Roots of reparative therapy – Momism as a root of homosexuality

Yesterday, I quoted the bookjacket of Their Mothers’ Sons by Edward Strecker which proposes smothering mothering as a culprit for the failure of boys to become men. Today, I want to quote a bit more from the book, specifically in reference to homosexuality. Of course, Strecker sees mom as being at root of the gay.

First,  I provide Strecker’s basic diagnosis of the sad lot of sons who find themselves in mom’s grips. Strecker’s laboratory was war. He lamented that over 3 million men dodged the draft or were discharged for psychiatric reasons during World War II. Strecker acknowledged for all people there is a inner battle between self-preservation and fighting for the greater good. Some men became valient fighters, even accepting with grace their wounds, whereas others wilted in the face of the demands of war. Why the difference? According to Strecker, it comes down to maturity. He wrote:

Why did the desire for self-preservation defeat one group of men, the their discredit, and not the other? The answer in ninety percent of the cases can be given in one word, IMMATURITY. The majority of men who failed, like the majority of men who fail for the same reasons in ordinary life, were IMMATURE. (p. 21; emphasis in the original).

So what causes immaturity?

You guessed it.

Mom.

Strecker wrote:

Maturity is not an inborn trait; it is not hereditary. It is the result of early background, environment, training, and unselfish parental love…Given the opportunity of having known when he was eight to twelve years old, any one of the men who failed in his opportunity to serve in the armed forces because of neuropsychiatric tendencies, and, particularly, of having known his mother, a competent psychiatrist could have forecast with reasonable accuracy the boy’s future immaturity. In the vast majority of case histories, a “mom” is at fault. (p. 23).

For Strecker, immaturity, and therefore mom, is also at root of homosexuality. While he does allow for “biological deviations” as involved in homosexuality, he also implicates “mom and her wiles.” Strecker provides a letter from a teen who calls himself a “sissy” and a “mother’s boy.” The young man also describes homosexual attractions. Strecker’s then diagnoses the causes of the boy’s homosexuality from his letter.

The essential parts  are there, and unedited, and a study of them shows two familiar types of silver cords – “you will never find anyone quite as pretty and worthy of you as mom,” and “sexual intercourse is a horrible affair in which the husband is the beast.” Mom, as the paints her in his letter, in undoubtedly the ‘pretty addlepate’ who by her actions and what she has said and implied has poisoned the boy’s mind against normal, mature heterosexual living. In various ways, mostly devious, he has been made to know that no girl could measure up to his mom, so he veered away from the normal companionship with girls that a part of every high school boy’s life. Sex was degrading, unnatural, undesireable — his mom had told him so. Naturally, when completely entwined by these two silver cords, his normal, healthy masculine instincts were stifled. The result — a tendency toward abnormal sex life.

Strecker also points to mothers who really wanted girls as another force behind some homosexuality. He then invokes one of the many psychoanalytically based theories by suggesting that some men remain in love with mother past their childhood which results in overwhelming guilt. This guilt is then transferred to other girls and women as an adult. Thus,

heterosexuality in a complete way is impossible for him to achieve and he may turn to homosexuality in his need for some sex outlet, as the lesser evil. (p. 131)

Lesbians are almost ignored but not quite. Strecker saves some blame for dad:

All the same forces operate against the daughters of immature fathers — pops — as well as against the sons of moms. The pop who mentally seduces his daughter may implant a tendency toward lesbianism.

Strecker concludes:

I want to repeat that while innate factors often go into the making of homosexuality, yet the environmental influence is strong enough so that moms and pops are to blame. (p. 132)

Dr. Strecker provides no references or evidence for his statements beyond the letter from the young man. Readers are apparently expected to believe him because he is a psychiatrist and an advisor to the armed services. Strecker puts much more weight on mothering than current reparative therapists do, but, in my view, Strecker, writing in 1946, would fit in quite well at the 2011 NARTH conference.

Bullying is not a growth experience

UPDATE 2: The statement below has now been removed from the NARTH website. The first interview with Glatze is still available. Not sure what happened, the statement of regret was pretty shortlived (not quite a full day).

UPDATE: This statement has replaced the Glatze interview on the NARTH website:

Following the counsel of our friends at Exodus and others in the ex-gay community we have removed the Michael Glatze interview from our site. Some of his public comments have been found to be offensive to NARTH and hurtful to others. It is never appropriate to make some of the comments attributed to Mr. Glatze and we at NARTH wish to make our disapproval public.

