New Sexual Reorientation Study Off to a Shaky Start; Michael Bailey's Brain Scan Offer is Still Good

After the closing of Exodus International, the wind went out of the sexual reorientation sails. In June of last year, former ex-gay organization Exodus International leader Alan Chambers said the movement was “gasping for air.”
However, a quiet breeze may be blowing still as demonstrated by a study being conducted by one of the luminaries of reparative therapy, Joseph Nicolosi and relative newcomer Carolyn Pela.  Nicolosi and Pela summarized their preliminary findings at a meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies a year ago. Nicolosi described the study on his website:

Dr. Pela described the study as being longitudinal with a within-group repeated-measures design.  Their dependent variable was psychotherapy as conducted at Dr. Nicolosi’s Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic.  The independent variables were (1) well-being as operationalized by the Outcome Questionnaire 45 (OQ-45.2), a highly respected measure of psychotherapy process and outcome, and (2) separately assessed dimensions of sexual orientation, namely, thoughts, desires, behavior, and identity.  Data collected to date involved 102 male psychotherapy clients who presented with ambivalence, discomfort, or distress regarding their SSA.  Eighty-one participants had been involved in the study long enough to have well-being assessed and data on change were available from 56 participants at the time of the CAPS presentation.

I am pretty sure the dependent and independent variables are reversed in his description. The independent variable is what is manipulated in an experiment and the dependent variable is a measure of results (see this brief explanation). That problem aside, what did they find?

Findings from preliminary data collected over a 12 month period indicated statistically significant reductions in distress and improvements in well-being, significant movement toward heterosexual identity, and significant increases in heterosexual thoughts and desires with accompanying significant decreases in homosexual thoughts and desires.  Effect sizes for these changes were generally in the moderate range, which suggests they are robust and not likely to be statistical artifacts.  The findings did not discover significant change in heterosexual or homosexual kissing or sexual activity.  These findings appear to have been the result of very low base rates in these behaviors among study participants leading to floor effects and a subsequent lack of change, as it is not possible to change a behavior in which participants are not engaging.

To summarize, the participants were thinking straighter but not doing anything about it.
To me, this result is understandable. If one is in treatment with the stated goal to think more about heterosexual outcomes, then there would be strong motivation to produce those experiences when asked. However, the test for any actual change will be when therapy is over and the regular rehearsal of such ideas isn’t happening. The difference between process changes (how a client feels during therapy) and outcome changes (what remains after therapy is over) is often great. Reorientation therapy studies are filled with people who said they had changed during the study but then felt differently months or years later. Thus, follow up must be a key component of any therapy study.
It should be pointed out that this study isn’t a true experiment since there is no control group. There isn’t a way to test for the effect of the passing of time. Spontaneous fluidity has been reported and it isn’t clear without a control group that psychotherapy is responsible for any change that is reported (or to what degree the therapy is responsible). Without a long term follow up and a control group, this study won’t provide much more information than we already have.
Finally, if Nicoloso and Pela truly want a potent and believable pre and post measurement, they should take Northwestern University professor Michael Bailey’s offer to conduct brain scans of the participants. Some years ago, Bailey informed Nicolosi that he could bring his patients to the lab to test their automatic responses to erotic cues. Nicolosi never took him up on the offer. I recently asked Bailey if the offer was still good. He answered in the affirmative. Pre (or even mid) treatment scans compared with post-treatment scans would help to offset the lack of a control group.
 

Who Founded Reparative Therapy? Part Two

Yesterday, I described a conflict within the ex-gay movement about who founded reparative therapy. The dispute took place between 1989 and 1996 and involved Elizabeth Moberly, Joseph Nicolosi and the board of now closed Exodus International.
In the post yesterday, I published two letters to the editor, one from Moberly accusing Nicolosi of inadequately citing her work in a February 1989 California Psychologist article on reparative therapy. The other letter came from Nicolosi and claimed his work was different from Moberly’s.
Thanks to the help of California Psychological Association administrator Patricia VanWoerkom, I am able to publish the Nicolosi article. An image of part of it is below. To read the entire article, click here.
Nicolosi CPA RT clip 2 89
In the article, Nicolosi says:
Nicolosi CPA article Moberly credit
He gives credit to Moberly for her writings but this was not enough for her. In her pleas to the Exodus International board, Moberly claims that Nicolosi was merely a practitioner of her reparative therapy approach. She felt Nicolosi’s article wasn’t just based on her theoretical writings but that his entire approach was simply borrowed from her. From her point of view, he was not a developer or collaborator but someone who simply copied what she had already discovered.
Moberly pointed out to the Exodus board that Nicolosi said he was the “author of one of those rumored treatments [to help gays change to straight].” Moberly countered that Nicolosi did not author anything. He simply copied what she had written and passed some of it off as his own work.
According to Moberly, she filed an ethics complaint with the APA and CPA. Only the CPA responded, she claimed, and found that Nicolosi had inadvertently copied her material. I have reached out again to the CPA and in a future post hope to be to confirm or deny Moberly’s claim.
 

