APA Says Gay-to-Straight Therapies Do Not Work

The American Psychological Association has stated what most of us have known for quite some time: your sexuality doesn’t change and gay-to-straight therapies are useless at best and harmful at worst.

The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution Wednesday stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others’ sexual orientation.

The task force examined the peer-reviewed journal articles in English from 1960 to 2007, which included 83 studies. Most of the studies were conducted before 1978, and only a few had been conducted in the last 10 years. The group also reviewed the recent literature on the psychology of sexual orientation.

“Unfortunately, much of the research in the area of sexual orientation change contains serious design flaws,” Glassgold said. “Few studies could be considered methodologically sound and none systematically evaluated potential harms.”

Glassgold went on to talk about the implications of the APA resolution:

“Both sides have to educate themselves better,” Ms. Glassgold said. “The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality.”

Sounds about right. Gay people are born that way and some are deluded into thinking that can change. As Andrew Sullivan notes, “The point of the gay rights movement is not to encourage people to be gay. It is to enlarge the scope of freedom so that more people, gay and straight and bi and trans, can be themselves. With dignity and respect.”

So how are conservative Christians reacting to it?

They’re not about to change anything, of course:

“The APA is really failing to not only represent science, which is its primary responsibility,” [Dr. Joe Nicolosi, founder and director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic,] said, “but it’s also failing to inform people.”

The guidelines do allow for difference in religious beliefs, but Jeff Johnston, gender issues analyst for Focus on the Family, said they don’t go far enough. He said the APA is starting with the false assumption that homosexuality is normal and positive.

The longer Christians allow this charade to go on within their own churches, the faster they will drive people away from their faith.

In that sense, this is bittersweet. They’re digging their own grave, which is not a bad thing, and yet I’d rather see them face the facts and reach out positively to gay people. They have the potential to do a lot of good despite their irrational beliefs. Yet, they have no desire to — if I may say it — be “Christian” about it.

(Thanks to everyone for the link!)

  • http://godlessgirl.com godlessgirl

    I wonder if Focus on the Family and other anti-gay organizations will eventually become like Scientology and reject psychology as a whole as it continues to break down their bigoted assumptions even more.

    On a personal note: My father was a Christian psychotherapist and one of his brothers is gay. I remember seeing a number of books and pamphlets around the house on the topic of gay-to-straight therapies, groups, and organizations. If he were alive today, this resolution would be inspiring a gloriously intense conversation.

  • BoomWav

    I say the Christians are starting with the false assumption that homosexuality is abnormal and negative.

  • Richard Wade

    This dogged devotion to bigotry and ignorance seems to be one of the main reasons that young people are increasingly walking away from Christianity. In the same way, more and more psychotherapists will continue to be alienated from the Christian-oriented institutions, such as Focus on the Family, with their unsubstantiated claims of success and their junk research.

    Watching this happen is like watching a man commit hara-kiri with a very small pocket knife. I have to admit I admire in a grisly way their unflagging determination, steadily sawing, sawing, sawing, to keep gutting themselves.

  • Guffey

    Kinda off the atheism subject but if anyone here is interested Box Turtle Bulletin posted an short analysis of some of claims by Nicolosi & NARTH, and of the study itself.

  • Valdyr

    The–*gag*–”Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic”? Let me guess… *checks*

    Yep… it’s in California–where you don’t actually have to be qualified to hang up a shingle as a psychological or psychiatric professional. (It’s also worth noting that their state bar association has special standards that mean you can get a diploma-mill degree that allows to practice law in California…and nowhere else. See: Orly Taitz, our favorite Birther crazy. Seriously, CA, WTF?)

    The “Clinic”‘s founder, Joseph Nicolosi, seems to have a legitimate Ph.D., but that just confirms what we already knew–sometimes the wackiest of wackaloons have legitimate credentials.

    Even a brief glance at this guy’s book summaries in Wikipedia is enough to tell you everything you need to know. He cites work by Freudian psychoanalysts (the people who make actual scientists in the field headdesk and facepalm with great force and frequency) and puts forth the totally bogus, unsupported assertion that gender identity disorder is the underlying cause of homosexuality.

    Apparently, with all Nicolosi’s education in psychology, he never learned about something that I, an undergraduate, had drilled into me from day one: confirmation bias. If you start with the belief that homosexuality is a horrible sin as laid down by TEH L0RD GAWD, you will–unless you’re careful–selectively attend to data that seems to confirm that belief, and ignore or distort data that doesn’t. Nicolosi has never asked himself the question, “Am I crusading against homosexuality because the preponderance of evidence indicates that it’s a harmful disorder, or might it be related to my personal religious convictions?”

    Oh man. It felt good to rant. As a psychology major, I already have a chip on my shoulder from uninformed people telling me my field is totally bogus and unscientific. (I wish–then I wouldn’t have to worry about being torn apart for not adequately citing peer-reviewed studies in my papers.) Seeing a sleazeball like this promote totally bogus and unscientific ideas as real psychology… well, it grinds my gears.

  • Alan E.

    There is a gay man in Florida, Bryce Faulkner, who has reportedly gone missing, but his parents say he is “fine.” He disappeared overnight and none of his friends know where he is or have heard from him. Everyone is speculating that is in one of these “treatment programs.” There is even a Reverend who has a website set up trying to get more information about his disappearance. He states that he will take down the site if only he hears from Bryce and he says that he went into the program willingly. Bryce has been gone since June 15.