You can see below what was there this morning. The first interview from 2007 is still available.

Yesterday, I posted about statements made by Michael Glatze on his blog about bullying being a growth experience for the bullied child. NARTH features Mr. Glatze as a possible role model for youth on their website here.

glatzenarthcropped

This is the second interview with Mr. Glatze that is on the NARTH website, and it is easy to see that their leaders believe he is someone who should be emulated. Given the philosophy of masculinity that he espouses with the approval of NARTH, one wonders why evangelicals continue to look to NARTH as a credible group.

While it is proposed by many in the NARTH camp that toughening up as a stereotypical male will eliminate same-sex attractions, there is little evidence to support the idea. It is not far from the “man-up” approach to the ideas of Glatze that one can “grow up” from bullying.

Here is another reminder of the real life consequences of such ideas. I call on NARTH to rethink this reparative notion, and take an unambiguous stance against bullying.

Please see the left column icon, Bullycide in America. All money from the sale of this book go to creating more awareness surrounding the need for schools to take a zero tolerance toward bullying for any reason.

Father-son estrangement: A straight guy problem?

Last Friday, I wrote about father-son estrangement and the new book by Joseph Nicolosi, Shame and attachment loss: The practical work of reparative therapy. Since then, I have looked off and on for illustrations of father-son estrangement in current events, literature and movies. Others are sending illustrations via email as well. Feel free to add examples in the comments section.

In these stories, both fictional and real life, the vast majority of abandoned or injured sons are straight. Of course, this is not research, but I reason that if the father-son disruption theme was so tied to homosexuality, I would find homosexuality in the sons. However, it looks like father-son estrangement is a straight guy problem.

Take this story, “Healing the Father-Son Wound” from straight guy John Lee.

Some of you may know what a rocky relationship I have had with my father. I was raised in an alcoholic home where there was tremendous physical and emotional abuse. I have written about this in my books as a way to heal and hopefully to help others. Because of my wound, I wandered through the swamps and deserts of a ten-year period of estrangement from my father. We didn’t see each other or talk during that time.

Lee goes on to describe a distant, shame-filled relationship which eventually resolved due to Lee’s efforts. This man was clearly “delight deprived,” as Nicolosi describes the typical situation he reconstructs from the narratives of his clients. It seems clear that Lee perceived his father as someone who fit the narcissistic, shaming father Nicolosi describes in Shame and Attachment Loss. On one visit, accompanied by his wife, to his father, he knew his dad was going to shame him.

My third visit was just before I came down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Susan and I had spent about two hours at my parents’ house and were getting ready to leave when my father said, “Susan, did John ever tell you about the time…”

I froze in terror. I thought my dad was going to do to Susan what he always did to anyone who liked or loved me– tell a story that would make me look silly at best, stupid at worst.

As he began to talk, I began to shrink.

This sounds like it could come out of a reparative therapist’s casebook. Lee goes on to say that on this occasion, his father praised his son, which was completely unexpected. However, it seems clear that Lee’s historical feelings about his dad did not involve “shared delight.”

Remember that Nicolosi made inferences about the childhoods of both gay and straight males when he said recently:

In other words, that fact remains that if you traumatize a child in a particular way you will create a homosexual condition. If you do not traumatize a child, he will be heterosexual. If you do not traumatize a child in a particular way, he will be heterosexual. The nature of that trauma is an early attachment break during the bonding phase with the father.

There are many of these stories where straight males clearly felt traumatized (e.g., ignored, distanced, hated, unloved, etc.) by their fathers and did not become gay.  The experience of father-son estrangement seems universal with the longing for connection universal as well.

Related posts:

Shame and Attachment Loss: Going from bad to worse

Shame and attachment loss: Reparative therapy and father-son estrangement

Also read Fathers, Sons and Homosexuality for a father’s view of the reparative thesis.

Spontaneous change compared to therapeutically mediated change

Something has been bothering me, running around in my head since I did the brief series of posts on Dean Byrd’s review of LDS book, In Quiet Desperation (here, here and here).

In their review of Ty Mansfield’s book, Byrd et al make this statement:

The book inadvertently limits the power of the Atonement in the lives of people who struggle with homosexual attraction. As professionals with many combined years of practice in treating those with unwanted homosexual attraction, we have witnessed changes in the lives of many of these individuals, and the epiphanies have been many.

