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.

Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: When Reparative Isn’t Reparative

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

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

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

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

She adds:

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

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

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

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

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

Later in her article, Hamilton says that

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

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

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

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

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

Unconditional Love Reparative Therapy Style

Yesterday on the Dr. Oz Show, Christopher Doyle and Julie Hamilton presented reparative therapy as one option for people with “unwanted same-sex attractions.” They also portrayed their position as accepting of GLBT people and urged unconditional love in response to young people who experience attraction to the same sex. At one point, Doyle sounded angry and shouted from the audience that a panelist was misrepresenting his position on the subject of acceptance.

Those opposing reparative therapy seemed astounded by the reparative therapists insistence that reparative therapy is not stigmatizing. If Doyle and Hamilton really believe what they said on the Oz Show, they displayed a jaw-dropping deficit in self-awareness. In fact, the definition of reparative therapy includes a theory of homosexuality that makes same-sex attraction the result of family dysfunction or childhood sexual abuse. On the program, Hamilton and Doyle seemed to apply their theory to only those men and women they see in counseling. However, when one reads reparative therapy literature, it is clear that they see all homosexual attraction as stemming from dysfunction of one kind or another.

When one of the panelists (Brad Lamm I believe) said that reparative therapists stigmatized gay youth, Doyle protested that his position was being misrepresented. However, in a 2010 WorldNetDaily article titled “Warning to Homosexual Youth: It Gets Worse“, Doyle’s stance was exactly as Lamm described.  About gay youth, Doyle said

It’s all too typical for homosexual activists to justify their behavior by claiming “we’re born that way” and then blame the tragic consequences of their actions on an intolerant society. But pushing this lie to young people is the ultimate death sentence for those who do not want to live a homosexual life. It offers no hope to youth who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, and it’s unconscionable to lure young people into behavior that has so many serious risks, and then deny them the opportunity for change.

The facts reveal that even in the most gay-friendly cultures, it’s not society that is responsible for the consequences of homosexuality; it’s the behavior. It really makes one ask the question, just what about the homosexual life gets better?

If Doyle doesn’t believe this anymore then he needs to get WND to remove the article from their website or print a retraction.

At 2:45 in this clip (videos from Dr. Oz’s site cannot be embedded; click the link to watch) GLSEN’s Eliza Bayard expresses the fact that reparative therapy by definition implies that there is something about the same-sex attracted person that needs to be changed. At 2:52, the camera moves to Julie Hamilton who is shaking her head in disagreement with Bayard.

She then says she agrees with Bayard and says at 3:10:

Reparative therapy does not tell children that there is something wrong with them.

At that point Bayard and another panelist rightly interrupt Hamilton and ask how she can suggest that reparative therapy is not trying to fix an illness or a wound. In the next clip, Hamilton says that as a starting point, reparative therapy tries to help people be more comfortable with themselves.

Hamilton’s denial of the essential tenets of reparative therapy is astounding. Until he was corrected by me in 2006, Joseph Nicolosi, one of the founders of reparative therapy, told Love Won Out audiences that homosexuality is a gender identity disorder. In his newest book, Nicolosi continues to claim that homosexuality is the result of faulty parenting. Hamilton in an article on the NARTH website paints a picture of normal, healthy development and then says gays don’t experience that:

So, what happens in the development of gender identity that might lead a child to have same-sex attractions? Typically, for this child, there is something that prevents him from attaching to the father. Either he does not have a father or a father figure, or he does not have a father who he perceives as safe and/or welcoming.

In 2009, Hamilton co-edited a book called Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions: A Guide to Treatment. In it, Nicolosi’s chapter on the meaning of same-sex attraction has this to say:

The homosexually oriented man typically carries a deep sense of shame for his strivings to make a connection with the masculine. On some level, he believes he is defective, insignificant, and depleted in his masculinity. Homosexual acting-out seems to promise reparation of those negative feelings, i.e., attention, admiration, and masculine reassurance, adding with it the reassurance that he truly does possess a worthy male body. (p. 37)

Also in this chapter, Nicolosi contrasts the “true self” (heterosexuality) with the “false self” (homosexuality). This chapter makes it very clear, in contrast to what Hamilton said on Dr. Oz, that reparative theory does tell people that something is wrong with them. Perhaps the therapist does not use those exact words and say, “there is something wrong with you,” but given what these therapists do teach, it is no wonder that Hamilton got a shocked reaction from her opponents.

