UPDATE 2: Yes, I changed my title to exclude reference to horse therapy. Read why here.
UPDATE: There is now a dispute over the facts reported in this story. On the Cowboy Church website, this alert was published. Bell appears to be saying that he never talked to the media about EAP and homosexuality. I wrote to Rev. Bell and he wrote back taking me to task for referring to the HuffPo story without talking to him first. He has declined thus far to disclose whether or not he has any views on horse therapy for gays. If he informs me of his perspective, I will report it here.
As for the post, I think the basic argument stands.Substitute any outlandish sounding therapy for horse therapy and the point is still valid. Reparative therapists often use data that are not directly relevant to what they do.
If you read about the reparative therapy wars, you have probably come across the Virginia pastor who has been quoted as advocating Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) for homosexuality.
Raymond Bell is the pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia and promoter of horse therapy as a sexual orientation change effort, according to Gay Star News.
Gay Star News quotes Bell as follows “because of rape, abandonment, lacking a male role model, abuse and having low self-esteem.” This seems like the standard reparative therapy line. Bell now contests these reports, although has not clarified what he does believe.
As far as I can tell there is no proof for these claims. And in this,
horse obscure therapies have something in common with other forms of reparative therapy. If pressed, perhaps purveyors of strange therapies would do what other reparative therapists do – point to studies that claim to document change. However, the problem for Bell and for other reparative therapists is that the studies they point to rarely have anything to do with what they do.
Most of the early studies of sexual orientation change featured behavioral techniques such as aversive therapy. As far as can be determined, none of the current crop of reparative therapists use these techniques. Some of the early studies rely on psychoanalytic treatment but these are mostly case studies or reports from psychoanalysts who were practicing traditional psychoanalysis. Current reparative therapists use pillow beating and screaming, orange therapy, body therapy and other fringe techniques that have not been evaluated for most uses, let alone their use to support sexual orientation change efforts.
Thus, when reparative therapists point to studies of change, ask them what methods were used in those studies. The chances are extremely likely that the techniques used in those studies are not what today’s reparative therapists use. The fact is that what is today being defended in courts in CA and NJ has not been evaluated for use in changing sexual orientation. Some techniques (catharsis) have been evaluated for other purposes and found to be counterproductive. And at least one technique commonly referenced by Joseph Nicolosi (Affect Focused Therapy) has been rejected as a technique for reorientation by one of the developers of the approach (Diane Fosha).
To sum up, reparative therapists tell us that 70-100 years of research prove that change is possible. Then they defend what they do and say research supports them. So if
Raymond Bell ever says horse therapy people who advocate unusual therapies work because research proves that change is possible, they will be using the same rhetorical device as is being used by their professionally trained colleagues.