Abeo: Ex-gay in the UK?

The Irish Iris Robinson controversy appears to have quieted down somewhat. I noted last week that Northern Ireland’s “first lady” entered controversial waters by declaring homosexuality an abomination, with subsequent embellishments. Mrs. Robinson further recommended therapy for gays to change via a psychiatrist, Paul Miller, who advises Mrs. Robinson on health matters.
As noted in my initial post on this topic, I wrote to Paul Miller to ask him if he endorsed the bioenergetics techniques of Richard Cohen. This was a relevant question since Dr. Miller organized a training led by Mr. Cohen in November, 2007. Dr. Miller did not directly answer that question but instead referred me to the website of his organization – Abeo. What is Abeo?

ABEO is an umbrella organization, set up by Dr Paul Miller, of like-minded mental health professionals who want people to be all that they can be; so that they may experience deeper joy in their lives. Our tag-line, ‘joy through change’ captures the heart of this vision.
What does ABEO mean?
ABEO in Latin means, ‘to pass away’ or ‘to come to an end’, but in Nigerian it means ‘my arrival brings joy’. By taking this name we want to show that our mission is to show that all of us experience pain of different sorts, however, when faced with issues that bring pain into our lives we can be empowered to overcome them and experience joy through finding healthy adaptations to meet our core needs.

There is much emphasis on this site about meeting core needs, especially masculinity. There are pages on manhood and gender identity which look familiar to anyone conversant in reparative drive perspectives on same-sex attraction. On the Gender Identity page, links are provided to Jonah, NARTH, Mankind Project, New Warriors Training Adventure, Internation Healing Foundation (Richard Cohen), and People Can Change.
The approach to therapy is called “gender affirming therapy” and is designed to address same-sex attraction through enhanced masculinity. Abeo says:

Where a person experiences unwanted SSA we can provide expertise and therapy to help the person meet their core unmet needs in a way that allows them to resolve their SSA and so move towards a fuller expression of masculinity and a heterosexual expression of that gender identity.

Abeo also offers training to mental health professionals, which presumably included the Cohen visit to Northern Ireland. About the training, Abeo says:

ABEO also provides training to those professionals working in the area of unwanted SSA. Through links with NARTH, JONAH, the International Healing Foundation and a number of international experts we are seeking to spread evidence based skills that will help professionals working in this area.

Given the aspiration of teaching “evidence based skills,” the links provided are puzzling. Where is the evidence that the kinds of masculinity-building interventions promoted by these organizations “resolve” SSA toward a “heterosexual expression?” As we have noted, MKP in the US has been through all of that with many manly gay warriors happy to dispute these claims.
Another aspect of this story that is interesting to me is that I expected this site to be more Christian-based given Iris Robinson’s strong words of a referral. MKP and NWTA certainly do not point their participants to Christianity as a means of manly identity. The UK Scouting Association issued an advisory warning scouting groups not to rent camps to the MKP. In the US, the ex-gay organizations can be divided into those who seem to be faith-based and those that are based in the men’s movement. If that division is real in the UK, it seems clear from a review of Abeo that the men’s movement ex-gay wing got a major plug from the first lady.

Irish legislator embroiled in controversy over comments about homosexuality

Iris Robinson, the “first lady” of Ireland and also a MP (member of Parliament) from Northern Ireland has stepped into controversy with comments about her oppostion to homosexuality and her beliefs that gays can change with counseling. With what should seem in hindsight to be a very poor sense of timing, she made her negative comments about homosexuality in response to a question about a hate crime in Belfast, Northern Ireland directed toward a gay man. Taking a page from the Sally Kern playbook, she expressed no regrets for her comments which were more harsh than a simple recitation of her moral opposition (see this article…).
About reorientation therapy, Mrs. Robinson said:

‘I have a lovely psychiatrist who works with me and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn them away from what they are engaged in…”

Subsequently, the psychiatrist involved, Paul Miller, gave an interview to a Belfast newspaper and appeared on radio to address the claims of change therapy. Paul Miller is a psychiatrist who is a senior advisor to Mrs. Robinson and works extensively with post-traumatic stress. He is also a former trainee of Richard Cohen. Cohen presented a workshop in Northern Ireland in November of 2007 with Paul Miller as the contact person.
In an email to me, Dr. Miller said Cohen’s training was “a very valuable part of their attempt to equip themselves for working in this area.” It must have been well received since three points cited by Dr. Miller are taken in the same order from Richard Cohen’s website.

Dr Miller said three key messages summed up his work.
“First, no one is born gay because gay identity is a complex interaction between genetics and environment; second, no one chooses to experience who they are sexually attracted to; and thirdly, change in sexual orientation is possible.”

Compare those points with the front page of the International Healing Foundation.
IHF
I have not received a reply to my questions about whether the bioenergetic and holding therapy approaches were demonstrated or make up a part of Dr. Miller’s work.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Robinson is being investigated for violating laws relating to hate speech. Unfortunately, some Christian conservatives will turn this event into a debate over free speech. As with Sally Kern, Mrs. Robinson may have the right to say what she did (actually in Ireland, she may not; we shall see…), but having the right doesn’t make it right. In response to questions about homosexuality, and in the context of discussion over a hate crime, why not simply express opposition to violence and hatred? Actually, in any context or at any time, I do not think it furthers any good purpose to engage in such ungracious and uncivil rhetoric.
Her pairing of comments about change therapy and the hate crime, along with her negative comments about homosexuality make it very clear to me that Christian sexual identity ministries should make their opposition to violence and harassment very clear.
Here is another Sally Kern moment; what will happen in it?