Emails Contradict Dr. Nicolosi’s Conflicting Claims of Cure

Earlier this week, I posted audio of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi talking about using porn in reparative therapy as a technique. A dispute had arisen between Exodus President Alan Chambers and Nicolosi about the use of porn in reparative therapy. In my view, the audio and rejected workshop description decided Round One in favor of Chambers. (See this post for the scoop)

Now, it looks like Round Two goes to Chambers as well. ExgayWatch has posted an email from Nicolosi where he explicitly promises cure to Alan Chambers.  Recall Alan claims that reparative therapists promise 100% cures. Nicolosi contested that in a Facebook posting saying:

Alan, what you are saying is untrue. I have never said I could cure someone completely from homosexuality. All my books make it quite clear that homosexual attractions will persist to some degree throughout a person’s lifetime.

Never say never.

In the email obtained by XGW, Nicolosi told Chambers that he could cure him 100%. After Chambers acknowledged on the Dr. Drew show that he could still find men attractive, Nicolosi wrote this (and more, go read the whole thing):

The point Alan is that you can get to a place where there is no more homosexuality. ReallyYou can actually get to a place where you can willfully (sic) think of an SSA image and have no bodily sensation.

Why stop half way? Why not do further work and finish the task and have it completely behind you. consider this invitation, not only for your sake but also as a testimony of complete healing to truly motivate others.

We have the therapeutic tools to get you over what ever SSA is remaining. (emphasis in the original email)

This is not that surprising to me. I attended three NARTH conferences (2002-2004) and I heard various reparative therapists make these claims. Various ex-gays would come out and say that. Part of the reason I believed the folks in the documentary I Do Exist was because I was hearing these claims made often. Time has told a different tale.

Also, other reports have come along where Nicolosi is quoted making grand claims. Take this one from 2009 – Nicolosi Claims 75% Cured.

Last week I blogged about a homosexuality conference in London hosted by the conservative Anglican Mainstream, and featuring Joseph Nicolosi, Jeff Satinover and Arthur Goldberg. One attendee was David Virtue who runs Virtueonline.com. His website is popular among conservative Anglicans. Virtue had much to say about the conference but one quote stood out. The quotes within this segment of Virtue’s article come from Nicolosi.

Nicolosi said he has been helping people to “increase their heterosexual potential” for 25 years, and puts his success rate among men at about two out of three. “75% of our clients are completely cured, the 25% who are not usually have other factors that are not brought into the counseling situation.”

“It is not the absent father, but the non-responsiveness of the father. It is when the father shuts downs and rejects the boy’s masculine striving and he shames the boy in his strivings to become a man. That boy will find some male to connect with. It is the negative experience of the father that destroys him and pushes him towards men who offer him homosexual sex as a way out.”

Virtue is not a critic and would not have a reason to lie. However, even though Virtue confirmed to me that Nicolosi said those words, he later changed the article to remove the reference to 75% cure at the request of Nicolosi’s wife – who was not at the conference.

Nicolosi is not the only one who makes wishful claims, it seems to be part of the genre. I can recall Richard Cohen doing the same thing, telling an audience once, that his clients, “never go back.”

I have been criticized by many (some of whom are not now doing so), for stealing hope from people as a consequence of my realistic approach to this area. I make no apology for it. Reality is what it is. We have to adapt. Following one’s values and beliefs does not rest on false hope or wishful thinking.

 

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  • StraightGrandmother

    Thank you for writing and tweeting about this Warren. It is hugely important.

  • Teresa

    StraightGrandmother, well said.

    Warren, thank you. I’ve been investigating the consistent, never-ending, always up-front statements of ‘cure’ by Nicolosi and NARTH … since, your previous Post on Nicolosi’s email to Alan Chambers …

    Warren, can you give us a reason why someone of Nicolosi’s stature would blatantly lie about this??? Why, when anyone of basic Google skills, can find quotes about ‘cure’ all over Nicolosi?

    You’ve chosen, Warren, one of the absolute best example of Nicolosi’s ‘cure’ statements.

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Warren, for pursuing this. And, also, kudos to you for being a man of integrity, honor, and virtue on the NARTH issue … and, David Barton’s fabrications.

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

    SGM and Teresa – Thanks for the kind words.

