The New York Times
Review Stance on Gays
By AP from
nytimes.com on the Web, July 10, 2007
NEW YORK -- The American
Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old
policy on counseling gays and lesbians, a step that gay-rights activists hope
will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual
Such efforts -- often called reparative therapy or conversion therapy -- are
considered futile and harmful by many gay-rights activists. Conservative
groups defend the right to offer such treatment, and say people with their
viewpoint have been excluded from the review panel.
A six-member task force set up by the APA has its first meeting beginning next
Already, scores of conservative religious leaders and counselors, representing
such groups as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, have
written a joint letter to the APA, expressing concern that the task force's
proposals would not properly accommodate gays and lesbians whose religious
beliefs condemn gay sex.
''We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives that they
value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual,'' said the
letter, which requested a meeting between APA leaders and some of the
APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman said a decision on when and how to reply to the
letter had not yet been made.
The current APA policy, adopted in 1997, opposes any counseling that treats
homosexuality as a mental illness, but does not explicitly denounce reparative
therapy. The APA has decided to review the policy at a time when
gay-rights groups are increasingly critical of such treatment and groups that
Conservatives contend that the review's outcome is preordained because the task
force is dominated by gay-rights supporters.
''We're concerned,'' said Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family.
''The APA does not have a good track record of listening to other views.''
Joseph Nicolosi, a leading proponent of reparative therapy, predicted the task
force would propose a ban of the practice -- and he vowed to resist such a move.
Nicolosi, who was rejected as a task force nominee, is president of the National
Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
Clinton Anderson, director of the APA's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns
Office, insisted the panel would base its findings on scientific research, not
ideology. He defended the decision to reject certain conservative
applicants to the task force.
''We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious
perceptions of homosexuality -- they don't fit into our world view,'' Anderson
One of the counselors denied a seat on the task force was Warren Throckmorton, a
psychology professor at Grove City College near Pittsburgh. Though
Throckmorton doesn't advocate a specific form of reparative therapy, he argues
that psychologists should respect gay clients' religious beliefs in cases where
the faith teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong.
''We work with clients to pursue their chosen values,'' he said. ''If they
are core, unwavering commitments to their religious belief, therapists should
not try to persuade them differently under the guise of science.''
However, one of the task force members, New York City psychiatrist Jack Drescher,
said the conservatives don't acknowledge the harm that might be caused when a
gay patient -- even voluntarily -- undergoes therapy to suppress or change
''They want a rubber stamp of approval for a form of therapy that's questionable
in its efficacy and they don't want to deal with the issue of harmful side
effects,'' said Drescher, who is editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian
As the APA planned the policy review, it received input from gay-rights groups,
including Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
PFLAG's executive director, Jody Huckaby, said reparative therapy had been
particularly harmful for young gays whose parents insisted on trying to change
their sexual orientation. His group contends these efforts can cause
depression and suicidal behavior.
Current APA policy stipulates that no therapy should occur without ''informed
consent'' of a gay or lesbian client. Jason Cianciotto of the National Gay
and Lesbian Task Force said he hoped the APA would declare that no young person
could ever be deemed to have given informed consent, and thus no reparative
therapy would be approved for minors.
The largest ministry that does counsel gays to change their sexual orientation
is Exodus International. Its president, Alan Chambers -- who says prayer
and therapy enabled him to move away from homosexuality -- is among those
apprehensive of the APA review.
''I had hoped for more diversity on that panel,'' Chambers said. ''I see a
lot of people who represent the other side -- who don't believe that people like
me have a right to self-determination.''
The task force may submit a preliminary report to the APA's directors in
December. Anderson said a final report might be completed by next March.
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