In a massive report by Mark Potok and available on the Southern Poverty Law Center website, former president of Exodus International Alan Chambers answers a question from Mark Potok about the future of ex-gay ministry. When Exodus was open for business, it was the largest organization dedicated to sexual reorientation.
Potok’s question is followed by Chambers’ answer.
What do you feel is the future of the ex-gay movement here and abroad?
I honestly believe it is gasping for air. I don’t believe there will ever again be an organization with the size or scope of Exodus International.
My hope is, as I stated very clearly during my closing speech at the Exodus conference in 2013, that every ministry focused on changing orientation will close. I do not believe the ministries or churches that seek to serve people who choose to be celibate are a danger unless they place conditions or qualifications on God’s love.
There will never be a consensus on science or Scripture or politics or much of anything for that matter, but we can seek to unite around the gospel of grace and love and peace. That is a life changing and revolutionary paradigm.
I can reveal that I had an informal role by providing information to the SPLC attorneys in the JONAH case. I know that makes me a heretic in the minds of some on the religious right. I also shopped at Target last night.
The problem is not with people following their religious beliefs about sexual behavior, even if it means celibacy from homosexuality. The problem is the misguided, discredited belief that parental failings cause homosexuality and the resultant “therapies” which follow from such beliefs. If you have the stomach to read through Potok’s report, you will read some bizarre things done in the name of sexual reorientation. You can also read this post for a brief account.
For all my posts on reparative therapy (get a beverage and some snacks), click here.
I may have more to say about this report in the coming days, hopefully with some commentary from Mark Yarhouse, but for now, I am going to link to it.
Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth was released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report recommends the end of change therapies for minors via professional advocacy and legal strategies.
Mark Yarhouse, co-author with me of the Sexual Identity Therapy framework and professor at Regent University, was an evangelical presence on the panel of experts who produced the consensus statements.
The most controversial parts of the report, in my opinion, deal with gender identity. I think most therapists now understand that sexual orientation is durable and rarely, if ever, changes dramatically as the result of change therapy. However, the recommendations on gender identity are more controversial. Despite the use of the word consensus, I question whether there is a consensus among professionals of all ideologies about how to respond therapeutically to youth dealing with stress over gender expression.
As for the goal of ending change therapy for youth, I am a supporter. Despite years of research and effort, no safe, effective and ethical approach to sexual orientation change has emerged. The very few people who still claim effectiveness are small operations with no research of their own methods. The anecdotes of harm are convincing and the candid admissions of people like Alan Chambers that the change they claimed didn’t happen is enough to cause significant skepticism. My own professional experience researching change efforts in clients and research participants informs me that any claimed change is unlikely to be lasting or complete. The biological research, while not conclusive, supports a very early establishment of sexual desires (especially for males). The available options for attempting change are often bizarre and carry potential to create psychological problems. Thus, limiting these efforts in a free society to adults seems like a reasonable professional position.
Let me just say that I opposed reparative therapy before it was cool to oppose it.
Yesterday, Al Mohler and others articulated their position against reparative therapy, also known as sexual orientation change efforts.
Atlantic has an article on Alan Chambers’ new book and chronicles the demise of the ex-gay movement from Alan’s point of view.
Essentially, Mohler and colleagues believe changing orientation is not the Christian goal. Rather, avoidance of same-sex sexual relations is the objective in the narrow sense, and more broadly, pursuit of a spiritual life is what Christians should seek. Some same-sex attracted people are bisexual and others sometimes fall in love cross-orientation to form a mixed orientation marriage.
Although it is dated, I have a page on reparative therapy which demonstrates my approach to the issues in the professional sense.
Recognizing the position of all mental health organizations, a New Jersey judge said yesterday it is consumer fraud to claim homosexuality is a disease which can be cured.
Judge Peter Barsio, Jr. wrote:
It is a misrepresentation in violation of the CFA (Consumer Fraud Act), in advertising or selling conversion therapy services to describe homosexuality, not as being a normal variation of human sexuality, but as being a mental illness, disease, disorder, or equivalent.
Reparative therapists hold that attractions to the same sex represent a disordered state due to deficits in parenting. These theories have been discredited long ago but reparative therapists have held on to them. Given that therapists offer a service to consumers, consumer protection law has been used in the New Jersey case against JONAH to address the fraudulent claims.