Like all emotional challenges, the outcome data has ranges of success. What is clear is that when the same standard applied to treatment outcomes of similarly situated difficulties is applied to the treatment outcomes of those with unwanted homosexuality, the results are remarkably similar. There is much in the professional treatment protocols that are compatible with the restored gospel. Appropriate professional help along with the healing powers of the gospel have repeatedly convinced us that there is no struggle for which the Atonement is not sufficient.

There are several things that bother me about these two paragraphs, but for now I want to focus on this sentence:

What is clear is that when the same standard applied to treatment outcomes of similarly situated difficulties is applied to the treatment outcomes of those with unwanted homosexuality, the results are remarkably similar.

Despite a claim of clarity, nothing is particularly clear to me about treatment outcomes for “unwanted homosexuality.” It is not clear to me what other conditions are “similarly situated” in comparison to same-sex attraction. This was not explained.

However, my thoughts about outcomes ran to the studies reported in the NARTH literature review of sexual reorientation, the Jones and Yarhouse study and the usual reparative therapy contention that change results were along a continuum – one-third dramatically changed, one-third somewhat changed and one-third not changed. However, whatever numbers one likes, one cannot put it in context without a control or comparison situation. Another term for this in this context is spontaneous remission. Don’t some people change in various ways for reasons unrelated to therapy?

Certainly that is the case for other situations which are the proper focus of therapy. Note this abstract for a study of improvement rated by patients at a community mental health center in Utah.

It was hypothesized that outpatient psychotherapy in a mental health center would result in an improvement rate of 65% or more, a spontaneous remission rate of 36% or less, and a difference of at least 29% from gain in improvement due to therapy. The analysis of 201 follow-up questionnaires supported all three hypothesis. A five-year follow-up questionnaire provided evidence for external validity in the form of a correlation between original improvement rate and subsequent need for outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment. The results were interpreted as being significant evidence for the efficacy of psychotherapy and for the validity of self-report method of measuring improvement and spontaneous remission.

Note that the rate of improvement was significantly higher than expected based on a spontaneous improvement rate of 36% or less. The authors had reasons to predict this rate and took it into account when assessing the meaning of a 65% improvement rate overall. 

My point is not to compare sexual reorientation to mental health improvement near Salt Lake City, Utah. However, I want to raise the issue that considering spontaneous improvement is important when one is communicating the meaning of changes reported without a control group. There are a couple of studies which have looked at spontaneous change, although none would be directly comparable to any current studies of sexual reorientation. Diamond found spontaneous change in her study of 100 women. In 2005, Kinnish, Strassburg and Turner reported varying levels of sexual orientation flexibility in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Their report found that 19% of men and 17% of women in their sample moved in a heterosexual direction (from gay to bisexual,  or bisexual to straight — none went from exclusively gay to exclusively straight). In 2003, Dickson, Paul and Herbison reported spontaneous change in a New Zealand cohort. The chart of movement can be viewed here. Note that 5 of 15 went from some same-sex attraction to only heterosexual attraction and none from “major attraction to the same sex” to straight.  

While these studies are suggestive, they cannot be directly compared to existing studies of sexual reorientation.  However, the fact that some men with some same-sex attraction and many women might shift spontaneously should be taken into account when thinking about the role of therapy in mediating sexual orientation change.

The Dickson study is intriguing in that the results can be interpreted as supporting the existence of different types of homosexual orientation. About their results, the authors note in the abstract:

These findings show that much same-sex attraction is not exclusive and is unstable in early adulthood, especially among women. The proportion of women reporting some same-sex attraction in New Zealand is high compared both to men, and to women in the UK and US. These observations, along with the variation with education, are consistent with a large role for the social environment in the acknowledgement of same-sex attraction. The smaller group with major same-sex attraction, which changed less over time, and did not differ by education, is consistent with a basic biological dimension to sexual attraction. Overall these findings argue against any single explanation for homosexual attraction.

To me, this is a reasonable hypothesis. I believe there are multiple pathways to adult sexual orientation and for some, apparently the social context means more than for others. Also, for some the trait may continue to shift around through life with changing circumstances, yet for others, not at all.

