American Psychological Association: APA Reps and Government Officials Colluded on Interrogation Techniques

The American Psychological Association just released the following press release regarding the involvement of psychologists in the Bush Administration’s interrogation techniques. For background, see this prior post (link).

July 10, 2015

Press Release and Recommended Actions: Independent Review Cites Collusion Among APA Individuals and Defense Department Officials in Policy on Interrogation Techniques

APA Apologizes for “Deeply Disturbing” Findings and Organizational Failures; Announces Initial Policy and Procedural Actions to Correct Shortcomings

WASHINGTON — The American Psychological Association (APA) today announced an initial series of policy and procedural steps in response to findings of individual collusion and organizational failures in the group’s activities related to the Bush Administration’s war on terror.
The actions come as the APA released a 542-page report produced by attorney David Hoffman, of the Sidley Austin law firm, detailing the relationship between various activities of the APA and Bush Administration policies on interrogation techniques. Mr. Hoffman was retained by the APA Board of Directors last November to conduct a thorough and independent review, and the APA cooperated fully during the eight-month process.
“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Dr. Susan McDaniel, a member of the Independent Review’s Special Committee. “The process by which the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) was created, the composition of the membership, the content of the PENS report and the subsequent activities related to the report were influenced by collusion between a small group of APA representatives and government officials.”
The Hoffman report states that the intent of the individuals who participated in the collusion was to “curry favor” with the Defense Department, and that may have enabled the government’s use of abusive interrogation techniques. As a result, the 2005 PENS report became a document based at least as much on the desires of the DoD as on the needs of the psychology profession and the APA’s commitment to human rights.
“Our internal checks and balances failed to detect the collusion, or properly acknowledge a significant conflict of interest, nor did they provide meaningful field guidance for psychologists,” said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, chair of the Independent Review’s Special Committee. “The organization’s intent was not to enable abusive interrogation techniques or contribute to violations of human rights, but that may have been the result.
“The actions, policies and the lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values. We profoundly regret, and apologize for, the behavior and the consequences that ensued. Our members, our profession and our organization expected, and deserved, better.”
In response to the Hoffman report, the Board initiated several actions and made additional recommendations to the APA’s governing Council of Representatives.  The full list is attached.
The Board recommended that the Council:

  • Adopt a policy prohibiting psychologists from participating in interrogation of persons held in custody by military and intelligence authorities, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, but allowing training of military personnel on recognizing and responding to persons with mental illnesses, on the possible effects of particular techniques and conditions of interrogation and other areas within their expertise;
  • Create a Commission to evaluate and recommend changes to APA ethics processes;
  • Adopt formal guidelines to ensure that all relevant policies are anchored in APA core values, including promoting human rights, human welfare and ethics;
  • Approve the substitute motion of Council New Business Item #23B, which clarifies the role of psychologists related to interrogation and detainee welfare in national security settings and safeguards against acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all settings.

The Board voted to:

  • Increase the organization’s engagement around human rights activities in collaboration with other organizations;
  • Collaborate with the Council to create governance constraints on elected and appointed APA officials;
  • Evaluate existing conflict-of-interest policies regarding financial, policy or relationship-based conflicts to ensure the policies are understood and followed;
  • Adopt clear procedures for appointing members to APA Task Forces and Commissions;
  • Create specific criteria for emergency action by the Board.

The Hoffman report concluded that some longstanding criticisms aimed at the APA regarding these matters were inaccurate. Most notably, Mr. Hoffman concluded that counter to critics’ claims of APA collusion with the CIA there was “no evidence of significant CIA interactions regarding PENS.”
Mr. Hoffman also said his inquiry “did not find evidence” that supporting the Justice Department’s legal rationale for approving abusive interrogation techniques was “part of the thinking or motive of APA officials.”
Additionally, the report confirmed that the organization’s 2002 change in its Code of Ethics was not the product of collusion. Mr. Hoffman “did not see evidence” that the revisions “were a response to, motivated by, or in any way linked to the attacks of September 11th or the subsequent war on terror. Nor did we see evidence that they were the product of collusion with the government to support torture.” As the organization has repeatedly stated, the ethics code was revised to provide a defense for psychologists when their ethical obligations on client confidentiality conflicted with court-ordered directive ordering disclose of confidential patient information.
“This bleak chapter in our history occurred over a period of years and will not be resolved in a matter of months,” said Dr. Kaslow. “But there should be no mistaking our commitment to learn from these terrible mistakes and do everything we can to strengthen our organization for the future and demonstrate our commitment to ethics and human rights.”