If Doyle and Hamilton really believe that their theory only covers a small subset of same-sex attracted people then the burden is on them to explicitly reject their past statements and writings which indicate they believe all homosexuality is the result of dysfunctional parenting or abuse. If they really believe that GLBT people can live healthy, functional lives, then they need to explicitly reject much of what is on the NARTH and PFOX websites and make clear statements to that effect. Until then, their claims will continue to fall on skeptical ears.

 

Dr. Oz’s Reparative Therapy Adventure

You can watch what Dr. Oz puts on his website here.

On the show, International Healing Foundation’s Chris Doyle said what he does is mainstream therapy and he said IHF doesn’t discourage gayness. This is astounding.  Let’s remember what IHF does:

IHF and other reparative therapists tell clients that their same sex attraction is due to abuse or trauma at the hands of the same sex parent. I have seen families literally ripped apart by this kind of “intervention.” There is nothing supportive about these interventions.

Later Julie Hamilton came on and said that reparative therapists don’t stigmatize same-sex attraction. One of the opposing guests (Brad Lamm) said she was not being honest. He is certainly closer to correct. Just check out a few articles on the NARTH website:

Health Risks: Fisting and other Homosexual Practices – Assumes the health risks of certain practices are associated with sexual orientation.

Interview with Andy Comiskey – SSA is a pathology

Fathers of Male Homosexuals – The problem is with the father.

Homosexuality 101 – Julie Hamilton’s article blaming fathers

Reparative therapists on this show tried to make what they do about choice of a benign option. However, their model of homosexuality renders that strategy less than honest. When one teaches that same-sex attraction is always wrapped up in abuse, and/or a dysfunctional family, one cannot expect to be taken seriously or calmly.

 

Reparative therapy subject of Dr. Oz Show

The Dr. Oz Show today will feature Chris Doyle from the International Healing Foundation, Julie Hamilton from NARTH and Rich Wyler from People Can Change arguing in favor of sexual orientation change efforts. You can see teasers for the show here. Others will take the alternative point of view as well and you can see some of their views at the Dr. Oz website.

This show comes as Cohen’s methods and allies at JONAH are being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for consumer fraud.

NARTH rewards what it does

During the recent NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) conference in Phoenix, organization President Julie Hamilton gave an award to Michel Lizotte, a Canadian journalist. The award was given because Lizotte has been “clearly presenting the research and providing hope and help to those who are seeking such help” in Canada.

I imagine other scientific groups give awards to non-scientists if they believe the recipient is doing a good job promoting the scientific claims and aims of the group. While it is telling that NARTH could not find a researcher to honor, I am sure there is precedent for such an action. However, what says a lot about NARTH is the type of “education” Mr. Lizotte has been presenting.

A look at Lizotte’s website (translated from the French via Google translation) indicates that he promotes the reparative drive theory of homosexuality. On this page, Lizotte posted videos of Joseph Nicolosi explaining the reparative theory. Lizotte claims research on homosexuality supports his views:

Several studies 2  have been conducted to understand the origin of homosexuality. The latest research 3  continue to accumulate supporting evidence that male homosexuality is not innate but acquired, that is to say, built during life, and most of the time – without the is the only reason – because of the failure of the process of tracing the sexual identification of the young son of his father, as a result of a dysfunctional relationship between the two, as we have described above .

Examining the footnotes tells you a lot about his efforts and NARTH’s decision to promote Lizotte’s work. Footnote 2 lists:

Stekel (1930), Rubenstein (1956), Bieber (1962), Ovesey (1969), Birk (1974), Pattison and Pattison (1980), Van Den Aardweg (1986) and others.

Stekel, Bieber, Rubenstein* and Ovesey were psychoanalysts who developed their theories about homosexuality, not from studies, but from a limited number of psychoanalytic cases. Bieber’s study has recently been compromised by revelations that one co-author, Cornelia Wilbur, conspired with a journalist to distort at least two case reports, including the famous case of Sybil. Bieber’s methods had been discredited because he relied on psychoanalysts who already believed homosexuality derived from deficient parenting. Furthermore, Bieber did not include non-patients and did not ask questions of the patients, but relied on case reports of the psychoanalysts.

Van Den Aardweg’s 1986 book reports the results of his cases treated with “Anticomplaining therapy.” He reports lots of successes but essentially these are his claims with no independent verification or peer review.  Birk’s 1974 report comes the closest to a credible report of change but adds no new information about the “origins of homosexuality.” If anything, however, behavioral psychotherapist Birk would disagree with most of what is on Lizotte’s website about causes. In 1980, Birk reported that those who wanted to gain heterosexual capacity had some success but they were not free of homosexual behavior or feelings.

