The American Counseling Association Moves Conference from Nashville over TN's Counseling Referral Law

Recently, TN’s legislature passed and Governor Haslam signed into law a measure which allows counselors to refer clients if the client’s goals conflict with a counselor’s “deeply held principles.”
Now, the American Counseling Association has decided to move the 2017 conference out of Tennessee.

2017 Annual Conference & Expo will NOT be in Nashville, Tennessee!

[youtube]https://youtu.be/x2GKWCjK6RE[/youtube]

May 10, 2016
Dear Gloria,
On April 27, Tennessee became the latest state to sign into law discriminatory “religious freedom” legislation targeting the counseling profession and LGBTQ community, permitting counselors to deny services and refer clients based on the provider’s “strongly held principles,”—a clear violation of the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics.
In light of the passage of SB 1556/HB 1840, ACA members have been very vocal in sharing their opinions on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo, originally scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee.
After thoughtful discussion and careful deliberation, including taking into account the viewpoints shared by ACA members, the Governing Council made the difficult—and courageous—decision on behalf of our members to move the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo to a venue outside of the state of Tennessee.
We firmly believe by relocating from Tennessee, ACA is taking a stand against this discriminatory law, and we remain committed in the battle to ensure that this harmful legislation does not spread to other states.
We also pledge to work with the counselors and citizens of Tennessee to raise awareness of the danger of this new law, as well as seek ways to support the Tennessee Counseling Association.
ACA is currently seeking proposals from cities that can accommodate its space and housing requirements. More information on the location of the 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo will be released as it becomes available.
Watch this brief video message from ACA’s CEO, Rich Yep, explain why ACA will NOT be hosting its annual Conference & Expo in Tennessee this year due to the discriminatory law HB1840. – For more information, click here.
We thank you for your patience and continued support of ACA, and we hope to see you at our 2017 ACA Annual Conference & Expo. We’re listening! Email myvoice@counseling.org or call 703-823-9800 x600 or 800-347-6647 x600 to share your comments and concerns.
 
Sincerely,
Thelma Duffey, Ph.D.
President
American Counseling Association

 

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.
1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.
2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.
3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.
4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.
5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.
6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.
7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.
8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.
9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.
10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.
I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)
Happy New Year!

ACA President Canfield promises Ethics Committee review

In July 2007, and then again in February, 2008, I wrote the American Counseling Association Executive Committee regarding a 2006 Ethics Committee article on sexual orientation and counseling. Check the link for the full background; in short, I was not defending conversion or reparative therapy per se, but rather seeking clarification of a counselor’s ability to work with a client in harmony with that client’s religious beliefs and value direction.

Recently, ACA President, Brian Canfield wrote back to alert me to the process.

Highlights from my vantage point:

Dr. Canfield acknowledges that the ACA cannot resolve social and religious differences. He says, “While there are ardent voices on both sides of this issue, as you correctly note in your communications, there is no social consensus regarding homosexuality.”

He returns to a familiar stance at ACA: If there is no disorder, then there is no need for a treatment. He then adds:

However, to what extent a counselor may ethically engage in providing counseling services to a client who expresses conflict and dissonance over their sexual attraction/orientation with their personal, cultural or religious beliefs and values is, in my opinion, a very legitimate question which needs to be clarified. 

I certainly agree.

The letter notes that my letters will be forwarded to the Ethics Committee with a request for review.

I am heartened by this response in that Dr. Canfield has taken the matter seriously and set forth an appropriate review.

I think ACA violated its policies so I complained

On Wednesday, I sent a letter of complaint to the American Counseling Association along with over 400 of my closest colleagues (getting close to 500 by now, in part thanks to the American Association of Christian Counselors). In brief, I believe the ACA violated Policy 301.7 when the ACA Ethics Committee said

There are treatments endorsed by the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (see http://www.aglbic.org/resources/competencies.html), a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association (see http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html) that have been successful in helping clients with their sexual orientation. These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.

Policy 301.7 states:

Policy 301.7

Policy and Role on Non-Consensus Social Issues of Conscience

Having respect for the individual’s values and integrity in no way restricts us as individuals from finding legitimate avenues to express and support our views to others, who decide and make policy around these issues.  To this end, it will be ACA Governing Council policy to encourage its members to find and use every legitimate means to examine, discuss, and share their views on such matters within the Association.  We also endorse the member’s right to support social, political, religious, and professional actions groups whose values and positions on such issues are congruent with their own.  Through such affiliations, every member has an opportunity to participate in shaping of government policies which guide public action.

