Reparative therapy and the power of an explanation

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article titled “My So-called Ex-gay Life” from the website of the American Prospect and written by Gabriel Arana. In that post, I focused on psychiatrist Robert Spitzer’s desire to retract his 2001 study of ex-gays. I also reported on my brief exchange with Bob about his study and his current views on sexual orientation.

Today, I want to comment about Arana’s description of Narth co-founder Joseph Nicolosi. Arana summarizes his three year therapy episode with Nicolosi which ended with Nicolosi’s prognosis to Arana’s parents that their son would never enter the gay lifestyle:

Late into my last year of high school, Nicolosi had a final conversation with my parents and told them that the treatment had been a success. “Your son will never enter the gay lifestyle,” he assured them.

I once had an experience with Nicolosi which is similar to what happened with Arana and his parents. I was in a meeting with several psychologists, including Nicolosi, debating the merits of his theory of paternal deficit as the sole cause for adult male homosexuality. I presented the basics of a clinical case involving a young adult who consulted me about his distress over his same-sex attractions. The young man told me that he came out to his father because he was closer to his father than to his mother. In addition, there were other indications of paternal warmth and closeness that I mentioned in the presentation. In the midst of some discussion over the case, Nicolosi abruptly interrupted me and said, “He’ll be fine. He’s not gay.” Nicolosi then explained that a boy like that who has such a close relationship with his father could not possibly remain attracted to the same sex. In fact, the young man did remain attracted to the same sex, although he did not come out as gay at that point. The only follow up I ever heard was that he had determined to live a celibate life. That case was presented as an illustration of other cases with the same basic narrative — gay men with close warm relationships with their fathers.

Nicolosi’s theoretical statements reveal the most obvious confirmation bias. Despite the fact that Nicolosi has been exposed to evidence which would invalidate his narrow theory, he persists in holding on. Witness what he said to Arana:

What about people who don’t fit his model? “After almost 30 years of work, I can say to you that I’ve never met a single homosexual who’s had a loving and respectful relationship with his father,” he says. I had heard it all before.

He said the same thing in the meeting where I introduced cases of gay males who had a loving and respectful relationship with their fathers. However, in the face of the disconfirming evidence, he simply changed the rules – those men weren’t gay, they couldn’t be because they were close to their dads. Even though the clients were attracted to the same sex; according to Nicolosi, they would not continue with those attractions because of their closeness to their dads.

Arana articulates well how different explanatory narratives can become inculcated into an identity. Arana describes how he perceived the therapeutic narrative:

We mostly talked about how my damaged masculine identity manifested itself in my attractions to other boys. Nicolosi would ask me about my crushes at school and what I liked about them. Whether the trait was someone’s build, good looks, popularity, or confidence, these conversations always ended with a redirect: Did I wish I had these traits? What might it feel like to be hugged by one of these guys? Did I want them to like and accept me?

Of course, I wanted to be as attractive as the classmates I admired; of course, I wanted to be accepted and liked by them. The line of questioning made me feel worse. Nicolosi explained, session after session, that I felt inadequate because I had not had sufficient male affirmation in childhood. I came to believe that my attraction to men was the result of the failure to connect with my father. Whenever I felt slighted by my male friends—for failing to call when they said they would, for neglecting to invite me to a party—I was re-experiencing a seminal rejection from my father. Most guys, I was told, let things like that roll off their back—an expression of their masculine confidence—but I was hurt by these things because it recalled prior trauma.

Arana eventually bought into the narrative saying he “believed in Nicolosi’s theory.” Arana’s article shows the power of an explanation. In other contexts, this power can help create coherent but faulty narratives. Watching a video on depression yesterday, I heard a female client say about herself, “I used to think I was just lazy.” Instead, she found out she had chronic depression which improved with medication and therapy. She wasn’t lazy, but initially, she had no other explanation for her need for sleep and lack of motivation. Lazy made sense but it was wrong. The right information and explanation made all the difference in the world. For same-sex attracted men, Nicolosi offers an explanation: masculine deficit caused by a trauma in the father-son relationship. It can be no other way.

