Sunday, May 1, 2011

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or reorientation therapy, attempts to change the sexual orientation of a client from homosexual to heterosexual. While this type of therapy has sparked intense debate and controversy, today it is often regarded as an ineffective and sometimes harmful. The organizations that still promote this homophobic pseudo-therapy are often connected to conservative religious organizations (but not always). 

Statement from APA

The American Psychological Association has come out against conversion therapy and released this statement in August 2006:

“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 position’s espoused by NARTH and so-called conversion 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.”

Robert Spitzer's Research

Proponents of conversion therapy such as the prominent psychiatrist, Robert L. Spitzer, who has conducted questionable research on the topic, believes it is possible for some gay people to become heterosexual. Below you will find the abstract from one of his research articles as well as a video of him defending his work.


"Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation"

"Position statements of the major mental health organizations in the United States state that there is no scientific evidence that a homosexual sexual orientation can be changed by psychotherapy, often referred to as "reparative therapy." This study tested the hypothesis that some individuals whose sexual orientation is predominantly homosexual can, with some form of reparative therapy, become predominantly heterosexual. The participants were 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females) who reported at least some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least 5 years. They were interviewed by telephone, using a structured interview that assessed same sex attraction, fantasy, yearning, and overt homosexual behavior. On all measures, the year prior to the therapy was compared to the year before the interview. The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year. Reports of complete change were uncommon. Female participants reported significantly more change than did male participants. Either some gay men and lesbians, following reparative therapy, actually change their predominantly homosexual orientation to a predominantly heterosexual orientation or some gay men and women construct elaborate self-deceptive narratives (or even lie) in which they claim to have changed their sexual orientation, or both. For many reasons, it is concluded that the participants' self-reports were, by-and-large, credible and that few elaborated self-deceptive narratives or lied. Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians."

Author: Spitzer, Robert L. 
Citation: Archives of Sexual Behavior; Oct 2003, Vol. 32 Issue 5, p403-417

If conversion therapy is indeed effective, why wouldn’t more gay people pursue it? Generally speaking, being heterosexual in our society is easier than being homosexual, so why wouldn’t more gay individuals want to pursue a more accepted and supported heterosexual lifestyle if it’s possible?

What do you think of conversion therapy and Dr. Spitzer’s research? 

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