BOARD OF DIRECTORS ACTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The actions below were approved by the Board or recommended for consideration by the APA Council of Representatives in response to the Report of the Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations and Torture.

ACTIONS RELATED TO ETHICS OFFICE

  1. Recommend that Council approves the establishment of a Commission comprised of psychologist members and non-members, as well as experts from other fields, to evaluate and recommend changes to APA Ethics processes (including, for example, the establishment of a Chief Ethics Officer), based on an assessment of current practices and procedures, as well as benchmarking with ethics processes of other professional organizations.
  2. The Board will establish a mechanism for immediate oversight in the processing of filed ethics complaints including review of current adjudication and investigative procedures, and for ensuring transparency and accuracy in the disclosure of current ethics office practices.

ACTIONS RELATED TO PENS/PAST ACTIONS

  1. Recommend that Council adopts a policy to prohibit psychologists from participating in the interrogation of persons held in custody by military and intelligence authorities, whether in the US or elsewhere, but allowing them to provide training to military or civilian investigative or law enforcement personnel on recognizing and responding to persons with mental illnesses, on the possible psychological effects of particular techniques and conditions of interrogation, and on other areas within their expertise.
  2. Recommend that Council approve the substitute motion of Council New Business Item #23B.

ACTIONS RELATED TO ORGANIZATIONAL PROCEDURES

  1. Council and the Board will collaborate to create governance constraints that address boundaries and appropriate oversight of elected and appointed officials, including Council, the Board of Directors, and boards and committees.
  2. Council and the Board will collaborate to establish civility principles and procedures that promote respectful space for all voices and perspectives and define professionalism, including through the establishment of a moderator role for listservs.
  3. The Board will evaluate conflict of interest policies regarding financial, policy or relationship-based conflicts, and other associated processes to ensure that the policy is understood and followed;
  4. The Board will create clear procedures for appointing the members of Task Forces, Commissions, etc., by including a standard conflict of interest assessment and procedure for assuring needed content expertise;
  5. The Board will create specific criteria and procedures for emergency action by the Board in keeping with the authority established in the Bylaws;
  6. The Board will direct the CEO to ensure an appropriate balance of autonomy and oversight in the supervisory process with respect to financial decisions, business processes and standards, and other activities, and if needed, adjustments in the workloads of administrators that may constrain their capacity for oversight and supervision.

ACTIONS RELATED TO CHECKS AND BALANCES

  1. Recommend that Council adopts formal guidelines to ensure that all relevant policies are anchored in APA core values, including promoting human rights, human health and welfare, and ethics.
  2. Recommend that Council charge the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee with considering ethics, organizational restructuring, and human rights.  This will assist in re-setting the organization’s ethical compass, and re-asserting our commitment to “do no harm” as a core value.
  3. The Board will increase APA’s engagement around human rights activities and its collaboration with other organizations regarding these issues.

The full Hoffman report is available (PDF, 2.62MB) on the APA website.
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

APA sexual orientation task force report: Analysis

Earlier today, the American Psychological Association governing board received the report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation. The report and press release were embargoed until now. With this post, I want to comment on the paper and recommendations made by the Task Force.

Generally, I believe the paper to be a high quality report of the evidence regarding sexual orientation and therapy. The authors of the paper (see this post for the new release which contains authorship information) provide a very helpful discussion of the professional literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), potential benefits and harm and the role of religion and values in sexual orientation identity exploration. Before I get to a more detailed look at highlights, I want to note an important statement from the APA press release made by Task Force Chair, Judith Glassgold:

Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome.

Dr. Glassgold here describes sexual identity therapy. In fact, as I will point out, the SIT framework is referred to positively throughout the paper. Whereas some evangelicals may be troubled by the negative view of sexual reorientation in this report, there is much here that clarifies important aspects of work in this field. The paper is long (130 pages) and so one post cannot capture all that is important. I want to start with what for me are the high spots, beginning with the abstract:

The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome. (p. v)

While the paper takes a dim view of change efforts, the authors indicate that attempts to change have been viewed as helpful by some and harmful by others. This is a fair reading of the research. Given these assessments of the research, the stance the APA recommends is to provide supportive psychotherapy without imposing an identity outcome on the client. To get to this view, the authors review change literature, literature on outcomes and research regarding religion and sexual orientation. I want to briefly recap each section.

