Blog Theme: Sexual Identity Therapy – Interview with Mark Yarhouse

I released the advocacy film “I Do Exist” in July 2004. It was supposed to be a documentary style account of five former gays who had become straight through religious means. I showed the film at a conference of change therapists in November of that same year to great fanfare. It was shown all over the world, but ultimately it was not an accurate portrayal of reality for at least 4 of the participants. Gradually over the next couple of years, I became aware of that and stopped selling the video in early 2007.

My experience with “I Do Exist” drove me back to the research on change and sexual orientation. After realizing that I had been moving in the wrong direction with my earlier claims, I  became a critic of reparative therapy. I chronicled that change on this blog from the beginning in July 2005. All of the posts on reparative therapy and sexual orientation change efforts in general would take hours to review. That story is summarized in this Yahoo News account by Jon Ward.

However, I did not simply criticize change therapy, I wanted to find an alternative for people who struggled morally with their sexual orientation. In 2005, I began a process of developing a framework to help guide therapists who worked with religious clients conflicted by their sexual orientation. Right away, I asked Mark Yarhouse to collaborate. By 2006, we came out with the sexual identity therapy framework. Mark and I discuss that story in this interview.

Of the two of us, Mark has been the prolific writer and researcher. His book Sexual Identity and Faith contains applications of the SIT framework and I recommend it for that purpose. I have multiple posts about the framework on the blog and those can be found here.

In addition to talking over our work together, Mark describes his more recent work with Revoice and gender identity. Thanks to Mark for taking time to reminisce.

Dr. Mark Yarhouse is a clinical psychologist who specializes in conflicts tied to religious identity and sexual and gender identity. He assists people who are navigating the complex relationship between their sexual or gender identity and Christian faith. He is the Dr. Arthur P. and Mrs. Jean May Rech Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, where he runs the Sexual and Gender Identity (SGI) Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher. He was a past participant with the Ethics and Public Policy Center think tank in Washington, DC, and he was named Senior Fellow with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities to conduct a study of students navigating sexual identity concerns at Christian colleges and universities. He has been a consultant to the National Institute of Corrections to address issues facing sexual minorities in corrections, and he was part of a consensus panel from the American Psychological Association on sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts that convened to provide input to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, DC.  He is currently the Chair of the task force on LGBT issues for Division 36 (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality) of the American Psychological Association. He was also invited to write the featured white paper on sexual identity for the Christ on Campus Initiative edited by Don Carson for The Gospel Coalition.

He has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is author or co-author of several books, including Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministers and Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. His most recent books are Sexual Identity & Faith and Costly Obedience: Listening to and Learning from Celibate Gay Christians. (this is the book where the celibacy research is reported)

Coming Soon: Interview with Mark Yarhouse

On Tuesday July 21, I will publish an interview with Mark Yarhouse, professor at Wheaton College. Mark and I are authors of the sexual identity therapy framework which became an alternative for religious gay clients.

Mark and I will discuss the history of our work together going back to our opposition to a ban on reorientation therapy to our focus on sexual identity therapy. We also talk about Mark’s more recent work in gender identity.

I asked Mark about a relatively new group on the scene helping people navigate sexual identity concerns – Revoice. In that context, he described research into the effects of celibacy. Here is an excerpt of that conversation.

I hope you will revisit the blog on Tuesday to catch the full interview with Mark.

You can see all posts about these interviews by clicking this link.

Also subscribe to my Psychvideos Youtube channel where I am posting them.

Blog Theme: Civil Rights and Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill – Interview with Jeff Sharlet

Interview with author Jeff Sharlet

In this interview, we discuss our shared recollections of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, the Netflix documentary The Family, liberty of conscience, and evangelicals in relationship to Donald Trump.

