Last week, the Family Research Council promoted the annual conference of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, touting the group as “one of the best sources of information about homosexuality.” In the description of NARTH, the FRC claimed that NARTH is “primarily composed of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other professional therapists and counselors who offer ‘sexual reorientation therapy’ to help people overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.”
However, this is not accurate. NARTH is not composed primarily of mental health professionals. Actually, according to NARTH’s operations director, David Pruden, only about 250 of NARTH’s approximately 1000 members are mental health professionals. Furthermore, some of those 250 members who have mental health degrees are academics who write about sexuality but do not provide sexual reorientation therapy. Thus, the lion’s share of NARTH’s members consist of lay people, ministers, and activists who have an interest in the materials provided by NARTH but are not scientists or therapists.
By comparison, the American Psychological Association has 150,000 members. All mental health groups are by far much larger than NARTH. I suspect most, if not all, state chapters of these groups are larger than NARTH.
The influence of NARTH comes from the fact that religiously conservative groups like FRC recommend the organization and refer to it as a counterpart to the established organizations. However, in the mental health marketplace, NARTH is not attracting members or supporters. Given the fact that 75% of the members have no professional or scientific credentials, it seems more accurate to consider NARTH to be an advocacy group with some like-minded mental health professionals as members, rather than a scientific group.
This impression is reinforced by the fact that two prime speakers at next week’s convention in Phoenix are not scientists at all, but anti-gay activists. Sharon Slater will speak in a session about her work with United Nations’ countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East, which aims to keep laws on the books criminalizing homosexuality. Then, following Slater, will be Michael Brown who is a minister. Read this post for more about these individuals.