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Posts for June, 2012

Exodus and “Self-Determination”

Jim Burroway

June 6th, 2012

In response to yesterday’s post about Exodus International’s statement on Reparative Therapy in response to California’s proposed curbs on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) by licensed professionals, Exodus president Alan Chambers sent me a message clarifying a point about the line referring to ”an individual’s right to self determination”:

To clarify the “right to self determination”, we took that from the APA not NARTH.

The line about “an individual’s right to self-determine” is from Principle E (under General Principles) of the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. This inclusion in the APA’s code of ethics hearkens back to past history when it was much more common for patients to be coerced or forced into various forms of psychological treatment against their will. The code now calls for special safeguards “to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.”  The code goes on:

Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.

NARTH, of course, ignores that portion of the Code of Ethics which places this right in critical context when discussing the rights of self-determination. NARTH uses the statement to justify ex-gay therapy. But as I noted in yesterday’s post, Exodus departs from NARTH by juxtaposing the language from the APA’s code of ethics with the statement, ”As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” While it’s not clear that Exodus embraces the fullness of Principle E, this does appear to place Exodus on a line that is at least somewhat closer to the APA’s position than NARTH’s.

NARTH Responds To APA Resolution On Change Therapy

Jim Burroway

August 7th, 2009

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has issued a press release in response to the American Psychological Association’s Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses To Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts. That APA resolution concludes that there is “no evidence” that therapy to change sexual orientation actually works, and calls on therapists to refrain from promising otherwise. NARTH didn’t like that one bit:

NARTH appreciates that the APA stressed the importance of faith and religious diversity. Unfortunately, however, the report reflects a very strong confirmation bias; that is, the task force reflected virtually no ideological diversity. No APA member who offers reorientation therapy was allowed to join the task force. In fact, one can make the case that every member of the task force can be classified as an activist. They selected and interpreted studies that fit within their innate and immutable view. For example, they omitted the Jones and Yarhouse study, the Karten study, and only gave cursory attention to the Spitzer study. Had the task force been more neutral in their approach, they could have arrived at only one conclusion: homosexuality is not invariable fixed in all people, and some people can and do change, not just in terms of behavior and identity but in core features of sexual orientation such as fantasy and attractions.

This is pretty rich. First, NARTH complains that the APA Task Force engaged in “a very strong confirmation bias” and gives a definition for conformation bias that is completely wrong. This is what confirmation bias really is:

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.

Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.

Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

NARTH instead offered a definition for confirmation bias that has nothing to do with confirmation bias, and everything to do with launching an ad hominem attack against the APA’s Task Force members.

But the charge that the APA Task Force engaged in confirmation bias is even more laughable considering the wholesale confirmation biases evident in NARTH’s own pre-emptive report on conversion therapy. We have already provided evidence that NARTH carefully selected studies for  their report based on purported successful outcomes, while omitting studies which ran counter to their pre-determined hypothesis. That, of course, is the very definition of confirmation bias. And in trying to find as much evidence to support their position as possible, they hoovered virtually every confirming “study” they could find regardless of scientific merit, including unpublished dissertations, non-peer reviewed books, (specifically, the Jones and Yarhouse book and the Karten dissertation they pointed to in their press release), pop-psychology paperbacks — you name it.

They even referenced the 1979 Masters and Johnson book Homosexuality in Perspective.  This is how NARTH’s report described that book:

In Masters and Johnson’s (1979) treatment of 90 homosexuals, a 28.4 percent failure rate was reported six years after treatment. Masters and Johnson chose to report failure rather than success rates to avoid vague, inaccurate concepts of success; however, by implication, more than 70 percent of their patients achieved some degree of success toward their self-identified goal of diminishing unwanted homosexuality and developing their heterosexual potential.

Of course, the most important thing that we now know about the Masters and Johnson book is that it was faked. There were no records for any of those reported patients and their supposed success stories. Co-author Virginia Johnson was later so embarrassed by it, she referred to it as a “bad book.”

