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Posts for April, 2010

Ontario District Branch of the APA Cancels NARTH “Training”

Jim Burroway

April 13th, 2010

Last week, Timothy Kincaid reported that the Ontario District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association had scheduled a seminar to be conducted by NARTH member Joseph Berger to discuss whether gay people should be subjected to psychotherapy. That salon was also advertised as an “accredited group learning activity.” BTB has now learned that the scheduled salon has been canceled.

In an email sent to members by Executive Secretary Colleen Gambier:

Please note that due to unfortunate circumstances, Salon #14 scheduled for May 13, 2010, will not take place. We regret any inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our next Salon on Oct 14, 2010 with Dr. Ash Bender on Workplace Trauma.

In 2006, Berger ignited controversy over suggestions that gender non-conforming children should be exposed to taunting and bullying in schools in order to “re-establish that necessary boundary” of conforming to gender roles. That post on NARTH’s blog was removed after considerable outcry, and the blog was eventually shut down.

Has the Ontario District Branch of the APA completely lost its mind?

Timothy Kincaid

April 6th, 2010

Psychiatrists in Canada received the following invitation:

Dear Colleague:
As you may know sexuality is a ‘hot’ issue in the DSM V revision process. At one time, so was homosexuality. Do our attitudes change with science? Do come, and participate in a stimulating evening.

Topic: Should Homosexuals Be Treated with Psychotherapy?
Speaker: Dr. Joseph Berger, FRCPC, DLFAPA
Date/Time: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 7 – 9:30 p.m.
Location: TARTU College Main Floor/Masters Buffeteria
310 Bloor Street West
(1 block east of Spadina) at corner of Madison & Bloor
416-924-7651
There is street and lot parking on Bloor St and also Spadina Rd and side streets North of Bloor; subway 1 block from venue
Learning Objectives: At the end of this session, participants will:

1. be better able to distinguish between scientific evidence and media propaganda, personal beliefs, and organization – however prestigious – position statements.
2. understand the difference between voluntarily undertaken insight-oriented psychodynamic psychotherapy and past attempts at aversion or conversion so-called ‘therapies’.
3. be able to acknowledge that homosexual people can have emotional problems and conflicts and psychosomatic symptoms as can any other human being and be similarly fully deserving of psychotherapeutic treatment.

“This event is an accredited group learning activity (Section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, approved by the Canadian Psychiatric Association.”

Wait! What?

You mean that the Ontario Branch of the APA is hosting NARTH member Joseph Berger to discuss whether gay people should be subjected to psychotherapy? What kind of crazy is that?

Here is the letter I sent to the local head of the APA:

Mr. Sommers,

I am a bit perplexed at the decision of the Ontario District Branch of the APA to sponsor a presentation by Dr. Joseph Berger. And I am even more startled at the seminar’s Learning Objectives.

Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Berger’s reputation and affiliation. Although Berger has served as ODBAPA’s president in the past, he is better known as an anti-gay activist and participant with NARTH, an organization that is hostile to the APA and it’s official positions on sexual orientation.

I am greatly concerned that Dr. Berger will be presented as an authority on distinguishing between scientific evidence and propaganda. As part of his association with NARTH, Berger has for many years been engaging in anti-gay propaganda that is in direct opposition to scientific evidence.

NARTH has repeatedly been criticized by study authors and researchers for misstating, twisting, and in some cases fraudulently claiming the opposite of their conclusions. Most of the mental heath profession recognizes NARTH to be primarily an anti-gay political advocacy organization invested heavily in propaganda.

Their latest endeavor was to send out propaganda to school principals (under the alter-ego American College of Pediatricians) in which they distort legitimate research in order to make outrageous claims about gay people (e.g. “more likely to suffer from a host of negative outcomes including psychiatric disorders, domestic violence and sexual assault, and increased risk for chronic diseases, AIDS and shortened life spans”), claim that reparative therapy is effective (“individuals with unwanted same sex attraction often can be successfully treated”), and advocate for principals to deny same-sex attracted youth from access to support systems. These are all in direct opposition to stated positions of the APA.

And Dr. Berger is still closely alligned with this organization. He sits on their Scientific Advisory Committee and as recently as November he contributed an article to their site. His premise was 1) removing homosexuality from the DSM was a political decision rather than based on science, 2) the APA is persecuting those who wish to perform ex-gay therapy, and 3) that the decision by the APA to endorse the legalization of same-sex marriage was not handled to his satisfaction.

Further, Berger is not a moderate member of the anti-gay community. His differences with the APA are not mild or limited to perspective or opinion. He advocates for treatment that is far beyond the norm and which may well be in violation of professional ethics. In 2006, Berger wrote an article on the NARTH website in which he addressed the appropriate way to treat gender non-conforming children:

I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.

This was of sufficient concern to merit an article in the Los Angeles Times.

But it is not just the specific selection of Dr. Berger or his extremely unorthodox proposals. It is the very premise of the presentation, “Should Homosexuals Be Treated with Psychotherapy?”

This is extremely offensive. It is akin to pondering such things as “Should races be kept segregated?” or “Should cancer be treated with leaches?” Such questions are not only outdated, but contrary to decency and they should not be awarded credibility by professional organizations.

I look forward to hearing your response explaining your decision to lend the name of the ODBAPA to Dr. Berger’s views on curing homosexuals. I’ll be sharing them with the readership of Box Turtle Bulletin.

Should he choose to respond, I’ll be sure to let you know exactly what Sommers intended by this presentation.

