Christianity Today on evangelical divide over reparative therapy

Christianity Today has an article out online today which covers familiar ground to readers here.

Written by Bobby Ross, the article notes the divisions over reparative therapy which have been accentuated by the recent APA report on sexual orientation and therapy.

No surprise here: Evangelical leaders who advocate gay reparative therapy took umbrage at a highly publicized American Psychological Association (APA) resolution that criticized such efforts.

By a 125-4 vote, the 150,000-member association’s governing council adopted a task force report in August claiming a lack of evidence that efforts to change one’s sexual orientation work.

One aspect of the 138-page resolution, however, drew praise from some Christian psychologists鈥攁nd exposed a divide in the evangelical therapy community.

As we discuss here often, modest change in orientation has been reported but, in my opinion, the change paradigm for therapy and ministry is old school.

Warren Throckmorton, a counselor who believes that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, commended the task force for “clarifying the value of helping clients sort out their beliefs and work out an identity and life that fit within the clients’ beliefs.”

A one-time proponent of sexual reorientation efforts, Throckmorton said he spoke up until 2004 at conventions of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). But the Grove City College psychology professor has come to believe that changing a person’s sexual orientation is at best difficult.

Rather than focusing on reparative therapy, he has embraced “sexual identity therapy,” which focuses on helping a person live in a way that is consistent with his or her beliefs.

My issues with reparative therapy involve the lack of research support for the basic perspectives on the formation of same-sex attraction as well as the paucity of robust demonstrated outcomes.

“The reparative side sees the objective as healing the trauma [of family dysfunction] and thus curing the homosexuality,” said Throckmorton, former president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. “The sexual identity side doesn’t see the efficacy of that approach and doesn’t think change is necessary in order to help people live in congruence with their faith.”

Ross then addresses the Jones and Yarhouse study and notes Mark Yarhouse’s views on change and therapy paradigms.

Yarhouse says more Christian psychologists are providing sexual identity therapy rather than reparative therapy. He recommends “a range of options” to help believers make sense of their sexual and religious identities.

“I don’t want to discourage people from making that attempt [to change orientation],” he said. “But for most of those people, success will not be a categorical shift from gay to straight. The gains will likely be modest, more along a continuum.”

As co-author of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, Mark offers a balanced view of the landscape. Most of the people who consider Exodus a success have a story of congruence with their faith than tell a story of some degree of change in their sexual arousal patterns.

Alan Chambers weighs in with more of the reparative therapy side of the divide.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said it is wrong to assert that sexual orientation cannot change as a result of therapy.

“That flies in the face of the testimonies of tens of thousands of people just like me,” said Chambers, a married father of two who credits God and counseling for helping him leave a homosexual lifestyle. “That’s not to say that you can flip a switch and go from gay to straight.”

Finally, NARTH’s David Pruden worries that the APA report will keep people from trying to change.

David Pruden, vice president of operations for NARTH, said the APA’s resolution likely will not affect how Christian psychologists counsel. He voiced concern, though, about its impact on potential clients.

“[This] could discourage individuals from even seeking assistance or entertaining the thought that growth or change is possible,” he said.

Well, if the proper information is disclosed to people, I doubt they will not seek assistance. However, if therapists practice in accord with the SIT Framework and recent APA guidance, they will not experience over promising or be directed to developmental theories which may not fit their lives.