Sexual identity therapy: What it is and what it isn’t

There is lots of discussion occuring on various blogs/media sources about the sexual identity therapy framework. I want to link to a couple and comment.

Two threads at ExGayWatch involve the framework. One is an open forum triggered by my appearance on CNN with Dr. Benjamin McCommon and the other references Peterson Toscano’s statements about what change is and isn’t. It appears that many observers want to link the framework with reparative therapy which is a clear misunderstanding. I invite you to go on over and read the comments there. However, I will say here that if therapists tell clients why they have same-sex attraction as a precursor to therapy or engages in confirmatory questioning (e.g., “many men who are attracted to the same sex say they were distant from their fathers, what was your relationship with your father like?”), then they are not operating consistently with the framework. Furthermore, we do not focus on change of orientation, but rather living a valued and congruent life. Success is not measured by moment by moment assessments of attractions but rather by satisfaction with the help received. People may indeed change if there are clear links from past experience to present unwanted behavior (ask Joe Kort about this) but that is not initial focus of the framework.

Speaking of Joe Kort, he had a go at the framework as well. Beginning on a positive track, the train derailed quickly when he said:

The problem is that when you read on both Throckmorton and Yarhouse talk about homosexuality as being able to be changed. Like reparative therapy they promise to make straight soldiers out of homosexual men.

and then near the end of the post:

I do wish Throckmorton and Yarhouse would stop promising to change peoples sexual and romantic orientation.

Puzzled, I am. In fact, here is what we say in the framework:

Prior to outlining the recommendations, let us define what they are not. They are not sexual reorientation therapy protocols in disguise. Although some investigators (e.g., Spitzer, 2003) have attempted to examine sexual orientation change, numerous criticisms have been leveled at client self-report as a means of assessing such change. Currently, no other means of sexual orientation assessment has found wide acceptance. A consensus about accurate assessment and measurement of sexual orientation would be required in order to empirically test therapies purporting to produce sexual orientation change. At present, such consensus does not exist (Kinnish, Strassberg & Turner, 2005).

Current assessment methods do allow us to ask clients about their perceptions of sexual identity during psychotherapy. Furthermore, we have tools that assess overall client well-being, mental health and satisfaction with how therapy is conducted. To varying degrees, some clients may come to believe change has occurred in their sexuality while some will believe little or no change has occurred. These perceived changes can be examined but we do not view such change as a determinant for the success or failure of sexual identity therapy. Instead, client satisfaction and overall mental health improvement are more efficiently assessed. In any case, we believe guidelines are needed for therapy with clients who experience sexual identity conflict no matter what their beliefs are about sexual orientation and whether it can be altered.

Joe, you had your wish before you made it.

14 thoughts on “Sexual identity therapy: What it is and what it isn’t”

  1. I’m glad you took the opportunity to check us out, and for admitting it 😉

    I hope you end up commenting, just be civil and expect the same, understanding that everyone has their own history and many are painful, just as here.

  2. Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa!

    Did my homework and followed the links and even read about 60% of the comments. That’s a lot of homework for one night. Anyway, apologies to the gang over at XGW. Pam and Dave, I was struck by your sincerity in particular. Don’t think I’m ready to comment over there but I will check back in. And, Timothy…you were actually more well-behaved on your home court. (I’ve got to go back at least once more–maybe tomorrow–to finish through the comment threads.)

  3. Jamie & Leo — Thanks, of course you are correct. I have posted a comment at the Straight Guise blog to correct Joe Kort’s comments.

  4. Thanks Warren, Pam and David for your comments. I’m sure curiosity will lure me back over to XGW from time to time. Like many of you, I’m a lay person juggling blog visits in my spare time and I’ve already found this site consuming more of my time than I had planned. If this particular thread ever gets back to actual discussion of the stories that were featured on XGW, I may HAVE to ‘do the links’ just to keep up. 🙂

    And, Timothy, although I’m not sure I want to thank you for your comment…it was good to hear from you all the same.

    Now, where’s Jayhuck, Mary, Ann, Ginger and the Skipper?

  5. Eddy,

    There are folks who strain at gnats on any site. I’d like to invite you, as an ambassador of XGW to use the strategy Warren suggests and give some dialogue a go over there from time to time, or at least scan and read through things of interest to you occasionally. While the subject matter is serious and the dialogue can at times become tense or emotional, there are still many there who don’t take themselves so seriously as to not find some humor on occasion. And we do work very hard at keeping the debate civil and on-topic.

  6. Eddy, I disregard comments which have no basis (and in fact we do not knowingly let anyone get away with claiming something as fact without some verifiable reference) but we do have commenters from all sides of this debate participate. If you can’t handle being one of them, then don’t complain if you don’t find your point of view discussed there – it’s easy to scoff at a distance.

    As for Joe Kort, I’m quite certain we will analyze his new site at some point but, with no disrespect to Joe, he has not been a major source of debate or protocol on this issue up to now, so we have not jumped into his work yet. Instead we are trying to assess the SIT guidelines, a job which is already overdue. We are volunteers with lives and jobs of our own, but this is very important to us so we don’t want to provide shallow views of either.

    As to your other comments about me/XGW, I’m sorry you feel that way.

  7. Eddy — I agree that reluctance to comment is not a sign of fragile views. I do however, hope you will consider the invitation to read through the comments over there. Some of them are thoughtful and interesting. The one’s that are not, I ignore. I would advise the same here to all. I want to support thoughtful dialogue here and on other blog devoted to this topic. I try to ignore those who deliberately spin and deceive. I say try because I give in sometimes 🙂

    I will say that David over at XGW seems genuinely interested in what we are doing with the SIT framework.

  8. I’ve been to the Ex-Gay Watch site before and I’ve witnessed TK’s ‘serious debate’ style here. I have already learned all I care to about straining at gnats and swallow camels. Any recent examples of this? How about the fact that you chose to major on my ‘sin of omission’–not visiting this topic on Ex-Gay Watch–rather than Joe Kort’s far more serious ‘sins of commission’–pretending to be knowledgeable yet making blatantly false statements?

    So, no David, it isn’t that my views are that fragile…it’s that my patience has worn that thin. Good use of the group strategies by the way…first insinuate that my views are ‘fragile’, toss in the ‘spoon feed’ imagery to belittle me on top of that, then wrap it all up with a distortion of reality. (Please note: Sometimes Warren makes it clear that we need to follow the links to understand the discussion; other times, he provides them as a convenience. Although he ‘invited’ us to check out the Peter Toscano comments, Warren’s words to begin were ‘I want to link to a couple and comment’.)

    Repeat after me: Insinuate, belittle, distort, derail. Insinuate, belittle, distort, derail.

    So, does anyone want to discuss the topic?

  9. Come on Eddy, are your views that fragile? These are serious issues and they require serious debate. Rather than ask Throck to spoon feed it, go over and see for yourself. That is, after all, what he asked you to do in the first place.

  10. Warren,

    Spare me the visit to Ex-Gay Watch, did anyone (other than you) comment on Joe Kort’s major error? I hope he’s not their expert on reparative therapies. LOL! If he can’t see the difference between SIT and reparative therapies, he’s either got one big blind spot or hasn’t done his homework by actually reading your framework.

  11. Where is Joe Kort getting this stuff? You do not promise change in orientation at all.

  12. Dr. Throckmorton – Reading these comments, I wonder if any of your critics have even read the SIT guidelines.

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