This is second in a series of interviews marking 15 years of blogging. I started blogging in July 2005. The first interview with Michael Coulter is here.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009

On March 2, 2009 I posted a article about an ex-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda. Three Americans, Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Brundidge, had been invited by Stephen Langa of the Family Life Network to speak on the topic of homosexuality. Scott Lively told the crowd that gays were behind the Nazi takeover of Germany and subsequent Holocaust. Don Schmierer told them that homosexuals were disturbed by poor parenting and that they needed therapy, and Caleb Brundidge, a client of reparative therapist Richard Cohen was there to show that the ex-gay therapy worked.

That was the first of hundreds of articles about Uganda and the effort of that nation’s Parliament to make homosexuality a capital offense (The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009). I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that Box Turtle Bulletin and this blog became key thorns in the side of Ugandan and American proponents of the bill. Jim Burroway and I (incidentally both originally from Portsmouth, OH) wrote nearly every day about some aspect of the bill and kept the story alive.

Because of my strong opposition to the bill and the kindness of Bob Hunter (as well as other Fellowship members), I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010. There, I interviewed Fellowship Foundation leader Doug Coe. That was one of a handful of interviews he granted over the course of his life. A summary of it was published in Christianity Today later that year. Coe put the Fellowship on record as opposing the bill in Uganda.

When the Ugandan members of the Prayer Breakfast movement learned of American opposition, they felt betrayed by Coe and the Americans. They persisted with their efforts to pass the bill. As Jeff and I discuss in the interview above, the Ugandan members seemed to believe American evangelicals were afraid to really speak their minds. The Ugandan proponents of the bill seemed convinced that American Christians really supported their efforts, and it was their Christian duty to set a tone the world could follow.

Despite the Ugandan’s belief, I don’t believe the American Fellowship supported the bill. At the time (December, 2009), Jeff wrote a guest post for my blog which outlined his belief that the American Fellowship opposed it. In my rare interview with Doug Coe, he made it clear that he and the Fellowship opposed the bill and criminalization for homosexuality anywhere. Furthermore, at the National Prayer Breakfast, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke directly to the Ugandan people and by name opposed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I don’t think the opposition could get any clearer than that.

I was in the African suite watching Obama’s and Clinton’s speeches on television when they condemned the bill at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast. It was silent in the suite as the African delegation watched. Afterwards, some were stunned, some were angry. Some still believed that some Americans had to say those things in public, but may privately support them. However, they could not deny that the American Fellowship opposed the bill.

Through years of parliamentary maneuvering, the bill moved and then stalled. Sessions ended without action, but finally it passed at the end of 2013 session. The President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni proclaimed that he would not sign the bill if scientists could convince him that being gay was innate. He claimed to want to know if being gay was a choice.

At that point, at the request of others lobbying against the bill, Jack Drescher and I wrote a letter summarizing the research on sexual orientation in layman’s terms. The letter was signed by over 200 scholars and researchers from all over the world. Museveni acknowledge the effort but also convened his own panel of “experts.” They returned a letter which allowed him to sign the bill.

In August 2014, the bill was struck down as unconstitutional by Uganda’s Constitutional court due to the fact that the Parliament did not have a quorum in place when the bill was passed. A five year story of ups and downs came to an end with that decision.

Jeff Sharlet

Jeff and I became friends as we compared notes over what American interests and influences might be at work in this Ugandan mess. As I noted in the interview, he went to Uganda on one occasion (I think he asked me to go along but I can’t be sure of my recollection on that). His report of that trip was a lengthy write up in Harper’s.

In the interview, we discussed the background of the Netflix documentary, The Family. I had the good fortune to be included in three of the five episodes of that series.

Jeff has an inspiring sense of fairness and is a captivating writer. I don’t know of anyone outside of Uganda who worked harder to expose the truth relating to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill than Jeff. I am grateful and humbled by the kind and overly generous remarks from him in this interview. Thanks to Jeff for doing it. I hope you benefit from our discussion as much as I did.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement

History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR

My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill

Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers

The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic

All of my posts about Uganda

All of my post about the Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) and the National Prayer Breakfast

All 15 Years of Blogging Interviews

 

Image: Jeff Sharlet’s Twitter Page

Is There a War on Psychotherapy?

