Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: JONAH Responds to SPLC Suit

A group called Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund has taken on the defense of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) against a suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC complaint alleges that JONAH violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud law by promising sexual reorientation to clients without success. The complaint is here.

It is very discouraging to see the JONAH complaint framed as a freedom of conscience case. As the complaint outlines, the techniques alleged by the plaintiffs have been discredited within the mainstream mental health community and as such should be confronted. Please see this post on the “oranges therapy” and this one on the use of nudity by JONAH counselors.

Furthermore, it is misleading for JONAH to describe what it does in the following manner:

For over twelve years, JONAH has helped hundreds of people live the lives that they want, consistent with their personal values. JONAH’s mission is to give all people the opportunity to explore their internal conflicts around sexuality and other values in a caring, non-judgmental environment.

As I have noted elsewhere, reparative therapists are beginning to use the language of the sexual identity therapy framework to describe what they do. However, reparative therapy is inconsistent with the SIT Framework.

More on this topic:

Dr. Oz’s Reparative Therapy Adventure

Sexual Identity Therapy is Not Reparative Therapy

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: No Naked Therapy?

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: What Does Mainstream Mean?

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: When Reparative Isn’t Reparative

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: When Reparative Isn’t Reparative

Past president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality is trying really hard to distance her organization from history and the organization’s leaders. In an article posted on NARTH’s website, Hamilton comments on her recent appearance on the Dr. Oz show (see my posts on that subject here and here) and makes a case that

…the term “reparative” never referred to trying to “repair” someone. It was originally used to refer to the “Reparative Theory” that when a child does not receive adequate same-sex bonding in childhood, homosexual attractions will develop as a “reparative drive” for those unmet needs.

She is correct here about the term reparative referring to a psychological drive. Proposed by Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi, the drive is not a positive development in reparative theory because the person experiences it in response to a deficit in relationship with the same-sex parent. The drive itself is trying to fix something that the reparative therapist believes is broken. Reparative therapists try to help same-sex attracted clients see that their attractions are futile efforts to repair and fill those unmet needs. While Hamilton is right in her explanation, I don’t think it changes much when it comes to how reparative therapists see homosexuality.  The client is still broken and in need of a different kind of repair than the homosexual reparative drive offers. In what will seem surprising to long time NARTH watchers, Hamilton claims that reparative therapy is just one of many change therapies promoted by NARTH.

NARTH does not use the term “Reparative Therapy” to refer to therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions.

She adds:

In actuality, “Reparative Therapy” only refers to one approach used by some therapists. However, there are many therapists who work with unwanted homosexual attractions, many of whom use combinations of other therapeutic methods. Therefore, a more inclusive term to describe this work would be therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions.

I would like to know what some of those other approaches are. She says they exist but she doesn’t give any specifics. The appeal to a more general terminology for NARTH’s work appears to be part of the recent makeover. NARTH carries this through into their court challenges to California’s new law banning change therapies for minors. In the Liberty Counsel brief, the term “sexual orientation change effort” (SOCE) is preferred. However, in the real world, three of the four plaintiffs in the NARTH case against Governor Brown are reparative therapists – David Pickup, Joseph Nicolosi, and Robert Vazzo. On page 19 of the complaint, Pickup is described as a consumer of “authentic SOCE counseling.”

As an adult, Mr. Pickup underwent authentic SOCE counseling, created by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, for several years.

The only counseling created by Joseph Nicolosi is reparative therapy. In fact, Pickup acknowledges this on one of his websites:

David H. Pickup is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, currently operating his private psychotherapy practice in Burbank, California. He works primarily with men dealing with same-sex attraction through Reparative Therapy, (also commonly called Reorientation Therapy), which was created by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi over the past twenty years . David underwent extensive training in Reparative Therapy for three years underneath the direction of Dr. Nicolosi at Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, California. He now offers expert training in this therapy to other therapists, either in person or via the internet for interns and therapists all over the world.  Reorientation Therapy is his primary focus and life’s work; assisting men and boys in healing their masculine wounds and helping them in their transformation out of homosexuality into heterosexuality.