Efficacy of change efforts

The Task Force reviewed 83 studies that met basic standards for inclusion. They were not impressed with the methodological rigor of the body of research. Their conclusion:

Thus, the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE. (p. 3)

Safety of change efforts

The Task Force provided a cautious and nuanced response to the question of harm or benefit from SOCE. I believe they are on target here. Some people report harm and some report benefit but there are no studies which allow conclusions about likelihood of either outcome for any given person. About safety, the press release notes:

As to the issue of possible harm, the task force was unable to reach any conclusion regarding the efficacy or safety of any of the recent studies of SOCE: “There are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom,” according to the report.

Religion and change efforts

One of the highlights of the report is the discussion of religion and sexual orientation. The authors are to be commended for their balanced and thoughtful approach. I especially like the discussion surrounding the concepts of “organismic congruence” and “telic congruence.” On page 18, the paper summarizes these concepts well:

The conflict between psychology and traditional faiths may have its roots in different philosophical viewpoints. Some religions give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals) (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Richards & Bergin, 2005). Some authors propose that for adherents of these religions, religious perspectives and values should be integrated into the goals of psychotherapy (Richards & Bergin, 2005; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006). Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Gonsiorek, 2004; Malyon, 1982). This perspective gives priority to the unfolding of developmental processes, including self-awareness and personal identity.

This difference in worldviews can impact psychotherapy. For instance, individuals who have strong religious beliefs can experience tensions and conflicts between their ideal self and beliefs and their sexual and affectional needs and desires (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; D. F. Morrow, 2003). The different worldviews would approach psychotherapy for these individuals from dissimilar perspectives: The telic strategy would prioritize values (Rosik, 2003; Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002), whereas the organismic approach would give priority to the development of self-awareness and identity (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004). It is important to note that the organismic worldview can be congruent with and respectful of religion (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008), and the telic worldview can be aware of sexual stigma and respectful of sexual orientation (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008). Understanding this philosophical difference may improve the dialogue between these two perspectives represented in the literature, as it refocuses the debate not on one group’s perceived rejection of homosexuals or the other group’s perceived minimization of religious viewpoints but on philosophical differences that extend beyond this particular subject matter. However, some of the differences between these philosophical assumptions may be difficult to bridge.

On this blog, we have frequently grappled with these differences. Many such discussions have sides talking past each other because different views of congruence are assumed to be determinative. In this CNN clip about the Task Force, Psychiatrist McCommon and I came to about the same conclusion regarding congruence.

There are different assumptions about what best constitutes the answer to the question: ‘who am I?’ This paper nicely addresses these assumptions and acknowledges that people who are deeply committed to a non-gay-affirming religious position may stay same-sex attracted but not identify as gay. As the paper notes, this is an acceptable alternative.

Clinical approaches

The authors consider the role of therapy and ministries groups as aspects of SOCE. What they say about support groups is interesting.

These effects are similar to those provided by mutual support groups for a range of problems, and the positive benefits reported by participants in SOCE, such as reduction of isolation, alterations in how problems are viewed, and stress reduction, are consistent with the findings of the general mutual support group literature. The research literature indicates that the benefits of SOCE mutual support groups are not unique and can be provided within an affirmative and multiculturally competent framework, which can mitigate the harmful aspects of SOCE by addressing sexual stigma while understanding the importance of religion and social needs. (p. 3)

In a nutshell, support groups can have benefit when the singular focus is not change of orientation. Our conversations here regarding the change versus congruence model is relevant. I think the kind of changes that are most common are ideological and behavioral. And when I say behavioral, I mean both cessation of unwanted behavior and also less preoccupation with seeking harmful sexual behavior. I think some people feel they have moved on the Kinsey scale because they have better self-control regarding same-sex behavior. These are good and important telic changes but they don’t represent the kinds of changes which reflect dramatic organismic shifts. Orthodox Christianity does not require organismic changes in order to pursue spiritual development.

Moving from ministry to clinical worlds, the application seems obvious to me. And perhaps it seems obvious since I have been advocating for this stance for several years now. The client sets the value direction and the outcome is not imposed.

