Porn in the Strangest Places: Reparative Therapy and Pornography

There has been some debate in recent days about whether or not reparative therapists use pornography as a therapeutic tool. Recently, Alan Chambers stated that reparative therapists use porn as a part of the change process. This practice is one of the reasons Exodus no longer recommends reparative therapy. One other large reason relates to the unrealistic hope it generates for total change. I will take that up in a future post. For his part, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi denied Chambers claims.

In a Facebook posting, Nicolosi summarizes the allegation and then provides his response: First he says:

Alan: It has been brought to my attention that you have posted the following comments on Facebook:

“As for Reparative Therapy, I do not support it. I don’t think it’s ‘fine’. They use pornography as a means of making people “100% straight”. We stopped allowing Joe Nicolosi to teach because he encouraged attendees to pick up heterosexual porn to encourage heterosexuality. Also, he and others have said that they can “cure” people 100% of SSA.”

Also–

“Joe Nicolosi and a few others are on record in workshops and other places saying that they employ pornography. We do not wish to slander Joe, but it is important for people to know that this is a part of the RT practice even if it wasn’t used in your therapy. This is a fact.”

To these accusations, Nicolosi responded:

Furthermore, I do not use heterosexual pornography with my clients. I do ask them (if they wish to do this; some clients do not, and I never expect my clients to do anything they do not wish to do) to bring up a compelling image from gay porn that they wish to reduce the power of, and we work on diminishing its power (a technique with which we have had considerable success).

However, I do not use straight porn; I use pictures of women they find attractive in mainstream magazines and we work on developing a physical attraction to them, through their imagination, while looking at these non-pornographic pictures.

On point, I have obtained a description of a workshop proposed by Dr. Nicolosi which was not accepted for the 2010 Exodus conference. The description is pretty clear:

Gay Pornography as a Therapeutic Tool
Reparative Therapists have recently developed a therapeutic technique utilizing gay pornographic images to expose deeper emotional needs beneath mere sexual arousal. While many clients have been told that their homosexuality is a defense against emotional needs, this technique offers “experiential knowing” resulting from personal experience. The result is a diminishment of pornographic appeal and movement toward resolving deeper conflicts.
For men and leaders.

The belief appears to be that same-sex pornographic images are only attractive because of the emotional wound of the person viewing it.

I have also obtained audio from an Exodus workshop that was approved and conducted by Dr. Nicolosi that certainly seems to encourage the use of gay pornography and to a lesser degree straight porn. Listen to the explanation:

It appears that everybody agrees that at times gay porn might be a part of reparative therapy. However, it appears that there is some assumption on the part of Dr. Nicolosi that clients might use a similar technique with straight porn.

As I noted above, this all seems to be based on the idea that same-sex attractions derive from a trauma (hence the EMDR) and that the attractions are akin to fear responses in people who have other kinds of trauma. Repeated exposure does tend to help some clients with phobias and various anxiety reactions. However, here Nicolosi seems to think sexual attraction can be reduced in a similar manner. The idea is, shall we say, creative, and I will let my gentle readers have a go at their opinion on that theory.

I will note that I can understand why Exodus might have a problem with this approach and I wonder how the new Restored Hope group will react to it.

 

  • Teresa

    Warren, what about the recent statement from Dr. Nicolosi that he’s never said “he can cure homosexuals”; that he’s “always said that homosexuals will continue to have same sex attractions throughout their lives”. I thought that this was part of the whole Reparative Therapy (RT) focus to ‘change’ homosexuals? It’s on the record, that he has stated RT can ‘cure’ homosexuals, and that he (Nicolosi) has many clients who have ‘changed’ from homosexual to heterosexual.

    I could be wrong, and I don’t have at-hand Nicolosi’s quotes about this … but, isn’t this what the whole Nicolosi (RT) therapy about? Am I living a Twilight Zone experience here?

  • Michael Bussee

    Nicolosi always tells the truth. He’s a scientist.