The reference to Pattison and Pattison is odd because the study had nothing to do with the origin of homosexuality and asked no questions about parents or causes. Instead the study claimed that 11 men had changed their orientation dramatically due to religious factors. However, that study has been compromised by revelations that at least two study participants recanted their stories of change within a year of the studies completion.

The reference number 3 lists the following as representing recent research:

Bene (1965), Biller (1974), Moberly (1983), Van der Aardweg (sic) (1986), Byne and Parsons (1993), Bem (1996), Whitehead and Whitehead (1999), Landolt (2004).

This is a very strange list. Bene’s very non-recent survey of gay and straight men found differences between gay and straight men on parental relationships. Biller’s book addresses much more than sexuality and proposes that paternal deprivation is behind a multitude of problems. These references, taken alone, support the reparative drive theory. However, as is typical of NARTH, studies which report contradicting findings are ignored in Lizotte’s list. For instance, when gay and straight men with low scores on a neuroticism scale were compared by Marvin Siegelman in 1974, the parental variables expected by reparative drive theory disappeared. More recently (2009), a Finnish study found that gay men rated their fathers as being warmer than straight men rated their fathers.

Continuing with the list: While Moberly theorized that same-sex parenting deficits caused homosexuality, she did no research to support her views. Van Den Aardweg is listed again (both old and recent research), Byne and Parsons reviewed the evidence for direct genetic factors in the development of sexual orientation but had nothing to say about the reparative drive theory. Bem proposed a theory that is a competitor to the reparative theory. Whitehead and Whitehead present no new research in their book on genetics. Reading Lizotte’s website, an uninformed reader might think that the reparative theory was well supported by research. An informed reader knows better.

The 2004 study by Landolt deserves mention since on the surface, it might seem to support reparative theory. The study examined attachment anxiety in gay men. According to the authors,

Several childhood factors are reported to be associated with a homosexual orientation in men, including gender nonconformity and rejection by parents and peers.

The authors then assessed these factors and found, among other things, a relationship between paternal and peer rejection and attachment anxiety. While this may seem like what reparative therapists would expect, it is also what one would expect in anyone, gay or straight. The study cannot be used as a support for reparative theory because the study did not use a comparison group of straights. I would expect that straight men who are gender non-conforming and rejected by their fathers would experience more anxiety in attachments. However, one cannot say anything about how gay men compare to straight men since the authors did not design the study to address causal factors in sexual orientation.

In short, Lizotte makes claims about homosexuality, supports the claims with old, poorly designed and/or irrelevant citations, fails to cite conflicting and/or newer research and then says that “the latest research” supports his position.

No wonder NARTH gave him an award.

*I cannot find a 1956 paper or book by an author with the last name of Rubenstein that would be relevant. There is a relevant paper by Rubenstein in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1958. Even in this paper, there is no research other than case reports.

NARTH says Francis Collins is mistaken about his own work

Let’s start at the beginning of this story.
On April 4, 2007, Dean Byrd posted an article on the NARTH website titled, “‘Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired,’ Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project” In this article, Byrd quotes from Collins book, The Language of God, citing Collins views of the genetics and homosexuality. In it, Byrd wrote:

As Dr. Collins would agree, environment can influence gene expression, and free will determines the response to whatever predispositions might be present.
Dr. Collins succinctly reviewed the research on homosexuality and offers the following: “An area of particularly strong public interest is the genetic basis of homosexuality. Evidence from twin studies does in fact support the conclusion that heritable factors play a role in male homosexuality. However, the likelihood that the identical twin of a homosexual male will also be gay is about 20% (compared with 2-4 percent of males in the general population), indicating that sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.”
Dr. Collins noted that environment, particularly childhood experiences as well as the role of free will choices affect all of us in profound ways. As researchers discover increasing levels of molecular detail about inherited factors that underlie our personalities, it’s critical that such data be used to illuminate, not provide support to idealogues.