Later in her article, Hamilton says that

NARTH represents licensed, ethical therapists who practice mainstream approaches to therapy in their offices. When we are talking about therapy, we are NOT referring to unorthodox approaches, nor are we referring to ministries, retreats, residential programs or any other form of help other than conventional therapy offered by licensed professionals in their offices.

Actually, some NARTH reparative therapists do recommend unorthodox methods and retreats. As noted earlier this week, David Pickup recommends the Mankind Project’s New Warriors Training Adventure where nudity is practiced and men are encouraged to run through a gauntlet of men to grab tennis balls or oranges symbolizing their testicles. Tennis racquets are used to beat pillows while visualizing parents or others. These are the kinds of things that have been described as taking place during JONAH counseling sessions in a suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. To my knowledge, NARTH has not spoken out against these practices. But then how could they? New Warrior David Pickup has represented NARTH in the CA legislature, and on numerous talk shows. While it is understandable that Hamilton wants to portray NARTH as mainstream, the public faces of NARTH in their court cases and media appearances have been reparative therapists, some of whom recommend the very techniques which NARTH says they don’t recommend. If NARTH wants to be taken seriously as mainstream, they need to come out clearly and strongly against catharsis and “guts work” techniques associated with New Warriors and Journey into Manhood. However, I don’t see how they can. The membership numbers would plummet.

UPDATE: There is another case challenging CA’s SB 1172, this one being brought be the Pacific Justice Institute. One of the plaintiffs in that case is NARTH member, Anthony Duk. During the fight over the bill, Duk wrote to bill author Ted Lieu. It certainly seems like NARTH is fighting for reparative therapy given that Dr. Duk is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Dear Senator Lieu, As a Vietnamese American psychiatrist, I have seen many young male patients grow up without father figures in a world that is very tough. They end up with lots of abuse (psychological, verbal, sexual, physical) that denies their masculinity and pushes them to have very low self esteem. Without reparative therapy to help them become men and understand their full potential in society as fathers and husbands, they wind up with a false identity of homosexuality and being ‘gay’. Reparative therapy works. It is a process of re-parenting, forgiving past traumas, understanding the self and realizing that one’s purpose in life is and how to contribute to society. Please give me a call to discuss my opposition to SB 1172 if you have any questions. Anthony Duk, MD

More in this series: The Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: No Naked Therapy? The Reparative Therapy Makeover: Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

The Reparative Therapy Makeover: Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

In the complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), there are strange allegations made by the plaintiffs.  One of the strangest is the following from page 16 of the SPLC complaint:

orangesJONAH

In this paragraph, Alan Downing is a life coach who works for JONAH and was until recently recommended by Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. Ferguson is one of the plaintiffs represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While some defenders of reparative therapy might think the plaintiffs are making this stuff up, the allegations sound believable to me.

The scenario in the complaint sounds like a description of the “Getting His Balls Back” technique suggested in manuals used to guide the New Warriors Training Adventure as put on by the Mankind Project.  Over the years, JONAH and NARTH leaders have recommended the New Warriors Training Adventure as a means of building masculinity and reducing same-sex attraction so it is not surprising to see the same processes used in their efforts with clients.

The Balls Back process is described in this 2002 manual (p. 12) written for NWTA by Steve Kushner:

BALLS BACK

WHEN TO USE

– He has given up or lost his power, masculinity or balls to someone and he wants it/them back

WHAT TO DO

– Place 2 tennis balls or oranges in Bad Role Player’s hands that are behind his back

– ASK HIM:

“Does he/she have your power, masculinity, balls?”

“Are you ready to take it/them back?”

(Have Bad Role Player bring hands out in front and taunt initiate)

– TELL HIM:

“The time is now, the place is here!” (emphasis added)

And then in this 2005 “Guts Guide” (Warriors call these processes “guts work”) by Martin Lassoff, the process is described in more detail.

2. Getting His Balls Back

When the initiate feels he has lost his courage, power or maleness to someone and wants to get it back, this is referred to as Getting His Balls Back. This process includes a Gauntlet.