  • http://www.exgaynoway.com Dr. Jallen Rix

    If gay sexuality was ONLY trauma, perhaps it would lose it’s “shock value.” upon viewing it repetitiously, and… where’s the proof or research? Sexuality in general is so much more than just an act or image. Nicolosi continues to behave like a person obsessed with every possible clue and crazy remote idea of changing homosexuality because he has a predisposed belief that it SHOULD be changed. His reality warps toward that belief no matter how farfetched (or seemingly logical) the idea might be.

  • Michael Bussee

    I had a few sessions of EMDR after my friend was murdered. It did seem to help the anixety and flashbacks. So did graduallly “desensitizing” myself to being in parking lots at night. But to suggest that it will alter sexual orientation? Poppycock.

  • Jeremy

    I emailed Dr. Nicolosi with the screenshots of Alan’s remarks. He responded the next day with this email which he copied me on. (I had copied Alan on my initial email to Dr. Nicolosi). I posted it on a “private” facebook group with the intention of helping clear up confusion for a few individuals. The emails seemed to go viral by that afternoon. (I’ll be more careful NOT to share any individual emails from others with ANYONE going forward – even with their permission I don’t want to contribute to anything being misconstrued).

    The point is that Reparative Therapy has NEVER involved or encouraged pornography of any kind. The statements by Dr. Nico that Alan misunderstood were all surrounding the use of EMDR to desensitize past memories of pornographic images.

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

      Jeremy, what part of “when you go home, get your best porn picture” is unclear to you?

  • Michael Bussee

    I just tried it. Didn’t work. Still gay. Maybe I didn’t move my eyes back and forth fast enough.

  • Tom Baker

    Does anyone know why Hope Restored Network has chosen Sunrise Community Church in California for their inaugural conference? What is the connection?

  • Michael Bussee

    Tom:

    “The conference is taking place at Sunrise Community Church, which sponsors HIS Ministry, one of eleven ex-gay ministries which has left Exodus International over the past few months.”

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/07/22/46836

  • Michael Bussee

    “Since 1990 HIS Ministry has proclaimed that there is victory over homo-

    sexuality. Hundreds of men and women can testify to the healing that

    comes through submitting your life to Jesus Christ.”

    http://www.scconline.cc/590920.ihtml

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    From Narth website .. www dot narth.com/docs/emdr.html

    “The Use Of EMDR With Reparative Therapy To Be Presented At International EMDR Conference In September, 2005

    July 14, 2005 – In what could be a major breakthrough in disseminating information about Reparative Therapy to the international trauma community, NARTH is announcing that Dr. Norman Goldwasser, a NARTH member, will be presenting the topic “Utilizing EMDR to Heal Undesired Sexual Attractions and to Help Actualize Sexual Potential” at the 2005 EMDRIA International Conference to be held in Seattle, Washington, September 15-18, 2005.

    EMDRIA, the EMDR International Association, with over 10,000 members worldwide, is the professional organization of mental health professionals who are trained in the use of EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

    EMDR is widely regarded as the cutting-edge treatment technology for acute and chronic trauma, and is now practiced by over 30,000 trained clinicians throughout the world (see http://www.EMDR.com for more information about EMDR as a treatment process and for training opportunities).

    Dr. Goldwasser, a clinical psychologist in Miami Beach, Florida, has pioneered the bridging of EMDR and Reparative Therapy in using a trauma-focused approach in the treatment of SSA, a topic which he presented at the 2004 NARTH Conference in Washington, DC.

    Arthur Goldberg, President of JONAH, describes Dr. Goldwasser’s approach as “truly revolutionary” in its ability heal SSA by moving traumatic material through a client’s system, and to alleviate traumatic symptoms that contributed to its development. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who was so moved by Dr. Goldwasser’s 2004 presentation that he made the decision to begin the EMDR training process, has begun to utilize it with his work with SSA clients, and has been struck with the dramatic results that he has experienced thus far.

    Those who are interested in being exposed to EMDR, who are looking for training in trauma, or who wish to attend and support Dr. Goldwasser at his presentation, can refer to the “Conferences” section at http://www.emdria.org for further information.”

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  • Michael Bussee

    “…when you go home, get your best porn picture…”

    I guess Nicolosi assumes that his clients and Exodus members have lots to choose from at home. He just wants you to use the “best”.

