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Exodus International Responds to the APA Resolution on Change Therapy

Jim Burroway

August 6th, 2009

Exodus International has issued a a strange press release in reaction to the APA’s resolution against sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). In it, Exodus actually claims a bit of vindication:

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’.



Leonard Drake
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

In other words, if Exodus offers “therapy that increases the PATIENT’S ability to cope, understand, acknowledge, and integrate sexual orientation concerns into a self-chosen life” that would well be within the APA guidelines. However, it appears that the majority of patients sent to Exodous and other “reparative” centers are not sent at the behest of themselves, but by third parties (parents, concerned friends, et cetera. Unless Exodus, and the patients themselves can TRUELY and without ANY bias discern what and “who” motivates the patient’s desires to change what they are / adapt to what they might be / adapt what they might be for themselves(?)/others(?).

It is all quite confusing, especially the perhaps very likely sinister motivations behind Exodus.

August 6th, 2009 | LINK

“the report does recognize that some choose to live their lives in congruence with religious values.”

Translation: We can no longer push the phony claim that ours is a “therapy” so we’ll overwork the religious guilt angle. Dear gay person, which is more important to you–your sex life (because of course being gay is all about sex) or your eternal life with god?

Same dog poo, different wrapping.

August 6th, 2009 | LINK

Under Chambers’ leadership, Exodus’ has had a creative and misleading way of interpreting the truth, but this press release is quite the masterpiece. Exodus refuses to even acknowledge the actual title of the APA’s report, “Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation”, and only refers to it as “Report on Sexuality Debate”.

It’s quite bold to respond to a major scientific/professional organization’s report and critism by selling a book with no academic or professional credentials.

Also, the press release starts off by maintaining the claim that Exodus International is a “worldwide ministry”, which I suppose is true if we define worldwide to mean parts of the US and Manitoba Canada.

May God help the conservative Christians who choose to rely on Exodus for information.

Chris McCoy
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

I wonder if it is possible to petition to have the licenses of these people to practice in their state revoked, in the same way that a lawyer who ignores the recommendations of the Bar, or who gives false and misleading council to their clients can have their license to practice law revoked.

I’m not suggesting that this would stop Exodus, et al, from continuing to peddle their snake oil, but it would definitely be an added coal on the fire of justice to be able to say, “This person is offering council without a license to do so.”

Richard Rush
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

Chris McCoy,

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think these “ministries” need a license. When these outfits operate under the umbrella of religion, they have special rights, and one of those rights is to sell snake oil without government interference. Plus, they have another special right to be privileged with tax advantages while they do it.

So, while I need a license to practise my profession (in order to protect the public health and welfare), these charlatans are free to earn a living by destroying the lives of the people that pay them.

Priya Lynn
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

Exodus said “the report does recognize that some choose to live their lives in congruence with religious values”.

It’s a tragedy that so many are coerced into sacrificing their happiness and normal and natural human functions because of social pressure to accept superstitious beliefs. It is also a tragedy that the APA should give in to the same and at odds to what they’d advise in similiar situations. If a client had a dictatorial friend or relative pressuring them to live in a way that was at odds to the clients healthy needs and desires would the APA advise them “living in congruence” with what the interloper wants is a valid option? Not likely. If a client was a member of a cult that demanded the client sacrifice his or her happiness and normal human functions to the cult fantasies would the APA advise them that that’s just as good an option as living in congruence with who they really are? Not likely. And these examples are no different than a gay person trying to live under the influence of a religion that rejects their humanity.

The final tragedy in the APA report is that they suggest the client should decide what their goals are. Laudable, but in ignorance of a central key fact:
Those trying to live in congruence with anti-gay religious values aren’t the ones deciding how they should live – they’ve ceded that decision to a bigoted and oppressive group of people following superstititious beliefs. As an organization dedicated to bettering people’s lives the APA should unconditionally refuse to be a part of this.

Jason D
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

Richard, I think it depends on what the ministry does. I believe there was a case a few years back where a ministry was sanctioned or closed down because they were essentially practicing medicine without a license — or the psychology equivalent of that.

David Farrell
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

If memory serves me several of the ex-gay counselors hold membership in the AACC American Association of Christian Counselors. Having survived the ex-gay movement I understand the motivations a lot of people who attend them have. However, we were all adults and no one forced us to go.
I understand the arguments that parents, family, friend and church put on us; however, at the end of the day, we made the decisions to allow ourselves to sacrifice our own happiness for what others wanted.
Those who hold to the beliefs that Exodus and the fundamentalist have are not going away. I wish it were not so, but I am afraid that it is.

August 6th, 2009 | LINK

“Those who hold to the beliefs that Exodus and the fundamentalist have are not going away. I wish it were not so, but I am afraid that it is.” – David Farrell

To think that they would go away would be delusional.

Regan DuCasse
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

The last paragraph of Priya Lynn’s last post is very powerfully precise in describing how Exodus and any other religious group will interpret this information.

The exorcism of that sixteen year old boy in that Pentecostal church in CT comes to mind.
I don’t think religious groups should have free expression or license to involve themselves in such deeply invasive psycho social issues, especially against minors.
Religous inculcation begins early. And as the report says, there IS terrible harm when it comes to stigmatization and discrimination.
When a child has an acute medical problem or even one of serious psychological determination, like depression, then religious intervention cannot pretend to be EXPERT on even dealing with the problem.
Let alone if there is a NON problem, unless and until they MAKE it a problem.
And that too, is another difference. That it’s a problem at all, is ONLY in the minds of those of faith, but it’s not real.