UPDATE: In an odd attack piece, the gay website Queerty reads this post (actually the Crosswalk version) as a kind of strange defense of change therapies or change of orientation in general.  A commenter named Timothy (is it our Timothy?) gets the point, but whoever writes for them and the commenters thus far over there are clueless.

Mankind Project goes transparent

In 2007, I took some heat over my interest in and criticism of the Mankind Project. My initial interest was sparked by the suicide of Michael Scinto shortly after attending a New Warriors Training Adventure, the signature program of MKP. In addition to my interest in strange approaches to counseling, this program was doubly intriguing because reparative therapists and their supporters (e.g., Joe Nicolosi, Richard Cohen, Arthur Goldberg, Paul Miller) recommend NWTA as a way to reduce same-sex attractions.

Since then, MKP has made it plain that they do not recommend NWTA as a reparative therapy adjunct and they have become quite gay friendly. However, these reparative therapists have not back away from their support. For instance, Richard Cohen, in his book for parents of gay children, recommends that fathers and sons attend the weekend together.

One regular criticism of MKP relates to the secrecy of the activities on the NWTA weekends — and for good reason. Some men would surely not go if they knew of the sometimes odd things they would be asked to do. Some of the odd things are harmless but sometimes they can be upsetting. I list links to some on this blog, such as this one, called Killing Daddy. See this page for more about MKP and click this link for prior posts on the topic.

And so, it was with interest that I read a note from a reader who follows MKP. He noted that MKP is now going transparent. All of this is on my MKP page but here is a couple of sections of the memo.

Transparency and the NWTA: Next Steps

At the February 2009 Annual Meeting in Glen Ivy the Project Council approved a proposal moving MKP toward greater transparency. The full proposal is included at the end of this note, which is intended to let you know the work we’re doing to put the plan into action.

External Communications

This is the main focus of the initiative designed to increase candor regarding FAQ’s for men coming to the training as well as specifically addressing inaccurate criticism of MKP and the NWTA on the web.

· We are developing a set of FAQ’s to guide men in speaking with potential initiates about the training and the organization. You are encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent that it is requested, encouraging men to step into the mystery while answering questions honestly.

· The MKP public website is being revised to include the above material and appropriate “spoiler” warnings. It will include direct responses to some of the specific criticisms and misperceptions on the web (Houston Press, Haven Ministry, Rick Ross, Warren Throckmorton, Reid Baer, etc.)

MKP is going to talk more freely about what they do but they are going to respond to what some of us have published as “misperceptions.” Well, I look forward to finding out what those misperceptions are.

In any event, the proposal for transparency was apparently approved and will result in significant changes if this memo can be believed. Here is the context of the proposal for transparency and some of what is supposed to happen.

Transparency Regarding the NWTA

Context

In our Confidentiality Agreement and the processes Secret Male Ritual and Integrating the Training we ask men not to share the processes on the NWTA. As an institution we maintain this secrecy in how we speak and write about our training. In the last few years we have been criticized on blogs, on websites, and in a suit for not providing sufficient details for men to make an informed decision about attending our training. The ManKind Project has been labeled a cult by some for our refusal to disclose what we do on the training. It is likely that at least some of these attacks could have been avoided if we had provided more information about the training. The cost of these attacks has been significant to MKP and to our centers. At the same time, most, if not all, of our processes have been described in various media, and in some cases our protocols have been made available on websites.

In many contexts, MKP as an institution and we as individuals highly value transparency, and around the globe organizations are being increasingly called to provide transparency about their activities. Nevertheless we have continued to hold an expectation that we can and should keep our NWTA processes secret. Many of us are concerned that knowing more about the training will make it less effective for participants. Others who read about our processes before attending the NWTA say it was still extremely impactful. I have spoken in depth with the Leader and Center Councils about how we hold secrecy and transparency, and the overwhelming response has favored transparency.

Proposal

I believe that on balance, it will serve the ManKind Project to release our expectations of secrecy and step into transparency about our processes. I propose that MKP begin to provide disclosure about our processes to the extent it is requested by potential initiates and the general public. This means:

· Men who have done the NWTA will be released from any obligation to maintain secrecy about our processes, and will be encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent it is requested. This applies particularly to men involved in NWTA enrollment.

MKPers can now sing like birds about their experiences. Might as well, many of the processes and procedures are already on the web anyway. But this way, new initiates will know more directly from the people involved what they are getting into. While I still think MKP is a risky proposition given the lack of training of the leaders and the questionable efficacy of the processes, this move is a good one.

