Earlier today we looked at some of the mainstream media reports of the American Psychological Association’s resolution on treatment for those dealing with same-sex attraction. The Wall Street Journal took a completely different approach than almost every other report out there. Religion reporter Stephanie Simon writes on a new therapy for people whose faith and sexual identity are in conflict and how the APA changed its treatment guidelines to allow counselors to help clients reject their same-sex attraction. It was certainly different than the headlines over most of the AP reports. Here’s how she began:
The men who seek help from evangelical counselor Warren Throckmorton often are deeply distressed. They have prayed, read Scripture, even married, but they haven’t been able to shake sexual attractions to other men — impulses they believe to be immoral.
Dr. Throckmorton is a psychology professor at a Christian college in Pennsylvania and past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He specializes in working with clients conflicted about their sexual identity.
The first thing he tells them is this: Your attractions aren’t a sign of mental illness or a punishment for insufficient faith. He tells them that he cannot turn them straight.
But he also tells them they don’t have to be gay.
For many years, Dr. Throckmorton felt he was breaking a professional taboo by telling his clients they could construct satisfying lives by, in effect, shunting their sexuality to the side, even if that meant living celibately. That ran against the trend in counseling toward “gay affirming” therapy — encouraging clients to embrace their sexuality.
But in a striking departure, the American Psychological Association said Wednesday that it is ethical — and can be beneficial — for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions.
Simon goes through the specific guidelines, which sort of discourage change therapy. But if clients desire to overcome their attractions, counselors may help them live celibately, learn to deflect sexual impulses or come to see the struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God. Simon also discusses the make-up of the task force and that some are active in gay-rights causes. She says the group’s mandate was to respond to change therapists:
But the task force also gained an appreciation for the pain some men and women feel in trying to reconcile their sexual attractions with their faith. There are gay-affirming churches. But the task force acknowledged that for those from conservative faiths, affirming a gay identity could feel very much like renouncing their religious identity.
“They’re faced with a terrible dilemma,” Dr. Glassgold said. The profession has to offer alternatives, she says, “so they don’t pursue these ineffective therapies” promising change.
It isn’t a step to be taken lightly, added Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and member of the APA task force. “We try to find a balance between what the patient says he wants, what we think is best for the patient, and what is reasonable and feasible,” Dr. Drescher said.
Simon includes the views of gay activists, such as those affiliated with Truth Wins Out, that the report is misguided and that therapeutic approaches such as the ones endorsed by the APA could cause suffering. And then she get a member of the task force denying the charge. Simon also includes the views of those who have changed their self-identification away from homosexuality. One man compares the struggle against same-sex temptation with the struggle against alcoholism.
It’s just a very balanced, interesting and civil piece. It’s nice to see that it actually is possible to discuss some of these hot-button and divisive topics in an informative and fair manner. It’s also nice to see journalists take a different approach than the pack when writing up a big story like this one.
As with the previous post, discussion should focus on this article and the journalistic treatment of the issue — not your personal feelings about same-sex attraction, unwanted same-sex attraction, etc. I have an itchy trigger finger today and will delete any comments that are incendiary or off-topic. Thanks — the mgmt.