At first, it seemed to make things make sense. Arana writes, “As I progressed in therapy, I felt that I was gaining insight into the source and causes of my sexual attractions. The problem was, they didn’t go away.” Even though his attractions persisted, Arana “still believed in Nicolosi’s theory.” He came to see any frustration from his parents as an indication that Nicolosi was right. Predictably, his parents disengaged.

Arana did not let go of his narrative easily, saying, “Nicolosi’s ideas did more than haunt me. The first two years of college, they were the basis for how I saw myself: a leper with no hope of a cure. I stayed in the closet but had sexual encounters with classmates nonetheless.” After reaching a suicidal crisis, he checked himself into a hospital and was visited by his father. His father, realizing then that the wrong explanation can have severe consequences, said, “I’d rather have a gay son than a dead son.”

The remainder of the article reveals the rest of Arana’s story including a conversation between Arana and Nicolosi. Arana wondered if the adverse disclosures from reparative therapy clients might soften the theoretical position of his former doctor. Go read the rest of the article to find out, but I’ll give you one guess what Arana found out.

In fairness, I have talked to a few people who say they have had really good experiences in reparative therapy. That fact is one of the disconcerting aspects of therapy – some people seem to derive benefit, at least at the time, from what others describe as harmful. One thing seems sure: explanations have consequences which makes it critically important for therapists to maintain our theories with a loose grip. Arana’s article, as well as many other reports like his, provides ample evidence for skepticism and caution when it comes to reparative theory.

  • Ann

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Are you familiar with Dr. Harville Hendrix? He has a similar/interesting theory as to why we are attracted to the people we are. His theory sounds like a derivitive of, or the basis for, reparative drive theories that followed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    His theory (imago) would be applicable to gays or straights and does not apparently relate to basic sexual orientation. Within each orientation there are preferences for types of people and his theory speaks to that possibility. It may have some merit, but it mostly is a self-help kind of approach which may or may not be accurate. No doubt people get a good narrative out of it. He mainly focuses on self-acceptance which is a far cry from reparative therapy.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ Jarred

    Whenever I felt slighted by my male friends—for failing to call when they said they would, for neglecting to invite me to a party—I was re-experiencing a seminal rejection from my father. Most guys, I was told, let things like that roll off their back—an expression of their masculine confidence—but I was hurt by these things because it recalled prior trauma.

    I find this particular example troubling because it negates the fact that feeling hurt when a friend fails to keep the commitment they’ve made to you (no matter how small) is a perfectly valid and reasonable response.

  • Ann

    I don’t know how to put links on this new format or I would link what Psychology Today said in an article. His theory is more than what you said and I think does apply to reparative drive. Psychology Today summarizes it as:

    The complete theory is a multifaceted model explaining attraction, conflict and healing within intimate relationships. Imago is Latin for image, as in the composite image of early childhood caregivers. According to Hendrix, it is “the image of the person who can make me whole again.” We find partners who help us complete the unfinished business of childhood. Our adult relationships and struggles feel familiar because they remind us of our primary caretakers. These relationships present us with the opportunity to heal past wounds and find deep relational fulfillment. But it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee.

    I do not think it relates to any particular orientation, however, it did remind me of reparative drive.

    According to the particular article I cite above, his non-profit organization has helped train more than 2000 therapists in 30 countries. I don’t think anyone has ever complained about his methods or theory that I know of. Do you think his theory is a derivitive of, or perhaps, an original model for reparative therapies that have followed?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Ann – I read that same article. Unless he somewhere says he is explaining orientation, I cannot read into his ideas what he does not say.

    The imago approach is a derivative of attachment theory which has its roots in psychoanalysis. I don’t think Hendrix has a comparable concept to defensive detachment but I could be wrong. In any case, none of these theories are proven. Inasmuch as Hendrix says he can explain all cases without empirical evidence to back it up, then I would hold his narrative to be harmful when misapplied.

