Records temporarily sealed in Scinto vs. Mankind Project

Last Friday (6/6/08), a Harris County, TX judge partially granted a motion to seal the Scinto wrongful death case. The Mankind Project wanted the case marked confidential and the Exhibit A removed from the settlement document. Exhibit A spelled out changes agreed to by MKP which I reported here last week. As it stands now, the case is “sealed temporarily” with another hearing to be held on July 18, 2008.

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?

Counselorlicense.com: An update

Last week, I posted a link to a website purporting to offer a pastoral counseling certificate which would allow the recipient to circumvent state licensing laws.
Counselorlicense,com1
The image above is what it looked like prior to the post. Click on the link to see it now. Replacing the testimonials about making money doing counseling is a rambling essay called “What is a pastoral counselor?” There are no links to send in money, no glowing reports of life change via getting a certificate from Phoenix State University. However, if you go to the PSU site, you still can become certified in a variety of fields from gunsmithing to gemology, and still including pastoral counseling.
I have received a couple of emails back from the registrant (mail@tomhalstead.com). One said Tom Halstead had “passed away.” I hope that is not true but if there really is a Tom Halstead out there, someone is changing up your websites…

Spreading some love to fellow travelers and bloggers

I am not a very consistent blogroller. Up to now, my list of links has been an after thought. I am not sure I will stay on top of things but I have added some new ones.
I want to mention four of the new links. First, go visit John Shore’s blog – Suddenly Christian. John is a winsome, funny, prolific and lately, controversial Evangelical writer who produces some entertaining and thoughtful posts. John is an adult convert to Christianity who brings a fresh and sometimes uncomfortable perspective to the Evangelical world.
The Marin Foundation is the brainchild of Andrew Marin. Not a blogger – yet – Marin seeks to do research and build bridges between religious and LGBT communities with an ambitious mission and set of values. He may in the middle enough to bother some people on either extreme, but this is where he believes he should be. He is currently writing a book about his views.
Wayne Jacobsen is on a roll. He published the NY Times #1 best seller, The Shack recently and it has changed his life. His blog is a bridgebuilding effort, which is a natural outgrowth of his work with Bridgebuilders. Wayne was a catalyst behind the First Amendment Center Guidelines on Sexual Orientation in schools. I have been a friendly acquaintance of Wayne via a meeting at Grove City College through mutual friends about three years ago.
It has taken me too long to put up a link to Mark Yarhouse’s Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. The front page reads like a blog although without comments. Mark work on narrative sexual identity therapy was featured in a recent American Journal of Family Therapy article and is referenced at the ISSI site.
Enjoy!

Sixth annual memorial vigil for Jeffery Owens is June 6th.

Michael Bussee said today in a comment that tomorrow night a vigil is being held in honor of the memory of Jeffery Owens, Michael’s best friend, who was killed in the attack that also resulted in injury to Michael. The attack was a cowardly and viscious hate crime directed at Michael, Jeffery and two friends.
In support for Michael, I want to post the details of the vigil in hopes that readers who are close by might attend and those of us who read here can offer prayer for Michael and surviving familiy and friends.

The 6th annual memorial vigil remembering the June 6, 2002 attack and subsequent death of Jeffery Owens for whom this center is named. Begins at 7:30pm on the steps of the First Congregational Church and then we walk to the site of the attack that led to the founding of the JOCC. Call 951-683-2032 or e-mail vp@jocc.org for more information.

Let’s join Michael and the others in spirit tomorrow and use our comments on this post to share some love…

Gender identity disorder research: Q & A with Kenneth Zucker

As a follow up to the recent broadcasts by NPR and several posts regarding gender identity, here is a Q & A involving J. Michael Bailey and Ken Zucker recently posted on the SEXNET email list. Dr. Zucker is the Head of the Gender Identity Service, Child, Youth, and Family Program and Psychologist-in-Chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Zucker is the chair of the newly appointed Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders working group for the 5th edition of American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V). Dr. Bailey is Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, prolific sexual orientation researcher and moderator of the SEXNET list. As the NPR article noted, Dr. Zucker has extensive clinical and research experience with persons who experience gender dysphoria. This interview was conducted by Dr. Michael Bailey via email and has been slightly edited for posting here. Both Drs. Bailey and Zucker have reviewed and approved it.