On May 17, 2007, the editor of Ex-gay Watch, David Roberts, wrote an email to Collins asking him if Byrd’s article accurately represented Collins’ views. (The entire correspondence can be reviewed at this link.)
On May 20, 2007, Collins wrote back to Roberts saying about the Byrd article:

The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.
The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

On September 15, 2008, Greg Quinlan of PFOX told OneNewsNow that the human genome had been mapped and there was no genetic cause for homosexuality. Quinlan attributed this information to Francis Collins, seeming to paraphrase the NARTH article.
On September 19, 2008, Roberts again wrote to Collins to ask him to verify that the prior statement about Byrd’s misleading use of his views was indeed given by Collins.
On September 20, 2008, Collins wrote back to Roberts saying

Thanks for the heads up. I am truly sorry to hear that there is a continuing effort by Mr. Quinlan and others to distort this information about genetic factors in homosexuality. The facts have not changed since the e-mail message I sent you on May 20, 2007.
Regards, Francis Collins

On September 21, 2008, Roberts wrote back to Collins and asked him to copy me in the email exchange. Roberts did this because Quinlan accused Roberts of making fraudulent claims about Collins. Feeling I could be objective, Roberts wanted Collins to include me in the email loop given that I am not associated with any gay advocacy groups. I had also written Collins to verify the statements made on Roberts’ blog.
On September 21, 2008, Collins wrote back with the following message:

Hello David and Warren,
I am happy to confirm that these e-mail communications from May 2007 and yesterday are indeed authentic, and represent my best effort at summarzing what we know and what we don’t know about genetic factors in male homosexuality. I appreciate your continuing efforts to correct misstatements that seem to be circulating on the internet.
Regards, Francis Collins

This background is important in order to put NARTH’s response to Collins into context. Earlier this year, NARTH posted an article attacking David Roberts with the charge that Roberts misled Collins. NARTH did not like Collins response to Roberts and NARTH blamed Roberts for Collins’ response.
After the NARTH article came out, Roberts conducted a Freedom of Information Act request to find correspondence between the NARTH and Collins. As the result of his request, he received an undated letter sent from NARTH’s President Julie Hamilton to Collins. The letter is here and is summarized at XGW.
In this letter, Hamilton blames Roberts and me for Collins response to Byrd’s article. Is it really possible that Roberts and I persuaded the Director of the National Institutes of Health and one of the premiere scientists of our time to misread Byrd’s article? About NARTH’s letter, Roberts says,

In it, Collins is treated more like a doddering old man than the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Even though we sent a link to the original article with our email to Collins, and it is clear from his reply that he read it, Hamilton encloses a copy noting “Although Warren Throckmorton [see this post to see where he comes in] and David Roberts led you to believe otherwise, your statements were not misrepresented by NARTH.”  No, Dr. Collins, regardless of what you think, you do agree with us — sheer arrogance.

What is NARTH saying about Dr. Collins when they tell him that he was persuaded to misunderstand his own book? It appears that NARTH will not accept that Collins means what he says. Counting his response to the American College of Pediatricians (several NARTH board members are affiliated with this group), he has spoken out three times about the way NARTH has characterized his views. NARTH’s response is to his continue to blame the messengers.
For more, see

Francis Collins rebukes the American College of Pediatricians: A closer look

Skip Narth, read Collins – UPDATED with NARTH statement

 

NARTH: We're not anti-gay, we just have anti-gay speakers at our conference

Julie Hamilton says NARTH is not homophobic with a straight face.

The reporter should have asked why they had non-researchers Michael Brown and Sharon Slater speak.

Local media coverage of the NARTH conference

The Phoenix Fox affiliate filed a report late yesterday. According to the reporter NARTH claims to be a non-religious group.

NARTH: Gays Can Get Therapy to Become Straight: MyFoxPHOENIX.com

Perhaps Julie Hamilton did not say that NARTH was non-religious but the reporter said:

NARTH denies it has anything to do with Christian groups who believe homosexuality can be reversed.

To which, Julie Hamilton said.

“NARTH is a scientific organization. We are dedicated to understanding the research behind the issue of homosexuality,” said Hamilton.

As a former participant in NARTH conferences, I can say via first hand information that religious groups are well represented at NARTH. NARTH has always been considered a partner of religious groups such as Focus on the Family.
Also, who recommends NARTH besides religious groups? In what setting is someone likely to learn of the existence of NARTH? And as noted here recently, NARTH’s membership is made up primarily of non-professionals. Only about a quarter of the membership have professional credentials.
Furthermore, if NARTH is a scientific organization dedicated to research, then why have two anti-gay religious activists been given speaking time?
So maybe Julie Hamilton didn’t actually say NARTH has nothing to do with Christian groups, but if she did or implied it, I suspect that would be a surprise to at least three-quarters of NARTH members.

What if NARTH was a scientific organization?

