The Edge continues “My ex-gay life” series: Dissecting reparative therapy

The Edge’s David Foucher continues his series regarding all things ex-gay with an article today regarding reparative therapy. There are extensive and interesting quotes from Joseph Nicolosi, Clinton Anderson, Jack Drescher, Robert Jay-Green, yours truly and others.

There are a number of quotes that caught my eye. This one from Robert Jay-Green left me scratching my head:

“All these theories are all promulgated by the ex-gay people,” he points out. “They have this theory that distant fathers and overly-close mothers cause homosexuality. Well, that’s been disproved. The research shows that there is no similarities in the pattern of family development in kids who grow up to be lesbian or gay versus kids who grow up to be straight.”

I don’t think that is want he wanted to say. I think he meant no differences.

In fact, there are some differences but they are only of modest effect statistically speaking. In fact, as we have noted here, gay psychotherapist, Joe Kort thinks there are some family dynamics that can lead to homosexual behavior. He believes this homosexual behavior for these actually and essentially straight people can be changed when they get appropriate psychotherapy.

Dr. Nicolosi lays out the core of reparative therapy. As he describes, it is not compatible with the sexual identity therapy framework:

“[Success] occurs by their understanding the causes of their same-sex attraction,” Nicolosi explains. “We call it the three A’s: attention, affection, approval. These are underlying emotional needs that were not fulfilled by their same-sex parent – the father for the male homosexual and the mother for the lesbian.

“There are two jobs [for the patient],” he continues. “The first task is about the past, and the other is about the present. The past aspect is facing the reality that they did not get this love, making it very clear and conscious, and then going through a grief process. They have to grieve that their father never did and never will love them the way they need to be loved – to the extent they need it. And what that does is free them up from the illusion that they are going to get it somehow either by that father or by somebody else of the same sex.”

According to Nicolosi, the next challenge is to replace that need with an emotional connection in their present.

“[They need to] get those needs met thought a relationship with other men,” he says. “The focus is not on not having gay sex… it’s putting the emphasis on making deep emotional attachments. And we have seen that when these men make deep emotional attachments to other men, their sexual interest diminishes.”

While for people who did have problems with parents, there can be some value in acceptance and grieving. However, presenting this scenario to clients as a general explanation for all attractions to the same sex is not consistent with the sexual identity therapy framework. As I noted in this Edge article, I do not believe the research support is there. Thus, we cannot tell clients we know something we don’t know, but rather theorize.