More on the APA, religion, and homosexuality

The Christian Post’s Lillian Kwon writes this morning about the call from Richard Rothstein to criminalize conversion therapy. She extensively quotes Tim Wilkins about the controversies surrounding the matter.

Tim Wilkins asks a question near the end of the piece that I want to briefly address:

“Since when did the church of Jesus Christ delegate its responsibility to healing people’s hurt to some source outside the church?”

While Wilkins doesn’t negate the benefits of counseling or therapy, he pointed to the Church as “God’s primary source of healing” the hurt.

“In one sense, it is easier for evangelical Christians to passionately pound the APA right now regarding this possible move (to ban therapy) than it is to recognize and to implement our responsibility as Christians to share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ,” Wilkins stressed.

I ask in reply: What hurt are we talking about? The gospel changes lives but as I understand orthodoxy, it may not change inclinations. I agree that the APA is not the Church of APA and I resist their efforts to take sides in religious debates. However, the mission of the church as I understand it is not primarily a therapeutic one. Health and wellness gospel adherents may take exception but I submit that a change in sexual inclinations is not an inevitable by-product of Christian conversion. I believe many people have been promised this to their eventual great frustration.

I may be misunderstanding Tim here. My reaction is based in concerns that much ex-gay ministry tries too hard to be therapeutic changers of orientation and not ministers focused on support for congruence with church teaching.

Here is a question that I hope to address and expand on in time: What is the proper focus of sexual identity ministry? Change of sexual inclination or loving support for participants to develop congruence with church teaching?

CNN to discuss APA task force today

If not bumped by breaking news (e.g., Iraq, Holsinger nomination, Paris Hilton sneezes), I will be on CNN today at approximately 1:40pm Eastern Standard Time opposite psychiatrist Benjamin McCommon. Topic: The APA task force and the initiative of the religious coalition reported in last week’s AP article.

Video of the segment is now up on You Tube:

Queersighted: Imprison conversion therapists

AOL’s GLBT community blog Queersighted has an article by Richard Rothstein this morning that marks tomorrow’s first meeting of the APA Sexual Orientation Task as an important date in gay history. Why? Because he hopes the task force will suggest to the APA that all reparative/conversion therapy should be banned. And what if the APA bans reparative therapy (never defined in this piece)? Well, round up the posse, boys, Mr. Rothstein has the answer:

If the APA does in fact ban reparative or conversion therapy, we will at long last have a solid legal argument for shutting down such groups as Exodus International and Homosexuals Anonymous. This will also mean that under standard and existing malpractice laws, psychologists and therapists who continue to advocate and practice such therapy would be subject to license revocation, hefty fines and even imprisonment.

So if Mr. Rothstein’s vision is realized, reparative therapists and maybe the Exodus crew will be answering questions like: “Hey, doc, what are you in for?”

This is disturbing.

One recent commenter here proposed that what I do under the framework of sexual identity therapy was really reparative. I was fired from Magellan’s Provider Advisory Board in 2005 (and later reinstated) because it was alledged that I was a reparative therapist. People who should know better in the academic community refuse to acknowledge the distinctions I make between what I do and reparative therapy. So should I set up a trust fund for the kids?

The APA may not advocate such strong legal measures, but as the recent AP story made clear, the audience for the APA’s decisions is not only a professional one. PFLAG and the Task Force are ready, presumably with lawyers.

Holsinger says he would resign before muzzling science

This New York Times piece provides a summary of the stance of Dr. James Holsinger regarding his views on a number of issues.

I thought his responses to the criticisms of his 1991 paper were reasonable and, as a professor, understandable. Most of us writes tons of stuff for various audiences and I certainly do not agree with some things I wrote 16 years ago. As an academic matter, I would wonder how his views have changed and why. Those who oppose him might want to know that to since I doubt they have much trust. Those who were inclined to favor him may now feel he has vacillated.

Note his top priorities:

…tackling childhood obesity, “making America a tobacco-free nation” and improving the ability of the Public Health Service to respond to emergencies.

All three are admirable but the second is, I suspect, a pipe dream…

James Holsinger nomination hearings today: Open Forum

The hearings regarding the nomination of James Holsinger open today and promise to be contentious. I will not be able to follow them but as news comes out about his remarks and the questioning, readers, please feel free to post links, quotes and comments.

At the opening, Dr. Holsinger disputed the attacks on his view of homosexuality. No word as yet on the 1991 paper.

UPDATE: Dr. Holsinger says the 1991 paper regarding homosexuality and pathology does not represent his current views.

Psychologists to review stance on gays: AP article

David Crary of the AP has an article out today about the APA task force on sexual orientation policies.

In this article, David Crary refers to a letter signed by numerous Christian groups and individuals. I am attaching the letter and signers. This is a broad spectrum of people agreeing to only what is written in the letter here. One possible misinterpretation of the Crary article is that the signers of the letter were seeking APA’s recognition of reparative therapy. Not so. If that were the case, I would not have been involved with this. However, the request to the APA is pretty simple: let’s meet and discuss the same-sex attracted constituents represented by the signers. To regular readers of this blog, this will all sound very familiar.

UPDATE: 7/12/07 – The Christian Post published a follow up article today.

More Michael Glatze

Michael Glatze has more to say about his story on World Net Daily today.

UPDATE: Michelangelo Signorile interviewed Paul Schindler of the Gay City News about Michael Glatze today. Mr. Schindler talked with Michael and said that Michael indeed an up and coming leader among young gays. Further, Mr. Schindler revealed that Michael backed out of the Paula Zahn Show and today’s Signorile radio show because he prayed about it and did not believe he would get a fair hearing.

