NJ Trial Reveals Bizarre Practices of ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy

There is a fraud trial going on in New Jersey against a Jewish “ex-gay” organization called JONAH over their “ex-gay” therapy sessions. The suit was filed by former clients of that therapy, who say they were lied to about its effectiveness and other things. The testimony from those clients has shown some very strange allegedly therapeutic “treatments.”

For example, Christopher Doyle, an ex-gay therapist and head of the “ex-gay pride” outlet Voice of the Voiceless, called the case the “trial of the century.” Doyle had sought to testify as an expert in defense of ex-gay therapy, but the judge disallowed such testimony, claiming it would be no more scientific than expertise on why the earth is flat. The ex-gay therapist, unsurprisingly, insists otherwise — that there is “no compelling scientific evidence that suggests gay-affirmative therapy is more effective than efforts to resolve unwanted homosexual feelings.” This ignores multiple studies showing that conversion therapy is harmful or just plain ineffective, and the fact that mainstream medical organizations recommend affirming a person’s sexuality as a best practice for professional psychologists.

What these JONAH clients experienced is at the heart of the case. They argue that these treatments were violating — that they were unfounded therapeutic practices. Doyle proceeded to defend one of these questionable methods, an exercise in which JONAH therapist Alan Downing asked plaintiff Benjamin Unger to begin stripping while staring at himself in front of a mirror. Testifying last week, Unger described how Downing stood behind him, close enough that he could feel his breathing on his neck, and put his hand on his shoulder. After taking off his shirt and undershirt, Unger explained, “Then I was told to look at my body, feel my masculinity and then I was told to go a step further which is to take my pants off.” Unger refused to take that step and said he “felt violated” by the experience.

Unger testified that he didn’t even have any body shame issues, but Doyle went so far as to characterize him as an exhibitionist. He defended the fact that after the suit was filed, Downing searched Unger’s Facebook page for pictures of him shirtless — taken years after he left JONAH’s therapy — which somehow prove, as Doyle puts it, that he “had no problem baring his half-naked body.” He’s essentially juxtaposing being in public with friends with being in a private, vulnerable setting with a much older ex-gay counselor who had admitted to Unger he still had same-sex attractions. “While this is not a mainstream technique used by licensed counselors working with clients who experience unwanted SSA,” Doyle admitted, “these practices have been used for decades in experiential healing weekends helping gay men feel better about their bodies” — a problem Unger didn’t even have…

Testifying Wednesday, Levin described one of these treatments from a retreat he attended called “New Warriors”:

It was Saturday night and we were in a room. Someone came into the room and started handing out garbage bags and said that this next process is going to be done without clothes on. So we took our clothes off and then they blindfolded us, and we were instructed to link arms, and we walked through the woods into another room.

Once we got into the room, we were able to take our blindfolds off, and there was a bunch of people standing around. There was like a — there were some — there were candles on a table, and I think they called it an initiation ceremony. There was people dancing, and there was a lot going on.

Everyone was naked, including Downing, Levin’s counselor. Several other exercises similarly involved group nudity. These exercises made Levin feel “horrible.” Levin was also subjected to the same stripping-in-front-of-the-mirror exercise as Unger, but he actually proceeded with it until he was fully nude. He was then asked, “Where is your masculinity on your body?” and asked to feel it, i.e. touch his penis and his buttocks in front of Downing. “I told myself that I wouldn’t speak about it ever,” Levin testified. “I thought that maybe if I pretended that it never happened, maybe — maybe that would be real for me.”

Other clients of such therapy have recounted similar tales from other “ex-gay” counselors not affiliated with this particular group, so this seems to be the norm. One could be forgiven for thinking that the only purpose of such exercises is for the “therapist” to get to see their clients naked.

"Never knew that water actually came from Fiji, thought they just took the name. Doesn't ..."

Crokin: Trump Was Sending a Message ..."
""ended with a drop dead gorgeous red head from Cleveland"I suppose we can at least ..."

OH Gov. Candidate Defends Franken by ..."
"“I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for"Okay, stop right there. You're just ..."

AL Governor Thinks Moore Did It, ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Pierce R. Butler

    * Must not make whale-swallowing jokes, must not …*

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    One could be forgiven for thinking that the only purpose of such exercises is for the “therapist” to get to see their clients naked.

    It’s why I became a dermitologist.

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca composer99

    Between this lot and the Gothard/Quiverfull crowd, white evangelical Protestants are doing their damnedest to compete with the Roman Catholic Church when it come to harbouring sexual predators in their organisations.

  • John Pieret


    It’s why I became a dermitologist.

    Why didn’t you go all the way and become a proctologist?

  • https://plus.google.com/101060696320014364594 Darren VanDusen

    In a report on Ireland’s same-sex marriage law passing, John Oliver showed the Catholic churches reply. I’ll let you guess what it was. Oliver then accused the church of running a “very successful pedophile exchange program”.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    John Pieret, why must you turn everything in to a joke about butts? We try to keep conversations above a certain level here. Do try to avoid resorting to potty humor. And also I flunked out of proctology school, on account of the giggling.

  • karmacat

    That’s definitely not the way to do body image therapy. The “therapist” is also implying that being gay means you are not masculine. Those “therapists” do sound like sexual predators

  • daved

    And also I flunked out of proctology school, on account of the giggling.

    It didn’t help that the school was in Athol, MA, either.

  • wreck

    These clowns should be convicted of first degree aggravated creepiness, at the least.

  • Mobius

    Sounds to me like Downing was just finding a way to look at his “clients'” junk.

  • blf

    To cure a Teh Gay of the Teh Gay is simple.

     (1) Find a Teh Gay. Can be identified by ickiness.

     (2) Nail him her it to one of those cross thingies. Like they did to our Lard and Savory.

     (3) Erect cross.

     (4, After it stops screaming and moving, and hence is cured.) Dispose of cured body tidily.

    Some therapists curing a Teh Gay may find themselves having an erection or other icky symptoms. This is a dangerous warning sign. Report immediately to your fellow therapists for a urgent preventative cure.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    So if I did all this shit in a room otherwise full of naked women, would I stop being straight?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    One could be forgiven for thinking that the only purpose of such exercises is for the “therapist” to get to see their clients naked.

    I’m sure that’s part of it, coupled with a desperate need to make up SOMETHING that kinda sorta looks like a theraputic procedure. That’s what it most resembles to me: first they insisted that gayness was a “disease” that had to be “cured,” then they had to make up something — anything — that they could say was their “cure” or “therapy.”

    There’s been other, equally bogus, procedures they’ve tried to pass of as “remedies,” such as having men look at gay porn and start jacking off; and then, as they’re about to climax, showing pictures of naked women, hoping that the sight of women when they’re already aroused would make them straight. Fifty shades of snake-oil you might say.