Not sure how many MKP or anti-MKP readers I still have but if you are out there, what are your reactions to this move? Do you believe it? Is it enough? Too much?

AHO!

NARTH releases journal

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality recently released a journal.

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

June 10, 2009

Contact: David Pruden

Phone: (888) 364-4744

E-mail: dpruden@earthlink.net

New Scientific Research Refutes Unsubstantiated Claims Regarding Homosexuality

Encino, CA- A new report in this month’s edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Sexuality finds that sexual orientation is not immutable and that psychological care for individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions is beneficial and poses no significant risk of harm. The study, What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the American Psychological Associations Claims on Homosexuality, examines over 100 years of professional and scientific literature as well as over 600 reports from clinicians, researchers, and former clients principally published in professional and peer-reviewed journals.

This research, assembled over a period of eighteen months by three of the leading academics and therapists in the field and under the direction of the NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee directly refutes unsubstantiated claims made by some factions of the American Psychological Association and several other professional mental health organizations. The study, conducted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a network of professionals dedicated to upholding the rights of men and women dealing with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care, confirms the results of a 2007 longitudinal study conducted by researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark Yarhouse that found that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm on average.

“This research is a significant milestone when it comes to the scientific debate over the issue of homosexuality,” said NARTH president Dr. Julie Hamilton. “It also confirms what we have seen evidenced in hundreds of individuals who have benefited from the help of NARTH therapists. We believe that every person should have the right to independently determine their own course in life and for many that involves seeking counseling options that affirm their personal beliefs.”

In addition to What Research Shows, a collection of peer-reviewed scholarly and professional papers entitled Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Sexual Identity Confusion in Children and Adolescents, will be published in Volume II of the Journal of Human Sexuality.

Requests for copies or for a more detailed summary of the inaugural issue of the journal should be addressed to: Journal of Human Sexuality • 307 West 200 South, Suite 3001 • Salt Lake City, UT 84101. The journal can also be ordered by phone at 1-888-364-4744 or online at www.narth.com. A PDF summary of the journal may be downloaded at www.narth.com.

###

NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, it disseminates educational information, conducts and collects scientific research, promotes effective therapeutic treatment, and provides referrals to those who seek assistance. NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care.

I have a copy of the report heading my way and will review it later this summer. For now, it is worth pointing out that there is no new research in the response to the APA, rather it is a review of literature. If the paper “confirms the results” of Jones and Yarhouse, does that mean that NARTH will scale back the claims about change to the 15% found by those authors? That result would require a change in rhetoric from NARTH leaders when on the stump.

In any event, this paper and the journal as an effort is likely a response to the APA Task Force which will probably report in August at the APA annual meeting.

WorldNetDaily suddenly finds year old NARTH article newsworthy

A reader emailed me to say that the American Psychological Association had recently changed the official view on homosexuality causation to endorse an environmental set of causes. The prompt for the email was this article from WorldNetDaily: “‘Gay’ gene claim suddenly vanishes
To arrive at this startling conclusion, the WND writer, Rob Unruh quotes an article published more than a year ago from NARTH titled, “APA’s New Pamphlet On Homosexuality De-emphasizes The Biological Argument, Supports A Client’s Right To Self-Determination.”
In the article, Dean Byrd notes that the APA document shifts emphasis on causes to a more nuanced and complex view. Byrd cites this quote:

“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…”

However, oddly, Byrd leaves this last phrase from the APA website out of his quote:

…most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

Also in the APA paper, reparative therapy is discussed. The APA says
What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?

All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.
Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his same-sex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life. Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination; be sensitive to the client’s race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, language, and disability status when working with that client; and eliminate biases based on these factors.

From these paragraphs expressing concern, Byrd pulls out this sentence to portray a greater openness to change therapy than is warranted:

“Mental health organizations call on their members to respect a person’s [client’s] right to self-determination.”

I blogged about this article last year when it came out, commending the APA for their nuanced account of the research to that point. I think NARTH should do what the APA did a year ago and issue a statement about environmental causes. 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.”…
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.

NARTH is widely known for championing a view of homosexuality that requires some kind of trauma as a causal factor. In point of fact, SSA can occur without bad parenting or abuse. Shouldn’t NARTH follow the APA’s lead and issue an official statement such as suggested above?
UPDATE: OneNewsNow and AFTAH have joined the echo chamber.
The ONN account begins:

The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there’s no homosexual “gene” — meaning it’s not likely that homosexuals are born that way.