Position a man at the end of a Gauntlet holding oranges or tennis balls (symbolizing his balls). (emphasis added)

The Gauntlet is described in the SPLC complaint as a “human chain” which the client must break through in order to grasp the oranges. This achievement is supposed to symbolize the client getting his “balls back.”

A book by Steven Segell which includes a description of a New Warriors weekend also outlines the process:

orangesJONAH2Segell

At 1:25 in this Colbert Report, Michael Ferguson described the technique for CNN (really you must watch the whole thing).

So it seems clear that the “oranges therapy” is derived from processes associated with the Mankind Project, an organization which Joseph Nicolosi, Arthur Goldberg, David Pickup and Richard Cohen have recommended.

Speaking of David Pickup, he told NBC News “I don’t do oranges therapy, and I don’t do naked therapy.” I established last week that as a New Warrior staff member, Pickup has recommended the New Warrior Training Adventure which involves nudity. Now today, I document that the very same “oranges therapy” Pickup said he didn’t do is also recommended by reparative therapists.

Man accuses employer of making him go to New Warriors Training Adventure

Interesting case.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – An attorney says he was forced to quit his job after a law firm docked his pay because he refused to go to a seminar where he feared he would be “stripped naked, not allowed to leave, be required to discuss details of his sex life, handle a wooden dildo, and potentially allow other men to touch his genitals.” The lawyer claims his supervising attorney told him that the New Warrior Training seminar would help him “have closer, stronger, and better relationships with men.”

According to the article, the lawyer bringing suit searched the Internet and found the information about the NWTA which led to his refusal. Wonder what he read?

Mankind Project provides journalist with a “very weird weekend”

The Mankind Project has been off my radar for months. However, UK journalist Tom Mitchelson put it back on with his eyewitness account published in Saturday’s UK Mail Online

I first heard about the MKP’s New Warriors Training Adventure at a NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) conference in 2003. Various members, including then President Joe Nicolosi, were recommending it to those in attendance as a way to support healthy masculinity.  A few same-sex attracted men who tried it thought it was great and a few others thought it made no sense to be naked in the woods with other guys. New Warriors is still recommended on the NARTH website. In view of the current critiques of the sexual identity therapy framework (SITF), it is worth pointing out that the SITF discourages experiences like NWTA. More about that after I review Mitchelson’s weird weekend.

The next time I recall thinking much about MKP was when I read Chris Vogel’s Houston Press article about the suicide of Michael Scinto. You can read all of the articles on MKP and NWTA here.

For veteran NWTA watchers, these experiences will seem familiar. Mitchelson grabs your attention out of the gate:

How our man found himself with 65 naked men chanting, drumming – and screaming their rage against women to ‘reclaim’ their lost masculinity…

The temperature has plunged to freezing. I am deep in a remote English woodland outside Exeter.

I have been blindfolded and I am standing, holding hands, with a long line of men – who, until about 24 hours ago, I’d never met before.

Together, we are stumbling through the scrub as beating tribal drums guide our way. Oh yes, and we are naked. Totally naked.

Abruptly, my blindfold is ripped off and I see we have been led to a shadowy candle-lit room. There are about 65 of us in a double horseshoe formation.

This is a ceremony where we are to become ‘new warriors’. And then the dancing begins.

I wish I were somewhere else. Anywhere else. So why on earth am I here?

Why indeed? On its website, MKP proclaims:

We’re redefining mature masculinity for the 21st Century – and we want your help!

Along the way Mitchelson seems amused that the NWTA is viewed as a path to redefined masculinity.

A leader holding a wooden staff decorated with feathers rambles on about the mission of the weekend, using the pompous jargon that would later become very familiar: words like ‘shadow’, ‘warriors’, ‘masculine’, ‘commitment’ and ‘responsibility’.

He tells us how to be a man. It’s hard to take from a man wearing face paint, carrying a feathered stick.

Whatever healthy masculinity is, it seems to involve making the world into a giant man-cave, free from those pesky women.

Everything I read from them is baffling non-speak. They claim the weekend is a ‘process of initiation and self-examination that is crucial to the development of a healthy and mature male self’.