  • photoshockpenn

    There is a distinct and obvious problem with the facts as NARTH and Dr. Nicolosi now purport to make. They espouse a doctrine of the wrongheaded and irresponsible thinking that states that anyone different then heterosexuals can be “healed” of their sexuality. How is this possible? Sexuality is a genetic component of our makeup, and if you will excuse the vernacular, “God don’t make no junk!” We are now faced with a cultural battle, one side is purports to speak the truth, of God, of mankind and of course eternity. While the other states that God is a god of mercy and compassion. Which side is correct? Which side holds the ethical high ground regarding those who are created in the image of God? We must all make our own minds up, but we must remember that too whom much is given much is expected. We cannot boast of our own forgiveness while refusing to acknowledge the forgiveness of God for all mankind, whether they be LGBT or any straight.

  • Michael Bussee

    Would it be premature to nominate Nicolosi for the “Pants On Fire” award?

  • Tim A

    The problem with Nicolosi is that he really has no idea what he’s talking about. “the non-responsiveness of the father”… my brother is 21 months younger than I am… I’m gay, he is not. We did most everything together when growing up. My father was “non-responsive” for me, and not for my brother?? Sorry… just doesn’t hold water.

  • Teresa

    The larger issue here is the, dare I say it, lying (whether intentional or not) about ‘curing/changing’ gay persons to str8. For me, it matters not the theory behind all this (which has been sufficiently debunked) but the audacity to state quite the opposite of what one has been saying and stating for years.

    I really don’t care the percents involved, either, of the so-called cure-rate … 75%, 50%, 33% … the fact has been shown that Nicolosi has ‘forgotten’ his words. Now, we have Nicolosi’s wife being partnered with the crime, requesting the elimination of 75% ‘cured’ from her husband’s quote.

    So, what happens to NARTH, now? Will they continue to act as if the gays are out to get them?

    This reminds me so much of Maggie Gallagher of NOM (National Organization of Marriage), a past president of that organization. A woman who had a child out-of-wedlock, now married ?, lives apart from her husband, does not use his last name, etc. Am I living a Twilight Zone experience here, or has the Right gone completely insane. Do they not think Conservative values are of enough significance that they have to resort to lying and hypocrisy.

  • http://gayambassador.com/ Anthony Venn-Brown

    I am begining to wonder which is your greatest skill Warren……therapist…or investigative journalist…..hehe

    Fascinating watching how this thing all unfolds….or unravels as the case may be.

    The claims that Nicolosi and others make about change is nothing more than what I wrote about in 2010 Situational Heterosexuality…..nothing more…nothing less

    http://gayambassador.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/most-misunderstood-concept-in-ex-gay.html

  • Gus

    I have long forgiven my father for his non-responsiveness compared to my three brothers. IT DID NOT CAUSE ME TO BE GAY but was his REACTION to a son who emerged almost fully gay from the womb. His ordination, a 1950′s form of Muscular Christianity, his non-demonstrative Teutonic upbringing had no place for me in his well ordered life. I know he felt my being gay was a personal failure and feared for my future. (You will die alone and childless)

    In my middle age, when my orientation could no longer be viewed as part of my teenage rebellion, we reached an accommodating place. We never had the same bond as he did with my brothers, but he really liked my longtime partner and was protective of our relationship.

    My father had an aspirational script in his head for himself and my life as most parents do. My being gay rewrote the first act, then my father had no concept for the next act and got writer’s block. But it did not make me gay.

    I wish these idiots would stop saying it is my father’s fault, or it that doesn’t work, blame my mother. Both my parents were good people who just did not know what to do with a gay kid.

  • DaveG

    Let’s get more specific: SSA combines both our natural “Hardwired to Connect” with others (cf Dartmouth study), with preference for those relationships which enhance or complement our own self-identity. And second, a tenacious mental association of sex-drive to such relationships so that the relationship is pereceived as sexual attraction. Once consummated, this association so imprinted in the neural pathways of the brain that it persists even beyond therapeutic correction of the identity factor. Gay mythology, reinforced by the gay community, the media, and misguided “allies” strengthen this association to the extent that one becomes convinced he/she is incurably homosexual.

    Total avoidance of former “friends” like these, replaced by new and straight primary relationships and new supportive community –e.g. a church family (welcoming- and witnessing-type which understands but does not go “PC”) help an individual deal with the fact that one can choose NOT to be gay.

  • Lynn David

    Seems I remember someone at Ex-Gay Watch (David Roberts?) talking about his experience with Nicolosi and Nicolosi saying he could have been completely cured if he had only stayed up with his therapy.

  • Steven

    1. Is there a legitimate ethical issue when a clinician makes contradictory public statements about the efficacy of his therapeutic methods?

    2. As for the 75% cure rate, I recall reading that he also claimed a 33/33/33 outcome breakdown. That is 33% became happy, functioning heterosexuals, 33% substantially reduced their homosexuality to the point where the clients were happier, and 33% were something other than success.