Last week, this came across my path:

I assume Christopher Doyle refers to the effort around the country to prohibit sexual reorientation change efforts for minors. However, I write this post to address a couple of points.

When it comes to sexual orientation and psychotherapy, the reparative therapy narrative of defective parenting doesn’t hold water or match up with research or experience.  However, there are still therapists who believe that and try to impose it on their clients and their families. Much of my work has been to develop a therapy approach (sexual identity therapy) which requires therapists to present scientific research about sexual orientation to clients and allow clients to decide what to do about it.

On the other hand, the Family Research Council speaker Christopher Doyle worked and trained with Richard Cohen who has a different approach. Here is a snapshot of a couple of Richard Cohen’s techniques.

I will leave it to readers. Is this psychotherapy?

Doyle defended these and other outrageous techniques in this legal brief designed to be used in a New Jersey trial involving JONAH, a Jewish change therapy group. JONAH lost at trial.

You can see Doyle in action in this review of a documentary called Sunday Sessions in which Doyle provides sexual orientation change counseling to a young adult man. Note that Richard Cohen is involved in the group sessions at the beginning.

In the end, the young man feels somewhat better but credits the teachings of the Catholic church for his mood improvement. There is no indication that his sexual attractions changed.

Sexual Identity Therapy

I watched the documentary (I recommend it although there is no real conclusion to the story), and I need to make another thing clear. In the film (and on this page), Doyle calls his approach to therapy “Sexual Identity Affirming Therapy.” I want to say plainly that what he does is unrelated to “Sexual Identity Therapy” as developed by Mark Yarhouse and me.

In the documentary, Doyle did not provide a range of information about the development of male homosexuality but instead authoritatively expressed the reparative narrative of weak fathers and an unmasculine upbringing. The directive style demonstrated in the movie review above is not taken out of context. None of this is consistent with sexual identity therapy. People working within the principles of SIT do not attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation. SIT is antithetical to what Doyle demonstrates in the documentary and more broadly, to what Cohen does in his various public demonstrations.

The War is Over

In my opinion, within psychotherapy, the war is actually over and change therapy has lost. No training programs teach it. I know of no Christian training programs that teach it (although I would like to be corrected if I am wrong). It is misleading to pretend there is a wronged group of psychotherapists who want to practice it and can’t. The courts have not been inclined to defend it.

On the other hand, there has been a resurgence of interest in ex-gay type ministries. While I don’t yet see an accompanying revival of professional interest in change therapy, it is the nature of true believers to keep trying.

Who Invented the Therapy in Those Joseph Nicolosi Books Banned by Amazon?

Recently, Amazon stopped offering Joseph Nicolosi’s books for sale. Nicolosi, who died in 2017, was a polarizing figure in American psychology but was well liked among evangelicals. Evangelicals are writing about reparative therapy now like it was Christian counseling. I know they know it wasn’t but that is a subject for another post.

In this post, I want to publish an adaptation of two 2017 articles (here and here) in which I disclosed a rift in the reparative therapy movement between 1990 and 1996. There was a dispute over who originated the form of therapy later popularized as reparative therapy. This post lays out that dispute. If Elizabeth Moberly had her way in the early days, Nicolosi’s books might have been pulled because she believed they contained too much of her material without sufficient attribution. The ex-gay movement in the form of Exodus International sided with Nicolosi and the rest is history.

The following is adapted from posts which were originally published on January 19 & 20, 2017.

Elizabeth Moberly Accused Joseph Nicolosi of Taking Her Work

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.

Below is a brief letter to the editor exchange between Elizabeth Moberly and Joseph Nicolosi. While I don’t have permission to publish them, I also have some letters involving Dr. Moberly and the Exodus International board which reveals a six-year feud (1990-1996) 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

Thanks to the help of California Psychological Association administrator Patricia VanWoerkom, I was able to get 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
In the piece, he provided the standard reparative explanation of homosexuality. According to this view, gays do not fully identify with the same sex parent. This gives rise to a defensive detachment which they seek to repair with same sex relationships. He gave credit to Moberly for her writings but this was not enough for her. In her pleas to the Exodus International board, Moberly claimed 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.