    More specific to your question: No, this theory is not the original model for RT. Nicolosi borrowed heavily (and she thought unethically) from Elizabeth Moberly’s books on the reparative drive. She in turn synthesized psychoanalytic theorists to get her model. The two theories (RT and imago) spring from a similar well, but they were developed independently. Having said that, I would not be surprised if Nicolosi is familiar with imago theories and has incorporated some of that thinking while giving the concepts new names.

  • Ann

    In the article I read and the connecting links, I did not see any reference to orientation. The article and links did remind me of reparative therapy in that it talks about repairing prior parental or caregiver(s) relationships with current intimate relationships. Is reparative therapy exclusive to orientation or are there other situations, as in what Dr. Hendrix does, that it might apply?

  • DAVE G

    Arana’s experience lacked the significant ingredients of successful abandonment of the homosexual lifestyle: 1) Conviction of essential personal foundations transcending parental roots in knowing a caring heavenly Father whose love never ends, and whose natural laws built into the universe (including those for human relationships) are there to stay; 2) a primary relationship with a same-sex person sharing these same convictions; and a supportive community who also share these same convictions. These three ingredients go a long way toward extinguishing the conditioned response associating sexual drive with same-sex individuals.

  • Michael Bussee

    It seems the “ex-gay”/”reparative therapy” movement is finally imploding. Former “ex-gay” leaders have come out strongly against it. “Ex-gay” survivors are becoming more numerous and more vocal.

    The Pattison Study has been completely discredited. The Jones and Yarhouse study is seriously flawed. Alan Chambers admits that “99.% don’t change their sexual orientation”. Spitzer renounces his study. Nicolosi’s confirmation bias is obvious.

    There is no solid science to support orientation change. All legitimate scientific and medial organizations have said so – pointing our that the process poses great risk of harming people. How many more hits can the movement take?

  • stephen

    For me the big giveaway from this fine essay is the fact that Mr Arana was 14 when it began.

    Isn’t this child abuse? Isn’t this a criminal offense? Isn’t this what priest abuse is about?

    Why does he have a license? Why do people like Throckmorton enable him?

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren Throckmorton

    stephen – I beg your pardon? What?

  • Boo

    Stephen- Nicolosi had the consent of both the parents and the patient, so no it was not abuse. As to whether reparative therapy itself should be deemed unethical, I think you could make a good case for that, but so far it has not been done.

  • Boo

    Interesting that Blakeslee brought up J Michael Bailey in the previous thread, because the same could be said of him when he meets trans people who don’t fit his models. Of course he has the out of simply dismissing them out of hand as liars. Do you think Nicolosi would do the same when confronted with out gay men who are close to their dads? i.e. simply claim that they’re not being honest about their relationships with their fathers?

  • William

    @ DAVE G:

    Que n’ai-je la langue aussi bian pendue? – Would that my clapper were that well hung.

    MOLIÈRE, Le médecin malgré lui (1666)

  • ken

    DAVE G says:

    April 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    “These three ingredients go a long way toward extinguishing the conditioned response associating sexual drive with same-sex individuals.”

    Do you have any scientific evidence to support this claim?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Where are the numbers? Why no peer reviewed studies? Why did he only refer 9 clients to Spitzer?

    At 137 clients each having a session one time per week at $75 per session this works out to $41,100 PER MONTH! Cha-Ching! I would like to know how much Gabe’s parents spent on Nicolosi.

    There has to be a reason a person keeps on and on and on pursuing a therapy model that doesn’t work. Why? Cha-Ching!

  • StraightGrandmother

    Dave G =

    Conviction of essential personal foundations transcending parental roots in knowing a caring heavenly Father whose love never ends, and whose natural laws built into the universe (including those for human relationships) are there to stay;

    StraightGrandmother =

    Translation = “Client failed to pray HARD enough, client failed to pray long enough… it’s the clients fault”

    I’ll tell you why I think this is stupid. Because I KNOW that I cannot chang my sexual orientation no matter how many years of therapy and prayer. I could never ever be attracted to women in a sexual way. So I gotta believe sexual minorities when they say that they cannot change either.