    3. Regardless of whether he claims a 75% success rate or a 33% success rate, after 28 years either figure would represent thousands of homo-to-hetero conversions. So where are they? Why can’t we meet any of those Kinsey 5′s and 6′s that he treated back in 1986 and 1987, now concluding their third decade of blissful heterosexuality? Why hasn’t his clinic published a single peer-reviewed paper on this? Why did it take him years to come up with just a handful of names to give to Dr. Spitzer in 2001 when Spitzer was seeking out success stories?

  • Christopher Doyle

    But Warren, you seem to deny that any former homosexual has achieved complete change. But I have, and so has Richard Cohen. I know many SOCE therapists who used to have SSA and now have experienced 100% change, much like myself. Will you argue against my testimony or the testimonies of these men I know? Surely you have met some of them at NARTH conferences?

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    @ Christopher .. The people you are using (Richard Cohen) to back up your statements leaves much to be desired in terms of integrity. See here.. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2009/12/08/richard-cohen-on-the-rachel-maddow-show/

    His therapy method has was rejected by Exodus about 5 years ago .. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2007/03/22/exodus-makes-public-statement-regarding-richard-cohen/

    NARTH and PFOX took down most of his materials about 5 years ago as well..

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2007/04/01/changes-at-narth-pfox/

    If the rest of the SOCE therapists have as much integrity as he does I would tend to doubt their testimonies.

    Dave

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    Correction: the last sentence should have read: If the rest of the SOCE therapists you are referring to have as much integrity as he does I would tend to doubt their testimonies

    Dave

  • Christopher Doyle

    Dave, I personally know Richard Cohen and have trained with him in his methods. I can assure they are backed by research. Take a look at Dr. Jim Phelan’s 2009 article on the history and efficacy of touch in psychotherapy: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/pst/46/1/97/

    As far as integrity, well, I know him very well so I can speak highly of his character. Do you know him, or are you just going off what others say about him? Unless you do, I would suggest not making such statements. Regarding Exodus, these folks are not therapists and generally do not understand clients with unwanted same-sex attraction…they see this issue of SSA form a sin perspective and therefore the solution for change is to draw closer to God, pray, and suppress the SSA. Our work gets to the core wounds of what is driving SSA for clients who are not happy feeling this way.

  • Teresa

    Christopher Doyle stated:

    I know many SOCE therapists who used to have SSA and now have experienced 100% change, much like myself.

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Doyle, on your statement above. You own your story, and should be proud of it … that’s not in questions. However, the proof is in the pudding, so-to-speak:

    Questions:

    1. Are you stating, for the record, you no longer have ‘any’ same sex attractions?

    2. Are you stating, for the record, that these ‘other’ SOCE therapists no longer have ‘any’ same sex attractions?

    3. If the answers to the above are yes, then why hasn’t anyone provided a study of these ‘many’ SOCE therapists as proof of 100% categorical change? Why weren’t these names submitted to Dr. Spitzer when he was doing his study … or, were these changes after his study.

    4. How, in fact, did you and the many achieve going from gay to str8 … 100%?

    Chris, we need more than a statement on a blog about you and the many? What’s your group, who are you, and who are the many? Actually, what’s the figure of the ‘many’ … you, 1 other, 4, 5? How long have you had uninterrupted str8′ness (years, please) without having ‘any’ same sex attractions?

    Without wanting to be rude, could you, Chris, be a little more forthcoming about your assertions, if that’s possible. Remember, ex-gay therapy has a long enough history to ‘prove’ that most of the success stories were well-intentioned by persons who would have literally given their lives to be str8, but proved to be anything but success stories as the years progressed … and, that includes Richard Cohen … whose literature has recently been removed from Encourage groups.

    Thanks, beforehand, for taking the time to respond.

  • Teresa

    Christopher Doyle said:

    Our work gets to the core wounds of what is driving SSA for clients who are not happy feeling this way.

    Are we to assume, Chris, that those ‘core wounds’ are a distant father, uninvolved father with his son; and, an overly protective mother … along, with possible sexual abuse? Can you, please, explain the ‘core wounds’ involved, Chris?

    I would ask you, Chris, to answer, if you can, why millions upon millions have had no father, uninvolved fathers, distant fathers, abusive fathers (mentally, emotionally, physically) overly protective mothers, no mothers, abusive mothers, sex abuse beyond imagining … and, they are and remain str8?

    Also, what about the many homosexuals who have had involved fathers, loving mothers (not smothering or overprotective) no sexual abuse, and end-up same sex attracted?