Ethics Complaint

According to Moberly, she filed an ethics complaint with the American Psychological Association and California Psychological Association. Only the CPA responded, she claimed, and found that Nicolosi had inadvertently copied her material. A CPA representative later told me that those records were sealed.

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 wants to remain anonymous) about the rift. The individual said the dispute was “common knowledge” among Exodus people. 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. Nicolosi and Moberly 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. In his 1991 book, Nicolosi did in fact cite one of Moberly’s books 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. Perhaps she would have written Amazon if it existed in 1991.

As to the specific question — who conceptually 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 appearances 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 key representative of reparative therapy. The reason his books are now being targeted is because he was the central figure in promoting the approach.

In the current scene, it doesn’t much matter who developed the concepts. People who oppose the books just want them gone. There is a certain irony that long ago the founder of reparative therapy also tried to prevent their promotion.

 

Sponsor: CA Conversion Therapy Bill Won't Ban Books or the Bible

Some conservative pundits are worried that a bill moving to the California State Senate will ban the Bible or at least some Christian books. Upon examination, I don’t see a basis in fact for that claim.
The bill is AB 2943 and would amend state law on unlawful business practices with a prohibition on performing sexual orientation change therapy for a fee. A fact sheet for the bill provided by bill sponsor Assemblyman Evan Low can be viewed at the link below.

Fact Sheet on AB 2943

Liberty Counsel has been spreading the view that the Bible would be banned by the bill and National Review’s David French has made a serious case that the bill would lead to a ban on certain Christian books.  Essentially, they say that the current law prohibits the sale of “goods” which result in harm from being sold. They argue that books which promote changes in behavior away from homosexual behavior even if the goal is celibacy might be considered within the reach of the statute since the statute defines sexual orientation change as including “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”
Since the entire bill is about sexual orientation change, it seems clear to me that the reference to behavior change is due to the practice of some change therapists to get gay clients to engage in heterosexual behaviors even when it doesn’t seem natural as a kind of behavior therapy. This isn’t a reference to celibacy – which by the way doesn’t reflect a change in orientation.
In fact, the next section of the bill says that sexual orientation change efforts as defined by the statute don’t include interventions which:

(A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

Clients who decide to live a celibate life can count on a counselor’s help as long as those interventions are neutral regarding change of orientation.

Does the Bill Ban Books?

I wrote Assemblyman Evan Low to ask if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting conversion therapy by therapists. I also asked if the amended law would prohibit the sale of religious books or videos which advocate that gays should change their sexual orientation by religious means. Finally, I asked if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting celibate behavior for gays as a way to adhere to religious beliefs.
Low’s Communications Director Maya Polon wrote back to answer all three questions negatively. According to the sponsor, the bill doesn’t relate to books or speech. I followed up by asking if any of the unlawful business practices has ever led to the banning of any books or speech. She wrote back to say that she wasn’t aware of any instance where books about any those practices have been banned. I also asked Mr. French via Twitter if he was aware of books banned in CA due to the unlawful practices law but have not heard back from him as yet.
A few days ago Evan Low responded to this issue via Twitter:


I haven’t decided what I think of the bill yet but unless this part of the law has ever been used to try to ban books before, then it doesn’t seem to be a serious reason to oppose it now. There is a lot wrong with conversion therapy but generally I favor more freedom not less. What makes me think this could be a reasonable response to the harm reparative therapy can do is that there is nothing in the bill that stops a person from trying to make personal changes outside of a professional context. Furthermore, I don’t see how the bill prohibits counselors from helping clients who pursue celibacy. However, it does remove the stamp of approval of the mental health professions for change therapy.