In our review of the research and clinical literature, we found that the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for adults presenting with a desire to change their sexual orientation has been grounded in a client-centered approach (e.g., Astramovich, 2003; Bartoli & Gillem, 2008; Beckstead & Israel, 2007, Buchanan et al., 2001; Drescher, 1998a; Glassgold; 2008; Gonsiorek; 2004; Haldeman, 2004, Lasser & Gottlieb, 2004; Mark, 2008; Ritter & O’Neill, 1989, 1995; Tan, 2008; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Yarhouse & Tan, 2005a; and Yarhouse, 2008). (P.55)

It is heartening to see the SIT framework referenced here (and elsewhere in the APA paper) as one “appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions.” In general, I think the APA strategies and the SIT framework are quite compatible.

Bottom line: The APA report will likely be quite influential for years to come. They call for more research on SOCE and a cautious, and I think accurate, interpretation of the research on reorientation. I believe the therapeutic strategies called for are akin to the SIT framework and clarifies nicely the appropriate stance of therapists. The report also respects the place of religion in identity development and exploration. These issues were not clear prior to this report.

In additional posts, I will deal with various aspects of the paper as well as media coverage. The press release is here and here on the APA website.

APA brochure kerfuffle

The Southern Voice has an article regarding the recent breathless, echo-chamber enhanced series of articles from some conservative blogs and news services about changes in the American Psychological Association statement regarding sexual orientation.

As I noted here awhile back, the recent flurry was not new news. My first blog about it was when NARTH’s Dean Byrd produced an article for the NARTH website.

In the Sovo article, the APA’s Clinton Anderson seems bemused by the far right response to something they did over a year ago.

Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns office, said the change was so subtle that “from our perspective, there really hasn’t been any change.”

But some conservative groups have hailed the wording change as apparent affirmation that sexual orientation is not genetically defined.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, said the reason “so many people in the pro-family movement are delighted by this is that it seems to confirm our doubts that there’s a gay gene, that homosexuality is inborn.”

“A lot of gay activists have used the idea of genetic homosexuality as a convenient argument to further their case,” he said. “This makes it harder for them to do that, because they can chastise the religious right, but it’s harder for them to chastise the APA.”

I still wait for NARTH to issue a similar position statement regarding the nature of homosexuality – multiple factors, multiple pathways, we don’t know how any of this works very well, etc.

Instead NARTH trumpets a paper saying that research leads to a conclusion that homosexuality is not innate – despite the absence of any evidence to support the “conclusion” in the paper.

Reports of adverse reactions to abortion: How should mental health professional groups respond?

In addition to my work in sexual identity issues, I am quite interested in policy relating to the psychological reactions of women who have had abortions.
I have observed over the past several years that women who associate their abortion with mental health distress have approached the American Psychological Association with their concerns and stories. I blogged about an effort like this in 2007. Briefly, the letter sent by advocacy group, Silent No More, offered to put APA researchers in touch with women who had adverse reactions and asked for a meeting with the APA to discuss means of helping women with post-abortion problems. Georgette informed me that 600 women signed the letter. However, Georgette’s group received no response from the APA.
Another group, Lumina: Hope and Healing After Abortion, led by Theresa Bonopartis, sent a letter to each member of the Mental Health and Abortion Task Force requesting the opportunity to provide information about post-abortion reactions. She also received no response.
Contrast the reaction of the APA to women who believe abortion has triggered harm with the APA reaction to clients who report harm as a result of participation in reparative therapy and/or ex-gay ministries. The APAs (both the psychiatric and psychological groups) have been quite responsive to them, crafting advisories and almost banning reparative therapy in advance of publications systematically demonstrating harm. The major study of adverse reactions by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Shroeder took 5 years to solicit nearly 200 reports of various types of harm. In addition to this study, groups representing glbt people have met with and requested assistance from the APA to oppose reparative therapies.
Before I go on, I need to say that I am in favor of the APA taking seriously client concerns regarding reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. I have been a persistent critic of reparative approaches as a general response to same-sex attraction. Further, I have consistently acknowledged that harm has been done by various methods to attempt sexual reorientation. The APA should vigorously pursue concerns about client welfare which are presented by clients and their advocates. Due respect should be shown to those who seek such services and ministries, but nonetheless, reports of adverse reactions should be addressed and investigated.
Having noted the appropriateness of the professional groups to attend to reports of adverse psychological reactions, I ask why the APA has not responded to the reports of adverse psychological reactions to abortion? These reports are common and compelling. Many more studies have found adverse reactions associated with abortion than have found such negative reactions to reparative therapy. I recognize that abortion is a much more common procedure than is reparative therapy but this fact should prompt an energetic response. In this context and speaking about APA conclusions about abortion and adverse reactions, I want to quote again a provocative question (see letter #2) from Bill Samuel, President of Consistent Life to APA president Alan Kazdin:

Is there any other phenomenon where the conclusion is based on those who do not have problems rather than on the therapeutic needs of those who do?