When you’re talking about homosexuality, it’s NOT a dangerous or even an issue of psychological competence.
Once parents and clergy begin the process of emotional and environmental blackmail, THEY SHOULD be subject to authorities as committing mental and emotional abuse.
Which is what it would be.

Religious practice, if applied to a psycho social issue (not one simply of education and fellowship), deserves regulation against such application.
We have the suicides, mental breakdowns and depression to show it’s not a healthy thing to make gay children (or even young adults) submit to such treatment. Especially when that gay child is singled out for pariah status in their communities.
I’m still thinking about Bryce, and him dropping out of sight all this time.
His parents like to think it’s his own choice to submit to the anti gay counseling he got.
But they got to work on him the second they knew…he was NEVER going to have the choice to BE GAY.

John Hankes
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

Based on your focus on gay stuff how many of you are gay and in the closet? I have never seen so much emphasis on this subject. And your box turtle reference? Where does that come from? I have never heard of any group advocating man on turtle love. You people are funny – hopefully it’s on purpose.
Peace Out,


Richard W. Fitch
August 6th, 2009 | LINK

John – Can’t speak for everyone, but there are many of us here who are out and vocal. As to the Box Turtle, here’s the background.
I thinks it’s important to note that the focus here on gay stuff is the desire to enter into dialogue regarding issues important to the LGBT community that embrace more than the best bars and sure fire hook-ups. If you follow for long you will see many diverse perspectives and even comments from some on ‘the opposing side’. And, yes, the Box Turtle reference is a bit of playful sarcasm.

Lynn David
August 7th, 2009 | LINK

I think it’s rather simple. Exodus has lied so much to others that it now believes its own lies and cannot accept the reality of the situation.

August 7th, 2009 | LINK

why is the fact being gay is more than a sexual identity being ignored?

if you go through history gay people have contributed greatly to culture and our way of life. gays invented culture.

it is more than sex, it is a way of thinking, of being.

my dad asked me if the shrink was curing me yet. i told him the shrink said me being gay wasn’t the problem, he was. my dad was going to fire him but my mom said he was right. ended up getting sent to confession for being gay and ended up raped.

and i have aspergers.

such is life.

shrinks are for dealing with stuff like that, not changing your very being. never works on rapists and murderers so why should it work on sexual identity? excuse the comparison but you can therpy a serial killer all you want and therapy him to the end of the earth and he is still going to be a serial killer. why would anyone think that would work to change people from gay to straight? it doesn’t work to change straight people gay!

August 7th, 2009 | LINK

i would like to mention that the story i told about my dad happened in the 70’s, not now. i am 51, found a man, have my own home and am a househusband. i have just the right combination of nutz and cute and adorable and we have been together 15 years.

i have seent he seamy underbelly of life and it isn’t pretty. i might be autistic but i am not stupid, something not realized by all the people i have watched that called themselves christian and cared for their “lessers” in th psychiatric field. i got their number.

Richard W. Fitch
August 7th, 2009 | LINK

Rick – I would be interested in chatting with you. I have a ‘Little Brother’ who has Aspergers and I could use some insights from another gay man on how to counsel a sexually active young man.

loving mom
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

My son came out a few years ago, and I have gone to faith based groups and they all advise me the same thing- Only if HE himself wants to change is it possible anything can or will change. Notice I wrote “possible” not “probable”. So, those of you who are quite comfortable with who you are, stop worrying about the few of you who want to change and let them try. Accept them for who they are and where they are at. Give them time, they will work out whatever they need to. No one is pushing them, not even this loving mom.

August 21st, 2009 | LINK

No one is pushing them? Seriously? Hah!

Sorry but we have witnessed far too many examples where that’s definitely not the case, including one recent case where financial retribution against an adult child was used to manipulate him into it.

If these sort of things really were that neutral, nonagressive, unassuming, and not detrimental to so many of their participants’ health there would not be an issue.

And it’s not as simple as wanting it. The vast majority of failures (which make up the vast majority of attempts), wanted it really badly to no avail.

Timothy Kincaid
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

loving mom,

thanks for being loving.

But what you said need clarification. When you say “Only if HE himself wants to change is it possible anything can or will change”, we have to be very careful that we define what you mean by “anything”.

The best (but limited) study available on Exodus is the Jones and Yarhouse study. A careful review shows that orientation itself does not change. Gay men do not EVER become opposite-sex attracted men. Not even the “successes” claim that.

Rather, some small percentage (perhaps 9%) are able to develop a perhaps-temporary relationship with their wives in which their sex life is adequately fulfilling – even though they remain primarily same-sex attracted.

Another small percentage remains celebate.

The rest either abandon the program or languish on with a life consisting of a cycle of “slip ups” and repentance.

OF COURSE, we here at BTB support free will and think ALL adults should be responsible for their own lives, even those who hope in vain for a miracle that God doesn’t seem much inclined to provide. We simply oppose those who wil lie to them.

Priya Lynn
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

Loving mom, if no one was pushing them no gays would ever make the futile attempt to change orientations. You and yours may not be directly doing so, but rest assured that people around the world are creating the oppressive environment that coerces some gays into attempting to please a bigoted society and the long dead people who created our present religions.

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