From the Archives: Who Founded Reparative Therapy?

Once upon a time, I wrote frequently about sexual orientation, psychotherapy, and the culture wars that have raged about those topics. A review of my blog posts since I started in 2005 would be like reading a history of the ex-gay movement, reparative therapy, sexual orientation change efforts and many related matters. Even though general interest has diminished about gay change efforts since the close of Exodus International, I have some stories still to explore.
Today, I want to post a brief letter to the editor exchange between Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi. While I can’t publish them, I also have some letters involving Dr. Moberly and the Exodus International board which reveals a six-year feud between Moberly and Nicolosi over who founded reparative therapy.  Moberly strongly asserted that Joe Nicolosi plagiarized portions of her work and took credit for the development of reparative therapy which she believed rightly belonged to her.
First, here is the letters to the editor of the California Psychologist (Jan, 1990).
Moberly Nicolosi LtE Cal Psyc 1990
I started to explore this several years ago but got sidetracked. I think the founding of modern day reparative therapy is an interesting historical issue. Some time ago, I asked a former Exodus board member (who desires anonymity) about the rift. The individual said the dispute was “common knowledge” among Exodus people. In essence, my source said

Elizabeth believed that Joe’s reparative therapy concept belonged to her as reported in her research work in Psychogenesis and Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, and that Joe had not given sufficient acknowledgment to her work; and (2) that Joe believed he had referenced her work adequately and had taken her concepts and built upon them sufficiently to justify reporting on his own work in his book Reparative Therapy.

This individual was on the Exodus board at the time and made contacts with both Nicolosi and Moberly to try to resolve their differences. According to my source, the effort was unsuccessful. They did not come to unity over the issues. In 1996, Moberly left the ex-gay movement to return to England to conduct research into alternative treatments for AIDS and cancer. I tried to contact her in 2011 but received no reply.
Moberly’s books on reparative therapy were published in the early 1980s. According to Moberly, Nicolosi was introduced to her work via a client and he began using her approach in the late 1980s. Moberly was exasperated that Nicolosi published his first book on the subject in 1991 without giving her what she felt was sufficient credit. Nicolosi did in fact cite one of Moberly’s books in the 1991 book and gave her credit for the concept of defensive detachment. However, Moberly felt that was insufficient. She pulled out of speaking for at least one of the Exodus conferences because she believed Exodus should not have promoted Nicolosi’s book.
I haven’t made up my mind yet what I think about it and am still researching it. Clearly she came first with the core concepts of reparative therapy (i.e., homosexual behavior represents a reaction to a same-sex parent wound during development leading to a reparative drive to connect with same-sex love objects). On the other hand, Nicolosi did cite at least one of her books and specifically referred to her in his book.
As to the specific question — who founded reparative therapy? — I think the answer must be Elizabeth Moberly. She wrote first about all of the key concepts and described the kind of therapeutic relationship that reparative therapists, including Nicolosi, have promoted. Without question, Nicolosi popularized reparative therapy through his books, the organization he co-founded (NARTH), and via the vocal support of Exodus International and Focus on the Family. His appearance with James Dobson on the Focus on the Family radio show and subsequent role as featured speaker at FoF’s Love Won Out conferences solidified Nicolosi’s enduring role as representative of reparative therapy.
As time permits, I will post more information from the archives on this topic in the coming weeks.

Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

I Am Michael: The Retelling of Michael Glatze

Michael Glatze burst into the awareness of those in the ex-gay world in July 2007. He was a gay activist who in a panic turned to God. At that time, I had turned from my days supporting sexual reorientation change efforts and had established the sexual identity therapy framework as the better approach to traditionally evangelical believers who were also attracted to the same sex. I was very curious about his experience and he discussed some of it with me in an interview very shortly after the his coming out as straight with WorldnetDaily. At the time, I wrote, “I know nothing about Mr. Glatze beyond this article, although I suspect we may be hearing more about him in the coming days.”

Initially, Glatze was portrayed by the evangelical press as an orthodox Christian convert. However, he confirmed to me, albeit reluctantly, that he had converted to the Mormon church. He later left the LDS church and at one point joined a Buddhist retreat center. He gave two interviews to Joe Nicolosi (most recent in 2014) about change of orientation that somehow Nicolosi and Glatze spun into support for reparative therapy (recall that Glatze was not involved in any change therapy efforts).