  • Michael Bussee

    In previous decades, other repartive therapy practitioners have tried using porn in various ways to “cure” homosexuality. Some showed porn while administering electric shock or nausea-causing drugs.

    Others tried having the gay man look at male images while masturbating, then “switch” to a female picture at the point of orgasm. None of this stuff had any scientific validity.

  • Pingback: Concerning Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy and the Use of Porn as a Therapeutic Tool | RandyThomas.Co

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  • StraightGrandmother

    Michael Bussee – “I just tried it. Didn’t work. Still gay. Maybe I didn’t move my eyes back and forth fast enough.”

    SGM- ROTFLMAO!!!!

    I don’t know why he needs this I thought Nicolosi could cure the gay with Lexapro. Wasn’t it Lexapro? When I read that story a little tune popped in my head, “A better life through pharmacy”

    What I can’t understand is how he still has a license to practice, I really don’t.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    So Nicolosi’s whole complaint regarding what Alan said about him using porn is that Alan mistakenly said he used straight porn but in actually he uses gay porn!?!?!? And somehow this is better and/or less incriminating??

    If gay porn helps gay folks with to reduce or subdue their same sex attractions .. does it then stand to reason that straight porn could help straight folks to reduce or subdue their opposite sex attractions??

  • Michael Bussee

    Randy Thomas says: “..encouraging someone to use their “best porn picture” as a self-run, at home, non-directed, EMDR experiment is incredibly reductive of the method and assumptive of the outcome.”

    I completely agree.

  • http://www.realliberalchristianchurch.org/blog Tom Usher

    “I just tried it. Didn’t work. Still gay. Maybe I didn’t move my eyes back and forth fast enough.”

    Is being flippant helpful? Did you go into it wanting to diminish unwanted same-sex attraction? Did you try the other part where you do it with a beautiful naked female? Was that a complete turn off. Try it every day for two years. That’s about how long Dr. Nicolosi works with his clients who pursue the full treatment (100+ hours). It works really well for about a 3rd of them. Another 3rd leave with noticeable diminishment.

    How was your relationship with your father? Was he distant? How about your mother? Was she overly involved, filling that void for you but not as an involved heterosexual father figure? Why don’t you look into these things before sarcastically blowing them off?

    It didn’t work for you, but it’s working for this guy: http://youtu.be/7QBpHE3QZY4

    As for the male porn, he didn’t say he uses it in his practice. He mentioned it as something someone can do as an experiment in his own home where he already has a male-porn collection and is same-sex attracted wanting to get rid of it as much as possible for him. It’s not as if doing it is going to encourage homosexuality in him. Stop looking at all of this from such a childish perspective.

  • Patrocles

    Every reasonable approach to influence sexuality, one way or other, will include either actual sex or the use of pornography. If a scientist abhors pornography, he shouldn’t occupy himself with sexuality at all.

  • Patrocles

    Porn “desensitizes” only in the way that you need stronger and stronger doses to get the same effort as in the beginning. That’s well known, and Nicolosi would know it.

    On the other hand, everyone – not only Nicolosi – seems to accept the fact that gay men look for something more than pure physical stimulation. And porn is extremly helpful if one wants to analyze what that “something more” means for oneself.

  • Patrocles

    A lot of gay boys feel inexperienced, insecure and fearful with sex in the beginning, and use porn to overcome fears and get used to it.

    You bet that it works the other way round as well. I suppose that there are a lot of gays who feel insecure and fearful with straight sex or even find it somewhat repulsive. In which cases straight porn may really help.

  • ken

    Tom Usher says:

    July 25, 2012 at 2:19 am

    “Is being flippant helpful?”

    It is certainly effective in pointing out the foolishness of Nicolosi’s latest methodology.

    “It works really well for about a 3rd of them. Another 3rd leave with noticeable diminishment.”

    How do you define “working really well”? And where are you getting your numbers for “about of 3rd of them”? From Nicolosi? A survey of his former patients? someplace else?

