JONAH Guilty of Consumer Fraud According to NJ Jury

That didn’t take long.
Today, the jury in the sexual orientation change case in NJ said Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) was guilty of consumer fraud by claiming sexual orientation can be changed.
According the report, the jury found that JONAH founders Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk and life coach Alan Downing:

…engaged in unconscionable commercial practices” and misrepresented their services.

This is a big deal and should have a chilling effect on such services elsewhere. Hopefully, fewer therapists will engage in such practices and instead work with clients in conflict over sexual attractions to explore realistic options.
JONAH will have to refund fees collected.
 

Desire, Faith & Therapy: Sexual Orientation and Orthodox Jews; Rabbinical Council Rejects JONAH

Desire Conf ColumbiaOn Sunday, I participated in a conference titled Desire, Faith and Therapy at the Kraft Jewish Student Center at Columbia University on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. The conference was designed for therapists, rabbis and other interested members of the Orthodox Jewish community.
From the brochure:
 

“Desire, Faith and Psychotherapy” presents a Psychoanalytic perspective on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Orthodox Jewish community. We will explore the intersection of psychological, religious and communal issues that present with LGBT people from Orthodox & Hasidic communities. The program features experts in the field and professionals with experience working with this population. They will review the latest research and develop a conceptual framework in which therapists and Orthodox rabbis can work together to offer the best care.

I didn’t let the organizers know in time to make the brochure but I spoke as a part of a panel with Jack Drescher and Rabbi Mark Dratch. Drescher covered research and history of sexual orientation change efforts, Rabbi Dratch covered the position of the Rabbinical Council of America and I described the sexual identity therapy framework.
Rabbinical Council of America Repudiates Reparative Therapy and JONAH
The framework seemed to fit the audience well in that affirming and non-affirming members of the Orthodox community were present and interested in working together for best practices. I was pleased to hear Rabbi Dratch describe the Rabbinical Council’s repudiation of JONAH, and reparative therapy in general. Dratch told the crowd that the Rabbinical Council asked JONAH numerous times to remove the 2004 letter recommending JONAH. In fact, even after the Council issued their repudiation of JONAH, the 2004 endorsement remains up on JONAH’s website. JONAH advertises falsely in more ways than one.
The lawsuit against JONAH will be a test of the consumer protection laws in New Jersey. JONAH continues to claim efficacy from the strange practices used to try to change sexual orientation. With a couple of exceptions, the crowd at the conference seemed to join the sentiment expressed by the Rabbinical Council concerning JONAH.
My powerpoint can be viewed here.

New Jersey Judge Says Gay Cure Claim is Fraud

Recognizing the position of all mental health organizations, a New Jersey judge said yesterday it is consumer fraud to claim homosexuality is a disease which can be cured.
Judge Peter Barsio, Jr. wrote:

It is a misrepresentation in violation of the CFA (Consumer Fraud Act), in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent.

Reparative therapists hold that attractions to the same sex represent a disordered state due to deficits in parenting. These theories have been discredited long ago but reparative therapists have held on to them. Given that therapists offer a service to consumers, consumer protection law has been used in the New Jersey case against JONAH to address the fraudulent claims.
JONAH claims not to offer therapy but I suspect testimony will establish that they do (or at least did). I know that JONAH historically has promoted reparative therapy which has parental fault at the center of the causal narrative. I have seen many families torn up over the reparative theory.
 
 
 
 

Was Michael Brown Right About Sexual Orientation and Secular Counseling?

David Barton on history. Ken Ham on science. Joseph Nicolosi on psychology and sexual orientation. Now Michael Brown on sexual orientation counseling.
In a Christian Post op-ed Michael Brown takes Al Mohler to task for his assessment of sexual orientation. Mohler now acknowledges that sexual orientation is a useful descriptive category, even as he appears to consider same-sex orientation to be inherently sinful. The former opinion seems to be self-evident, the latter position confusing. How can a set of givens be any more sinful than another set of givens? Isn’t what one does in response to our impulses the key?
Because of his shift in views, Mohler rejects reparative therapy, or any secular approach to curing sexual orientation. Minister and commentator Michael Brown enters the fray at this point. He says:

People find themselves attracted to the same sex for many different reasons, some of which can be unpacked through counseling, including secular counseling. In fact, as countless gays and lesbians have shared with counselors, their attractions can often be traced back to sexual abuse or serious family crises.
Cannot a secular counselor deal with these issues too? Must we put homosexuality into a special category of its own?

Surely there are many other areas of our lives that are deeply affected by our sinful nature, yet we do not say that counseling cannot help us make progress in those areas, do we?