    You know, Chris, you need to be able to answer the many questions I’ve posed to you with honesty, integrity, and forthrightness (not because I’ve asked them) but because science demands seeking the truth; and, the willingness to give up cherished beliefs when proven wrong. I’m perfectly willing, Chris, to accept that you’ve changed from gay to str8, and that you know ‘many’ others that have … but, now you have to show the proof.

    And, btw, Richard Cohen is not proof; and, neither is Jonah Goldberg … just for starters.

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

      Teresa – In trying to establish whether IHF is credible, I can point you to this page on the blog.

      Also, in addition to your many good questions, I would add a question about where those complete changers were when they started their process. Not all people who begin reparative therapy are really gay in the first place. That they end up straight is not a matter of orientation change but of dealing with whatever got them into acting in contradiction their straight orientation.

      RE: Richard Cohen – there are some who are afraid to talk publicly but who have expressed private doubts about the completeness of his orientation change. He did a demonstration at Exodus Intl in 2000 that is relevant to claims of complete change. He said he had completely changed then but the description here casts doubt on that. I have spoken to others who have engaged in various workshops, sessions with Richard that have similar tales to tell.

      See also this video clip.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5q-0-5bnUk&list=UU6OQODXN5Iw8vvBA11gxFyg&index=6&feature=plcp

  • Steven

    The problem with relying on “testimonies” like Christopher Doyle’s is that the testifier has every incentive to lie or exaggerate and there is no way to know how accurate it the testimony is. I refer you to the cover of Newsweek at some time in 1998 for the emphatic testimony of John Paulk.

    That having been said, I would credit these accounts if people like Doyle and Cohen would submit to an objective evaluation by a third party, including a test to measure their current response to homoerotic stimuli and a comprehensive assessment of sexual orientation prior to treatment. I do allow for the possibility that complete change is “possible” albeit in an extremely small number of cases. That is what the debate has now been reduced to: whether SOCE works 0% of the time or whether it might work in a tiny fraction of a percent of cases. I am open to being persuaded, but the burden of proof rests on the proponents of SOCE and simply making unverified assertions doesn’t satisfy that burden.

  • Teresa

    Thanks, Warren, for elaborating more clearly about where people are at before they engage in therapy. Yes, indeed, persons can find themselves in situational, same sex behavior for any number of reasons … and, not be homosexual. That’s why I am not opposed to adolescents seeking counseling in this area … even, if their parents suggest it. And, I know, I’m going to get beat up over my position on this. So, be it.

    Many of us are, often, just plain confused as to what’s happening to us in our sexual behavior; and, adolescents more so, because of hyper-sexualized society … this includes str8 persons. There is a place for good therapy, such as SITF, to help those of us, str8 or gay, to help us sort out our feelings, and align our behavior with our beliefs.

    What I decry, from both the Right/Left, Conservative/Liberal are lies masking as truth, in any area of our life … sex, faith, history, politics. My little awakening just lately is how many Conservatives lie … maybe not wilfully ? … but, just outright lie about history, science, sexuality. And, to add insult to injury, some of their own lives bear witness to this hypocrisy.

    Nicolosi was the final nail in the coffin.

  • Christopher Doyle

    “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Doyle, on your statement above. You own your story, and should be proud of it … that’s not in questions. However, the proof is in the pudding, so-to-speak:”

    Thank you, Theresa for your respectful tone and benefit of the doubt. I realize there are, in fact, some ex-gays that have claimed to change sexual orientation but have later went back into a gay life. Without generalizing all of these people, my opinion is that these people probably did not address the core issues of what caused the SSA and did not do their therapeutic work. These folks tend to be religious and try to resist their SSA with spiritual methods (and suppress it) and really, the compulsion to act on their sexual desires never goes away. After many years of frustration, some of them emerge after saying they’ve “changed,” but what we find out is that they have only altered their behavior and have made different choices, and their SSA never really decreased or went away. This is not change; this is suppression.

    Although I do not think I can offer you overwhelming, conclusive proof of my change and the change of others, I will try to answer your questions below and be as forthright as possible.

    Questions:

    1. Are you stating, for the record, you no longer have ‘any’ same sex attractions?

    Yes, I have no SSA desires or attractions. I also think we need to clarify a couple of things too. I look at this issue in terms of desires, attractions, and arousal. When I think about my own SSA, I was strongly attracted to guys for about 15 years (approximately 8 years of age to 23). I had a strong desire and I was attracted to the same-sex. Today, those attractions and desires are gone. Today I am 31, married to a woman for six years, and have two children. I have not relapsed in any way in these 8 years.