    “How was your relationship with your father? Was he distant? How about your mother? Was she overly involved, filling that void for you but not as an involved heterosexual father figure? Why don’t you look into these things before sarcastically blowing them off?”

    People HAVE looked at these issues. More importantly, the people (ex. Nicolosi) claiming these issues matter don’t have any scientific evidence to back it up. Just 100 year old theories based on mis-informed ideas about what sexual orientation is.

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

    “Porn “desensitizes” only in the way that you need stronger and stronger doses to get the same effort as in the beginning.”

    Um, no. That might be true for some people, but it is not universally true for everyone. It’s certainly not true for me.

  • Jeremy

    This video is PURPOSEFULLY edited to take ONE remark completely out of context in order to mislead people and imply that Porn is somehow encouraged or used as a part of this therapy. It is clearly NOT – as Nicolosi and the many other Christian therapists who use this exact same modality would attest to.

    IF you listen to the entire (short) presentation you will understand the context. This edited video clip is similar to a negative campaign ad by a political candidate against his opponent.

    I personally benefited from this exact same treatment with Dr. Nicolosi and have many friends who have as well. There is absolutely NOTHING in this therapy that ANYONE would at all consider immoral or even scandalous.

    I realize you may not believe in “change therapy” but you can argue your point more effectively if you avoid building it on obvious lies. The only people who have ANY credibility to speak on this are those who have experienced it firsthand or the therapists involved. There are dozens of clients and therapists you could ask. I don’t think you will find ANY (of Dr. Nicolosi’s clients or any others) who could ever say that they were actually encouraged to look at porn (of any kind).

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

      Jeremy – At some point, you will have to deal with the fact that what happened with you is not what has happened with others. As noted by other commenters and in this post, the use of gay porn was suggested as a therapeutic tool to an Exodus committee which refused it. You are arguing against him at this point.

  • Jeremy

    WT: “Jeremy, what part of “when you go home, get your best porn picture” is unclear to you?”

    I agree that this was a dumb remark to make, but it is NOT indicative of the therapy itself. Using this one flippant remark to characterize the therapy would be misleading.

    This is a recording of a speech and not a therapy session. He doesn’t believe in porn itself and neither does anyone else in his “St. Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic.” Most of them are devout Catholics (with one Evangelical).

  • AJ

    Jeremy,

    From Randy Thomas’s blog:

    “Nicolosi proposed a workshop for the Exodus Freedom Conference in 2010 that was rejected. Here is part of the intro to that proposal:

    Gay Pornography as a Therapeutic Tool

    Reparative Therapists have recently developed a therapeutic technique utilizing gay pornographic images to expose deeper emotional needs beneath mere sexual arousal. While many clients have been told that their homosexuality is a defense against emotional needs, this technique offers “experiential knowing” resulting from personal experience. The result is a diminishment of pornographic appeal and movement toward resolving deeper conflicts.

    I know this for a fact because I was in the meeting that, without hesitation after the initial shock wore off, rejected that workshop. Even so, Nicolosi couldn’t help himself and mentioned this approach in a different workshop that same year:” (from randythomas.co)

    How are you qualified to say “He doesn’t believe in porn itself and neither does anyone else in his “St. Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic.”” Are you on the staff there? Are you in staff meetings? Do you have access to patient files? How could you possibly know that for a fact?

    Nicolosi spelled out his use of gay porn in treatment in the above workshop proposal to Exodus. How do you explain that?

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Jeremey said: ” I realize you may not believe in “change therapy” but you can argue your point more effectively if you avoid building it on obvious lies.”

    Obvious lies?? Really? So Alan is lying .. the people at the Exodus meeting are lying and the video tape is a lie? You claim to have listened to the entire video from where this clip was taken and thus claim it is a lying distortion of what Nicolosi meant .. so .. show it to us. Link it here. Lets all look at it together. Then we will see who is lying. But if you can’t produce it and all we have is your word against the words of the people who were actually there then I think you better stop calling people liars.

    Dave

  • Jayhuck

    As a young kid I can’t tell you the number of times I looked at straight porn because that is all that was available to me. I was never, however, looking at the women in the pictures ;)

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