APA Monitor on the APA sexual orientation and therapy report

The current American Psychological Association Monitor briefly reports on the August report from the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Not much new here for regular readers of the blog. The big news in my view was the treatment of religion which did not get as much coverage as the discouragement of change therapies.

The article ends with quotes from NARTH’s Julie Hamilton and me.

Warren Throckmorton, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and fellow at the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., described the task force’s work as a “well-done effort.”  

“I felt the treatment of religion was very respectful, and in doing so, it created space for clients of conservative religious faith to explore the reality of their sexual orientation, while maintaining their faith commitments,” said Throckmorton, who researches sexual orientation and homosexuality and writes about such issues from a Christian perspective.

Julie Harren Hamilton, PhD, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), said she appreciated what she described as the task force’s recognition that clients have a right to self-determination, and its respect for religious diversity. But she disagreed with the task force’s main conclusions, and charged that the task force was composed only of members opposed to sexual orientation change efforts. 

“We believe that if the task force had been more neutral in their approach, they could have arrived at only one conclusion, that homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people, that some people can and do change,” she said.

 Some people may change something but there is little evidence which would allow more than guesses about what the potent elements in any such change might be. The NARTH review found that all kinds of approaches reported some degree of change. Can they all be right? In such a situation, a more plausible guess might be that there was some common element of the clients and/or the therapy that could be involved. And as Jones and Yarhouse suggested in the discussion section of their APA report, perhaps sexual identity is a better concept to consider when discussing categorical change. If someone shifts a Kinsey point or two, one might feel satisfied with this and justified in considering themselves to have changed.

As I have noted, the distance between opposing views may be narrowing significantly.

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  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Some people may change something but there is little evidence which would allow more than guesses about what the potent elements in any such change might be.

    One “potent” element has to be a strong faith in God that places Him at the core of one’s identity, doesn’t it? That far exceeds just a belief (even the devil believes) or a religious worldview or a pressure to conform to legalism.

    How do we measure such a thing and plot it on a graph?

  • Eddy

    Is there any companion to the Kinsey Scale for other behaviors that people seek to change? One that doesn’t just measure that they’ve quit gambling (for example) but that they’ve moved signifcantly in the opposite direction? Is there another scenario where change isn’t just about cessation of a behavior but also scores any lingering impulses, even though they aren’t acted upon, as lack of change?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    The very idea that we have to use a scale developed by Kinsey is anathema to many. I, at the very least, object to elevating his name in a way that makes him sound legitimate.

  • Eddy

    Debbie–

    I’m good with that. My point is that the claim is that we’re redefining ‘change’ when, in fact, it’s the base definition that’s the problem. We’ve already swallowed the camel called ‘sexual orientation’ (refusing to liken it to the concept of ‘temptation’ in our understanding) and, due to our definition, we’ve altered the standards for change. Not only are you required to master your impulses…you may not even have them…even occasionally…AND FURTHERMORE…you must show evidence that you’ve developed new impulses. I get it…I understand why people want to see that…I’m just wondering if there’s any other behavior that we hold to the same standard of change.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Oh yes, Eddy, I have felt that same injustice for a long time.

    I’m good with that. My point is that the claim is that we’re redefining ‘change’ when, in fact, it’s the base definition that’s the problem.

    I knew that. I was giving a parenthetical. Your point was good enough to stand on its own.

  • Michael Bussee

    And as Jones and Yarhouse suggested in the discussion section of their APA report, perhaps sexual identity is a better concept to consider when discussing categorical change. If someone shifts a Kinsey point or two, one might feel satisfied with this and justified in considering themselves to have changed.

    That seems perfectly reasonable to me. Gay to bisexual is definitely a change that could be satisfying to those who accept that total heterosexuality is unlikely. At least it’s not total gayness.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Gay to bisexual is definitely a change that could be satisfying to those who accept that total heterosexuality is unlikely.

    Michael, I think Eddy is raising the point that we ought to examine why they would accept that. How have folks been convinced that change may only be a move of “two points” in the other direction? Do we take as gospel — as final — what we have been able to observe through the few windows that cannot view the whole landscape?

    We’ve been here before. We have some people submitting themselves for studies. But how many more will never do that? And how many of those who have changed through real spiritual mediation cannot even make themselves understood in a common language? Look how diffiicult it is here on this blog.