Family Policy Alliance Misleads Public on Conversion Therapy Legislation

To hear Focus on the Family’s public policy arm, Family Policy Alliance, talk about it, the opponents of forcing teens to go to sexual orientation change efforts (aka conversion therapy) don’t want kids to go to counseling. Listen to Stephanie Curry use the phrase “basic talk therapy” like it is her job (which in this case it is).

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Stephanie Curry and I’m a public policy manager with Family Policy Alliance. I’m here today to talk to you about a series of bills that we’re seeing across the country that would seek to ban basic talk therapy for our children. Family Policy Alliance cares about this issue because we care about our children and that they’re able to have access to basic talk therapy if they are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender identity issues. We believe that families and parents know what’s best for their children and they should have the ability to find licensed therapists that support their moral and religious principles.
Some bills we’re seeing that are cause for concern are for example a bill in Massachusetts that said it was child abuse for a family to take their child to a therapist to get therapy for their unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity issues. We also have seen a bill in Massachusetts that equates this type of basic talk therapy to torture. Now we know that this isn’t true. Because we love our children, we want them to have access to compassionate and ethical basic talk therapy that is open to change. Thank you so much for joining us today.

The Basic Talk Therapy Bill

In fact, the only bill I could find in MA did not refer to therapy as child abuse or torture. The bill does not prohibit basic talk therapy. The 2017 bill — H1190 — specifically forbids interventions which serve sexual reorientation or gender identity change. However, the bill does allow a neutral exploration of sexual and gender identity issues.
Read the the bill below:

SECTION 1. Chapter 112 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official addition, is hereby amended by adding following new section:-
Section 266. (a) Definitions.
For the purposes of this section, “licensed professional” means any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional licensed under Chapter 112, including any psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, allied mental health and human services professional, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed rehabilitation counselor, licensed mental health counselor, licensed educational psychologist, or any of their respective interns or trainees, or any other person designated or licensed as a mental health or human service professional under Massachusetts law or regulation.
The term “sexual orientation” shall mean having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.
The term “Gender identity” shall mean a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” means any practice by a licensed professional that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex. The term “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” does not include practices:
(A)(1) to provide acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; (2) facilitate an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development; or (3) that are sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and
(B) Do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
(b) Under no circumstances shall a licensed professional advertise for or engage in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient less than 18 years of age. Any licensed professional violating this prohibition shall be such subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing board, which may include suspension or revocation of license.
(c) Whoever violates this section shall be considered to have violated section 2 of chapter 93A. Any such claim brought under this section shall be subject to sections 5A and 7 of chapter 260.
SECTION 2. (a) Subsection (a) of Section 51A of chapter 119 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official addition, is hereby amended by inserting after the words “chapter 233” the following words:-
or (vi) being subjected to sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined by section 169 of chapter 112
(b) Section 51A of chapter 119 is further amended in subsection (i) after the word “family.” by adding the following words:-
Any report including licensed professionals engaging in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined under section 169 of chapter 112 shall be filed within 30 days to the appropriate licensing board for review and possible suspension or revocation of license.

Therapists Should Be Neutral

Religious right pundits have been distorting these bills since they first came along. The MA bill clearly allows “basic talk therapy” which “provide[s] acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” and “facilitate[s] an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development” or “that [is] sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”
Therapist should facilitate coping, social support and identity exploration and do so in a neutral manner. Therapists should not try to push sexual reorientation.
As a result of supportive therapy, some teens will determine that they are straight or cisgender and others will come out as a sexual minority. Such therapy is legal under this bill. Religious therapists should be perfectly fine with this arrangement. Therapy should not be a platform for spreading religious beliefs or making clients into Christian disciples.
What the state of MA is trying to prevent is for a therapist to use the cover of a state license to pursue sexual orientation or gender identity change. Therapists may do many things to support families who are traditional in their beliefs, but under a law like this, they may not actively use techniques or prescribe methods which have the intent to change orientation. Given that those techniques rarely, if ever, work, this would be beneficial for teens on balance.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