Bailey: Both NPR shows used the phrase “a girl trapped in men’s bodies.” How common is this concern over body image?
Zucker: I would say that, in general, there has not been a lot of good empirical research on body image issues in pre-pubertal children with GID. In adolescence, the Dutch group has reported clear evidence of body image dissatisfaction as one finds in adults. One of my PhD students has a dissertation that should be defended later this year in which we studied body image in boys with GID compared to clinical and community controls. We did detect significant body image differences among the three groups: body image in general and in relation to gender-specific anatomic dysphoria. The boys with GID had a poorer body image in general and, of course, with regard to gender-specific anatomic dysphoria. It is only a first pass at this issue and I will report on this down the road after the dissertation is defended.
Bailey: The case on the second NPR show is of a child (natal boy) who had extreme temper tantrums when not allowed to engage in feminine behaviors. Is this common in the kids you see, or is there something unusual about these kids?
Zucker: This is not uncommon. Some parents will report that if they try to limit cross-dressing that this can be very distressing for the boys. Some parents describe it as “he needs his fix.”
Bailey: You are more familiar than anyone else I know with the difference between the British and Dutch treatment centers that yielded the findings that only 20% of the British kids but 100% of the Dutch kids pursued sex reassignment eventually. Did the Dutch center focus on older children (who were less likely to change their minds)? To the extent that the samples were comparable, it is a shocking difference in outcome.
Zucker: I don’t think the British group has published their data yet. But, yes, the Dutch group data are on adolescents and I think that the British group is talking about clients first seen in childhood, not adolescents. The Dutch group now has a paper that is close to being “in press” on their first follow-up of GID children and then followed up later. The GID persistence rate for their boys was about 20% and the persistence rate for girls was 50%. Their persistence rate for boys appears to be similar to what I have summarized for the boys seen in my clinic (Zucker, 2005), but higher than the 12% rate for girls that we published earlier this year (Drummond et al., 2008). The Dutch group speculates that their girls were, at initial presentation, more extreme in their cross-gender behavior than the girls that we reported on, but that will require more careful analysis.
Bailey: The NPR show, and some people on it, kept implying that some of these kids are “really” transgender, and others are not. I suspect you don’t agree with this way of thinking about it, although you recognize that some kids are more likely to become transgender adolescents and adults than other kids are. Can you remind us which factors are associated with persistence of GID from childhood?
Zucker: I don’t think we know yet. Two possible candidates are age at initial evaluation (later age associated with greater persistence rates) and quantitative metrics of cross-gender behavior in childhood.

By persistence rate, Dr. Zucker is referring to the percentage of GID children who are still GID at a later assessment. In the Dutch group, as well as in Dr. Zucker’s research sample, most boys who want to be girls in childhood, end up as men who do not want to be women. For women in the Dutch sample, half remain GID. I think the assessments of low persistence of GID provide some helpful information to parents who wonder about puberty delay and behavioral interventions with their GID children.
Thanks to Drs. Bailey and Zucker for permission to post this conversation.

Mankind Project of Houston settles wrongful death lawsuit; some mental health oversight required

Some months ago, I reported extensively on the Mankind Project with attention to their signature program, the New Warriors Training Adventure. My interest in MKP and NWTA was provoked by a Houston Press article detailing the suicide of Michael Scinto. Mr. Scinto had attended a NWTA and reported distress thereafter. His parents Kathy and Ralph Scinto believed his death was linked to his experiences on that weekend and filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his estate in August, 2007.
In April, 2008, the case went to mediation and was settled. Although the parties to the dispute have signed a confidentiality agreement, the terms of the settlement are available for review on the Harris County, Texas District Court e-docs website. You will need to register (name, email address), verify your email and then change your password but the process is free. Once registered, search the name Scinto as Plaintiff and you will find all documents related to the case.
The terms of the settlement are found in a 20 page, May 20 document titled, Defendant’s Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. The Scintos and their attorney won $75,000 split roughly three ways. Furthermore, MKP of Houston is required to make some changes in procedure. The changes involves screening of applicants, disclosure of activities and means to exit the weekend. Anyone who registers can preview all of the court documents for no cost. I summarize the highlights here:
-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.
-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.
-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:
1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.
2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.
3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.
4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.
-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