    Yes I could live with a woman and maybe even have gay sex with her, but it would never ever feel normal to me, or impromptu. We as human beings can change our behavior, but it is a rare rare rare rare person who can go from completely heterosexual -> homosexual, or completely homosexual -> heterosexual. We don’t even need to ask sexual minorities if they can change their innate sexual orientation, we need only ask ourselves. And therein is the answer.

  • ken

    SG:

    Nothing I’ve read about Nicolosi suggests he is just doing this for the money. There are other ways he could have made just as much (maybe even more) money as a therapist.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ken ask yourself, at his age if he gives it up, what does he then have for a practice? Very few people will walk away from a high paying career and simultaneously admit that they have practiced bad medicine for 30 years. Never underestimate how important money is in life. Just ask any cop who is solving a crime what a motivator money is.

  • Patrocles

    I still suppose that a damaged or lacking masculine identity is a main factor in the development of homosexuality. Insofar, I’m an unconverted admirer of Nicolosi. He may be seen one day not as a founder, but as an important precursor of grounded sexual psychology, all his faults admitted.

    As for Dr. Hendrix. Dr. Throckmorton thinks that his ideas are irrelevant because they can’t be applied to “sexual orientations”, but only to “preferences for types”. But isn’t this a petitio principii? What forces us to presuppose that “sexual orientations” are empirically different – or develop in a different way – from “preferences for types”?

    Dr. Nicolosi is justly criticized for changing the rules in the face of disconfirming evidence: Those men were not gay … Now, that reminds to me the many cases in which men changed from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle, and where nearly always one reads that, no, those men can’t have been really gay, but bisexual. Isn’t that also a way to change the rules in the face of disconfirming evidence?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Patrocles – Thus far, none of the brain researchers have noticed different brain reactions to blonds or redheads, but they have noticed different brain reactions and structures related to sexual orientation. I am not presupposing, in fact I used to presuppose that there was no difference between orientation and preference for types. Now I do believe there is a difference based on evidence, not presupposition.

  • ken

    StraightGrandmother says:

    April 13, 2012 at 7:02 am

    “Ken ask yourself, at his age if he gives it up, what does he then have for a practice?”

    At his age (Nicolosi is in his 60s) he could simply retire. I’ve followed this man’s rhetoric and diatribes for over 15 years. It hasn’t changed. From what I’ve seen he has a strong anti-gay bias. Further, I’ve seen nothing to suggest this bias is primarily based on greed. Yes, he has made a lot of money from his therapy practice and anti-gay books etc. However, I do not believe that money is what is driving his crusade. I think you are inappropriately jumping to conclusions when you suggest money is the reason behind it.

  • Richard Willmer

    What strikes me as one of the confusing aspects of this whole debate is the way some people still insist on conflating the ideas of ‘preference’ (or ‘orientation’) and ‘choices’. Some gay people, for any number of reasons, ‘choose’ to be sexually-inactive (‘celibate’), as do some straight people; some straight people ‘choose’ to engage in same-sexual activity (and may do so for a variety of reasons); some gay people ‘choose’ to have sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex (again, the reason[s] can vary).

    Warren is one of those people who seeks to help us get beyond this ‘confusion’, and focus on the issue of ‘preference’ / ‘orientation’. He is wise to do so, as this is the area that needs to be looked at with great care, and where it is hardest to understand the realities that pertain to the complex matter of human relationships. What is surely highly UNhelpful is when people take as their starting point some kind of ‘ideological’ position (e.g. ‘everyone should be straight, and, if they are not, something has “gone wrong” with them’); such starting points generally lead to ‘bad’ science, as well as to such ‘moral minefields’ as homophobia.

    A person’s sexual preference is not a ‘moral issue’; how anyone – gay, straight or whatever – treats others is. Of course, there are those who are ‘troubled’ by whatever their preference might be; they will not be helped (and neither will ‘society’) by a ‘moralist’ or an ‘ideologue’, but rather by someone who helps them better to understand themselves and make choices that are healthy for themselves and others.

    When it comes to how people behave in the context of human relationships: well, at the most fundamental level, we all have ‘room for improvement’, don’t we?! :-)

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ken -

    I do not believe that money is what is driving his crusade. I think you are inappropriately jumping to conclusions when you suggest money is the reason behind it.

