Carol Tavris – Mind Games and a vulnerable public

From the article Mind Games by social psychologist, Carol Tavris:
“A public unable to critically assess psychotherapists’ claims and methods for scientific credibility will be vulnerable to whatever hysterical epidemic comes along next.”(Tavris, 2003, 7).
Just felt like that was important…

Chasing the Devil and International Healing Foundation

John Sterback seems like a really nice man. Mr. Sterback is featured prominently in Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-gay Movement. He is affiliated with Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation in ways that are somewhat vague. He apparently is training to be a certified sexual reorientation coach via IHF. At the end of this clip Mr. Sterback say he does not believe Mr. Cohen or anyone to be “completely healed.”
Along with commentary from Mr. Sterback, this documentary features interviews with IHF Director, Richard Cohen. Cohen begins the video with a cooperative spirit but ends with him walking off camera.

Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-gay Movement… by Psychvideos
More information about the documentary can be found at the Coquizen Entertainment. While some of this will be quite uncomfortable for some viewers, the interviews are very informative for anyone interested in the ex-gay movement. Although the video is not done as an ex-gay apologetic piece, it does reveal the frequently heard conflict between homosexuality and religion. Particularly, in the cases of Jonah (Arthur Goldberg is interviewed extensively as well), and David Matheson (Journey into Manhood), religious conflict is a major driver of the desire and even the reality to move away from a gay identification. The video does not make light of this struggle and allows the people involved to speak.
In the case of the interview above, Mr. Cohen was asked about his expulsion from the American Counseling Association, bioenergetics and various IHF practices. These topics were clearly uncomfortable for Mr. Cohen.

Top ten posts by number of comments and page views – 2008

Time to wrap up 2008 with a review of the stories told and topics covered. I also will give the top ten posts based on page views.
By far the election was the broad topic which generated the most page views. Aside from the Berg vs. Obama thread, readers prefer to comment on the sexual identity related posts. As in past years, I will pick out my top ten themes in a later post.
Top ten by number of comments (fluctuation should be minimal since most of these threads are quiet now)
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1 (796)
2. New study casts doubt on older brother hypothesis and reparative drive theory (460)
3. Gay City News prints letter clarifying sexual identity therapy (282)
4. New Direction for Exodus? (277)
5. Day of the Golden Rule? (264)
6. Sally Kern: What should she do? (248)
7. Study examines brain differences related to sexual orientation (239)
8. Multiple factors involved in sexual orientation, part 2 (221)
9. Sexual orientation theorizing: Is change possible? (219)
10. 60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins (217)
Top ten by page views are:
1. Berg vs Obama: Response to Supreme Court due December 1
2. Hey Florida, is this ok with you?
3. Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher talks about his dialogue with Obama and spreading the wealth
4. Berg vs. Obama: Update and current status
5. Michelle Obama likes upscale clothes too
6. Donofrio vs. Wells: NJ Obama citizenship case slated for SCOTUS conference
7. What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two
8. Some light on Sarah Palin’s church affiliation
9. Did Barack Obama vote to withhold treatment to infants surviving abortion?
10. Day of Silence and Golden Rule Pledge on Appalachian State University
The top post has been viewed over 15,000 times with the other posts gradually decreasing from there. These numbers are constantly changing.

International Healing Foundation releases infomercial; ready to heal the world

Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation has released an infomercial describing their services and claims. Roll the tape…

In the video, he features his three part program designed to help people go straight, help their kids go straight, and help their clients go straight. He thinks pretty highly of these resources as is apparent in his Fall, 2008 newsletter:

WE HAVE THE ANSWERS
I am proud to announce that I have completed 21 years in public service and ministry. God called me in June 1987 to reach out and help those with unwanted SSA and their loved ones, and to spread the truth throughout the world that no one is born this way, no one chooses to have SSA, and that change is possible. I have been faithful and even more so, successful in helping thousands change their orientation and parents reconcile with their SSA loved ones. Furthermore, I have trained and educated thousands of professionals, equipping them with a systematic approach to helping SSA strugglers and their families. The International Healing Foundation (IHF) is the first organization in the world to create three landmark proven successful protocols:
Coming Out Straight–book and CD/MP3 series
Gay Children, Straight Parents–book and CD/MP3 series
Counselor Training Program–manual and CD/MP3 series
These are our three Olympic Gold Medals to help heal the world! I spent a lifetime preparing and training for this moment. I fought my way out of homosexuality. Against all odds I came out straight! That was indeed a miracle of God.

And you can have this miracle too if you sign up for the three Gold Medals. The world could use a little healing but I am skeptical it will come through IHF.
Richard has big plans for 2009. In his newsletter, he details them. Here is perhaps the most ambitious:

Loving Gays the Right Way: Exposing the Homosexual Myth is the title of a new book that I will write next year. Please read more about this in the 2009 Goals and Projects section. Together we can make a difference, saving one life at a time. Thank you for all your support this year and please contribute generously and/or purchase multiple copies of our books and CD series to donate to public and church libraries. For a contribution of $40 or more, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of the school DVD upon its completion.