JONAH claims not to offer therapy but I suspect testimony will establish that they do (or at least did). I know that JONAH historically has promoted reparative therapy which has parental fault at the center of the causal narrative. I have seen many families torn up over the reparative theory.
For many reasons, this “live” video is hilarious. Despite the cheese, this is not from the Onion.
Apparently hoping to attract more straight men and lesbians, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s new spokeswoman (the NARTH girl) breathlessly announces the formation of a new organization which looks about like the old organization. NARTH becomes the NARTH Institute and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (see NARTH’s made over website and the Alliance’s unfinished website).
An examination of the conference schedule an organization board members indicates that the Alliance is really NARTH in new clothes.
In March 2012, NARTH was notified that the organization’s tax exempt status was revoked due to failures to file necessary paperwork (990 forms). They claimed they would get it back but have not done so. They are calling membership dues “donations” so perhaps this new organization will file to become a charity in order to solicit tax deductible donations. I can see nothing on either website which claims a tax deduction so buyer beware.
In any case, there appears to be nothing new under the sun or at NARTH. The name is new but the empty promises appear to be the same.
I missed this a couple of days ago. The Christian Post provided free advertising for the following activity masquerading as therapy:
This video cannot be shown enough. This is what the Christian Post is advertising with their puff piece on the International Healing Foundation. Doyle says being attracted to the same sex is a matter of poor parenting. Richard Cohen, the founder of IHF, says the therapist should establish a parent child relationship as a means of replacing what clients didn’t get from their parents. This is a dangerous and false premise. Some gays and some straights didn’t get what they needed from their parents, but this doesn’t make them gay or straight. Putting the therapist in the role of a nurturing parent is reflects a wrong diagnosis and potentially sets up an unhealthy dependence on the therapist. Furthermore, a robust line of research suggests that the pillow beating catharsis treatment is fundamentally unhelpful.
Perhaps these points and more are why no graduate training programs offer these approaches for the purposes designated by IHF. I know of no graduate training programs housed in Christian colleges which teach these techniques. Even at Liberty, Doyle was not allowed to consider Cohen a clinical supervisor, nor was he allowed to count his experience there toward his school internship.
Chris Doyle says the IHF does therapy. However, I even wonder about that. According to their 2012 990 form, they took in very little money in program services fees with the lion’s share of their income coming from donations.
I hope the reporter will consider doing a counter point article in response.
After a period of relative quiet, the religious right and the ex-gay movement have picked out curtains again in Texas. As has been widely reported, the Texas GOP approved a phrase in their platform last weekend defending reparative therapy. The proposed platform language on homosexuality was:
Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.
According to Focus on the Family, the reparative therapy plank language was softened slightly to:
We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”
Behind this political proposition is a past commenter here on the blog: Jeremy Schwab. Apparently, he has recently gone by Jeremy Joel and sometimes doesn’t use his last name but according to several reports and his own blog, Schwab persuaded Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum to include the language in the platform. Several reports said he received therapy from Joseph Nicolosi. In his comments here, he said he received therapy from Nicolosi’s son, Joseph Jr. Also, he defended Journey into Manhood, the International Healing Foundation and NARTH. He now has his own organization, Joel 2:25 International. His story now sounds a little different than his story then.
I have been at this awhile now and this script looks familiar. A young believer with a lot of energy aligns with his mentor and defends his mentor’s approach in a hostile environment.
Probably a lot of people thought the ex-gay movement had gone away with the collapse of Exodus. However, as long as Journey into Manhood, and NARTH are around, there will be fertile ground for such things. Unfortunately, the demise of the political connection between the religious right and ex-gay approaches might have been hastened if not for the movement to ban reparative therapy in the states for minors. This approach has galvanized opposition and has given the religious right a reason to hook up again with the ex-gay movement. The religious right groups will support holding therapy, and all kinds of silliness if it means engaging the culture war.
Thus, I am still ambivalent about the movement to ban sexual orientation change efforts. I do not believe SOCE work to change orientation, and I certainly don’t think any political party should make ridiculous statements in support (such as the Texas GOP has done). However, I think public education was working with fewer and fewer people holding any confidence in the approach. Now, if political conservatism will again be defined as what you think about gay change, we will be going backwards.