They claim they help move men away from the ‘comforting embrace’ of their mother – something, on the face of it, some wives might even encourage. Then I am told I will ‘confront’ my ‘dependence on women’, to help me move into the ‘masculine kingdom’.

The fun begins when they arrive at the camp. Continue reading “Mankind Project provides journalist with a “very weird weekend””

Houston Press on the ManKind Project’s transparency

Chris Vogel, the reporter who broke the Michael Scinto story, files a post about the new transparency from the MKP. Like me, he has been unable to get confirmation from MKP. I do trust my source however.

Vogel interviewed Kathy Scinto, Michael’s mother, who is very happy with the prospects of a change at MKP.

“I’ve got chills,” the mother of Michael Scinto, Kathy, tells Hair Balls. “Honestly, Hallelujah. I can’t believe it.”

“I’m just so happy because that’s all that we ever wanted, and for it to actually happen is just like a miracle,” says Kathy Scinto. “It’s so wonderful.”

Mankind Project goes transparent

In 2007, I took some heat over my interest in and criticism of the Mankind Project. My initial interest was sparked by the suicide of Michael Scinto shortly after attending a New Warriors Training Adventure, the signature program of MKP. In addition to my interest in strange approaches to counseling, this program was doubly intriguing because reparative therapists and their supporters (e.g., Joe Nicolosi, Richard Cohen, Arthur Goldberg, Paul Miller) recommend NWTA as a way to reduce same-sex attractions.

Since then, MKP has made it plain that they do not recommend NWTA as a reparative therapy adjunct and they have become quite gay friendly. However, these reparative therapists have not back away from their support. For instance, Richard Cohen, in his book for parents of gay children, recommends that fathers and sons attend the weekend together.

One regular criticism of MKP relates to the secrecy of the activities on the NWTA weekends — and for good reason. Some men would surely not go if they knew of the sometimes odd things they would be asked to do. Some of the odd things are harmless but sometimes they can be upsetting. I list links to some on this blog, such as this one, called Killing Daddy. See this page for more about MKP and click this link for prior posts on the topic.

And so, it was with interest that I read a note from a reader who follows MKP. He noted that MKP is now going transparent. All of this is on my MKP page but here is a couple of sections of the memo.

Transparency and the NWTA: Next Steps

At the February 2009 Annual Meeting in Glen Ivy the Project Council approved a proposal moving MKP toward greater transparency. The full proposal is included at the end of this note, which is intended to let you know the work we’re doing to put the plan into action.

External Communications

This is the main focus of the initiative designed to increase candor regarding FAQ’s for men coming to the training as well as specifically addressing inaccurate criticism of MKP and the NWTA on the web.

· We are developing a set of FAQ’s to guide men in speaking with potential initiates about the training and the organization. You are encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent that it is requested, encouraging men to step into the mystery while answering questions honestly.

· The MKP public website is being revised to include the above material and appropriate “spoiler” warnings. It will include direct responses to some of the specific criticisms and misperceptions on the web (Houston Press, Haven Ministry, Rick Ross, Warren Throckmorton, Reid Baer, etc.)

MKP is going to talk more freely about what they do but they are going to respond to what some of us have published as “misperceptions.” Well, I look forward to finding out what those misperceptions are.

In any event, the proposal for transparency was apparently approved and will result in significant changes if this memo can be believed. Here is the context of the proposal for transparency and some of what is supposed to happen.

Transparency Regarding the NWTA

Context

In our Confidentiality Agreement and the processes Secret Male Ritual and Integrating the Training we ask men not to share the processes on the NWTA. As an institution we maintain this secrecy in how we speak and write about our training. In the last few years we have been criticized on blogs, on websites, and in a suit for not providing sufficient details for men to make an informed decision about attending our training. The ManKind Project has been labeled a cult by some for our refusal to disclose what we do on the training. It is likely that at least some of these attacks could have been avoided if we had provided more information about the training. The cost of these attacks has been significant to MKP and to our centers. At the same time, most, if not all, of our processes have been described in various media, and in some cases our protocols have been made available on websites.