He also wants to produce a video for schools which he mentions in the last line.

Over the past year I have shared about our ambitious project to create a film for use in public schools. This year we have already filmed two powerful stories of change—one youngman and his parents from the Midwest, and another from the East Coast. We will film a young woman either by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2009. Each of thesemen and woman came out of homosexuality! Their stories are powerful and will speak directly to our young people in public schools that they do have a choice—either to live a gay life, or to seek change and come out straight. We will promote true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all!

Richard appears to have a love-hate relationship with the media. He seems to love being involved in it but it has not always been friendly to him. In the latter category is his appearance on the recent documentary, Chasing the Devil. In it he walks off camera twice when asked difficult questions about asking clients to raise money for IHF and his practice of bioenergetics. In a future post, I will review that video.

Ex-gay history: Charles Socarides and Richard Cohen on CNN

Richard Cohen has added some content to his YouTube account with a new infomercial and a clip of an interview on CNN with Charles Socarides and Cohen from what appears to be the early to mid 90s (probably 1994 given this article). Socarides mentions NARTH so it would be after the founding of that organization in 1992. The sound does not match the speakers but this is an interesting clip nonetheless which demonstrates that NARTH’s premise in the early days was to return homosexuality to a status of mental disorder.

International Healing Foundation looking for new leader

In his Fall, 2008 newsletter, Richard Cohen says that he is looking for a new Director of the International Healing Foundation. On page 3, Cohen announces:

PASSING THE TORCH OF TRUTH AND LOVE
Now that these three landmark healing protocols are completed, it’s time to raise up the next generation of healers. Therefore, I would like to announce that we are seeking a new director for the International Healing Foundation (IHF). We are looking for a committed person with a background in counseling who has a passion to help those with unwanted SSA and their loved ones, as well as a desire to spread this message of hope and healing throughout the world. If you are interested or know of anyone you who might be a good fit, please contact our office and apply for this position.
It will take time to train the new director, who would set up residence in the Washington, D.C., metro area in order to develop a fulltime clientele. This person would be supervised and trained to take over the post of director. In this way, we wish to build a strong future for the next generation, bringing great love, light, and truth into the world. Our motto is: Changing the world one life at a time. And as you see, our newsletter, after 21 years of publication, has a new name: Change Is Possible!

I emailed Richard to ask him what he planned to do once a new director is hired and trained but I have not heard back from him. He seems to feel completed now that he has authored three new training resources which he says provide “the answers.”

WE HAVE THE ANSWERS
I am proud to announce that I have completed 21 years in public service and ministry. God called me in June 1987 to reach out and help those with unwanted SSA and their loved ones, and to spread the truth throughout the world that no one is born this way, no one chooses to have SSA, and that change is possible. I have been faithful and even more so, successful in helping thousands change their orientation and parents reconcile with their SSA loved ones. Furthermore, I have trained and educated thousands of professionals, equipping them with a systematic approach to helping SSA strugglers and their families.
The International Healing Foundation (IHF) is the first organization in the world to create three landmark proven successful protocols:
Coming Out Straight–book and CD/MP3 series
Gay Children, Straight Parents–book and CD/MP3 series
Counselor Training Program–manual and CD/MP3 series
These are our three Olympic Gold Medals to help heal the world! I spent a lifetime preparing and training for this moment. I fought my way out of homosexuality. Against all odds I came out straight! That was indeed a miracle of God. And then, after obtaining my masters degree in counseling psychology, I set up the International Healing Foundation and counseled hundreds of men and women, helping them achieve their heterosexual goals. The fruit of these experiences is a four-stage protocol leading individuals from a homosexual to heterosexual orientation detailed in Coming Out Straight.
Simultaneously, I assisted hundreds of parents to set love in order, helping their children come out of SSA. Again, more miracles occurred. As a result of helping these family members and friends, came a twelve-step protocol, a strategic plan to bring radical healing in all family relationships, described in Gay Children, Straight Parents. And finally, as a result of training hundreds of therapists, coaches, clergy and ministry leaders, teaching them how to assist both the strugglers and their family members, came our Counselor Training Program.
Each of these three proven successful protocols has been recorded on CD/MP3 in a professional studio. The ComingOut Straight teaching series describes how to heal from unwanted SSA; the Gay Children, Straight Parents teaching series describes how to assist SSA loved ones in reclaiming their true gender identity and fulfill their heterosexual potential; and the Counselor Training Program teaching series describes how to coach/counsel/mentor the strugglers and their loved ones. Please see the three ads in the pages that follow for a detailed description of each CD/MP3 series. These breakthrough protocols will help promote healing in the world. Now is the time for change!

So now that Richard has the answers needed to heal the world, he apparently feels it is time to move on to something else, although he is vague about what.
It has always puzzled me that Richard claims that God called him in 1987 to start IHF. In 1987, he was involved in the Unification church which has a very different view of God than orthodox Christianity. See the IHF page for more information on this aspect of the history of IHF.