To truly celebrate our diversity, we must be united in our respect for the differences in our membership.  To this end, the role of the Association in such matters is to support the rights of members to hold contrary points of views, to provide forums for developing understanding and consensus building, and to maintain equal status and respect for all members and groups within the organization. Following this philosophy, the Governing Council considers it inappropriate for this body to officially take sides on issues which transcend professional identity and membership affiliation, and which substantially divide our membership, at least until such time that there can be a visible consensus produced among the membership.

Approved: 7/15/90

Now read this full Ethics Committee opinion and see if you think 301.7 is violated. I suspect my readers will break along ideological lines but, in my mind, this is just one of several issues where ACA has taken positions in absence of consensus.

The Alliance Defense Fund is also supporting my view of the situation with this letter. President Brian Canfield contacted me to say that the issue will be brought before the ACA Governing Council at the March meeting. Just to be clear, I am not taking issue with the responsibility of the ACA to identify questionable treatments but I am disturbed by their assertion that one religious view should be preferred over another by counselors.

The ADF just put out a press release on this matter.

NOTE TO READERS REFERRED FROM OTHER BLOGS: The insinuation that this complaint has any relevance to the Winnepeg “counselor” who used “holding therapy” to initiate sexual assault is false. In fact, I wish the ACA would explicitly prohibit holding therapy and have written frequently on that subject here. However, the ACA should not favor one religious resolution over another on matters where research consensus does not exist. We asked the ACA back in July for some discussion and clarification on this and we had no official response. I will have more to say about that in a future post. However, to suggest that what my complaint asks for is freedom to do “holding therapy” is absolutely false and misleading and should be corrected.

Counseling Today letter to the editor on religious diversity and sexual identity

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an article on religion and sexual identity that was published in the April 2007 issue of the American Counseling Association’s monthly newsletter, Counseling Today. The article was titled “Strange Bedfellows? Spirituality meets sexual identity in the counseling office.” I felt the article was one-sided in that no options were offered for same-sex attracted clients who have believe homosexual behavior to be wrong. In response, I co-wrote a letter to the editor of Counseling Today (with Rob Gerst, former Arkansas Counseling Association president) that was published in the July issue. The letter is as follows:

To the editor:

In the April, 2007 issue, pastoral psychotherapist, Stacy Notaras Murphy published an article titled “Strange Bedfellows?: Spirituality and sexual identity in the counseling office.” The article examines how some people deal with conflicts between religious beliefs and sexual identity. The author correctly notes:

Most counselors agree that sexual identity is a major aspect of personality development. While more in the field are recognizing that spiritual identity informs personality development as well, the intersection of the two hasn’t received much attention. But the connections may seem more natural when both are considered under the umbrella of multicultural competency.

I certainly agree that training programs outside of religious institutions rarely help counselors understand the role of religious values in integrating a sexual identity. Although the Murphy article helped raised the issue, we believe this article was unnecessarily incomplete in its treatment of religiously based conflicts with homosexuality.

Counselors are often confused about how to work ethically and helpfully with clients for whom sexual identity issues and religious faith are important and/or in conflict. The relevant ACA divisions have little specific to say about these matters. The AGLBIC competencies do not mention religion or provide any guidance for handling religious conflicts in counseling. On the other hand, the ASERVIC competencies provide general guidance, especially the following:

Competency 7 – The professional counselor can assess the relevance of the religious and/or spiritual domains in the client’s therapeutic issues.

Competency 8 – The professional counselor is sensitive to and receptive of religious and/or spiritual themes in the counseling process as befits the expressed preference of each client.

Competency 9 – The professional counselor uses a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.

In competencies 7-9, religious beliefs are viewed as relevant to clients’ therapeutic goals and should reflect clients’ expressed preference. However, the Murphy article provided no reference to situations where same-sex attracted clients religious beliefs remain traditional. The article noted the potential conflict between religious views and homosexuality but gave no instances of how counselors might work with clients who do not shift to a gay affirming religious stance.

This avoidance of traditional religious views was made even more obvious by the list of “Sprituality-based Resources” in the article. Only one group listed, Courage for Catholics, promotes traditional church teaching on sexuality. No other group was listed to support clients who affiliate with religious groups who disapprove of homosexual behavior. Why the omission?

The ASERVIC competencies do not call on counselors to endorse or impose a brand of religiousity for clients, rather they say to use “a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.” What if a client’s expressed preference is for a religious view that is not represented by any group on that list? Then what?