    Ken I think we are probably both right (but I allow that you probably won’t agree with me) Nicolosi has a strong anti-gay bias that he makes a lot of money off of. I didn’t account for that bias in my comment and I should have.

  • Richard Willmer

    Motives for most things are usually ‘mixed’. Such is the ‘human condition’.

  • DAVE G

    ken says:

    April 13, 2012 at 5:50 am

    DAVE G says:

    April 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    “These three ingredients go a long way toward extinguishing the conditioned response associating sexual drive with same-sex individuals.”

    Do you have any scientific evidence to support this claim?

    Here’s my thoughts on this:

    1. Ex-gay testimonies indicate greater success for those who replace the “sexual orientation” paradigm for a new conviction regarding “who they are” in the larger picture.

    2. Brain studies show a definite brain adaptation has occurred in those who have become sexually involved with same-sex partners. This is indicative of firmly imprinted classical conditioning, and/or behavioral addiction.

    So feel free to set up a double-blind study to confirm these observations.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      DAVE G – Brain studies show nothing of the kind. This is your wish about what they show. The burden is on you to suggest how brain symmetry characterizes gay male and straight females brains via adaptation. Are straight females classically conditioned to become female? If so, then it should simple enough to classically condition them to be men.

  • stephen

    Throckmorton: Look at the comments here. Look at how your ‘reasoned’ discussion of ‘reparative therapy’ enables the ignorance that hurts me. Yes me. My husband. And all gay Americans. That hurt Mr Arana, and all the young men and women growing up in a repressive, murderous regime. By not calling out Nicolosi for what he is you give him cover. This isn’t a game.

    You never have yet named him for what he is. You never have yet been in touch with the CA licensing board to have his license revoked. Seeing this boy being abused why do none of you do anything to stop it? It’s still going on at the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic. I’m merely someone who make his living from his writing. The boards would regard me as a crank. As I assume do you. But why do you do nothing to stop this? You’re not a fool. You know that ‘reparative therapy’ is tripe. Why don’t you step in?

    The fundie loonies tried to get posters slapped on the side of London’s buses proclaiming the rightness of ex-gay therapy based on the theories of Nicolosi. The mayor of London has shut that down.

    I value this blog. I don’t have sufficient vanity to keep one of my own. What I want to know is, are you a psychologist or a religious moralizer? You can’t be both.

    I can’t I can’t edit this. The format seems to hate Macs.

    N

  • StraightGrandmother

    This is a good article I just read today heavily quotes Peter Toscano

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/13/gay-conversion-therapies-bullies-missionary?newsfeed=true

  • Richard Willmer

    @ stephen

    I don’t understand your point.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I understand Stephen’s point.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren Throckmorton

    stephen – reasoned discussion is the way I do things. I really don’t think you value this blog if you don’t get that. In that reasoned discussion, I said nothing that enables reparative therapy. Nothing. Reparative therapists and their allies have made attempts on three occasions to get me fired. They don’t feel enabled, nor are they being enabled.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ SGM

    I understand how he feels; what I didn’t ‘get’ was his ‘thesis’.

  • William

    @ DAVE G

    ‘Ex-gay testimonies indicate greater success for those who replace the “sexual orientation” paradigm for a new conviction regarding “who they are” in the larger picture.’

    Meaning what exactly? That people who pretend that there’s no such thing as sexual orientation are better at convincing themselves that they’re no longer gay? A bit like Christian Science, I suppose: you can’t really be ill or tired or hungry, because matter doesn’t really exist; it’s an error of mortal mind. Would that real problems could be solved by this kind of denial of reality.

    ‘Brain studies show a definite brain adaptation has occurred in those who have become sexually involved with same-sex partners.’

    Which brain studies? Can you identify them? And do brain studies also show that a definite brain adaptation has occurred in those who have become sexually involved with other-sex partners?

    ‘So feel free to set up a double-blind study to confirm these observations.’

    What? You mean that no such study has yet been done? If not, what is the empirical basis for your “observations”?