To follow the blog on social media, check out and like

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To like the Facebook page dedicated to the book Getting Jefferson Right, click here.
The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

My Journey Away from Reparative Therapy

Over the past few weeks, I have written about the Nashville Statement. In doing so, I realized that many readers here haven’t followed this blogclass2
since the beginning (2005) and aren’t aware of my work in the area of sexual identity. In fact, I would say a significant number of readers came along in 2014 when I wrote about Mars Hill Church.
On Saturday, Yahoo News published a profile of my work by Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward. In the well written piece, Jon focused on my prior support for sexual orientation change efforts. However, he also connected the dots from that work to my opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and later opposition to Christian nationalism and megachurch exploitation. I appreciate Jon’s careful attention to the nuances in the story.
If you are interested in more information about how I went from being a supporter of reorientation therapy to being a vocal opponent and how that journey connects to current interests, I encourage you to go read Jon’s profile.

Mixed Orientation Couples and The Nashville Statement: What Would I Do?

Last week, I wrote about advice given by Nashville Statement signer Rosaria Butterfield to a heterosexually married woman who fell in love with acounseling image 2 woman. In addition, this woman had come to dislike her husband greatly and had not been intimate with him for over a year. Butterfield’s answer to the intimacy problem was for the woman to submit to sex often, even though she said she couldn’t bear it. My strong criticism of this generated intense discussion and questions about what I would do in such a situation. This post addresses those questions.
I don’t have to speculate since I have encountered scores of these counseling situations over the years with both straight and mixed orientation couples. Let’s review Butterfield’s scenario:

Sitting across from me at the kitchen table this afternoon, you poured out your heart. When you married your high school sweetheart at 19, you never once suspected you would be in this place. Now, at 39, after twenty years of marriage, you call yourself gay.
In tears, you tell me that you have “come out,” and that you’re not looking back. You haven’t had an affair. Yet. But there is this woman you met at the gym. You work out with her every morning, and you text with her throughout the day.
Even though you are a covenant member of a faithful church, sit under solid preaching, and put up a good front for the children, you have been inwardly despising your husband for some time now. Hearing him read the Bible makes you cringe. You haven’t been intimate with him for over a year now. You tell me you can’t bear it.

Apparently, according to Butterfield, the kitchen table woman is considering an exit from the marriage to be with the gym woman. Butterfield denies that the woman is gay since, in her mind, sexual orientation isn’t a category of existence. She cautions the woman against destroying the family, urges her to repent, submit to her husband’s leadership, and have sex often. It is the last bit of advice that I called the worst advice ever. Butterfield said:

Second, embrace the calling that God has given to you to be your husband’s wife. Your marriage is no arbitrary accident; God called you to it in his perfect providence. And God’s providence is your protection.
Your lot has fallen in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Pray for eyes to see this. Recommit yourself to one-flesh love with your husband. Pray together that your hearts would be knit together through Christ. Make time to talk honestly with your husband about how your body works. Show him. Make time to preserve your marriage bed as a place of joy and comfort and pleasure. Have sexual intercourse often. This is God’s medicine for a healthy marriage. One-fleshness is certainly more than sex, but it is not less than sex. Your husband is not your roommate. Treating him as such is sin.

Based on my experience, I think Butterfield’s advice, if followed by the woman in her current emotional state, would hasten the demise of that marriage.

What is a Better Approach?