I wonder if NARTH will correct this misunderstanding of the APA’s publication. In fact, no knockout punch has been delivered to any theory, except perhaps for those dogmatic views that stress one pathway. Let’s see leaving aside extreme biological determinism, who else gets a knockout punch here? The APA statement cuts both ways but NARTH, and the people quoted in this report only want to see it go one way.
The APA (over a year ago) handled the research with integrity. When will NARTH and related groups do the same?

NARTH not petitioning APAs

During his visit to London, Joseph Nicolosi touted the research supporting reparative therapy. He also said on at least one occasion that NARTH was petitioning the American Psychological Association with studies which verify the approach.
From Virtueonline:

Nicolosi said his organization – the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.

The BBC News quoted Nicolosi as saying:

“We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work.
“We are petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.”

In this BBC News radio interview at about 2:08, Nicolosi says,

We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work…We are petitioning the American Psychological association to look at the data.

It seems clear to me that the APA at issue is the psychological group and not the psychiatric assocition. I asked David Pruden, NARTH Executive Director about the specifics of this petition to the APA. He referred the question to Dean Byrd, past-president of NARTH. Dr. Byrd replied:

NARTH has no plans to petition APA on behalf of reparative therapy (or any other therapy for that matter). Dr. Nicolosi, of course, is free to do whatever he likes.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of NARTH has been working on a number of projects aimed at preserving the rights of individuals to seek psychological care for unwanted homosexual attractions as well as protecting the rights of licensed professionals to provide ethical, effective care for this client population. When these projects are completed and ready for distribution, announcements will be made via press releases on the NARTH website and through other venues.

I am not sure what form a petition would take but it would be important news if some formal research report was available which purported to support reparative therapy (in the sense Nicolosi was using in the term in London – his brand of change therapy). There are various peer-reviewed professional journal articles around which review the available research (I have done two of them) on a host of approaches to behavior and attraction change. In my opinion, those reviews do not present evidence favoring the developmentally based, reparative drive theory and therapy.

Multiple pathways to sexual orientation, Part 1

On other threads, we have discussed why reparative therapy vignettes and ex-gay testimonies are so often alike. I have suggested that there are different causal pathways which lead to different sexual orientation outcomes. Also, therapists like Joe Nicolosi and Richard Cohen have strong public positions which promote a particular causal narrative. Clients who may have histories in line with those narratives seek counseling from those therapists. The same dynamic likely occurs in Exodus ministries where unhappy people seek help based on reading or hearing public testimonies.
People seeking help for unhappiness might be more likely to have life circumstances which they view as causal. Therapists looking for such causes ask questions which validate the hunches. It seems easy enough to imagine how therapists and clients can arrive at a common narrative without even trying to do so.
Same-sex attracted people who have not been traumatized in some way often react with puzzlement and frustration when, like palm readers, therapists go through a litany of questions about non-existent past trauma, seeking some confirmation of the predicted narrative. Eventually small, forgotten hurts and deprivations are identified as evidence for the expected patterns.
While I believe this occurs often, I have no idea how often. I also am pretty sure that the histories of some people are relevant to their sexual attractions. The research on the variability of pathways to sexual orientation is sparse but there is some and it demonstrates that on average same-sex attracted people who seek help of some kind (therapy or Exodus) recall more troubling relationships with parents than same-sex attracted people who have not sought therapy or ministry help.
The primary reference in this regard is Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith (1981) Sexual preference: Its development in men and women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. An important section on the differences between clinical and nonclinical groups is reprinted here from pages 202-203.