I suppose we are in for a return of ex-gay politics with a new cast of characters datalessly shouting that change is possible.
Monday, the UK Guardian reported that the Association of Christian Counsellors* prohibited reparative therapy for their members. The statement backing up this action sounds very much like the sexual identity therapy framework. Here is the AAC statement in full:
An ACC statement to its members January 2014
In December 2012, ACC made a statement to its members supporting and clarifying our ethical framework. The Board has continued to discuss and reflect on the area specifically relating to work with clients who present with same sex attraction issues and is now updating our guidance to counsellors, supervisors and members.
For the purpose of clarity below is the first part of the original statement mentioned above:
“All counsellors are required with due diligence to provide safe practice on behalf of their clients. This requires the counsellor to practice fully within the Ethics and Practice framework they are using with each client. The client is to be aware of the Framework being used as essential information during contracting and guidance given as to which complaints procedure is in
The particular ethical considerations taken from the ACC Ethics and Practice are:
(From’ Ethics for Members of the Association of Christian Counsellors’ section)
5.1 “Members should be trustworthy…maintain confidentiality…”
5.2 “Members should respect their clients’ right to take decisions for and to act for themselves.”
5.3 “Members should be committed to securing the client’s best interests.”.
5.5. “Members should avoid any action which might cause harm to a client. One of the most important aspects in counselling is client autonomy.”
In addition ACC has now reflected on the following (from ‘ACC Good Practice in Christian Counselling and related fields’ section 5) and its application including how it relates to the Equality Act 2010:
Good Practice in Christian Counselling and related fields states 220.127.116.11. Members should not allow any personal views they may hold about lifestyle, gender, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, beliefs or culture to prejudice their professional relationships with clients. The Equality Act 2010 requires that discrimination does not occur on the following protected grounds: age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief and sexual orientation.
As counsellors working in the UK, ACC members are expected to adhere to both ACC Code of Ethics and Good Practice and to UK Law, which means adhering to both of the statements made above. It is clear that in some instances the ‘protected grounds’’, as defined by the Equality Act 2010, of one individual may appear to be contrary to that of another (or indeed may be in conflict within an individual) i.e. the religious beliefs of a counsellor and the sexual orientation of a counsellee. In such instances ACC would expect our members to act without discrimination towards all and uphold the rights of the protected characteristics enshrined in the Equality Act 2010. In addition the essential characteristics of a therapeutic relationship are genuineness, congruence, unconditional positive regard, empathy and understanding (being non-judgmental, warm and empathic) thus providing a safe environment for the client to explore their feelings and concerns. It is clear that in protecting client autonomy it is important for counsellors not to impose themselves or their beliefs on anyone who comes for therapy, either by implying that a particular outcome is possible or expecting the client to come into alignment with their own belief system or understanding on certain approaches to life. Such actions would be unethical and so ACC would expect any member to consider the therapeutic model that they are using to be in-line with these principles and characteristics. ACC has therefore expanded on the original statement that reflects more clearly its view on therapy in relation to same sex attraction.
There are certain guiding principles arising from ACC Ethics and Practice framework. These guiding principles apply when deciding what is appropriate in practice or for any therapeutic model. Namely that …
a) Counsellors / therapists do not make assumptions that the client is looking for a particular outcome
b) Do not allow counsellors/ therapists to suggest, impose, advertise that therapy would achieve a particular outcome / change etc.
c) Counsellors / therapists do not make the achievement of a particular outcome (determined by the counsellor/therapist), be the measure by which success / failure of the therapy is determined
d) Counsellors / therapists do not impose a particular moral standpoint or belief system on the client.
We have considered Reparative (or Conversion) Therapy by these principles and have decided that it does not fit the above criteria for the following reasons:
(i) Its language implies that sexuality can be ‘repaired’ and so introduces the idea of treatment or cure.
(ii) Where it is proposed, advertised, or practiced as a therapy, it suggests that a specific outcome is possible and appears to make an a-priori assumption that it should happen. This would not fit any of the above guiding principles.