  • tim

    Put me down as having a loving and respectful relationship with my father. And I don’t have an overbearing mother. Both of which have been married almost 50 years now. Nor was I abused or suffered any other major childhood trauma. Quite boring middle class childhood. So according to Nicolosi I can’t be gay. Well – my boyfriend of 10 years will be disappointed to hear that.

    I also get stephen’s feelings on the subject but I feel they are misplaced in this forum.

  • Ann

    I don’t think Hendrix has a comparable concept to defensive detachment but I could be wrong.

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Is defensive detachment the basis for the reparative drive theory endorsed by some therapists? If so, what is an acceptable definition (sorry!) for defensive detachment?

  • David Blakeslee

    I think it is very important to pay attention to the difference between Nicolosi’s explanation of treatment at the beginning of treatment (which sounds much more open-minded and respectful) and the rigidness of this therapeutic model.

    “Although I might never feel a spark of excitement when I saw a woman walking down the street, as I progressed in therapy, my homosexual attractions would diminish. I might have lingering thoughts about men, but they would no longer control me.”

    and

    “Are you open to therapy?” Nicolosi asked. “If you don’t think this is working, you can stop anytime.”

    These are plausible assertions and non-coercive interventions. But the power of authority (and the more rigid adherence that Nicolosi holds), become more influential over time.

    As Nicolosi resists dis-confirming feedback, he cannot temper his expectations for his vulnerable clients and he stops being therapeutic.

    At that point they are emotionally abandoned to their stubborn, but true sensations and have a false relationship with their therapist (due to his rigidity) in their most critical time of need.

    At some point the therapeutic relationship loses its authenticity…there is ample evidence that this begins within the rigid model, rather than in the effort of the patient.

    Rigidity of the model is the enemy to authentic attunement.

  • Richard Willmer

    I rather agree with Tim’s last sentence (although the ‘feelings’ are entirely understandable, I don’t ‘get’ the bit about Warren allegedly giving any kind of support to so-called ‘reparative therapy’ – such support is clearly not forthcoming). I can also, in some respects, identify with his other comment.

  • Teresa

    David Blakeslee:

    “Although I might never feel a spark of excitement when I saw a woman walking down the street, as I progressed in therapy, my homosexual attractions would diminish. I might have lingering thoughts about men, but they would no longer control me.”

    and

    “Are you open to therapy?” Nicolosi asked. “If you don’t think this is working, you can stop anytime.”

    David, these statements made by Nicolosi at the beginning of therapy, seem, to me, very reasonable for someone wanting to living in congruence with a more traditional faith belief. However, additionally, to the later rigid therapeutic model Nicolosi embraces, a point needs to be made about the whole experience of therapy.

    The time during therapy may be, for many, a ‘better’ time, overall. One is being supported by someone who is usually accepting of another, non-judgmental, etc. This may be a first time experience for many of us. We’re not the bad seed that lots of us see ourselves as.

    But, this is really an artificial type of existence. The ‘rubber meets the road’ when one is on one’s own … without the constructs of therapy, individual or otherwise. Unless, one has built a solid network of understanding friends who are on the ‘same page’ (whatever that means individually), when life happens with all its stresses and strains, the whole therapeutic construct often comes crashing down … and, the whole ‘diminishing’ same-gender attractions, end up not being so ‘diminished’, after all.

  • David Blakeslee

    Teresa,

    I agree; I don’t think any patient of Nicolosi has ever described a therapeutic session which discusses all the possible outcomes and how to garner support in each.

    A good friend of mine who does therapy with unwanted SSA introduces the work as one option, among several, to include finding a community and a treatment model that is gay affirmative. At one point this clinician brought on a gay affirmative therapist to his staff.

    He is a Narth member, and lives out the credo of self-determination for his clients.

  • Daniel

    It seems to me that the retraction by Spitzer of his article is consistent with other developments in this area, including Stanton/Yarhouse’s findings of only a self-reported 1-point shift in the Kinsey scale among the most motivated, religious homosexuals at Exodus after 7 years; LIA’s John Smid’s acknowledgement that neither he nor others became “ex-gay”; and Alan Chambers statement that 99.9% of people that he saw at Exodus did not change their orientation.