Homosexuals in Therapy
More than half of the WHMs [white homosexual males] (58%) said that at one time or another they had sought help for a personal or emotional problem from a professional counselor such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Most previous studies of the development of male homosexuality have been based on the reports of homosexuals “in treatment,” and many scholars have tried to generalize their findings to other homosexuals as well. When our own findings failed to support so many widely held clinical views, we were curious to see whether the reports of respondents who had been in therapy would differ from those made by respondents who had never sought professional counseling or therapy.
What we found was that those respondents “ever in treatment” did indeed have the kinds of paternal variables in their model that were consistent with what clinicians have always thought to be typical of homosexual males. The path model of those “never in treatment,” on the other hand, either did not contain such variables or showed their influence to be weaker. For example, as the literature suggests, the “therapy” group tended to have Detached-Hostile Father (t.e.= .29), a variable that is tied to the son’s gender nonconformity and early homosexual experiences. This variable does not even appear in the model for the men who have never been in therapy, however. Moreover, although the “nontherapy” group had more Negative Relationships with their Fathers, this variable (t.e.= .11) did not influence their gender nonconformity at all. In addition, two other variables that were important for the therapy group — Cold father and Negative Image of Father — do not appear at all for the nontherapy males. Although the rest of the path model is much the same for both groups, clearly the model for the therapy group corresponds much more closely to the way fathers have been considered in theories about the etiology of male homosexuality.
How might this discrepancy be explained? On the one hand, it could be supposed that cold, detached fathers make for troubled sons who are likely to seek psychological treatment at some point in their lives. Likewise, it could be argued that “therapy” often involves an “education” of client by the therapist in which the client comes to believe what the therapist supposes must be true of the client’s parents. Alternatively, it could also be argued that fathers tend to withdraw (become detached) from psychologically troubled sons, who are later to seek psychological counseling.
Whatever the case may be, at least on the basis of what our respondents could remember about their parents, Cold or Detached-Hostile Fathers cannot be regarded as important in the development of male homosexuality in general, since their alleged influence does not even appear among those who neve sought therapy or counseling. Finally, it should be noted that the differences between the therapy and non-therapy groups do not stem from differences between these two groups in terms of effeminacy or bisexuality. We found no significant correlations between being exclusively homosexual and having been in therapy, the more effeminate WHMs were only somewhat more likely than the non-effeminate WHMs ever to have been in therapy (64% versus 54%).

Bell et al, also compared WHMs and WHTMs (white, heterosexual males) who had and had not been in therapy. The findings regarding these comparisons are not drawn out in the same manner as above. However, there is a footnote on page 202 briefly describing the analysis.

The path analysis on which these findings were based included all the white heterosexual males, whether or not they had been “in treatment.” Separate analyses, one comparing only those WHMs and WHTMs “ever in treatment” and and one comparing those WHMs and WHTMs “never in treatment” replicated the results reported above.

For women, the picture was somewhat different. The authors noted that 2/3rds of the WHW had been in therapy and then on page 209, they wrote:

We do find some differences between the path model for the women who had been in therapy and those who had not. Notably, Childhood Gender Nonconformity appears to have been a more important factor for the respondents who had been in therapy or counseling (t.e.= .71 versus .52 for the women who had never been in therapy or counseling.)
In addition, the path model for the homosexual women who had in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to a sense of estrangement or unhappiness while they were growing up: Unhappiness in Adolescence (B=.14) and Felt Different from Other Girls in High School (B=.11). The path model for the nontherapy group contains no comparable measures.
Finally the path model for the women who had been in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to an unhappy recollection of the mothers: Negative Relationship with Mothers (t.e. = .24) and Unpleasant Mother (t.e. = .22). The nontherapy group on the other hand, appear to have been slightly more influenced by their fathers. Their path shows significant — but weak — paths from Weak Father (t.e. = .20), Aloof Father (t.e. = .14), Controlling Father (t.e. = -.10), and Mother Dominated Father (t.e. = .14). Otherwise, the differences between the women in therapy or counseling and those with no such experience show little pattern.

In the path analysis procedure used in Bell et al’s research, the “t.e.” you see repeated throughout this passage refers to the “total effect” of one variable on another, in this case sexual preference. Think of it as a measure of the strength of effect of each variable mentioned and sexual orientation, with the larger numbers representing a larger effect. While there are many points we could discuss here, the primary reason for this series is to examine the possibility that multiple paths exist which yield the direction of sexual attractions. A practical implication is that therapists who frequently counsel those who are seeking help probably get a skewed picture of same-sex attracted people in general. Another implication is the effects noted by the reparative drive theorists are not huge and must rely on other pre- and post-natal factors. Also, those who take a solely biological perspective should expand the complexity of their model to consider that the sexual behavior of some people are influenced by certain environment experiences.
The next posts in this series will include additional research as well as more results from Bell et al. Some research does find differences between gay and straight groups on developmental recollections. What do these differences mean? Stay tuned…