I Have Updated My Post on Generalizing Research on One Type of Therapy to Another Type of Therapy – UPDATED

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.

 

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  • Dave

    Does horse therapy produce orientation change? Nay! (and Neigh!)

    Sorry .. couldn’t resist the pun.

    Dave

  • Ann

    Dave,

    Funny :-)

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    Isn’t one of the main problems with reparative theraists their use of the word “change” and the meaning behind it? I would like to see that word never be used in any kind of therapy as no one knows what the serendipitous journey of therapy will be or hold for each individual client. I would also like to see the term SOCE never used again as it implies orientation change and the client’s responsibility to effort that. Perhaps the word “moderation” could replace “change” as it would, in my opinion, be better for a client to enter therapy to moderate their responses to same sex attractions/orientation instead of trying to change to another orientation.

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

      Ann – Yes, I think the word change means something different to those on all sides. This is why I avoid it and believe the issue is how one lives rather than argue over some degree of attraction change.

  • Norm!

    The Cowboy Church of Virginia issued a vague and hilarious rebuttal. They deny being contacted by Gay Star News and the other sites that published Gay Star News‘s article, but don’t specifically deny using EAP to treat homosexuality. Their statement ends dramatically stating the reporting is “malice with criminal intent”.

  • Ann

    Thanks Dr. Throckmorton – it is perplexing as to why any therapist wouldn’t subscribe to this belief as well. Also, Happy new Year – I hope it is an amazing one for you and your family!

  • Teresa

    Ann stated:

    be better for a client to enter therapy to moderate their responses to same sex attractions/orientation instead of trying to change to another orientation.

    Warren replied:

    This is why I avoid it and believe the issue is how one lives rather than argue over some degree of attraction change.

    Yes, I quite agree with you both; but, I’m troubled in some way about this whole issue. So, I quite see the idea of trying to ameliorate same sex attractions, and living in accord with my ‘for the common good’ belief or my faith belief. But, there’s something way more about being gay than a ‘temptation’ to one’s own sex.

    So, I choose not to engage the sexual component of my same sex attractions; but, I’m a firm believer that my gayness/queerness/same sex attractions is way more than a ‘temptation’ to be with another woman and bed her. It’s the way I see the world, the way I relate to persons of my own sex and the way I relate to persons of the opposite sex, it plays into the vocation I’ve chosen, it’s the way I dress, the way I comport myself, it’s the way I think … it’s the me of me.

    I don’t put my same sex attraction on a shelf when I go out to meet the world, just as others don’t put their opposite sex attraction in a cupboard and go about their business.

    This, I think, is the heart of what’s going on. Yes, I can change my behavior to align with my Russell Kirk Conservative view of life or my Catholic faith; but, I’m still gay. That’s why I’ve always thought this newer term ‘same sex attraction’ is quite impoverished. It’s reducing me to an ‘attraction’.

    That, I think, is why Reparative Therapy (RT) or Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) exist. I think they understand my queerness is more than a ‘temptation’. They’d like to fix the whole of me, which is an admirable idea; however, misguided and unattainable. That’s why we have stuff life Journey into Manhood (JIM). That’s why we have stuff like ‘wear a skirt and apply makeup’ for lez’s.

    None of this ‘works’ to ‘fix’ us, ‘change’ us. That’s why Sexual Identity Therapy Framework (SITF) is the best there is. It recognizes and admits a fundamental, and proceeds to opt for the good of the individual, which at the moment is the best there is.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ann, I also like you idea of dropping the word “change” and replacing it with the word “moderation” . It is not something I would ever recommend to anybody, as I think the better chance for happiness is to not try moderating you natural desires, but rather changing religions and finding a religious community you are comfortable with and being as you are. Try out a few different churches and congregations before you commit to staying with your current one and working to moderate your innate nature. But to each his own.

  • StraightGrandmother

    What is next in the race to “cure the gay”? Maybes they should try blood-letting again.

  • Ann

    Teresa,

    My comments were limited to a client’s choice about how to live their life with, not to change, any given set of personality traits or set of circumstances. I also do not believe any term regarding attractions should define the fullness of one’s character or spirit.

  • Ann

    But to each his own.

    SGM,

    Yes, and while your thoughts and opinions might make sense to you, and perhaps to others, it is only one way to think about an issue and not axiomatic to everyone. When someone’s well being is at issue, it is probably best to allow them to tell us how they want to live instead of the other way around.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ann, that is what I meant by ,”to each his own”. I’m not a trained mental health care provider, as a lay person speaking to say a friend, I would suggest that they change religion. And BTW, I have never known anybody who wanted to change their sexual orientation, If they did they never told me about it. I don’t think we are in disagreement.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Well after re-reading your comment maybe I didn’t respond to it. You are saying that I should not offer any opinions to friends (and again I have never known anybody who wanted to change their sexual orientation) that they change religion, I should make no suggestions at all, just silently affirm them as they noodle it out for themselves. That is certainly a good approach. Trouble is I am a right brain person with black and white tendencies, thus if I encounter a problem I’ll usually look for a solution.