There was some extensive discussion of Michael’s explanation for his development of same-sex attraction. According to Schindler, Glatze told him that he had “undifferentiated sexual feelings” when he was 14 and then a friend explained to him about homosexuality and the gay world. Glatze said this influenced the object of his sexual desire toward boys.

On the issue of the LDS church, Schindler said, “I asked him about that” meaning the reports of conversion and Michael reportedly said these reports are not accurate. According to Schindler, Michael is conversing with someone at the CWA to select the right Christian sect. Look for a report from Schindler on Gay City News late tonight or tomorrow.

UPDATE #2 – The Christian Post explores Mr. Glatze’s statement about faith today.

UPDATE #3 – 7/11/07 – GayCity News has a lengthy interview with Mr. Glatze. It covers a lot of the same ground we have been discussing here but adds some detail.

Michael Glatze to appear with Wayne Besen tonight on Paula Zahn Show

Wayne Besen is reporting that he will “debate” Michael Glatze and Charlene Cothran tonight on the Paula Zahn Now show at 8pm. I put debate in quotes because the format of the show rarely allows much time for any substantial give and take — mostly sound bites and zingers. But it might make Crossfire fans yearn for the return of the show.

UPDATE: TWO is now reporting that the segment has been cancelled or postponed.

The return of Richard Cohen

When last we heard from Richard Cohen, he wrote to me a letter of apology for his appearance of the Daily Show. Back in April, Richard wrote again to tell me that he had given up his counseling practice and was limiting his work to teaching and speaking.

He has a new video out on YouTube that summarizes his history and promotes his work. From the video, one might think he is still seeing clients. However, on his website the promo states about Cohen: “Recently, he retired from counseling to focus on public speaking and training other professionals.”

On this media page, he provides a list of questions and answers about his history and work. There are a number of debatable points but we have covered most of them before.

Although he has retired from counseling, he has certified a few sexual reorientation coaches.

So the beat goes on at IHF. Mr. Cohen is no longer counseling, he is now coaching.

Counseling Today letter to the editor on religious diversity and sexual identity

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an article on religion and sexual identity that was published in the April 2007 issue of the American Counseling Association’s monthly newsletter, Counseling Today. The article was titled “Strange Bedfellows? Spirituality meets sexual identity in the counseling office.” I felt the article was one-sided in that no options were offered for same-sex attracted clients who have believe homosexual behavior to be wrong. In response, I co-wrote a letter to the editor of Counseling Today (with Rob Gerst, former Arkansas Counseling Association president) that was published in the July issue. The letter is as follows:

To the editor:

In the April, 2007 issue, pastoral psychotherapist, Stacy Notaras Murphy published an article titled “Strange Bedfellows?: Spirituality and sexual identity in the counseling office.” The article examines how some people deal with conflicts between religious beliefs and sexual identity. The author correctly notes:

Most counselors agree that sexual identity is a major aspect of personality development. While more in the field are recognizing that spiritual identity informs personality development as well, the intersection of the two hasn’t received much attention. But the connections may seem more natural when both are considered under the umbrella of multicultural competency.

I certainly agree that training programs outside of religious institutions rarely help counselors understand the role of religious values in integrating a sexual identity. Although the Murphy article helped raised the issue, we believe this article was unnecessarily incomplete in its treatment of religiously based conflicts with homosexuality.

Counselors are often confused about how to work ethically and helpfully with clients for whom sexual identity issues and religious faith are important and/or in conflict. The relevant ACA divisions have little specific to say about these matters. The AGLBIC competencies do not mention religion or provide any guidance for handling religious conflicts in counseling. On the other hand, the ASERVIC competencies provide general guidance, especially the following:

Competency 7 – The professional counselor can assess the relevance of the religious and/or spiritual domains in the client’s therapeutic issues.

Competency 8 – The professional counselor is sensitive to and receptive of religious and/or spiritual themes in the counseling process as befits the expressed preference of each client.

Competency 9 – The professional counselor uses a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.

In competencies 7-9, religious beliefs are viewed as relevant to clients’ therapeutic goals and should reflect clients’ expressed preference. However, the Murphy article provided no reference to situations where same-sex attracted clients religious beliefs remain traditional. The article noted the potential conflict between religious views and homosexuality but gave no instances of how counselors might work with clients who do not shift to a gay affirming religious stance.

This avoidance of traditional religious views was made even more obvious by the list of “Sprituality-based Resources” in the article. Only one group listed, Courage for Catholics, promotes traditional church teaching on sexuality. No other group was listed to support clients who affiliate with religious groups who disapprove of homosexual behavior. Why the omission?

The ASERVIC competencies do not call on counselors to endorse or impose a brand of religiousity for clients, rather they say to use “a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.” What if a client’s expressed preference is for a religious view that is not represented by any group on that list? Then what?

Is the ACA open to clients who are traditionally minded? Open to evangelicals, orthodox Jews, Latter Day Saints, traditional Catholics, etc.? In an article preferenced by a reference to multicultural competence, it was stunning to see the ostracism of these religious and value viewpoints.

We call on the ACA to create a task force composed of scholars and clinicians representing the spectrum of viewpoints to craft substantial guidance for counselors working with clients who experience religious conflicts over their sexuality.


Warren Throckmorton, PhD

Past president, American Mental Health Counselors Association

Robert Gerst, MS, LPC

Past president, Arkansas Counseling Association

Although I am concerned that the APA task force might also minimize religious diversity, at least there is some effort to address religious conflicts within that association. If any counselors are reading this blog and want to join my call for an ACA task force to help counselors address the points I raised above, please contact me at