    It seems to me that, despite all of the politics, we have seen the zone of debate substantially narrowed.

    The debate initially was, to put it roughly: “any homosexual who tries has a good chance of changing his orientation” vs. “homosexuals can never change their orientation.” We have now narrowed this down to “a tiny cohort of highly motivated, religious homosexuals who are prepared to spend years in treatment might yield change of less than one percent” vs. “homosexuals can never change their orientation.” That is a big narrowing of the debate. Frankly, whether true orientation change is possible on a one in a hundred thousand basis or never, it really is a debate of little consequence for all but a very small number of people.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Daniel, can you kindly provide a link to the exact article, the exact paragraph this is found? Thank you.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Teresa, I was pleased to see your comment, it’s been a while.

  • Teresa

    Back at ya, SG. You’ve blossomed into quite the researcher. Always good to read your comments.

  • Patrocles

    Of course, Nicolosi’s and Exodus’ and even Spitzer’s assertions were exaggerated. But there’s no reason to duck away and retract everything (even if it may be useful nowadays in a political sense).

    Thre’s no study of the many cases where men have spontaneously changed from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle.

    And brain studies aren’t much developed. Has any brain study tried to look for brain reactions w.r.t. “sexual preferences” (as allegedly opposed to “sexual orientations”)? Has anyone tried to subtract out how far brain structures are connected with degrees of masculinity/feminity and how far they are particularly connected to sexual orientations? Has anyone explored how the relevant brain structures are changing over time (implying that they may be influenced by “nurture” and not only by “nature”)? Do you know a useful comprehensive review?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Patrocles – I have referred readers to several of these studies over the years and yes some of that work has been done.

      You seem like you have read more than the average person and you are not aware of this work. To me, this is an illustration of the blackout in basic research that people in the ex-gay world have experienced. Their organizations have not incorporated basics in brain symmetry and development that are quite relevant to the questions you are asking.

      I can’t provide citations at this point due to time, but I think a post in the future on basic brain research will be needed.

  • Ann

    To me, this is an illustration of the blackout in basic research that people in the ex-gay world have experienced.

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    I don’t think one needs to be in the ex-gay world to be unaware of the basic research you refer to. If there is credible, conclusive scientific research that points in either direction, would’t it be acknowledged and made known to everyone?

  • William

    @ Patrocles:

    “But there’s no reason to duck away and retract everything”

    I don’t see how one can meaningfully speak of a partial retractation here. Irrespective of whether or not it is in fact possible for sexual orientation to be changed through an ex-gay program, does Spitzers’s study actually DEMONSTRATE that it is possible? The answer to that must be either yes or no. There can be no halfway house. Spitzer once thought that the answer was yes. He now apparently thinks that the answer is no.

  • Ann

    William,

    I don’t think any program or therapy can change an unwanted characteristic – they can only facilitate an individual to make the changes they want and are in control of. The study Spitzer did was only what others told him. I don’t think it had any scientific merit.

  • Teresa

    Patrocles said:

    But there’s no reason to duck away and retract everything (even if it may be useful nowadays in a political sense).

    I’d prefer to think Dr. Spitzer an honest man. He was all along. If I understand correctly, he tried to bring attention when his study was being misused, before. So, if now he’s retracting. Let’s be satisfied with that.

    Why is it always necessary to imply bad motives to others? What does that get us; but, only a need to be always right.

    Ann said:

    I don’t think any program or therapy can change an unwanted characteristic – they can only facilitate an individual to make the changes they want and are in control of. The study Spitzer did was only what others told him. I don’t think it had any scientific merit.

    Very well said, Ann.

    Both the right and the left of this issue better wake up to some basic facts. The right needs to wake up to the fact that nature (at whatever stage) plays a significant role in sexual attraction. Not everything, but enough to undermine the premise of the whole ‘attachment’ theory … however, that theory is spun.