I might be misinformed, and in fact have an email in to the APA to check this, but I can find no indication that the APA has met with or responded directly to groups representing women who experienced adverse psychological reactions they attribute to abortion.
Now for some discussion. Am I missing something here? Is there something so different about these adverse reactions that could explain the differential response? At this point, I am thinking out loud…

Handicapping the APA abortion and mental health task force report

Last week, I reported the concerns of peace advocates, Consistent Life, about the upcoming American Psychological Association report regarding potential mental health consequences of abortion. In one of their letters to APA President Alan Kazdin, CL Executive Director, Bill Samuel, wrote:

It is accordingly with great concern we note APA has not taken sufficient care with a highly volatile issue, that of abortion. APA has held a position of abortion as being a civil right for women since 1969, and therefore has a clear political stand. Yet the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion had no call for nominations; it was formed by Division 35, whose position is stronger and more focused than that of the national organization; and the final make-up of the task force had half the members as strong public advocates of the pro-choice view. Advocates of the view that abortion is violence to both unborn children and to women, which could balance such biases, are ominously absent. There are several well-qualified researchers who would have been pleased to serve on the panel, had the panel been selected with balance in mind.
Consider also that the report of this task force is scheduled to come out during an election year, 2008. The APA position is in accord with that of one of the major political parties, and in opposition to that of the other. When a prestigious organization puts out a report on a politically volatile issue at a time when political passions run particularly high, any imbalance on the task force will not pass unnoticed. Surely critics and observers will highlight the fact that members of such a task force were unbalanced in favor of those whose views matched the political position of the organization. The absence of those who could best challenge assumptions, provide alternative explanations, and offer differing interpretations of the same data will not be overlooked. We hope you will pause to reflect upon how partisan this will appear.

Dr. Kazdin wrote back to say that the APA report “must be grounded in the strongest, peer-reviewed science available…” This is of course the correct answer but I maintain that the Consistent Life people have raised valid points of concern. The task force report is to be released in August at the APA convention if approved by the Council of Representatives.
Beyond the appearance of bias, there is a more obvious indication of how the APA will report the research on abortion and mental health consequences. In the June 2008, APA Monitor, Rebecca Clay wrote an article on how the right wing misuses scientific research. In her article titled, “Science vs. ideology: Psychologists fight back against the misuse of research,” Clay interviews abortion researcher Nancy Adler regarding how anti-abortion psychologists are seeking legitimacy for their perspective by, shudder, doing research and reporting in peer-reviewed journals. Do you think the task force will see things much differently than Dr. Adler?

In other issue areas, special-interest groups have assumed the trappings of science to bolster ideology-driven claims. One example is so-called “post-abortion syndrome,” a scientific-sounding name for something most researchers say doesn’t exist. Nancy E. Adler, PhD, a professor of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, is one of them. She has found that the rate of distress among women who’ve had abortions is the same as that of women who’ve given birth. Adler and other experts reviewed the literature in the late 1980s as part of an APA panel and found no evidence of a post-abortion syndrome. Even the anti-abortion Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD, refused to issue a report on abortion’s supposed psychological impact when President Ronald Reagan asked him to, citing the lack of evidence of harm.
Since then, says Adler, anti-abortion advocates have become more world-wise.
“They’re using scientific terminology,” she points out. They’re also gaining credibility by getting published in mainstream journals.
But such research often has methodological problems, Adler claims.
“Women are not randomly assigned to have abortions,” she points out. “Women who are having abortions are having them in the context of an unwanted pregnancy, which usually has some other very stressful aspects. Their partners may have left them. They may have been raped.”
In addition, says Adler, proponents of the syndrome don’t mention the base rate of depression and other psychological problems in society as a whole. And they always attribute such problems to abortion rather than any other possible causes.
A new APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion will examine such issues in a report later this year.

