Exodus International Responds to the APA Resolution on Change Therapy
August 6th, 2009
While Exodus does not fully agree with the APA’s criticisms of clinical techniques such as reparative therapy and its view of sexual orientation change, the report does recognize that some choose to live their lives in congruence with religious values. The report also encourages therapists to avoid imposing a specific outcome on clients.
As I noted earlier, the APA resolution cautions Exodus, NARTH and other proponents of change therapy against “distortion and selective use of scientific data about homosexuality.” So where does the phrase about “imposing a specific outcome on clients” come up in the APA report? (PDF: 1,092KB/136 pages) You don’t have to go far; it’s on page v in the report’s abstract:
Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.
The APA report goes into more detail on page 88:
Self-determination is the process by which a person controls or determines the course of her or his own life (Oxford American Dictionary, n.d.). LMHP [Licensed Mental Health Professionals — ed.] maximize self-determination by (a) providing effective psychotherapy that explores the client’s assumptions and goals, without preconditions on the outcome; (b) providing resources to manage and reduce distress; and (c) permitting the client herself or himself to decide the ultimate goal of how to self-identify and live out her or his sexual orientation. We were not persuaded by some accounts that suggest that providing SOCE increases self-determination, because these suggestions encourage LMHP to offer treatment that (a) has not provided evidence of efficacy; (b) has the potential to be harmful; and (c) delegates important professional decisions that should be based on qualified expertise and training—such as diagnosis and the type of intervention. Rather, therapy that increases the client’s ability to cope, understand, acknowledge, and integrate sexual orientation concerns into a self-chosen life is the measured approach. [Emphasis mine]
In other words, the report was very clear that by encouraging therapists to avoid imposing a specific outcome on clients, the APA was not giving a license to Exodus and others to promote therapies that are unproven or potentially harmful. In fact, throughout the report, the APA emphasises the importance of allowing the client chose the path, and for the therapist to provide affirming and positive support.
As long as the client wants to try to suppress his sexuality, then what Exodus offers is in line with the APA’s recommendations — as long as Exodus doesn’t promise a change in sexual attractions as a likely outcome. But somehow I doubt that Exodus-affiliated therapists will be willing to follow this advice if the client decides to fully embrace rather than suppress his sexuality.
So unless Exodus is signalling that they are ready to step in a new direction, their press release is disingenuous at best and a “distortion and selective use of scientific data” at worst. Either way, it looks like more of the same ol’ same ol’.