The APA Task Force, in sharp contrast to the NARTH report authors, established a very rigorous criteria to determine what studies they would review before reviewing them. That criteria was this (PDF: 1,092KB/136 pages, see page 9):

Initially, we reviewed our charge and defined necessary bodies of scientific and professional literature to review to meet that charge. In light of our charge to review the 1997 resolution, we concluded that the most important task was to review the existing scientific literature on treatment outcomes of sexual orientation change efforts.

We also concluded that a review of research before 1997 as well as since 1997 was necessary to provide a complete and thorough evaluation of the scientific literature. Thus, we conducted a review of the available empirical research on treatment efficacy and results published in English from 1960 on and also used common databases such as PsycINFO and Medline, as well as other databases such as ATLA Religion Database, LexisNexis, Social Work Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts, to review evidence regarding harm and benefit from sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). The literature review for other areas of the report was also drawn from these databases and included lay sources such as GoogleScholar and material found through Internet searches.

…The task force received comments from the public, professionals, and other organizations and read all comments received. We also welcomed submission of material from the interested public, mental health professionals, organizations, and scholarly communities. All nominated individuals who were not selected for the task force were invited to submit suggestions for articles and other material for the task force to review. We reviewed all material received. Finally, APA staff met with interested parties to understand their concerns.

In other words, the APA Task Force defined the criteria before hand and reviewed every study that met that criteria, studies that purported to show change in sexual orientation, and studies which showed failures to change — including many studies that NARTH pretended never existed.

Conversely, there’s no evidence that NARTH’s review was in any way systematic. Given the studies that we know NARTH omitted, we know there was nothing systematic about their approach other than to confirm their predetermined outcome. And given the fraudulent material they did include – as well as the abundance of material that never met the scientific gold standard of having been peer-reviewed — it is clear that NARTH’s report is the very definition of confirmation bias. And their press release is the very definition of irony.

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’.

APA Passes Resolution Against Ex-Gay Therapy, Finds “No Evidence” Change Therapy Works

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2009

The American Psychological Association, meeting at their annual conference in Toronto, adopted a resolution today calling on mental health professionals to stop telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments. And in a direct challenge to NARTH and Exodus International, the resolution further calls on patients, guardians, families and other clients to avoid conversion therapy programs which portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder. Tha APA advises instead that people who are troubled by their sexual orientation should seek therapy, social support and educational services “that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”

The resolution, approved today by the APA’s governing Council of Representatives, is the result of a comprehensive 130-page study by the APA’s Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. That study looked at all peer-reviewed, English language studies published in the professional literature since 1960, and determined that:

There are no studies of adequate scientific rigor to conclude whether or not recent SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) do or do not work to change a person’s sexual orientation. Scientifically rigorous older work in this area … found that sexual orientation (i.e., erotic attractions and sexual arousal oriented to one sex or the other, or both) was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Some individuals appeared to learn how to ignore or limit their attractions. However, this was much less likely to be true for people whose sexual attractions were initially limited to people of the same sex.

The Task Force noted that some studies indicated that patients were able to change their identity, but that is the easy part. Simply saying “I’m not gay” is far different from actually changing sexual orientation:

Although there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation, some individuals modified their sexual orientation identity (i.e., group membership and affiliation), behavior, and values (Nicolosi et al., 2000). They did so in a variety of ways and with varied and npredictable outcomes, some of which were temporary (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002). Based on the available data, additional claims about the meaning of those outcomes are scientifically unsupported.

The complete resolution is attached at the end of this post. It is also available on the APA’s web site, along with the full report and press release.

I’m only about a quarter of the way through the APA’s accompanying 130-page review, but I’m very impressed with what I see so far. Unlike NARTH’s so-called study, the APA took a very disciplined approach in determining what studies to look at. They began be establishing clear standards to determine what studies to include in their review (all peer-reviewed English-language studies published since 1960), which is very unlike NARTH’s approach, which was to ignore studies and obfuscate data that didn’t fit the message they wanted to present. And unlike the APA’s report, NARTH relied heavily on references which were not peer-reviewed, including pop-psychology books from the 1960s and 1970s which promoted such fads as “primal scream” therapy and advising readers on how to “be your own best friend.”