I think this is probably signals how the APA’s task force report will turn out. The good guys use good methods and the bad guys use the “trappings of science” and are being sneaky by “getting published in mainstream journals.” I guess the way to tell the good research from the bad is not the quality of peer-reviewed work but the ideology of the researcher. What I get from Clay’s article is this: When an APA-approved policy position is supported, it is science; otherwise, it is ideology.

Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible?

I post often about causal factors in sexuality; such factors are puzzle pieces that interest me (along with other human traits and variations). In addition, the intersection of personal values and sexuality ratchets up the interest level. Thus, the recent article, “Respecting Ex-gays”by John Corvino is a must read.

Corvino wants to take a live-and-let-live approach. He ends his piece with a familiar, but altered soundbite:

So when ex-gays announce, from billboards and magazine ads, that “Change is possible,” I say: Possible? Maybe. Likely? No. Desirable? Not for me, thanks.

He is fine with being gay and wants ex-gays to respect him in the same way he wants to respect their right and responsibility to steward their lives according to conscience.

He notes three problems he perceives among ex-gay ministries in general that will lead me to the next part of this post. First is “their tendency to promote myths about the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” by generalizing from some people’s unfortunate personal experiences.” He notes that testimonies of promiscuity and unhappiness do not describe his life and should not be taken as true of all same-sex attracted people.  Next, he laments “the ex-gay ministries’ abuse of science” saying, “Ex-gay ministries tend to lean on discredited etiological theories—domineering mothers, absent fathers, and that sort of thing.” Finally, he says, “The third and related problem is that many ex-gay ministries promote not merely a ‘change,’ but a ‘cure.’ ‘Cure’ implies ‘disease,’ which homosexuality is not.

Although I might quarrel with degrees, I essentially agree with Corvino’s assessment here. Along with the recent shifts in Exodus away from promoting public policy stances, I am hopeful that the issues of research and use of science will be vigorously addressed as well.

On the point of shifts in views of causation, Dean Byrd at NARTH has an article on the NARTH website giving some cautious kudos to the APA for a revised pamphlet regarding sexual orientation. The subtitle of his article is “The APA has now begun to acknowledge what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data.”

Contrasting the original edition of the pamphlet with the new one, Byrd believes the current statement is more accurate. The new statement reads,

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

In response, Byrd opines:

Although there is no mention of the research that influenced this new position statement, it is clear that efforts to “prove” that homosexuality is simply a biological fait accompli have failed. The activist researchers themselves have reluctantly reached that conclusion. There is no gay gene. There is no simple biological pathway to homosexuality. Byne and Parsons, and Friedman and Downey, were correct: a bio-psycho-social model best fits the data (italics in the original).

My first thought after reading this paragraph was that those I know who are researching pre-natal factors have not concluded any such thing, reluctantly or not. Furthermore, the lack of current evidence for biological theories does not disprove a potential, now-unknown biological influence, nor does lack of strong evidence for general inborn factors prove true a bio-psycho-social model. Next, I wondered what that model looked like. As far as I can discern, all bio-psycho-social really means is that there are many factors and we do not know how they interact to yield adult sexual orientation.

Then I wondered when NARTH would make an APA-like statement about theorized environmental factors such as child abuse and same-sex parenting deficits. What if NARTH acknowledged “what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data?” Wouldn’t there be a need for a statement cautioning readers of their materials that evidence for parenting playing a large or determining role is meager? Paralleling Dr. Byrd’s assessment of the APA pamphlet, shouldn’t NARTH say with italics, “There is no homogenic family. There is no simple familial pathway to homosexuality.” Appeals to those theories criticized by Corvino would be less frequent, right? Hey, changes are happening all over, why not this?

I wrote Dean and asked him about NARTH’s stance. He answered for himself by saying,

I think that the bio-psycho-social model of causation makes it clear that there is neither a simple biological or environmental pathway to homosexuality.

While I think NARTH should go much further, this statement may be the start of a more nuanced position from them. I would not go so far as Corvino did and say that familial factors have been discredited. On point, this is not what the APA said at all. What we should be saying is that there are many lines of research open with many factors under investigation. It appears pre-natal and post-natal factors play different roles for different people. Beyond that, the subject is still under study.

Would this change be so hard?