NARTH Exfoliates

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2006

The wide-ranging condemnations of Dr. Joseph Berger, the NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member who recommended “ridicule” as an effective treatment for young children with variant sexual identity and expression, has had an effect. Warren Throckmorten notes that not only has Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, President of NARTH disavowed Dr. Berger’s advice, NARTH pulled the offending post from their blog and offers this statement:

We have pulled the discussion on gender variant children in Oakland. The article contained comments that were deemed offensive to many readers and failed to accurately express the overall views of the physician who expressed them.

We apologize for publishing the article without getting proper clarifications first about how children with gender identity disorders should be treated by parents, teachers, and counselors.

NARTH President Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. has issued the following statement related to gender variant children and remarks made by Dr. Joseph Berger:

“NARTH disagrees with Dr. Berger’s advice as we believe shaming, as distinct from correcting, can only create greater harm. Too many of our clients experienced the often life-long, harmful effects of peer shaming. We cannot encourage this.”

Here is the original text of Dr. Berger’s comments which has been removed from NARTH’s website. (Thanks to Pam Spaulding for finding it.)

I think that a lot of this is nonsense and is being pushed by people who have an agenda to disrupt society in order to further some perverted goals such as the acceptance of pedophilia, and, of course, the attempted “normalization” of homosexuality.

From a medical/scientific perspective, the notion of a child of five being “transgendered” is absolute garbage. This is a child wanting attention and wanting to play “dress-up,” with an added layer of unhappiness.

That essentially is the issue for most of these children. They are unhappy. They don’t have a “biological” based “gender identity disorder.” They are unhappy; they have an envy of certain aspects of the opposite sex role — and wish to pursuit it for as long as they can.

Tolerant parents, tolerant schools, tolerant societies, might let them get away with it. No one should be surprised that avant-garde California or sun-drenched Florida should be places where the tolerance is highest.

The notion that a person is really someone of the opposite sex “trapped in the wrong body” is poetic stupidity. It doesn’t exist in reality. A person wishing to change their external manifestations to appear to be a person of the opposite sex is someone very unhappy with being their “real” sex and/or believing in some idealized fantasy of how much better it is to be of the opposite sex.

We don’t treat distorted fantasies with mutilating surgery.

Here in cold Canada, I often talk with mothers of small children who routinely complain about how difficult it is to get their children dressed in the winter in the multiple layers of clothing they need to go off to school. I suggest to them that they make it clear to their children that they will leave home — or that the school bus will come — at such-and-such time, and they will go whether they are ready or not. I suggest that going just one day in their pajamas or underwear will be enough to “cure” them of their procrastination.

I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex — but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world. Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.

It is a mistake for various interfering, ignorant, and biased busybodies to try to “counsel” the other children into accepting the abnormal. It is very healthy to be able to draw the line between what is healthy and what is sick.

I am sure that if we looked carefully, we could find some significant personal issues and aberrations in the parents of these children. These children don’t have such problems without there having been some groundwork laid by their parents in some way.

Dr Joseph Berger, FRCP, DABPN, DLFAPA

No word yet on whether NARTH intends to maintain Dr. Berger’s position on their advisory committee. It seems that following his advice can lead to a lot of hot water.

NARTH Advisory Committee Member Advocates “Ridicule”

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2006

From Ex-Gay Watch and Pink News comes this startling report:

A coalition of organisations monitoring groups claiming to convert gay people back to heterosexuality, have criticised the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) after a member advocated teasing transgender children to “re-establish that necessary boundary.”

NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member Joseph Berger said on a blog in reaction to a San Francisco Chronicle article on gender identity issues, “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counselling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

“On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

You can find Dr. Berger’s original blog comment here. (Update: The blog post has been removed. You can read about it here.)

As one who has experienced this sort of peer “therapy” myself while growing up (and I can’t think of any gay or lesbian friends who haven’t), I find it utterly outrageous that this advice should come from someone who purports to be a mental health professional. I can say from personal experience that the efficacy of this “therapy” was poor, but the harm great. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Independent research backs that up:

  • “Being bullied at school and childhood family discord predicted a variety of adulthood disorders in both sexes.” (Pirkola, S, et al., “Childhood adversities as risk factors for adult mental disorders” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (2005) Abstract)
  • Based on a National Probability sampled survey, youths reporting same-sex or both-sex attraction are more likely to experience extreme forms of violence.(Russel, S.T., et al., “Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence” American Journal of Public Health (2001) Abstract)
  • Youths who had experienced more victimization and who had lost friends due to their sexual orientation reported more mental health symptoms. (D’Augelli, A.R., “Mental Health Problems among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths Ages 14 to 21″ Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2002) Abstract. Full Text (PDF: 24 pages/107 KB))
  • Gay and bisexual male teens reported strong negative attitudes from parents and friends toward their sexualities. Discrimination, verbal abuse from peers, and physical assaults were frequently cited problems. (Remafedi, G., “Male homosexuality: The adolescent’s perspective” (1987) Abstract, Full Text (PDF: 7 pages/590 KB))
  • Socially isolated children are at significant risk of poor adult health compared with nonisolated children. (Caspi, A., et al., “Socially Isolated Children 20 Years Later: Risk of Cardiovascular Disease” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2006) Abstract)

Given what we know about the effects of the sort of peer-pressure that Dr. Berger advocates against LGBT children, it is important to hold him and NARTH accountable for this dangerously irresponsible advice.

Update: Wayne Besen, at Truth Wins Out has issued a press release about Dr. Berger’s comments. Wayne contacted the Ontario APA and the Canadian Human Rights Commission to inquire about filing a complaint.