Glatze resurfaced a couple years later with a series of blog posts sharply critical of President Obama. One, in particular, was featured by ExGayWatch and seemed to express racist overtones. Glatze later provided an explanation to me about the comments which seemed more like unfocused rage at Obama.
I was a little surprised when I heard that James Franco was going to do a movie about Glatze’s changes. The film, I Am Michael has been getting good reviews but may not be available widely. In any case, as a biopic, I am sure it is interesting but at some point I would like to explore what really happened to Glatze. There are clues that he might not have been exclusively gay or that he might be bisexual. Is his experience generalizable to others, or is there some infrequent alignment of circumstances that led to the dramatic change? The writing I have done previously gives me little that’s solid.
In his 2014 interview with Joe Nicolosi, Glatze denigrates the experience of LGB people in much the same way he did in 2007. However, in this video below, he seems to articulate what the American Psychological Association calls “organismic congruence” or being who you experience yourself to be. It is hard to tell what he believes now, at least from this interview, but he seems much more at ease.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/DERC4kpd5Ag[/youtube]
As I wrote before, I suspect we may be hearing more about him.
 
 

NARTH Gets a Makeover

For many reasons, this “live” video is hilarious. Despite the cheese, this is not from the Onion.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/MkIYLUAItno[/youtube]
Apparently hoping to attract more straight men and lesbians, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s new spokeswoman (the NARTH girl) breathlessly announces the formation of a new organization which looks about like the old organization.  NARTH becomes the NARTH Institute and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (see NARTH’s made over website and the Alliance’s unfinished website).
An examination of the conference schedule an organization board members indicates that the Alliance is really NARTH in new clothes.
In March 2012, NARTH was notified that the organization’s tax exempt status was revoked due to failures to file necessary paperwork (990 forms). They claimed they would get it back but have not done so. They are calling membership dues “donations” so perhaps this new organization will file to become a charity in order to solicit tax deductible donations. I can see nothing on either website which claims a tax deduction so buyer beware.
In any case, there appears to be nothing new under the sun or at NARTH. The name is new but the empty promises appear to be the same.

Top Ten Posts in 2013

Here are the ten most visited pages on the blog for 2013. Two posts were written prior to 2013 but continue to be quite popular. I designate them in the list below by the year of publication.
1. On The Allegations of Plagiarism Against Mark Driscoll
2. Janet Mefferd Removes Evidence Relating to Charges of Plagiarism Against Mark Driscoll; Apologizes to Audience
3. Ingrid Schlueter Resigns from Janet Mefferd Show Over Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy
4.  John Piper Calls Out Famous Guys (Like Mark Driscoll) on Ghostwriting
5. Was the National Rifle Association Started to Drive Out the KKK?
6. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
7. Mars Hill Church Alters Statement of Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Controversy
8. Narth Loses Tax Exempt Status
9. Mars Hill Sermon Series Battle Plan Reveals Source Behind Mark Driscoll’s Book on Peter
10. The Trail of Tears Remembered (2011)
Clearly, posts about the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll and allegations of plagiarism and ghostwriting were popular. With Driscoll’s apology the attention left the issue, even though he did not address several other instances in other books. To some degree, he was probably also aided by Christmas break and the Duck Dynasty hullabaloo. I was surprised that the most popular post about David Barton was about his claim that the National Rifle Association was started to counter the KKK. There are so many other claims that are even more outrageous. As far as I can determine, donations to NARTH are still not deductible. The two posts from past years have consistently shown up on the top ten lists since they were published.
The move to Patheos has been smooth thanks to the great folks there and I want to thank readers for making the switch and welcome all the new readers here.

BBC's Stephen Fry Interviews Joseph Nicolosi

Stephen Fry of the BBC interviews Jospeh Nicolosi and a former patient (Dan Gonzales).
Nicolosi: “We resolve the conflicts behind the homosexual attractions, that’s what we do.”
Nicolosi covers familiar ground in that he claims homosexuality is the result of psychological trauma with the parents, particularly the father.
He still insists without any evidence that one-third are not cured, one-third gets some improvement and one-third experience significant change.
Sixty percent of his clients are teens.
Fry acknowledges that his dad was aloof but his dad was aloof with his brother, who is straight, as well.
Metrosexual?