(iii) It is incompatible with the Equality Act 2010.
For this reason, we do not endorse Reparative or Conversion Therapy or any model that implies a predetermined direction of outcome of counselling at the outset. We recognize that such models have the potential to impose situational demands on the client at a time of vulnerability with the potential to create harm and therefore view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling.
Members who are considering using this model of therapy should neither commence nor continue to use it and any advertising or promotional material should be replaced immediately, or at least removed from current use. This includes the ACC “Find a counsellor” facility on our website.
We recognize that this is not the view of some of our members but in the interests of public safety we have decided to make clear what is expected by those who choose to be part of ACC.
*No relationship with American Association of Christian Counselors
Last year, I reported that the International Healing Foundation struck gold in 2011 with an apparent donation of over 500k. Some of the money was used to promote a video for schools. However, salad days have returned for IHF as the current 990 form shows they burned through the rest of those funds in 2012 leading to a loss for the year of just over $202k. Another question raised by the 2012 990 relates to the nature of their services in 2012. From the 990, it appears that IHF is claiming that they did very little, if any, counseling.
First, let’s look at the year’s summary as compared to last year.
First, IHF saw a dramatic drop in total revenue from 2011 to 2012. Second, while contributions increased substantially, program fees nearly dried up. Program fees represent client payments for workshops, counseling sessions and any other professional services conducted by IHF. Year to year, it appears that IHF lived off of what they made in 2011. IHF spent 202,393 more than they received in 2012.
Next, examine the description of revenue for 2012:
IHF claims just over $140k in gifts and donations and $27,547 in revenue from services provided. The 990 preparer typed in “seminars/conf/projects” as the source of those funds. I am aware that Richard Cohen traveled around the world to speak and that IHF staff conducted workshops and seminars. However, what about the counseling sessions which IHF touts as leading to change in orientation? According to a former IHF client, the organization charges $125 per hour for counseling. At that rate, it is hard to understand how IHF is keeping a full time counselor busy.
I reached out to IHF Director Christopher Doyle to ask if perhaps they consider client fees to be donations or for any other information which would shed light on these figures. However, he did not reply. Perhaps IHF didn’t report counseling income on the 990. Or perhaps they weren’t very busy providing reorientation counseling services in 2012. If the latter is true, what did they do?
IHF founder Richard Cohen was being cited by Unification Church leader Hjung Jin Moon as being the foremost leader in the UC on homosexuality. Cohen also spoke in Spain at the World Congress of Families conference (not Unificationist).
IHF’s Chris Doyle appeared on the Dr. Oz show to claim that what IHF does is mainstream therapy. While that is a ridiculous claim, it may be true that very little therapy of any kind is actually taking place.
International Healing Foundation Again Tied To Unification Church
In 2003, I spoke at the annual conference of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on public opinion and homosexuality. In that talk, I noted that favorable shifts in attitudes toward gays were associated with having a gay person as a friend or family member. I added that increased public support for gays would mean that more people would develop friendships with gays, thus building up a momentum for public acceptance of gays and bisexuals. Seeking to make the talk relevant to the audience, I predicted that the public would become more skeptical and critical of various NARTH claims about homosexuality as a consequence of more people knowing and accepting gays as friends. I noted that as the non-gay population became more aware of gays in their families and as friends, they would doubt the claims that gays are incapable of happy lives and/or that their homosexuality derived from problematic family relationships. People will know by their own gay friends and family members that the stereotypes are not generally true. Thus, for NARTH to survive, I suggested that the group incorporate biological research, and stop promoting the view of homosexuality common to reparative therapists (e.g., distant same sex parent, overbearing opposite sex parent).
As I continue to document here, NARTH didn’t listen.
My history with NARTH is for another post, but I was reminded of that 2003 talk and the negative reaction to it from NARTH and eventually from Exodus when I read this attributed to Alan Chambers:
But the belief in “reparative therapy was one of the things that led to the downfall of this organization,” Chambers said in an interview, noting that Exodus in recent years redirected its focus to helping men and women work through their sexual identity.
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said in the announcement. “I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”
Alan is sorry about the problems caused by these therapies but he apparently also sees the damage done to the organization as well.
Alan is on HuffPo Live now…