    One thing we have to consider is the process of arousal. If one understands how the brain works, you will know that even in a man like myself whose desires and attractions have changed, I cannot get rid of past memories and experiences that are still in the Limbic system of my brain. Therefore, it is possible that I could still be aroused at those memories, or when shown a gay pornographic picture or film, be aroused (honestly, I don’t know if that’s true because the thought of looking at gay porn or having sex with a man turns me off). So, I think it’s fair to say that although one’s desires and attractions may change, their memories and response (i.e., arousal) to those memories may not change and therefore (some) arousal still may occur. However, that does not contradict change in desires and attractions, as these are separate. Research should examine this issue, and if there are brain experts on this blog, I’d appreciate feedback on this point.

    2. Are you stating, for the record, that these ‘other’ SOCE therapists no longer have ‘any’ same sex attractions?

    Anecdotal evidence from at least 10 (perhaps even more, indicates similar experiences that I have stated above. I will not speak for them, but I can say many therapists (and some non-therapists) who work in SOCE or have done their therapeutic work, can say what I have said above in terms of change. I will not name names, but I have spoken to some who have achieved complete change.

    3. If the answers to the above are yes, then why hasn’t anyone provided a study of these ‘many’ SOCE therapists as proof of 100% categorical change? Why weren’t these names submitted to Dr. Spitzer when he was doing his study … or, were these changes after his study.

    In fact, Richard Cohen was a subject in Spitzer’s study, and about 12 of his clients. I would think that other therapists were a part of Sptizer’s study, and I do NOT believe we can just dismiss these results because of Spitzer’s retraction. Even the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior would not retract the study. My opinion on the Spitzer study was that there were flaws, but you cannot just dismiss the self-report of the subjects. Many many many social science research is based on self-report; this is an inherent limitation of many studies. If you dismiss Spitizer’s study, you probably need to dismiss hundreds or thousands of other studies based on self-report.

    4. How, in fact, did you and the many achieve going from gay to str8 … 100%?

    For me, it was mostly forming non-sexual, healing, relationships with men. One of the biggest wounds that I believe led to, and fueled, my SSA was not having bonded with guys growing up (also, a loving, but emotionally-detached father, overbearing mother, sexual abuse at 8, and a sensitive temperament). After I experienced this bonding with guys, I did therapy to help heal the wounds if sexual abuse. The therapy I did was not sexual reorientation therapy, and I did this work after my SSA desires and attractions went away.

    “Chris, we need more than a statement on a blog about you and the many? What’s your group, who are you, and who are the many? Actually, what’s the figure of the ‘many’ … you, 1 other, 4, 5? How long have you had uninterrupted str8?ness (years, please) without having ‘any’ same sex attractions?”

    I am a psychotherapist with the International Healing Foundation. Most of my clients have unwanted SSA, although I do work with a few gay clients who do not want to change, and I support their goals. I also am a member of NARTH.

    “Without wanting to be rude, could you, Chris, be a little more forthcoming about your assertions, if that’s possible. Remember, ex-gay therapy has a long enough history to ‘prove’ that most of the success stories were well-intentioned by persons who would have literally given their lives to be str8, but proved to be anything but success stories as the years progressed … and, that includes Richard Cohen … whose literature has recently been removed from Encourage groups.”

    I don’t see the connection of Cohen’s books being removed from Encourage groups as proof of his not changing. Richard Cohen’s work and personality is uncomfortable for some people, but none of his practices are outside standard therapeutic practice, even healthy touch and holding, which is taboo for many, but is actually documented in decades of scientific literature. Take a look at Dr. Jim Phelan’s 2009 article on the use of touch in psychotherapy; I think you will find that despite the claims from this blog and others that this is unethical or unchristian, or even not a practice of integrity, this is simply not true. The use of touch in psychotherapy is ethical when used appropriately. IHF adheres to the ethics code of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (http://www.usabp.org).

    I would encourage you and others to explore this ethics code, and for those who reject this, to challenge their own biases against it in the light of the scientific literature and ethics that exist with this practice.

    “Thanks, beforehand, for taking the time to respond.”

    You’re welcome; I hope we can continue to engage in thoughtful discussion.

  • ken

    Christopher Doyle says:

    July 29, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Dave, I personally know Richard Cohen and have trained with him in his methods. I can assure they are backed by research. Take a look at Dr. Jim Phelan’s 2009 article on the history and efficacy of touch in psychotherapy: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/pst/46/1/97/

    the article you cited says nothing about sexual orientation. Simply because touch therapy may work in some situations doesn’t mean it works in ALL situations. All of the research shows SOCE doesn’t work. Maybe there are some cases where a person has changed his orientation, but there is no research indicating that this can be done via therapy.

    You also mentioned “our work”. Are you a therapist? Are you involved in attempting to convert other men from gay to straight?


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