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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

APA: Gay Conversion Therapy Can Cause Depression and Suicide Attempts

Article from the Examiner

New Study Says Programs to Change Sexuality Don't Work

Article from CNN

Article from the Los Angeles Times

PDF copy of 138 page report from the American Psychological Association

New Guidelines for Treating Conflict Between Sexual Orientation and Religion.

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.
Full Article from the Wall Street Journal - August 6, 2009

Psychologists Repudiate Gay-to-Straight Therapy

NEW YORK – The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA's governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called "reparative therapy" which seeks to change sexual orientation.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto, where the association's annual meeting is being held this weekend.

The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.

Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.

"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

"We have to challenge people to be creative," said Glassgold.

She suggested that devout clients could focus on overarching aspects of religion such as hope and forgiveness in order to transcend negative beliefs about homosexuality, and either remain part of their original faith within its limits — for example, by embracing celibacy — or find a faith that welcomes gays.

"There's no evidence to say that change therapies work, but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them, and when they don't work, they feel doubly terrified," Glassgold said. "You should be honest with people and say, 'This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'"

One of the largest organizations promoting the possibility of changing sexual orientation is Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."

Its president, Alan Chambers, describes himself as someone who "overcame unwanted same-sex attraction." He and other evangelicals met with APA representatives after the task force formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.

"It's a positive step — simply respecting someone's faith is a huge leap in the right direction," Chambers said. "But I'd go further. Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

An evangelical psychologist, Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, praised the APA report for urging a creative approach to gay clients' religious beliefs but — like Chambers — disagreed with its skepticism about changing sexual orientation.

Yarhouse and a colleague, Professor Stanton Jones of Wheaton College, will be releasing findings at the APA meeting Friday from their six-year study of people who went through Exodus programs. More than half of 61 subjects either converted to heterosexuality or "disidentified" with homosexuality while embracing chastity, their study said.

To Jones and Yarhouse, their findings prove change is possible for some people, and on average the attempt to change will not be harmful.

The APA task force took as a starting point the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences.

The report said the subgroup of gays interested in changing their sexual orientation has evolved over the decades and now is comprised mostly of well-educated white men whose religion is an important part of their lives and who participate in conservative faiths that frown on homosexuality.

"Religious faith and psychology do not have to be seen as being opposed to each other," the report says, endorsing approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."

Perry Halkitis, a New York University psychologist who chairs the APA committee dealing with gay and lesbian issues, praised the report for its balance.

"Anyone who makes decisions based on good science will be satisfied," he said. "As a clinician, you have to deal with the whole person, and for some people, faith is a very important aspect of who they are."

The report also addressed the issue of whether adolescents should be subjected to therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation. Any such approach should "maximize self-determination" and be undertaken only with the youth's consent, the report said.

Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist who has sought to discredit the so-called "ex-gay" movement, welcomed the APA findings.

"Ex-gay therapy is a profound travesty that has led to pointless tragedies, and we are pleased that the APA has addressed this psychological scourge," Besen said.


On the Net:

Soulforce Responds to the American Psychological Association Report

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American Psychological Association
Mental health professionals should avoid telling clients
they can change their sexual orientation

Jack Drescher

Today the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a report stating that there is insufficient evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work and that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight through therapy or other treatments.

Upon completing a careful scientific review of the published literature on conversion therapy, and having undergone a rigorous American Psychological Association peer review process, the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation concluded that sexual orientation is unlikely to change due to "therapeutic" efforts designed for this purpose. The full APA press release can be read at

"In accepting the findings of its Task Force, I believe the APA has done the public a great service in warning against the overstated claims of conversion therapy 'successes'," said Jack Drescher, M.D.*

Dr. Drescher will be one of three distinguished keynote speakers at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, November 20-22, 2009. This international conference will counter the anti-gay misinformation of NARTH (the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) scheduled to meet the same weekend and in the same city. The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference will address the harm of sexual conversion therapies to people and their families as well as the the underlying problem of heterosexism (the cultural assumption that opposite sex attractions and relationships are preferable and superior to those of the same sex). Attendees will co-create ways to help survivors repair the damage caused by their experiences in sexual conversion therapies, and create social change that values. loves, and celebrates all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity.

Early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference begins August 20, 2009. Workshop proposals are being accepted until August 29 and potential presenters can apply by going to and downloading the PDF application form.

*Jack Drescher, M.D., is a New York City psychiatrist and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is a member of the DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. Dr. Drescher is President-Elect of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University's Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man, Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, and has edited 20 books, including Sexual Conversion Therapy: Ethical, Clinical and Research Perspectives and Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics and Culture.

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