Reparative shake up in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, Alan Chambers posted about a trip to Belfast in order to speak about his newest book, Leaving Homosexuality. In the post, he disclosed that the two men hosting the series (note: according to Dr. Davidson, the recent sessions of Bergner and Chambers are hosted solely by Core-Issues), Michael Davidson and Paul Miller have

broken ties with Mr. [Richard] Cohen and neither utilize or endorse his practices. 

This would be a change for Dr. Miller since he is quoted on Richard Cohen’s website with a glowing endorsement about Richard Cohen’s “counselor training program.” On Cohen’s website Miller says: 
The Counselor Training Program was delivered in an event co-sponsored with ABEO, JONAH and IHF in Northern Ireland. People attended from all over the world (UK, Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, Lichtenstein), and the outcome of the training was an amazing equipping for these professionals to work in an evidence-based way with people seeking to change their sexual orientation. It was one of the best training events I have ever attended: clear, evidence-based, stimulating and pragmatic.

         Paul W. Miller M.D., BCh, BAO, DMH (Belfast), MRC Psych

         Consultant Psychiatrist

         Managing Director, ABEO

In 2007, Paul Miller hosted a healing workshop and training session in Belfast (the brochure remains on the Core-Issues website). Then in 2008, Miller was embroiled in controversy surrounding remarks about him by then MP, Iris Robinson. At that time, he described Cohen’s 2007 workshop as “very valuable.” More recently, journalist Patrick Strudwick reported on alleged sessions with Miller. Charges filed over that event will apparently be heard this month by the General Medical Council there. Meanwhile, Dr. Miller has removed his website (www.abeoonline.com) from view. Prior to the recent removal, he advertised a link to Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation (archived copy). Note there that he offered trainings in collaboration with IHF.
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.
Miller once served as NARTH’s UK representative but appears to have stepped down from that position as he is no longer listed on the NARTH website. I have asked Dr. Miller for additional description about this change and will provide any statement he gives.
Additional note: in contrast to the statement that Core-Issues does not endorse the practices of Richard Cohen, their website does offer his two books, Coming Out Straight and Gay Children, Straight Parents.

Incongruence on UK ex-gay website

Last week, a British ex-gay group, Core Issues, hosted an ex-gay conference in Belfast, NI. One of the people involved with Core Issues is Paul Miller, a psychiatrist who was identified in 2008 by NI member of parliament Iris Robinson as a psychiatrist who works with gays to help them go straight.

Now Dr. Miller is facing more scrutiny due to a complaint from journalist who posed as a client and then wrote about the therapy experiences with Miller. The General Medical Council is hearing the complaints. The Independent article is here and Dr. Miller’s work is referenced as “David” in the article and conducts the therapy over Skype.

My intent is not to reflect on Miller’s problems. He is a devotee of Richard Cohen and the UK representative of NARTH. As such his methods and views are predictable. What I want to point out is that the website Core Issues has a link to the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework. I have asked them to remove the link and they have not answered my requests. I want to make it public that the SIT Framework contradicts the rest of the website and is not there by the permission of Dr. Yarhouse or me.

Given the links to NARTH and involvement of Miller, it is hard to understand links to the other resources including ours. Andrew Marin’s book is featured prominently as is Yarhouse’s Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. In the SIT Framework, we specifically mention Richard Cohen’s book, Coming Out Straight as an approach which is inconsistent with the framework. Explaining a client’s experience as being a reparative drive is something we discourage as well.

There are two broad paradigms in sexual identity ministry – change and congruence. The change paradigm sees homosexuality as a treatable disorder and encourages the use of therapy and religion to change orientation. The congruence paradigm takes no strong position on what causes homosexuality. Change is not the objective but congruent living with a chosen value position. The website Core-Issues is a collection of references and resources which include both models. They certainly are free to put anything on a website which is public domain but I am also free to point out that the SIT Framework is within the congruence paradigm and inconsistent with most of what was described in the Independent article as well as what seems to be the focus of the Core-Issues organization.

Abeo: Ex-gay in the UK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish legislator embroiled in controversy over comments about homosexuality

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

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

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

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

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