    Read more at:
    http://www.edgesanfrancisco.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=features&sc3=&id=94784

    Rev. Brett Harris’ website:
    http://savebryce.ergonomicalministries.org/

  • Dan W

    How typical. The people doing actual science (and psychology is science) state facts which, to a non-deluded person, are obvious, and the religious fanatics insist on ignoring the evidence. It’s sad really, that some people can’t accept reality if it doesn’t fit their bigoted views.

  • JS

    “Gay people are born that way and some are deluded into thinking that can change.”

    Er, yes and no.

    That is to say, are there are DEFINITELY some biological factors that appear to contribute to homosexuality? Well, yes. Absolutely! Just to name three particularly interesting and striking ones: a gene that linked with increased female fertility has also been correlated with homosexuality in male offspring; in some cases it’s been connected with hormonal imbalances in the womb such as might result from a woman having more than one male child which can trigger an immune reaction; and lesbian brains and gay male brains in at least one brain scan study were shown to be physically proportioned more like those of self-identified heterosexual members of the opposite sex.

    However, the overwhelming evidence from research into sexuality in general that I have come across… would appear to indicate that in fact most individuals in any given species but particularly hominid species such as our own, are neither entirely homosexual nor entirely heterosexual.

    It bugs me that you’re getting this almost as wrong as the other side does: a relatively recent issue of Scientific American Mind (it was a “Special Issue on Sex” produced this year; do try to track it down, as it’s really fascinating) outright stated that human sexuality isn’t so much an either/or option, as it is a gigantic bell curve, with a tiny minority of individuals being completely unable to be attracted to a certain sex, but with the vast majority of individuals falling in fact somewhere in between, and engaging in either homosexual or heterosexual behavior based on environmental triggers (many American men have engaged in homosexual activities such as group masturbation in high school athletics teams for instance, but self-identify as heterosexual later in life).

    Now, I am NOT trying to argue that it is possible to “fix the gay” as it were. However, it’s not scientifically implausible for some people to be bisexual, have engaged in mostly homosexual behavior, and to be discontented with this due to societal peer pressure. There is actually a very tiny minority of people like this for whom so-called “gay-to-straight” therapies actually “work”. It IS a minority, it’s worth noting, but they do exist. This is precisely why the whole issue is slightly messy: because a handful of people really are capable of altering sexual behavior to conform with their preconceived religious standards. Ignoring this fact isn’t actually helpful, and your phrasing here worries me, as it sounds an awful lot like the increasing number of gays (particularly gay men) who disparage bisexuals as either “indecisive” or “just experimenting” or, rather terrifyingly, “nonexistent”. As in, they don’t even believe it is possible to be bisexual… even though the OVERWHELMING scientific evidence is in favor of that being practically the default state of sexuality in humans.

    Speaking as someone with bisexual friends? Stuff like this bugs the crap out of me at best, and frightens me at worst. I applaud the APA’s decision (since there’s no evidence that full-fledged gays can actually be “converted” to being completely straight using these “therapy” methods)… but I worry at the tendency amongst even secular groups or individuals to paint sexuality as if it is entirely black or white in all or even most individuals. Sexuality, particularly orientation and sexual identity, is far more complex and more nuanced than even you’re giving it credit for.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I know that this is probably unrealistic, and overall I really appreciate the APA statement, but I wish that they had made an even stronger statement against religious interference with the happiness of LGBT people. Nevertheless, it is progress.

  • Valdyr

    The APA has already been accused of being “too political”. In ’75, when they officially removed homosexuality from the DSM (big list of diagnostic criteria for mental disorders) and spoke out against the stigma carried by gayness, conservatives got huffy and accused them of being manipulated by liberal pinkocommiesexuals.

  • Steve in MD

    The real issue is how the conservative religious communities denigrate and deny the humanity of gay people. Turning their lives into a living hell.

    And then they try to convert them. I thought we were guaranteed religious freedom, which means that churches have zero right to denigrate and deny gay people’s humanity. And drive them to suicide. Murder in the name of Jesus – just to perpetuate the churches power.

    We should really be talking about the true mental illness called homophobia. Religious based terrorism against a minority. The right wing churches are on this subject nothing but hate groups. Why – because they sell “faith”. And anyone who violates their faiths is their enemy to be destroyed.

    Because when the truth comes out, these monstrosities, in God’s name, will preach only to the dust in the pews and the dust of the departed.

    I really suspect, having been involved in the gay community politically, that at least 10% of the population is gay. And we’ve seen data that indicates that 20% of the conventional divorces are because one of the partners is actually gay.

    It is time to finally break the back of the religious freaks. And free the people of their contrived “sins” lever, their use of the bible as a weapon of hate”

    And so interesting how religious people talk about gays and the bible, while ignoring that according to the root base of homophobia – Leviticus – if they really read all of leviticus, and believed it, 99.99% of the people in the world are worthy of death.

    So the issue is why the religious right is so hung up on sex? The only answer is that so many of them are secretly gay, hate themselves due to their religious beliefs, and throw out that hatred on others to assauge their own guilt.

    And btw, if you want to know what makes a pervert who attacks children – it is simple – turn sex – a very natural drive – into a no-no. And ultimately the drive takes over the person. And in the Catholic church in particular, when you put sex starved priests in positions of authority over kids, and they want to demonstrate their power and control they rape these kids. And why was it boys so much more then girls? Because until recently the only available victims were the choir boys. Girls weren’t allowed to be in the choir till recently.

    The whole thing stinks just like prison rape – where the strong, sex starved, but MOST MACHo of perpetrators show their power by humiliating the weaker- which is what rape is about.

    And the church hid these creeps for decades, letting the problem continue. The only explanation – the rot reaches all the way to the top.


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