Thursday, August 06, 2009

APA Repudiates Gay Therapy

As reported by the AP, “The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.”

This isn’t a surprise. The APA has been leaning in this direction for a while and has now simply made it official. This places the APA squarely in the camp opposed to what is known as “reparative therapy” which attempts to change ones sexual orientation.

In an overwhelming 125-4 vote the APA’s governing board adopted a comprehensive report based upon two years of research. I originally reported on this effort in July of 2007 and at that time expressed some concern that the deck appeared stacked in favor of refuting reparative therapy. Well, the report certainly didn’t give the lie to that concern did it?

I also at that time predicted that the APA would recommend against reparative therapy so it looks like I finally got one right.

However the report doesn’t ignore the conflicts that can arise when ones sexual orientation conflicts with ones family, lifestyle or faith and suggests that “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 chairperson of the report, Judith Glassgold, suggested that “Both sides have to educate themselves better. 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."

Needless to say, conservative Christians disagreed.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the largest organization promoting the possibility that sexual orientation can be changed, and whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ," while praising the parts of the report relating to respecting someone’s faith, suggested “Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

Well, if their feelings are going to change, it would probably happen without psychotherapy. Chambers claims to be someone who “overcame unwanted same-sex attraction.”

The problem of course is that that there is no evidence that reparative therapy works and the report makes this very clear. So what happens then to someone who desperately wants to change, is told he can, and then fails?

The inevitable drop in self esteem can lead to depression which in turn can lead to thoughts of suicide or the lashing out at others in frustration. The bottom line is that it’s a bad bet.

Of course Christians believe everyone is a wretched sinner undeserving of any self esteem anyway so perhaps for them it doesn’t matter.

This is the fall of another piece in the wall separating homosexuals from full equality. Slowly but surely the zeitgeist is moving. Like a glacier it’s moving. Still, victory is certain, the only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost?

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