Yesterday, I pointed out that most members of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) are not mental health professionals or scientists. Even though the name of the organization promotes research and therapy, three-fourths of the members are not trained or credentialed to do either activity.
Despite the constituency of the group, NARTH is promoted by religiously conservative groups as a scientific organization. One example of this is an appearance in July of this year by NARTH President Julie Hamilton on Washington Watch Weekly, a radio program of the Family Research Council. FRC has taken a lot of heat, from me included, about the information they disseminate about sexual orientation. Some of that criticism should also be directed at the sources of their misinformation. As this interview illustrates, one such source is NARTH.
Tony Perkins sets up the interview by referring to the then current controversy over Marcus Bachmann’s counseling clinic and the allegations that he provides reparative therapy. Then he gets to the interview:

There’s a bigger agenda here. They [gay advocates] want to discredit anything that has to do with Christianity. But there’s something even more troubling here. And what they are doing is that they are trying to discredit a type of therapy that’s based on scientific research and that’s why I’ve invited my next guest to join me. Dr. Julie Hamilton is the President of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH. NARTH is a professional scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. They’re not a Christian organization per se, they are focused on the science to help people who want to escape the lifestyle of homosexuality. Dr. Hamilton is also featured by the FRC’s new documentary, The Problem with Same-Sex Marriage and you can find out more about that at FRCRadio.org.

After the introduction, he gets to the bottom line:

Perkins: It’s no surprise to us that faith based counseling is under attack but what does the scientific research say about sexual orientation and an individual’s ability to change it?
Hamilton: The research is clear that people are not simply born gay and that people can change in the area of their sexual orientation.

After some conversation about client self-determination, the interview returns to what research says about change therapy.

Perkins: Now in the wake of this attack on Congresswoman Bachmann and her husband Marcus, we see a number of quote-unquote experts, counselors parade out on cable networks, and I’ve not seen, it’s certainly not a debate, it’s one-sided and they’ve all said, ‘well, all of this type of counseling, the reparative therapy, the idea that people can come out of the lifestyle, that’s been disproven, it’s been rejected and that is harmful and should not be allowed.’
Hamilton: Ok, that’s simply not true. What’s missing from the discussion is what research really reveals. Recently, NARTH releases a landscape survey and an analysis of 125 years of data. So basically we looked back 125 years of case studies, reports and research studies looking to answer the question, is change possible? And what we found is that over the last 125 years, change of sexual orientation has been documented in the scientific literature. And so we know looking at that that for years it has been clear, and even in the recent studies it has been very clear, that people can and do change in the area of behavior as well as attraction. So, and the other thing that we looked at in our landscape review was whether or not change attempts were harmful. And we found very clearly that there is no established report of harm to individuals that therapy tends to be more helpful to people and that it is not a harmful thing. There’s no, and even the American Psychological Association did admit in a report in 2009 that there is not enough evidence to claim that it’s harmful.

There is a lot wrong with Hamilton’s defense of change therapy. First, she glosses over the fact that even the most charitable reading of studies of orientation change find that most participants aren’t successful. Second, she cites the NARTH review which dismisses the flaws in the studies conducted over those 125 years of research. In the NARTH review, George Rekers is cited and we now know the rest of the story about his failed research on gender variance and his own personal issues. The work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson is cited despite the fact that none of Masters’ co-workers have come forward to say they ever saw any of the conversion therapy clients claimed by Masters. Even Masters’ wife and co-author, Virginia Johnson had questions about the existence of the conversion cases.
Some therapists who produced case studies of cure simply made up the cases (e.g., Cornelia Wilbur in collaboration with journalist Flora Schreiber). Many of those old studies were aversive therapy studies where electric shock was used to provide pain in association with same-sex attraction. While some people reported changes, there is very little follow up to find out if they remained changed or simply adapted to the shocks. These methods were discontinued for ethical reasons. NARTH continues to tout studies of approaches no one uses now to bolster their claims. I could go on, but I’ll stop after I note that Hamilton did not mention the studies that find minimal or no change, like the Edification study where the same-sex attracted member of mixed orientation marriages reported no change in attraction on average.
What if NARTH’s representatives disclosed the problems with the research in their public statements? What if they were candid and reported that some of the old studies are flawed to the degree that they cannot be used? What if these representatives disclosed that many of those who report change continue to be attracted to the same sex? Or also mentioned that some studies find no change? What if the differences in results for men and women were disclosed? Or the existence of bisexuality was included in the discussion of what the reported changes mean? What if they reported data from studies discrediting reparative therapy?
Can you imagine a 125-year landscape review of autism or childhood schizophrenia produced in the manner NARTH touts its survey? NARTH reps would be on the radio bringing back cold, distant refrigerator mothers as the cause.
It is possible that groups like the Parents Action League, ACPEDS, and Defend the Family International (Scott Lively) could find some other way to promote their views, but if NARTH was a scientific organization it wouldn’t be NARTH.