The first thing I would do in this case is to determine who the client is. Is it the woman or the marriage? If she came in to see me alone then I would work with her to pursue her goals in accord with the sexual identity therapy framework I developed along with Mark Yarhouse. We work within the value framework of the client after a vigorous process of clarifying values and beliefs.* This might mean the marriage might never be the focus.
Even though I would focus on her values and beliefs initially, I would certainly ask if she had any interest in saving the marriage. If she did, I would recommend that the husband come in as well. If he agreed, then the couple and relationship would become the focus.  For the sake of discussion, I will assume she has some interest in saving the marriage.
Intimacy is always a focus on marriage counseling but can never be forced. Especially in the church, there is a power differential between men and women. Counselors must be sensitive to this and treat each member of the couple with dignity and equal respect. No one is to be shamed for sexual desires nor should anyone be shamed for lack of sexual desire. The partner who is more interested in sex must understand that intimacy cannot be forced or coerced from the partner less interested in it. This truth applies to so many situations in marriage, not just the one in the Butterfield scenario.
Full personal histories and a history of their relationship would need to be fleshed out with all of the triumphs and failures. Circumstances surrounding courtship, marriage and births are critical to the development of their story. We want to figure out how the current crisis fits into the ongoing narrative. This is standard counseling work but it sets the stage for making intelligent recommendations tailored to the couple in the room.
I have worked with dozens of Christian couples who have implemented some form of Butterfield’s advice prior to seeing me. When women have done this against their will, the results have been resentment and anger. The marriage deteriorated to the point that counseling was a last resort before seeing the lawyer. I recall one case in particular where the a woman not only left her husband but left her church and lost her faith. Her husband had required her to see the elders on more than one occasion because sexual frequency wasn’t to his liking. Even after he realized how degrading the whole thing was, it was too late. She had enough.
Another woman complained of pain in intercourse but was forbidden by her husband of seeing a gynecologist. After she went anyway, it turned out she had a medical reason why intercourse was painful. When this information was shared with her husband and the pastor, it didn’t matter. She was still required to fulfill her wifely duty because it couldn’t be that bad. She had children after all. That was it, the marriage was over. There are too many more stories.
In the context of mixed orientation marriages, some marriages have stayed together and some haven’t. Some women are bisexual, decide that the family is irreplaceable and worth more than another relationship. Other women determine that they lied at the beginning, were never straight and feel horrible about it. The couples decide it would be best to end the relationship for everybody concerned. Some gay people (I call them spousosexual) have sufficient fluidity in their orientation that they fall in love with one member of the opposite sex without losing their general attraction to the same sex.  Although I don’t think it is common, some of those marriages survive.  The point is that the one-size-fits-all advice offered by Butterfield to woman who have resentment against their husbands would almost never fit anyone and should be removed from the web. I can only see pain and destruction coming from it in the context it was offered.

What About I Corinthans 7?

Let me close by saying a word about those who protest by appealing to I Corinthians 7. Here is the passage:

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

First, Paul said that he wrote this as “a concession, not as a command.” Now, I am not a theologian, I am not from Nashville, nor have I ever been a theologian in Nashville signing important documents, but it seems like it is important to note that this instruction isn’t a command. Those are not my words, but Paul’s.
As an aside, Paul said he wished everyone could be single. Does that mean God’s design is singleness? He said everyone has their own gift. What does that say about the person who never has had an opposite sex attraction?
Back to the passage, I recognize that this sounds like marriage is a kind of a transaction, each person has a duty. There is a sense in which this is true in a normal marriage. When people are basically happy with each other and want to have sex, then Paul said they should not deprive each other. Paul started off the instruction by saying he didn’t think it was good for a man to touch a woman (is that God’s design?), so he had to make it clear that for those who are married and want to have sex, he would make a concession and say it was fine for this occur. In the face of some killjoy saying “no sex,” Butterfield’s advice is great.
However, a little later in the passage, Paul gets to the situation Butterfield encounters in her article.

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Butterfield’s kitchen table lady might leave her husband according to Paul but she shouldn’t remarry, nor should he remarry. I know mixed orientation couples who have an uneasy separation along these lines because living together was too confusing and painful. Of course, that result is not ideal, but it appears to be one envisioned even by a literal reading of I Corinthians.
In short, I don’t think Butterfield’s advice is a proper application of I Corinthians 7 to a marriage where both partners are not invested in the marriage.
 
*For more on sexual identity therapy, see these articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal as well as the SIT website.