It is amazing to me that evangelicals who reject so-called secular science on one hand, embrace Sigmund Freud and theories of sexual orientation derived from Freud’s fictions. Brown promote the discredited view that same-sex attraction arises because of sexual abuse and/or “serious family crises.” This was cutting edge a century ago, and even then Freud despaired that cure could come through analysis and didn’t think the effort was necessary. Freud, who believed that childhood trauma could lead to homosexual desires, wasn’t a strong advocate of therapy to change it. In 1935, a mother wrote Freud about help for her son. Freud interpreted the letter as a request to help the young man overcome homosexuality. Freud wrote back and said:

Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.
By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.
What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed.

Incredibly, Brown refers people to JONAH, a group being sued right now by former patients because their techniques did not produce change in orientation but rather shame and depression. In his article, I wish Brown would have explained what a client of JONAH might do to rid himself of his gayness. For instance, in court documents, former clients describe getting naked:

According to Plaintiffs, JONAH’s conversion therapy required them to engage in various individual and group activities. For instance, during a private session, defendant Alan Downing (“Downing”), a JONAH-affiliated counselor, instructed plaintiff Chaim Levin (“Levin”) “to say one negative thing about himself, remove an article of clothing, then repeat the process.” Levin submitted to Downing’s instructions until he was naked, when Downing directed Levin “to touch his penis and then his buttocks.” Plaintiff Benjamin Unger (“Unger”) and plaintiff Michael Ferguson (“Ferguson”) engaged in similar disrobing activities with Downing. Downing instructed Unger to remove his shirt in front of a mirror and requested that he “continue,” but Unger refused. Ibid. In addition, Unger participated in a group exercise in which Downing instructed him and other young men to remove their clothing and stand in a circle naked, with Downing also nude.  As with Unger, Downing instructed Ferguson to undress in front of a mirror and “repeatedly urged [him] to remove additional clothing,” but Ferguson refused.

JONAH clients are instructed to fight their way through group therapy clients to grab two oranges and take their “balls back.” Many of the techniques are taken from the decidedly pagan Mankind Project’s New Warriors Training Adventure. Those processes are based on a loose reading of and curious amalgamation of Gestalt therapy and psychoanalytic assumptions.
I hope Brown means well, but he isn’t doing well. Recommending JONAH to evangelicals is irresponsible.
Oh, and the “Alliance” Brown invokes? That is Freudian inspired National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) warmed over.  It sounds like a respectable scientific group. However, they are supporters of JONAH, and leaders within the group also recommend that techniques used by JONAH and the New Warriors Training Adventure.
We don’t know for sure what causes same-sex attractions, but we know that abuse and traumatic relationships aren’t general causes for homosexuality any more than they cause heterosexuality. Both gays and straights experience difficulties in childhood and both gays and straights experience loving, healthy childhoods. Thus, curing wounds, or finding non-existent woulds to cure, won’t dramatically alter sexual attractions for the vast majority of people. While a few people do show some change, for many of them the change was spontaneous and related to factors other than therapy or intentional efforts to change.
So to answer the question in the title: No, Michael Brown is about as wrong on sexual orientation and secular counseling as one can be.
 
 

Facts and Fiction in the Jonah Case: Spitzer's Retraction

In November, 2012 on behalf of several former clients of  Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (formerly Homosexuality), the Southern Poverty Law Center initiated a complaint in New Jersey (Ferguson et al v. JONAH). The complaint seeks damages under New Jersey’s consumer protection laws and challenges JONAH’s claims to be able to help people change sexual orientation.
In support of JONAH, Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician, filed an amicus brief with various claims regarding sexual reorientation. There are many glaring problems with this brief. I hope to examine several of them over the coming days, including her selective citation of my work.
A huge problem for NARTH has been Robert Spitzer’s retraction of his 2001 study on sexual reorientation, and Cretella briefly addresses Spitzer’s recent statements:

cretellaamicus1

I hope Cretella does not do pediatrics as she suggests doing sexual reorientation. For her patients’ sake, I hope she relies on new studies and takes into account all relevant studies to inform her advice. On sexual orientation, there have been several important studies about sexual orientation since 2001 which are relevant.
And then regarding Zucker and the publication of a retraction: This is misleading. In Zucker’s journal, Spitzer did publish a letter to the editor which apologized for what he now believes are erroneous conclusions.  Regarding Zucker’s reasons for not doing something in addition to Spitzer’s letter, I will let him speak for himself. In a widely published May 20, 2012 email, Zucker stated:

Dear Colleagues:
1. As some of you know, Robert Spitzer has recently expressed his reservations/regret/remorse about the study he published in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003, in which he interviewed 200 men and women who had sought out some variant of “reparative therapy” to deal with their unwanted homoerotic attractions, desires, etc. This was first reported on in an article in American Prospect and then went viral the way all good things should do in the post-modern era…the story even reached the front page of the New York Times in an article by Ben Carey and then an Editorial in the NYT.
2. Because there is a lot of interest in the original study, the author’s regret, etc., I have asked the publisher to give open access to the original Spitzer article, the 26 peer commentaries that followed it, Spitzer’s reply, my Editorial that introduced the “target” article, and Spitzer’s recent Letter to the Editor in which he expresses his reappraisal of the study. The open access period will be for 2 months, where anyone from Australia to Zimbabwe can download these papers for free. I am grateful for this kind gesture on the publisher’s part.
3. I have one suggestion: read the Discussion of the original Spitzer article and the 26 peer commentaries.
Feel free to pass this message on to colleagues and relevant listservs.
Best regards
Ken Zucker, Ph.D.
Editor, Archives of Sexual Behavior

Cretella implies that Zucker took a stand on Spitzer’s original conclusions regarding change. Rather, Zucker honored Bob Spitzer’s request to publish a letter and made the original work available.
Cretella also cites my literature reviews from 1998 and 2002 but does not include my more recent views. I will address this in a future post.

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: JONAH Responds to SPLC Suit

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

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

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

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

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

More on this topic:

Dr. Oz’s Reparative Therapy Adventure

Sexual Identity Therapy is Not Reparative Therapy

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: No Naked Therapy?

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

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: What Does Mainstream Mean?

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: When Reparative Isn’t Reparative

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: What Does Mainstream Mean?

Facing challenges to reparative therapy, NARTH past president Julie Hamilton penned an article last week defending NARTH from charges that it is a reparative therapy organization that promotes odd techniques

In this article, Hamilton wrote:

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

What is mainstream?

As I pointed out here, NARTH leaders and members recommend very unorthodox and discredited techniques to their clients.  For instance, NARTH member and former board member Arthur Goldberg is a defendant in a law suit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center over the efficacy of changing sexual orientation from gay to straight. In the complaint, plaintiffs alleged that Goldberg’s counselor, Alan Downing, required clients to struggle through a gauntlet of men to seize oranges which symbolized testicles as a sign of masculinity. Clients were allegedly asked to undress in front of the counselors and to beat pillows with tennis racquets while visualizing their mothers.

Are those mainstream techniques?

I established in recent posts that NARTH leaders refers clients to New Warriors Training Adventure, a weekend retreat which incorporates the oranges, nudity and pillow beating into a masculinity enhancing weekend. If the SPLC complaint is correct, Jonah incorporates those techniques into therapy sessions. Is that orthodox?

Re-parenting

On NARTH’s website, tips for parents who struggle with a gay child are presented. At the end of this article by James Phelan, the New Warriors Training Adventure is recommended as is JONAH. In addition to those two groups, Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation is recommended because it offers “deep inner child work (re-parenting).”

Is re-parenting mainstream?

Note from this video at about 38 seconds how Mr. Cohen suggests that therapists establish a parent-child relationship.

Most therapists would not agree that therapists should attempt to “re-parent” their clients. In fact, the practice and accompanying attitude toward clients fell into disrepute in the 1990s (see this article for more on Jacqui Shiff, the mother of reparenting). Even though reparenting is not taught or practiced widely, perhaps, NARTH therapists think the techniques are mainstream. NARTH member Anthony Duk (who is the plaintiff in a NARTH lawsuit against the state of CA) told state Senator Ted Lieu that re-parenting is something specific to reparative therapy. Duk wrote:

Reparative therapy works. It is a process of re-parenting, forgiving past traumas, understanding the self and realizing that one’s purpose in life is and how to contribute to society.

Bioenergetics

Part of Richard Cohen’s approach is what he calls bioenergetics. There is a history to bioenergetics that connects to a somewhat mainstream therapist, Alexander Lowen. However, most often what is associated with bioenergetics is beating pillows with a tennis racquet while screaming angry words at a visualization of another person, usually a parent. Since reparative therapists think the type and quality of parenting cause one’s sexual orientation, clients need to heal from bad parenting, sometimes via catharsis. Reparative therapists also believe child abuse influences sexual abuse so the bioenergetic among them recommend the carthartic methods to address anger over victimization.

Is catharsis mainstream?