  • Eddy

    I’ve asked this question on at least one other thread and people reacted to it as a statement rather than treating it as the question that it is. (See how it begins with the words ‘is there another’ and then ends with a question mark…it’s a question.)

    Is there another scenario where change isn’t just about cessation of a behavior but also scores any lingering impulses, even though they aren’t acted upon, as lack of change?

    Anyone? Anyone?

  • Michael Bussee

    How have folks been convinced that change may only be a move of “two points” in the other direction? Do we take as gospel — as final — what we have been able to observe through the few windows that cannot view the whole landscape?

    Debbie, I take it as gospel and final until we get some good. solid, scientific evidence to the contrary. Youa re right. We have been here before.

  • http://thom-signsofastruggle.blogspot.com/ Thom Hunter

    I just wanted to chime in a bit on Eddy’s question. I’m not aware of any other situation that has to meet the high standard of not just stopping behavior but being able to say you no longer even are tempted or have thoughts and impulses. If that is the measure of success, then success is immeasurable. I, for one, and I know many others, will indeed consider it successful change just to no longer act out in any way. There are many who will settle for controlled impulses or thoughts and consider themselves very much changed in light of personal history. I don’t think we will ever know for certain how many people are able to walk away from homosexuality permanently because most of them will never say. They will be so enamored with the freedom that they will build their lives in a new way and be satisfied not to share the success because it requires revelation of past pain. Were my situation not so fully public, I would be in that group, even though we need more and more former homosexuals to proclaim the reality of the power to change.

  • Ann

    Is there another scenario where change isn’t just about cessation of a behavior but also scores any lingering impulses, even though they aren’t acted upon, as lack of change?

    Eddy,

    I am thinking but so far have not been able to come up with one.

  • Ann

    I just wanted to chime in a bit on Eddy’s question. I’m not aware of any other situation that has to meet the high standard of not just stopping behavior but being able to say you no longer even are tempted or have thoughts and impulses. If that is the measure of success, then success is immeasurable.

    Thom Hunter,

    No matter how many times I have tried to articulate this I have never done as good a job as you just did. Thank you so much.

  • David Blakeslee

    Again,

    Isn’t change more likely for women than for men?

    Julie is fighting a reasonable fight, with very imprecise science…she needs to get very specific about “what is likely to change.”

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    We need to understand the point of the distinction the APA makes. Claims have been made in the context of political discussions that gays can change and so the trait is inherently flexible. Take the politics out of it and we can talk about degrees and behavior versus impulse with less consequence.

    Some people have changed something, that seems sure. But what? I have talked with many who said in a public venue that they used to be gay and now they are straight. However, they are not heterosexual in any sense I could understand when they continue to experience attraction to the same sex. They have added some straight attraction, they may feel less attracted toward the same sex, in fact going for weeks without a “temptation.” However, they have experiences regarding the same-sex that heterosexuals will rarely or never have. For all the changing, some things have not changed. This makes the value-based work different for them. In understanding their situation from a ministry point of view, they have changed a lot. From a science point of view, they have perhaps only changes their sexual arousal pattern a little. However, to fracture a phrase, a little can be much when God is in it. It is still a little to the scientist, but it might be just enough to the one seeking a preferred set of valued behaviors.

    And yes, flexibility seems more characteristic of women.

    David, what fight is Julie fighting?

  • Lynn David

    Warren asked… David, what fight is Julie fighting?

    As prez of NARTH (imprecise science), Homosexuality 101. and perhaps John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…?” Though as to the modifier ‘reasonable’….

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    For all the changing, some things have not changed. This makes the value-based work different for them. In understanding their situation from a ministry point of view, they have changed a lot. From a science point of view, they have perhaps only changes their sexual arousal pattern a little. However, to fracture a phrase, a little can be much when God is in it. It is still a little to the scientist, but it might be just enough to the one seeking a preferred set of valued behaviors.

    Warren, thank you so much for saying this. The APA task force may or may not have truly understood what the literature has shown in terms of religiously mediated “change,” but they have rightly observed something they believed worthy of respectfully pointing out. And you are the ideal person to say what you said above. Bless you.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    And Thom — bless you, too, buddy. You do articulate the transformed life well from a male point of view. That is essential since we women are put into a different box.

  • http://www.projectethic.com James

    My Faulty advisor and I discussed the article this morning. She took a copy and mentioned that this is the cutting edge of the issue within the APA.

  • http://www.projectethic.com James

    uhh “faculty”… can’t edit?


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