The latest APA resolution does not ban conversion therapy outright — it doesn’t say, for example, “from here on and henceforth no therapist shall perform SOCE — but given the resolution’s comprehensive conclusions, it’s hard to see how conversion therapy as currently practiced by NARTH and other major ex-gay organizations can continue to be regarded as ethical or acceptable. These points appear to be particularly relevant to change efforts overall:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others’ sexual orientation;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association concludes that the benefits reported by participants in sexual orientation change efforts can be gained through approaches that do not attempt to change sexual orientation;

And this one, which is especially relevant to NARTH, Exodus International, and other anti-gay organizations pushing change therapies:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association opposes the distortion and selective use of scientific data about homosexuality by individuals and organizations seeking to influence public policy and public opinion and will take a leadership role in responding to such distortions;

The resolution also recognizes that:

Those operating from religious/spiritual traditions are encouraged to recognize that it is outside their role and expertise to adjudicate empirical scientific issues in psychology, while also recognizing they can appropriately speak to theological implications of psychological science

With this resolution, it now appears that NARTH, Exodus International, Courage, Evergreen International, and other groups are now firmly outside the accepted practices of the APA. I expect that their reaction will be just what we’ve seen before: “the distortion and selective use of scientific data about homosexuality by individuals and organizations seeking to influence public policy and public opinion.”

Click here to see the complete APA resolution

Nicolosi Makes Cameo At APA Taskforce

Daniel Gonzales

August 21st, 2008

My former therapist Joseph Nicolosi made a somewhat odd appearance on Aug 14th at the APA’s Taskforce report on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions according to BTB reader Matthew Calamia who was also attending. Calamia, a graduate student in clinical psychology, wrote in an email to BTB:

Nicolosi showed up (late) to the APA Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions session. He asked the panel what they would tell parents who were concerned about their gender variant children, a “70% predictor of homosexuality.” Randall Ehrbar, a member of the task force, acknowledged it was a controversial topic and that the members didn’t all agree. Then Nicolosi said he was able to cure those children and plugged A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Following the audible groans from the audience, someone mentioned another book that people might find helpful, The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals.Nicolosi left soon afterwards. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him at any of the other LGBT sessions, but there are two days of the convention left…

Today In History: The APA Says No

Jim Burroway

July 17th, 2008

One of the top goals of the early gay rights movement was to get the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. As long as homosexuality remained listed, governmental agencies and private companies had all the excuse they needed to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

In 1957, Psychologist Evelyn Hooker began publishing the results of a series of tests which demonstrated that gays and lesbians who weren’t patients of mental health professionals were indistinguishable from heterosexuals. Before then, the mental health community thought that gays were mentally deficient because all of the prior research had only studied people who were confined to mental hospitals or were seen in clinical settings.

Despite the strength of this new evidence, it would still take many years for it to sink in. In fact, it was forty-five years ago today that the American Psychological Association declined to discuss the matter in a letter to leading gay rights activist Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society, saying  “it is not in the best interests of the APA to meet with you, nor to publicize your meetings.”

Another ten years would pass before Kameny appeared on a panel of the APA’s symposium on homosexuality with Dr. John E. Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous.” That was  a key moment leading to the APA’s elimination of homosexuality as a mental illness. That was quite a turnaround from a mere ten years earlier when the APA refused to meet with them.

Frank Kameny’s papers are now a part of the Smithsonian Institution, and at 83, he’s still kicking butt and naming names from his home in Washington, D.C.

CitizenLink’s Needle In The Haystack

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2008

The so-called “Professional journalists” at CitizenLink are at it again. They’re claiming vindication over a new pamphlet (PDF: 132KB/6 pages) by the American Psychological Association. That pamphlet repeats what we’ve been saying for quite some time: Nobody knows what “causes” homosexuality. According to the APA:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both place complex roles…

The mere mention of developmental roles is tiny sliver of a silver lining that has Exodus vice president Randy Thomas and Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton very excited:

“They are starting to have the integrity of reporting accurately about the condition of homosexuality,” said Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus International. “We find this to be a very exciting move and hope that it indicates future movement toward recognizing that people can and do overcome homosexuality.”

Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said the brochure has an activist bent, but he sees a ray of hope.

“This doesn’t mean that we’ve completely succeeded in all the things that we’ve wanted to,” he said, “but it’s a move in the direction that we’ve wanted them to move in, and I think that’s very positive news.”

CitizenLink, Stanton and Thomas chose to focus on one lone paragraph and ignore the rest of the six-page document, including topics like the role of prejudice in LGBT’s lives and well-being, the importance of “coming out,” the nature of same-sex relationships, gay parenting — and, oh yes, this:

All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.

Nope. Instead, CitizenLink advises readers to go to Love Won Out to learn more. What they might learn is, in fact, more stereotypes which contribute to that negative climate the APA is talking about.

American Psychological Association Announced Committee To Review Position On Ex-Gay Therapy

Daniel Gonzales

May 22nd, 2007

Given how Focus on the Family bungled initially “reporting” on the APA’s announcement of the nomination process I can’t wait to see “coverage” of how committee members were finally selected.  Here’s how committee members were actually selected:

Task Force members were selected after an open nominations process. All nominations were reviewed by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (CLGBTC) which forwarded the complete list of nominations and a suggested slate of nominees to the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) for review.  The CLGBTC and BAPPI recommendations as well as the full list of nominations were then sent to the APA President who made the final appointments to the task force in consultation with the APA Board of Directors.

Here’s the list of committee members, all of whom appear to be gay-affirming:

 Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD – Dr. Glassgold is a clinician, researcher and visiting faculty at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University. She sits on the editorial boards of Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy and PsycCritiques. Much of her work focuses on ethical issues in psychotherapy including the interplay of psychology and religion. Dr. Glassgold will serve as the Task Force Chairperson.

Lee Beckstead, PhD – Dr. Beckstead is a counseling psychologist who has focused his research and clinical work on helping gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people with strong religious affiliations. He works full-time in private practice and is a staff associate in the University of Utah’s Counseling Center.

Jack Drescher, MD – Dr. Drescher is a psychiatrist in clinical practice. His academic appointments include that of Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He also serves as the editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy.

Beverly Greene, PhD – Dr. Greene is a Professor of Psychology at St. John’s University and a practicing clinical psychologist. She has published extensively in the psychological literature on multi-minority identities and the interplay between multiple identity status, coping with social marginalization and psychotherapy. She was a founding co-editor of the APA Division 44 series Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues.

Robin Lin Miller, PhD – Dr. Miller is a community psychologist and an associate professor at Michigan State University. She is currently the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Evaluation. She was appointed to the Task Force to provide specific expertise in research and evaluation methods.

Roger L. Worthington, PhD – Dr. Worthington is the interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. Dr. Worthington is on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and on the editorial board of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. His research interests include multicultural counseling, heterosexual identity, sexual prejudice, and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues.

I can’t wait to see Focus get it’s panties in a bind over this.

Informed Consent

Jim Burroway

August 28th, 2006

As reported more than two weeks ago, the APA released this statement directed at NARTH and Focus on the Family:

“For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the positions espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

This apparently sparked some controversy at the APA meeting in New Orleans. On first glance, many took it to be a repudiation of conversion therapy — which would mean a change in the APA’s official policy statement. But a closer reading gives what I believe to be a more accurate understanding, that the APA is concerned about how NARTH and Focus on the Family (which sponsors Exodus) uses conversion therapy — and misrepresented science — to nonscientific (political) ends. At least that’s how I read it. Yes, it calls into question conversion therapy’s efficacy, but the APA does not prohibit it. In my opinion at least, it’s the only way to read this statement without throwing away the APA’s official policy on conversion therapy altogether, which a statement like this does not have the capacity to do.

Neither NARTH nor Focus on the Family responded to the APA statement directly. Instead, they claimed a sort of victory by reporting on a Town Hall Meeting between the APA leaders and members. According to NARTH’s rendition of events, APA President Gerald Koocher said this about conversion therapy:

Highlighting the importance of client autonomy and self-determination, Dr. Koocher stated, “APA has no conflict with psychologists who help those distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction.”