While expending energy in purposeful activity can be helpful, catharsis has not fared well in research investigations and is not generally considered mainstream. Research suggests that catharsis actually makes anger worse and can lead to more aggression. Just about any course in social psychology at the undergraduate level will provide psychology majors with enough data to address the central claims of cathartic methods. However, NARTH allows an article on its website which recommends IHF, New Warriors, and other such groups who use these techniques. And NARTH leaders use them. IHF’s Christopher Doyle and NARTH’s frequent media representative and New Warrior member David Pickup manage NARTH’s Facebook page. In other words, those who are prominent in the group and represented in their legal actions endorse techniques that most of their peers say are not mainstream. And that is without even mentioned sexual re-orientation.

I understand that some NARTH members don’t use these techniques and probably would not recommend them. However, observers of NARTH can be forgiven for pointing out the obvious. Hamilton says NARTH does not represent the unorthodox but their leaders recommend the unorthodox and NARTH’s attorneys are representing some members who recommend the unorthodox.

Some evangelicals have rushed to defend NARTH and reparative therapy but I urge them to exercise caution. One must look more deeply than the claims of orthodoxy to know what is being defended when one defends reparative therapy.

Celebration of Being: A new way to ex-gay?

Recently, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) sent an email with the subject line “Specially Priced Workshops” offering a workshop called the Noble Man in collaboration with a group called Celebration of Being. The event is also offered on the JONAH website. The email offered special prices for combining the Celebration of Being and Noble workshops ($1420.00 for both weekends!). The rationale and promised results are:

Offered by The Celebration of Being and the Jonah Institute

Why is this particular combination of experiential-learning weekends great for couples? Because it permits couples to experience deep emotional breakthroughs where each other’s authentic needs are recognized and honored.

At the Celebration of Woman workshop, the female partner will learn to:
• Step into the power, beauty and radiance of being a woman
• Tap into her deepest feminine essence and her fullest potential as a woman
• Open up her being, so she can share all these gifts with the man she loves

At the Noble Man workshop, the male partner will learn to:
• Feel and act empowered around women
• Open his heart and trust his purpose as a man in the presence of women
• Share these gifts with the woman he loves to truly honor and embrace her

Extra Bonus for the Woman who attends:
If the female partner participates in the “Celebration of Woman” workshop, she qualifies to help facilitate the men’s Noble Man weekend at a reduced rate and thus gain greater insight into the issues faced by her man.

By combining and attending the two workshops, the couple will:
• Build a deeper base of understanding between them
• Deepen their trust in each other
• Open them up emotionally to each other and ignite feelings of passion and joy for them.

To me, this had the sounds of a New Warriors Training Adventure ad so I investigated a little further. The Celebration of Being is a venture of Rajyo Hartman and Britta Johnson, both followers of the teacher, Osho (osho.com). The Celebration of Being:

…is committed to represent the leading edge of our evolving humanity, while holding a space for the tender transformation of everyone’s hearts.

Our Rites of Passage workshops, Goddess Workshops for women, trainings and individual coaching guide you to heal the issues that have kept you separate from yourself and others, find your special purpose here on Earth, and provide you with a tangible experience of your unique connection with the Divine.

We are dedicated to the discovery of the true essence of the feminine and masculine, and the healing of man and woman. We believe in an embodied spirituality, and are committed to the Awakening of all through our goddess workshops and more.

On the front page, the Celebration of the Noble Man workshop was listed with no mention of JONAH. The experience is promoted as a way to heal those mother wounds.

The Noble Man workshop is a three and a half day Intensive for men who wish to heal their issues with women. It is a profound process of being supported and honored by experienced women holding an unconditional space of acceptance, loving kindness and devotion. This is a safe environment for you to express and explore your fears, wounds and resentments around the feminine, and to let go of whatever is in the way of you relating from a space of presence, openness and integrity.

Given that the reparative drive theorist believes that gayness derives from the “classic triadic pattern” of the domineering mother and cold distant father, I suspect the workshop is provided by Jonah in order get gay men to repair the mother corner of that triangle. The New Warrior experience addresses the dad issues and perhaps this will be the new way to repair the mom issues.

As with New Warriors and the ex-gay movement, this seems like an odd collaboration. JONAH takes a pretty conservative view of homosexuality and is recommended by conservative Christians as the Jewish ex-gay group. JONAH is recommended on the new Facts About Youth website which says it is non-religious. Celebration of Being on the other hand, while apparently open to a wide range of spirtual influences, does not seem to be opposed to homosexuality. In fact, the founders of the CoB support a Celebration of the Gay Nobleman workshop in collaboration with Michael Sigmann. Johnson and Markman are listed as facilitators for that workshop which sounds a lot like the one JONAH is supporting, except without the gay.

Additional information: PFOX hearts them some Celebration of Being too.

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.