience of a man who changes his orientation may not be meant for all SSA men.

  5. Jay: I can and do respect the choices people make, including yours. But I believe that my experience (and the experiences of others like me) can and should be voiced for those who are still very much in the process of consideration. I believe there should be as much room for the exploration and research of therapy for sexual-desire change (within ethical bounds) as there should be room for the respect of diversity (within ethical bounds here too).

  6. Right, and I don't think anyone is keeping your stories from being voiced. Jeff voiced his, you voice yours, and countless others voice theirs. I don't think there needs to be a contest between the celibates and the ones who marry. All of us should be able to explore our options and deal with the real-world benefits and drawbacks of our particular paths in an environment that is safe and tolerant for us (again, within ethical bounds; it can be assumed that I'm not talking about active homosexual relationships).

  7. Homosexuality is proving to be one of the most complex human issues. When the APA made it's landmark decision in 1973, it was done without consideration of any scientific work. What the APA did was driven not by fact, but politics.

    While what I've said about the APA's actions is factual, I can hardly condemn their motivation. The APA was anticipating a religious backlash, and right they were. The APA's stance on homosexuality has always been morally neutral, and they sought to maintain the integrity of this position. Also there was a dearth of rigorous scientific study, of any kind. In hindsight we can see, the APA, among others overreacted in a big way.

    But then, so did the Church. The response from religious people has, for the most part, been cruel and hateful.

    Both sides have been lost in the "issue", and in the process have lost the people who deal with the issue. The APA has served the purposes of gay activists, while the Church has served the purposes of moral activists. The homosexual and the struggler be damned.

    What have discovered and continue to discover is that change is not only possible, but inevitable...IF...notice please the big "IF"...IF Christians who struggle follow Christ's teaching. Change isn't instantaneous, is hard work, and must be a life long commitment.

    After becoming a Christian I didn't commit to celibacy, orientation change, or marriage. I committed to Christ and whatever change He decided to make. After all it is Jesus who promises change; "If the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed." John 8:36. Over the last 19 years my experience has and continues to be that Jesus is faithful to do exactly what He promises...The Son will set you free. my life, and from what you say of your life, are proof of Christ's power to change. That change hasn't been easy, quick, or simple.

    What does that change look like? The closest term I can come up with is 'maturity'. It's never been about changing my orientation, but rather growing out of a stunted and immature orientation. I suppose one could call it healing, but not in the strictest sense of the word. My feelings have changed as I have allowed God to "grow me up." It's been completely natural; "organic".

    I put very little stock in anything groups like the APA have to say. My experience is that God keeps His word, without fail. My performance in obeying God has often been poor and sometime terrible. Even in that God has remained faithful.

    The bottom line for me is: Trust God more and more, and personal feelings less and less.


  8. Lonnie,

    Thanks for your comment. You've given me some things to chew over. If you have a "testimony" (i.e. more condensed version of your experience of change) on your blog, do point it out to me.