  • Ann

    Trouble is I am a right brain person with black and white tendencies, thus if I encounter a problem I’ll usually look for a solution.

    SGM,

    That is an admirable quality if the solution you offer is for the well being of the individual and not coming from an advocacy position you are hell bent on being right about.

  • Ann

    Regarding equine therapy – while I am not sure what the purpose or benefit could be to someone regarding their orientation, I do know it is a very beneficial therapy that is used in some residential foster care facilities. I also think in the case of Jaycee Duggard it was, and still is a very beneficial par of her therapy.

  • Teresa

    Ann said to SGM in response to her always seeking a solution:

    That is an admirable quality if the solution you offer is for the well being of the individual and not coming from an advocacy position you are hell bent on being right about.

    Ann, what you’ve stated here is brilliant. It seems it’s always about someone wanting to have thee answer, whether from the left or the right. In my own life, I never knew what was right or best for me at an existential level. Oh, I knew all the correct stuff, but I was unable to be the correct stuff.

    If I never knew what was right for me, how in heaven’s name can I ever think I know what is right for you or anyone else, at any given time. If it took the school of hard-knocks to open up the world for me in a way the rules never did, why would I think I know what is best for someone else.

    At the end of the day, if God is working in my life, He’s sure as heck working in everybody else’s. What that looks like is not my business.

  • Patrocles

    The basic argument is as follows: Former experience has shown that SOC can change. So it’s a matter of trial and error to find out the most effective approach to incite change.

    Seen that way, the argument is completely sane.

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

      Patrocles said:

      The basic argument is as follows: Former experience has shown that SOC can change. So it’s a matter of trial and error to find out the most effective approach to incite change.
      Seen that way, the argument is completely sane.

      Except I doubt you would want anything else in medicine to work that way. Laetrile anyone?

      The argument is completely lazy and self-serving to those reparative therapists who use it.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Ann, I wouldn’t call my suggestions to a hypothetical friend struggling with being both gay and fundamentally religious, as pushing an advocacy position I hold, rather I would say it is based on my research including spending considerable time reading at the Gay Christian Network, both side A and Side B as well as all the other research I have done. Your religion is a choice, your sexual orientation isn’t, and isn’t likely to change, so it seems more logical to me to FIRST try changing your religion. I can come to this conclusion because I do NOT believe I am putting anyone’s mortal soul in danger with this suggestion, you may reject this based on your religious viewpoint. I understand that.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Patrocles, how much trial and error? How many years of trial and error? I listened to Nicolosi on Catholic Radio talk about treating one client for 8 years at an average of 3 times a month, and the client was still gay still having gay affairs with men behind the back of his wife. I say if Nicolosi himself, the father of sexual orientation change therapy can’t make a guy straight after 8 years of therapy give up already. Or do we blame it on the client and say he simply did not try “hard enough”? C’mon forget trial and error and admit that no therapy CAN change a person’s sexual orientation.

  • Carol A Ranney

    I’m sorry, I cannot find the post on the new study that came out concerning the origins of sexual orientation. Can you help me? Your post about it was within the last couple months. Thanks.

  • Zoe Brain

    Looks like the Cowboy Church is now out of the closet regarding Reparative Horse Therapy

    http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/pastor-plans-take-stroking-horses-gay-cure-therapy-worldwide220213

    But in a new email, Bell has said he now wants his scheme to go international.

    He says he wants interviews with the ‘three major networks and morning shows’ and is planning an international meeting/training event at some point next year.

    Bell said as everyone is born into sin, gay people cannot say they are ‘born this way’. He claims only through salvation that gay people can be truly as God intended.

    In a new statement released to GSN, he compares the gay community to gangs, saying LGBT people are all too ready to call a member who expresses an interest in gay ‘cure’ therapy as a traitor.

  • Patrocles

    Without trial and error – without. transferring approaches which have worked in one case to different cases – no therapy would have developed at all. I admit that experiments with living persons and their possible side effects are a problem; but if we avoided all possible side effects, there would be no progress in therapy. (We gladly have forgotten most of the desastrous side effects of past therapies.)

    The problem with NARTH is not its trial and error approach. It’s that they aren’t prepared to document their errors and learn from them (using systematically varying therapeutical approaches). That’s why I basically agree with you: NARTH shouldn’t sell itself as a therapeutical unity (but as a self-experimentation group).


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