He emphasized that –

1. The choice to enter therapy to diminish homosexual attractions and to strengthen heterosexual potential must be respected.

2. The choice to enter therapy must be voluntary and not coerced in any way.

3. Treatment options must be discussed by the therapist.

4. Treatment goals must be mutually agreed upon.

5. The “iterative process” must be a part of therapy. That is, client choice regarding treatment goals must be reiterated throughout the treatment process.

Focus on the Family issued a statement claiming credit for Dr. Koochers’s “endorsement” of conversion therapy, calling it a “policy change”:

Koocher’s response was simple: “APA has no conflict with psychologists who help those distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction.”

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, a network of ministries for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, said it was an unexpected turn of events.

“Given the APA’s track record of the last two years,” Chambers told CitizenLink, “it is very unusual that the president would come out and state our case for us, that people have a right to self-determination — to determine their own path for their mental-health status.”

Chambers said he believes a protest organized by ex-gays and their therapists outside the convention hall had an impact.

Let’s stop here a moment and review what happened. First, Exodus organized a protest by “ex-gays” at the APA convention in New Orleans. The APA responded by issuing a statement denouncing the particular practices of NARTH and Exodus (via Focus on the Family). NARTH and Focus in the Family respond by describing a meeting where Dr. Koocher appears to “endorse” conversion therapy, and Focus goes so far as to claim this “policy change” as a victory brought on by their protest.

First, let’s be clear of one thing. There was no policy change. The APA does not prohibit conversion therapy. Go ahead and read the APA’s policy statement.

But read the whole thing. I’ll wait.

Notice that the APA insists that homosexuality is not a disease, and that all members must refrain from disseminating false information about homosexuality, about gays and lesbians themselves, and about treatment options and success rates. Therapists are required to ensure that the client understands the likelihood of change, what change may mean or may not mean, and the possible negative consequences of pursuing therapy to try to change sexual orientation. This is essential if “informed consent” is to be achieved according to the APA’s policy statement:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that “psychologists do not make false or deceptive statements concerning … the scientific or clinical basis for … their services,” (American Psychological Association, 1992); and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that “psychologists attempt to identify situations in which particular interventions … may not be applicable … because of factors such as … sexual orientation” (American Psychological Association, 1992); and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that “psychologists obtain appropriate informed consent to therapy or related procedures” [which] “generally implies that the [client or patient] (1) has the capacity to consent, (2) has been informed of significant information concerning the procedure, (3) has freely and without undue influence expressed consent, and (4) consent has been appropriately documented”

Maybe due to the free-wheeling nature of the discussion, the issues surrounding informed consent didn’t come up at the town hall meeting. Or maybe they did and NARTH and Exodus neglected to mention them. But Warren Throckmorton posted this follow-up statement from the APA’s Public Affairs office to clarify the importance of informed consent:

One: The therapist has an obligation to carefully explore how patients arrive at the choices they want to make. Therapists must determine whether patients understand that their motives may arise purely from the social pressures of a homophobic environment. No type or amount of individual therapy will modify societal prejudices.

Two, informed consent: Patients must understand the potential consequences of any treatment, including those intended to modify sexual orientation. Patients must understand that such treatments lack a validated scientific foundation and may prove psychologically harmful.

Finally, I would add that our patients ought to know from the very start that we as their therapists do not consider homosexuality a mental disorder. In fact, the data show that gay and lesbian people do not differ from heterosexuals in their psychological health. By that I mean that they have no greater instance of mental disorders than do heterosexuals.

This is critical, because NARTH and Exodus both are flagrant violators of many components of the APA’s policy on sexual orientation conversion therapy, especially in those areas concerned with ensuring that informed consent is truly “informed.” And for that, they deserve to be singled out for criticism.

APA Repudiates NARTH

Jim Burroway

August 11th, 2006

According to Wayne Besen and confirmed by Warren Throckmorton, the American Psychological Association will release the following statement to the press sometime today:

“For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the positions espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

This is sure to raise the roof at Focus-sponsored Exodus and NARTH. We’ll keep you posted on their reaction as we hear it.