NARTH Complains About Lack of Research in Statement on Reorientation Therapy Court Cases

After the 9th Circuit court upheld CA’s law banning reorientation therapy for minors, NARTH issued a statement in response. For context, I reproduce the entire statement with comments to follow:

NARTH finds today’s ruling by the court to be disappointing and plans to appeal this decision. If left standing, this ruling will constitute a serious intrusion by government on the freedom of minors and their families to choose their desired form of psychological care.
At a time when adolescents who experience themselves as being the wrong biological sex are allowed to pursue sexual reassignment surgery, licensed therapists who are willing to assist youth with unwanted same-sex attraction and behaviors will be prohibited from even talking to minors in a manner that could be construed as promoting the pursuit of change. 
Politicians and non-elected judges have seen fit to approve of such encroachments on personal and professional freedoms in spite of the fact that the American Psychological Association admits the exact causes of same-sex attractions are not known, virtually no research exists directly addressing the modification of same-sex behaviors and attractions with minors, and the prevalence of harm from such change efforts is unknown and has therefore not been established as being any greater than the rates of harm documented for psychotherapy in general.  Furthermore, much research has documented that fluidity in sexual attractions and identity often occurs naturally and is particularly pronounced in adolescence and early adulthood, which suggests the viability of therapeutic change efforts for some youth.
These facts make it clear that science is not at the forefront of this effort to restrict freedoms.  If that were the case, gaps in our knowledge of this area would be addressed through a bipartisan program of research, not by the heavy hand of government squelching professional practice in order to appease powerful interests of activists within professional associations and lobbying groups.  NARTH sincerely hopes that these crucial facts will be considered by a more receptive judicial audience in the future.

Strong point of the statement: They are correct that more research is needed on minors who are in conflict over their attractions to the same sex.
Given the concerns over safety and effectiveness, it seems reasonable to take seriously adult reports about when they were minors. In one sense, retrospective (but still inadequate) research has been done by asking adults about their experiences while teens.
Weak point of the statement: Spontaneous developmental change in attractions does not “suggest the viability of therapeutic change efforts for some youth.”
Being situationally or temporarily attracted to the same sex is not the same experience as exclusive attraction to the same sex throughout adolescence.  The CA law allows therapists to discuss sexual orientation issues and engage in self-discovery. However, when a youth declares a gay orientation, a therapist is not allowed to engage in therapeutic techniques designed to change orientation.
Weakest point of the statement: The hypocrisy of NARTH whining about research.
Opponents of reorientation therapy are reacting to many stories of youth and young adults who felt harmed by being dragged to the conversion therapist and asked to do something they couldn’t do. There are some studies that link parental lack of acceptance (one manifestation of which is forced attendance at conversion therapy sessions) with mental health adjustment in GLBT youth. Surely those studies are relevant and are unanswered by NARTH.
It is just as accurate to say “science is not at the forefront” of NARTH’s effort to maintain access to conversion therapy.  “If that were the case (science at the forefront), gaps in our knowledge of this area would be addressed through” a program of research led by NARTH. However, this has never been the case. Despite numerous calls for such research from various sources, NARTH has done just one survey of adults since the organization was founded in 1992.
The lack of research complaint is a dodge. While I haven’t been on the inside for quite awhile, I was at one point. I actually did some research on the subject and attempted to address concerns of both sides. I did it on my own dime and worked to get it published. However, where has NARTH been? It is my settled opinion that the defense of conversion therapy is not based on science because if it was, there would be some NARTH-generated science to talk about.
Perhaps those who defend NARTH should ask why NARTH has not tested it’s claims. And perhaps NARTH should stop talking about science until it has some to talk about. If NARTH’s leaders were serious about research, they would channel all of their funds and efforts into a large multi-year study of their efforts designed by legitimate scholars instead of legal fees.

Alan Chambers: Reparative therapy one factor in downfall of Exodus International

In 2003, I spoke at the annual conference of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on public opinion and homosexuality. In that talk, I noted that favorable shifts in attitudes toward gays were associated with having a gay person as a friend or family member. I added that increased public support for gays would mean that more people would develop friendships with gays, thus building up a momentum for public acceptance of gays and bisexuals. Seeking to make the talk relevant to the audience, I predicted that the public would become more skeptical and critical of various NARTH claims about homosexuality as a consequence of more people knowing and accepting gays as friends. I noted that as the non-gay population became more aware of gays in their families and as friends, they would doubt the claims that gays are incapable of happy lives and/or that their homosexuality derived from problematic family relationships. People will know by their own gay friends and family members that the stereotypes are not generally true. Thus, for NARTH to survive, I suggested that the group incorporate biological research, and stop promoting the view of homosexuality common to reparative therapists (e.g., distant same sex parent, overbearing opposite sex parent).
As I continue to document here, NARTH didn’t listen.
My history with NARTH is for another post, but I was reminded of that 2003 talk and the negative reaction to it from NARTH and eventually from Exodus when I read this attributed to Alan Chambers:

But the belief in “reparative therapy was one of the things that led to the downfall of this organization,” Chambers said in an interview, noting that Exodus in recent years redirected its focus to helping men and women work through their sexual identity.
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said in the announcement. “I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”

Alan is sorry about the problems caused by these therapies but he apparently also sees the damage done to the organization as well.
Alan is on HuffPo Live now…