Exodus makes new policy statement regarding holding therapy and IHF

Recently, questions have been raised on various blogs about connections between Exodus International and Richard Cohen. Initially,Exgaywatch noted that a statement regarding distance from Mr. Cohen’s methods had been removed from their website and that Janelle Hallman, on the Exodus Speaker’s Bureau, recommends the International Healing Foundation on her website. Then XGW received a statement from Hilde Wiemann, saying that Mr. Cohen and the leadership of Exodus had met and made peace.
In response to my inquiry, today, Alan Chambers, Executive Director of Exodus, alerted me that a revised policy statement has been posted on the organization’s website. It reads:

Holding/Touch Therapy
Exodus International is opposed to the therapeutic practice commonly referred to as “holding/touch therapy” as a healing exercise for those with same-sex attraction distress. Accordingly, Exodus does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen, the methods utilized by the International Healing Foundation or any other individual or organization that is known to use that method.

The former statement is here and was made in light of television appearances of Mr. Cohen demonstrating his work.
Via this broader statement, the policy regarding holding/touch therapy could probably be applied to such groups as Journey into Manhood and the Mankind Project, where various processes involve paternalistic holding/cuddling of clients.

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?

Interview with Chasing the Devil Producer Bill Hussung; premiere on Saturday

A new documentary regarding the ex-gay world is premiering this weekend at a Birmingham, AL film festival. Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-gay Movement will be shown on Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 11:30am at the WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham. 

The film bills itself in this way:

CHASING THE DEVIL: INSIDE THE EX-GAY MOVEMENT is a feature documentary film presenting an unflinching look at the personal journeys of four people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Their stories mark the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed inside the “ex-gay” movement and provide an empathetic and, at times, devastating portrait of those who claim homosexuality is an illness that can be healed.

Although I am not sure this film is the first time filmmakers have been allowed inside the “movement,” the advanced buzz caught my eye several months ago and I have been following the development of the video since. Several familiar faces are in the movie, including Richard Cohen, who adds magnets to his magic act. You can watch the trailer here:

What follows is an email interview with Producer/Director Bill Hussung:

Throckmorton: What prompted you to take up the topic of the ex-gay movement?

Hussung: Our initial interest in the issue was sparked by the publication of the Spitzer study. We knew Dr. Spitzer by reputation, and while his study has been roundly criticized by the larger psychiatric community, it caught our attention, and we started researching ex-gay groups and reparative therapists to see if there might be a film in their stories. We’ve always been fans of documentaries about subcultures, so the ex-gay community quickly caught our interest. To be perfectly frank, there was another element at play, the first dozen ex-gay groups we contacted were so hostile to our requests for interviews that we just had to keep pushing and try to understand their point of view. Documentaries are supposed to take viewers places they’ve never been before, and this one really fit the bill.

Throckmorton: What was the biggest surprise to you in your interviewing?

Hussung: There are some real surprises in the film and we don’t want to give them away before people see the documentary. With that said, we were surprised by how many of the ex-gays we spoke to seemed to have experienced some form of abuse as children. What that means, if anything, is open to debate and we explore it in the film. We were also surprised that the distinction between the Christian ex-gay ministries and the supposedly secular reparative therapists crumbled a bit as we delved into the subject matter. The Christian ex-gay groups all seemed to offer some form of therapy, and the reparative therapists were all driven by deeply held religious convictions. 

Throckmorton: What in the film do you think will be surprising to critics of the ex-gay movement?

Hussung: Critics will probably be surprised by how open the ex-gays in are film are about what constitutes “success.” With some exceptions, we didn’t interview people who claim to be 100% “cured” of their homosexuality, we met people who talked about lifelong struggles. They don’t seem to be spewing propaganda about 100% change when their own stories involve a fair amount of struggle and failure and they still identity as ex-gay.

Throckmorton: What do you anticipate the reaction to the film will be from those within ex-gay circles?

Hussung: We have no idea. Our obligation was to follow the facts wherever they took us, and we feel as if we’ve done that.

Throckmorton: I am curious about the title of the video – Chasing the devil — it seems like many ex-gays would say they are avoiding the devil. What was behind this choice of title?

Hussung: The title comes from what we heard over and over again at LIFE Ministry in New York City. LIFE believes very strongly in the power of testimony to drive the devil out of homosexuals and they talk about chasing the devil out of people’s rectums and throats. LIFE Ministry doesn’t talk about running away from the devil, the folks there talk about chasing the devil out of their lives.

Throckmorton: That’s curious because I do not think most people would see Life Ministries as representative of the ex-gay world as a whole.

Hussung: They are the only folks we encountered who framed the issue this way, but they are a center piece of the film, so the title made sense.

Throckmorton: What promotion and distribution do you see in the future?

Hussung: We’re going to do select screenings around the country at film festivals and see what the best options are for breaking up the TV rights, dvd rights, and theatrical possibilities. We expect people will be able to see the film before too long.

Thanks for your thoughts on this new project.

Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008. 

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.   

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International. 

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November. 

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.    

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!