APA declines to meet with religious coalition

I will have more to say about this in due time, however, while it is current, I wanted to post this Citizen link article regarding the APA sexual orientation task force.

In a nutshell, the APA solicited opinion from gay advocacy groups in regard to the sexual orientation task force mandate but thus far has declined to meet with a large religious coalition which asked for a meeting regarding that mandate. The letters to the APA are linked in this report.

For the record, Clinton Anderson and the APA GLBT office is open to conversation with callers and has been responsive to my inquiries and input. I do not want to imply otherwise. And I know that the task force is aware of a diversity of views. However, that being said, I do think it would be productive for the APA leadership to have a formal sit-down with those representing a major US demographic group.

Silent No More seeks support for letter to the APA

Silent No More, a post-abortion awareness campaign, is seeking signatures of support for a letter to the American Psychological Association. Specifically, the letter seeks dialogue with the APA’s Task Force on Abortion and Mental Health. Silent No More would like to hear from women and men who have experienced post-abortion consequences, as well as those who support them. With permission, I am reproducing here a recent email alert sent to the Silent No More mailing list.

Note that the deadline for collecting signatures has been extended. Although the letter below says the letter will be delivered in time for the APA to respond by December 1, 2007, this is of course now not correct and will be corrected when the letter is sent to the APA.  So anyone who is interested in signing on should do so now, although I am not aware of when the letter with signatures will be sent. When this information is available, I will post it.

Dear Silent No More Awareness Friends,

This month’s e-letter is somewhat like one we sent you this time last year! How ironic! We are once again soliciting you to be SILENT NO MORE via your signature. This time though it is on a letter going to the American Psychological Association (APA).  The APA has created a Task Force to review all the existing research regarding the negative psychological consequences following abortion. Based on their evaluation of the data, they will release a report that will influence their members and the media for years to come.

After consulting with various experts of our own, we have decided to send them one letter signed by many.This is where you come in! The Silent No More Awareness Campaign needs you to join us and sign onto to the letter. The letter is below and if, after you read it, you want to sign it – please click on the email address and send us an email or send us a note stating you want your name included.

Here’s the letter:

We, the undersigned, have become aware that the American Psychological Association is revisiting the topic of abortion effects on mental health.

By means of the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion you propose to collect, examine and summarize the scientific research addressing the mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion, and will produce a report based upon review of current research.

We write to ask how we may have a voice in the deliberations of this task force. As we review the task force charge we would like to make you aware of one item of interest and make one request. First, in examining the existing scientific research, we are aware of thousands of women who may not show up in studies of post-abortion effects. Part of the purpose of our letter is to make you aware of a very large pool of potential participants in research on potential effects of abortion.

Second, to open dialogue and facilitate understanding, we would like to request a meeting with the APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. Leaders of groups representing women who experience negative post-abortion consequences would like to present data to you from our own collected experience.

The undersigned represent thousands of women who report negative post-abortion experiences of various kinds as well as thousands more people who stand in support of them.

We hope to hear from you by December 1st,2007. [This deadline will be later]

Sincerely,

To sign the letter as a woman who has had an abortion – email: mail@SilentNoMoreAwareness.org and note PAS Women Signature in the subject line. List your name as you want it included in the letter to the APA.

To sign the letter as a man who has an abortion experience – email: mailto:Info@AnglicansforLife.org and note PAS Man Signature in the subject line. List your name as you want it included in the letter to the APA.

To sign the letter as someone who supports women and men in getting healing after abortion – email: mailto:Info@AnglicansforLife.org and note PAS Support Signature in the subject line. List your name as you want it included in the letter to the APA.

If you’d like to have your friends also sign on to the letter, please direct them to our website: SilentNoMoreAwareness.org – have them click on “Join Us” and fill out the form – in the comments sections – note how they want to sign onto the letter. PAS Women Signature, PAS Man Signature, or PAS Support Signature.

We want to thank all of you for being silent no more in so many ways. We are especially grateful for those who have recently come aboard and want you all to feel welcome and know you participation is important to us.  We pray for each of you to embrace God’s guidance as He shows you how to be silent no more.

Blessings for Life,

Georgette Forney, 800-707-NOEL

Georgette@SilentNoMoreAwareness.org

Janet Morana, 888-PFL-3448

Janet@SilentNoMoreAwareness.org

Address any questions to the contacts above and feel free to make comments here as well.