In many contexts, MKP as an institution and we as individuals highly value transparency, and around the globe organizations are being increasingly called to provide transparency about their activities. Nevertheless we have continued to hold an expectation that we can and should keep our NWTA processes secret. Many of us are concerned that knowing more about the training will make it less effective for participants. Others who read about our processes before attending the NWTA say it was still extremely impactful. I have spoken in depth with the Leader and Center Councils about how we hold secrecy and transparency, and the overwhelming response has favored transparency.

Proposal

I believe that on balance, it will serve the ManKind Project to release our expectations of secrecy and step into transparency about our processes. I propose that MKP begin to provide disclosure about our processes to the extent it is requested by potential initiates and the general public. This means:

· Men who have done the NWTA will be released from any obligation to maintain secrecy about our processes, and will be encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent it is requested. This applies particularly to men involved in NWTA enrollment.

MKPers can now sing like birds about their experiences. Might as well, many of the processes and procedures are already on the web anyway. But this way, new initiates will know more directly from the people involved what they are getting into. While I still think MKP is a risky proposition given the lack of training of the leaders and the questionable efficacy of the processes, this move is a good one.

Not sure how many MKP or anti-MKP readers I still have but if you are out there, what are your reactions to this move? Do you believe it? Is it enough? Too much?

AHO!

Fathers, sons and homosexuality

Today, Crosswalk.com published my article, “Fathers, sons and homosexuality.” It is also up at the Christian Post blog and soon a few other places. In this piece, I examine Joseph Nicolosi’s reparative drive theory via a very specific claim made recently in London while speaking to the Anglican Mainstream conference, Sex in the City. In an interview with David Virtue, Nicolosi said:

In other words, that fact remains that if you traumatize a child in a particular way you will create a homosexual condition. If you do not traumatize a child, he will be heterosexual. If you do not traumatize a child in a particular way, he will be heterosexual. The nature of that trauma is an early attachment break during the bonding phase with the father.

Many straight New Warrior brothers will tell you that they had attachment breaks with their fathers during this period. In fact, many straight men go to men’s groups to address those matters. On the flip side, this article focuses on a father’s perspective on his relationship with his same-sex attracted son.

Fathers, sons and homosexuality
The causes of homosexuality continue to both fascinate and divide people. Recently, in London, a conservative group of Anglicans, called the Anglican Mainstream hosted a conference to discuss the causes of homosexuality and promote change from gay to straight. Featured at the conference was American psychologist, Joseph Nicolosi. Dr. Nicolosi stirred much controversy when he said, without research support, that most of his clients show some degree of change in their sexual orientation.
Nicolosi’s views regarding causes of homosexuality are also controversial. In response to a question about the existence of a gay gene, Nicolosi said:

In other words, that fact remains that if you traumatize a child in a particular way you will create a homosexual condition. If you do not traumatize a child, he will be heterosexual. If you do not traumatize a child in a particular way, he will be heterosexual. The nature of that trauma is an early attachment break during the bonding phase with the father.

In a popular book written with his wife, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, Nicolosi pegs the “crucial period” for bonding between father and son at “between one and a half to three years.” Elsewhere, Nicolosi argues that fathers of homosexual sons are unavailable, detached and/or hostile. To fathers in London, he advised, “If you don’t hug your sons, some other man will,” suggesting that male homosexual attraction is a search for a father’s love.
The father-deficit theory is considered outdated by mainstream sexuality researchers, but is popular among conservative Christians. This evangelical acceptance has always puzzled me because Nicolosi’s statements regarding the origins of homosexuality can be discounted not only by research but by common experience. His theory is contradicted in at least two ways. The first way should be quite obvious to Nicolosi’s audiences: there are many men who experienced poor fathering not only during the first six years of life but throughout childhood and are nonetheless, exclusively heterosexual.
Since many in Nicolosi’s audiences are either unhappy with their homosexual attractions or do not know many secure gay people, the second problem might not be so clear. In contrast to Nicolosi’s depictions of the typical family of gay males, many such men experienced loving, close relationships with their fathers throughout childhood with no break in attachment. Listen to one such father who spoke to me recently about his gay son.