    The left needs to get over the fact that there are those of us who choose not to act on our attractions for whatever reason (most often a faith belief). Most of us are not homophobic, and not self-hating gays. And, we are not your enemy for choosing to live our lives in a manner different than what others choose.

    Quite frankly, those of us who give credence to decent studies, whatever the results, and want to live in congruence with our faith belief, get it from both sides … and, it’s become quite exasperating.

    At the end of the day, str8 people need gay people, and vice-versa. We all need one another; and, it does no one any good to keep shouting past one another, in the hopes of ‘killing’ the other.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Warren there is now an audio of Nicolosi saying this

    http://www.catholic.com/radio/shows/understanding-same-sex-attraction-part-i-6977#

    And Warren speaking of Catholics they are really starting to Freak me out! I know you mainly stick to Evangelicals but you really should listen to this clip from Illinois

    http://youtu.be/YJOnVLSFyE8

  • Ann

    And Warren speaking of Catholics they are really starting to Freak me out! I know you mainly stick to Evangelicals but you really should listen to this clip from Illinois

    STG,

    Are you referring to what this particular Bishop said or are you referring to all Catholics?

  • Richard Willmer

    Both ‘Catholics’ and ‘Evangelicals’ are large groups, within which there is a range of empahases and approaches.

    I certainly find Jenky’s ‘outburst’ very worrying for a number of reasons. Drawing an apparent parallel between Obama and Hitler / Stalin is the stuff of unreasoned demagoguery, in a similar league to the things churned out by Lively. He (Jenky) is also perhaps ‘historically-challenged’: Bismark and Clemenceau had good reason for their political steps against the Catholic Church (the Church had long been a ‘political power player’ in its own right – and those who ‘live by politics’ must be prepared for the possible consequences of so doing!). Much of the work of the Second Vatican Council was about correcting the Church’s relationship with ‘politics’; Jenky’s approach looks to me like serious ‘back-sliding’.

    Just a few days ago, I discovered, here on this blog, that Warren (an evangelical) and I (an anglo-catholic) have something very important in common: we both have ‘heros’ who were staunch proponents of the separation of Church and State (and who, I suspect unlike Jenky, suffered genuine persecution because of it). I am sure that, in this, we are not alone! This does not mean that they (Williams and Mackonochie) and others like them did not want Christian principles to shape the cultures in which they lived (very far from it); it was about HOW (and how NOT) the influence of Christ, his life, death and resurrection, and his teachings can and/or should be brought to bear on human persons and communities.

  • Patrocles

    Are “sexual orientations” and “sexual preferences” categorically different? Let me add only two points:

    1. By introspection, I feel and observe only my preferences. Personally, I’m definitely attracted by masculinity in all ways. But if I have to choose between an androgynous male and a female, I’ve a slight preference for the female. I gladly accept being called a homosexual, as I see the necessity for broad and simple social categories, but that doesn’t influence my self-observation. (Would or should any study of my brain change my self-observation?)

    2. From the view of a cultural anthropologist: Pre-modern cultures (and even pre-modern strata in our Western culture) don’t make a basic difference between homo/heterosexual males but between active/passive males. If you are an active male, it’s a mere matter of preference, if you prefer a male, female, infantile or animal object.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ann, I am upset with the Vatican, the Pope, and the complete Catholic Leadership. This is flat out Hegemony.

    David Barton seems to me to be small potatoes compared to the Catholic assault on our country. I’m really upset by the video and I have seen Hundreds of videos of Catholic Leaders inserting themselves into our civil secular society, this one, this one, has really sent me over the top. I’ll be damned if I will genuflect to Rome!

  • ken

    Patrocles says:

    April 18, 2012 at 6:16 am

    “Are “sexual orientations” and “sexual preferences” categorically different?”

    Preference is misleading because it implies there is a choice involved. And for the vast majority of people there is no choice about the gender to which they are attracted.

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, I’ve just be talking to a friend who lives near a nightclub. She was bemoaning the noise, but happened to say: “you know, the only night we don’t have trouble is gay night.”

    Who needs the social ‘reparative therapy’, I wonder?! :-)


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