Is the ACA open to clients who are traditionally minded? Open to evangelicals, orthodox Jews, Latter Day Saints, traditional Catholics, etc.? In an article preferenced by a reference to multicultural competence, it was stunning to see the ostracism of these religious and value viewpoints.

We call on the ACA to create a task force composed of scholars and clinicians representing the spectrum of viewpoints to craft substantial guidance for counselors working with clients who experience religious conflicts over their sexuality.

Sincerely,

Warren Throckmorton, PhD

Past president, American Mental Health Counselors Association

Robert Gerst, MS, LPC

Past president, Arkansas Counseling Association

Although I am concerned that the APA task force might also minimize religious diversity, at least there is some effort to address religious conflicts within that association. If any counselors are reading this blog and want to join my call for an ACA task force to help counselors address the points I raised above, please contact me at ewthrockmorton@gcc.edu.

One side fits all, Part 2 – Evangelicals in the classroom

Yesterday, I posted about what I view as a one-sided article in the American Counseling Association newsletter about sexual identity and religion. I came across this article, now a couple of days old, on a related topic, specifically perceived viewpoint discrimination in social work schools.

I have heard similar things from some of our alums in grad school. They have described a subtle but real pressure to simply avoid discussions of religious and value conflicts in counseling.

Counseling Today article about sexual identity and religion. One side fits all?

The official newsletter of the American Counseling Association is called Counseling Today. Unfortunately, only members can get it online so I cannot provide links to the article I want to discuss. In the April, 2007 issue, a pastoral psychotherapist from DC, Stacy Notaras Murphy published an article titled “Strange Bedfellows: Religion and sexual identity in the counseling office.” I have asked Counseling Today for permission to reprint and will link to a copy of it if I hear a positive response. For now, I will have to include excerpts.

The article purports to be an examination of how people deal with religious identity and sexual identity. From early in the piece:

Most counselors agree that sexual identity is a major aspect of personality development. While more in the field are recognizing that spiritual identity informs personality development as well, the intersection of the two hasn’t received much attention. But the connections may seem more natural when both are considered under the umbrella of multicultural competency.

I certainly agree that training programs outside of religious institutions are rarely helping counselors understand the role of religious identity in integrating a sexual identity. In fact, one of the counselors quoted, Michael Kocet, agreed when he said:

“I would like to see AGLBIC [Association for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Issues in Counseling] and ASERVIC [Association for Spritual, Ethical, Religious and Value Issues in Counseling] partnering more on how to integrate their two competency models into effective practice with GLBT clients,” he says. “Right now, I think they’re very much treated separately, most likely unintentionally. I think more research should be done on that; it’s an untapped area within the GLBT community.”

I don’t think it is untapped, but I do think counselors are often confused about how to work ethically and helpfully with clients for whom sexuality and religious faith are important and/or in conflict. The AGLBIC competencies do not mention religion. There is no guidance from that group on how to handle religious conflicts. The ASERVIC competencies on the other hand do provide relevant guidance, especially the following ones:

Competency 5 – The professional counselor can demonstrate sensitivity and acceptance of a variety of religious and/or spiritual expressions in client communication.

Competency 6 – The professional counselor can identify limits of her/his understanding of a client’s religious or spiritual expression, and demonstrate appropriate referral skills and generate possible referral sources.

Competency 7 – The professional counselor can assess the relevance of the religious and/or spiritual domains in the client’s therapeutic issues.

Competency 8 – The professional counselor is sensitive to and receptive of religious and/or spiritual themes in the counseling process as befits the expressed preference of each client.

Competency 9 – The professional counselor uses a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.

Note especially competencies 7-9. Religious beliefs are relevant to clients’ therapeutic goals and should reflect clients’ expressed preference.

Now back to the article and I will cut to the chase. The article conspicuously avoided any mention of religious beliefs that view homosexual behavior in a negative manner. The only alternative presented was to adopt a religious identity that is gay affirming. Note the organization presented to counselors as “Sprituality-based Resources” to such clients:

Counseling Today, April, 2007

Courage is the only group listed that promotes a traditional sexual ethic. The ASERVIC competency does not call on counselors to endorse or impose a brand of religiousity on clients, rather to use “a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.” What if a client’s expressed preference is for a religious view that is not represented by any group on that list? Then what?

Long time readers will know that the sexual identity therapy framework works within the values and beliefs of the client so I am not advocating for one side here. In fact, what I am saying is that one side will not fit all, even if the exclusion is prefaced by claims of multicultural competence.

UPDATE: I now have permission to post the article. The staff at Counseling Today provided a legible version of the article — thanks to them for that.