When my son was 18 months to 3 years old (and on into childhood), we enjoyed a wonderfully close relationship. We explored the world behind the YMCA and called it travelling, looking for creatures in nooks and crannies. When it would snow, we bundled up and follow the same path. We hunted for snakes together in the creek, built a swamp world for various amphibians and generally loved each others’ company. Wherever I was, there was my son; as my wife would say, we were like “Peel and Stick.”
As he got older our relationship changed, but in a way that it should change. It matured into a friendship as father and son. After our son came out to us, our relationship did not change.

Does this sound like an uninvolved, detached father? This man’s son concurs with his dad’s assessment of the relationship. They were and are close, with no breaks during the period Nicolosi theorizes should cause homosexuality.
Devout Christians, the family attended conferences put on by conservative Christians who believed parental deficits were responsible for homosexuality. The answers they heard were very much like what Dr. Nicolosi promotes. These parents also took their son to a reparative therapist (i.e., counselor who holds to Nicolosi’s theory) who evaluated the potential for sexual orientation change. The father reported that it wasn’t helpful.

Not understanding the nature of his condition, we did take our son to a counselor. After several weeks of “therapy,” our counselor told our son that he didn’t know what to do. None of the stereotypes fit. Our son told his counselor that he had a wonderful and close relationship with his father and mom.

Although the parents hold the traditional Christian, non-affirming view of homosexual behavior, parents and son have maintained their relationship. What they all do much less often now is become preoccupied over causes and self-blame. The father sees a bigger picture.

Dr. Nicolosi gets it wrong to reduce the thorns in our sides/lives to a human event where we have but one chance to get it right. Does that sound like the relationship we have with our heavenly Father? God has allowed all of us to experience thorns, some painfully obvious, others less so. No doubt the thorns God allows are refining our character and leading us back to Him.

In fact, sexual orientation is quite complex. Most likely, multiple pre-and post-natal factors are involved in different ways for different people. One size does not fit all. What this means for Christian groups, however, is the stuff of controversy. For some, it means that homosexuality should be affirmed and Scripture reframed. For others, it does not lead to a change of orthodoxy, but rather to greater humility regarding the need for spiritual support to live a different and often difficult calling. What is not needed is adoption of simple, but misleading, answers.

Masculinity and same-sex attraction

I was talking to an acquaintance who attended a Journey into Manhood weekend. He was disappointed that his attractions to the same sex did not evaporate after the weekend. To be sure, he felt a greater sense of masculinity and much less self-conscious. During the first week or two after the weekend, he seemed to notice women more and did not feel the usual tug to look at gay porn. However, after awhile he noticed something unexpected. At what he felt was the height of his feelings of security about his manhood, he again experienced same-sex attractions. At that point, he began to feel an assault on his sense of manhood. In other words, instead of the sense of diminished masculinity leading to same-sex attraction, it was the other way around. His awareness of same-sex attraction came first and then his reduced sense of himself as a male.
I have noticed this before in the stories of men who describe SSA. The awareness of same-sex attraction in their early years (elementary school, junior high) came prior to struggles over masculinity. I guess once this association is made, one could trigger the other. I wonder if this kind of association is what makes the masculinity enhancing weekends so attractive to reparative therapists.
I see no or little benefit from them on either front although some men, straight and gay, believe they have been helpful. The New Warriors Training Adventure, recommended to SSA men by Richard Cohen and Joseph Nicolosi, rarely alters SSA even though many gay males say that they feel much better about themselves as men after involvement in them.

Divided Memories: Genesis Associates and Detachment

I have posted before about Genesis Associates and am now posting more of the documentary about their controversial techniques. This time detachment is the focus of the clip. I believe this documentary is so important as a cautionary tale regarding expressive therapies – such as recommended by Richard Cohen and the Mankind Project.
It is a long (over 8 minutes) but an important clip demonstrating that unfounded ideas can lead to harmful effects.