As far as I can tell, this settlement is only applicable to MKP of Houston with no requirement that MKP elsewhere implement any of these points. Given the lawsuit involved a wrongful death charge as well as claims of performing psychotherapy without a license, I would say these changes are minimal, but important. I think they are valuable and provide recognition that some form of oversight, minimal though it is, is important. While I suspect that MKP of Houston will have no problem getting a mental health professional to perform this screening function, I would recommend any mental health professional performing this duty check first with his/her liability insurance carrier to make sure such a
review is covered activity.

Counselorlicense.com – Caveat emptor.

The public has a right to be confused about credentials in mental health. With several different mental health professions (psychiatry, psychology, professional counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy, and addictions counseling), it is hard to keep up with the various titles and credentials used by the professions as well as the differences from state to state. In some states (e.g., my former residence, Ohio), one must be credentialed in order to practice, but in others (my current residence, Pennsylvania) one does not need to be licensed to practice professional counseling, marriage and family therapy or social work.
The public can be easily fooled in this environment and even those with some mental health training might think certain credentials will help them gain competitive advantage. Hence, legitimate credentialing bodies have taken steps to alert the public about what appear to be business ventures. For instance, the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) provides this information regarding the American Psychotherapy Association. Sounds official, right? However, these credentials have no legal standing or recognition with any regulatory body.
What prompts this post is the emergence of another such credential with the catchy slogan – Become a licensed counselor! at Counselorlicense.com. At first glance, I thought it might be a parody. Check out this testimonial:

From a job standpoint, I was like a fish out of water. I tried every profession known to man, from office work, to real estate, to nearly every infomercial in existence. I wanted to work for myself, but as a single parent, needed significant income, but could not do extensive travel, as required in sales positions. As a “people person” I loved helping struggling couples and Church members with everything from finances to relationships, and our Pastor suggested I check out PSU. I started in a spare bedroom, and made over $1,400 the first week, and felt happier helping people than I ever have in my life. I now have my own office, secretary and mini daycare room, and can’t wait to get up in the morning to start my day! Thank you hardly says it…

The phrase “started in a spare bedroom” pointed toward parody to me but I have learned that the American Counseling Association is not amused. David Kaplan, Chief Professional Officer, at the ACA said this in an email about the Phoenix State University “credential.”

You can be assured that ACA, through its Council of Presidents and Region Chairs (COPARC), is working on this issue and taking this credential seriously.

A Whois domain search of the counselorlicense.com reveals the following:

Registrant:
Halstead, Tom
ETI
7760 e SR 69
suite c5-390
Prescott Valley, AZ 86314
US
Domain Name: COUNSELORLICENSE.COM
Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Halstead, Tom
ETI
7760 e SR 69
suite c5-390
Prescott Valley, AZ 86314, US
928-830-8467 fax: 866-857-2594
Record expires on 04-Apr-2009.
Record created on 04-Apr-2008.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Halstead is the owner of the various proofs of legitimacy he advances to support the pastoral counseling certificate. For instance, the websites of the Pastoral Church of America, the Phoenix State University, and even the accrediting body he says accredits the PSU, the Association of American Trade and Vocational Schools are all owned by Mr. Halstead. Of course, they all point to each other as evidence for their prestige. The AATVS website says it is “the oldest and largest accrediting organization for trade and vocational universities, colleges and schools, and has been accrediting university schools and labs since 1897.” Google it in quotes, however, and only two listings pop up, the website and Phoenix State University.
A call to the number given yields a recording asking the caller to contact PSU via email. So I did and received an automated reply. No answers as yet to my questions about how many students PSU enrolls or how I can contact one of those counselors who started in the spare bedroom. If you go to tomhalstead.com, you will find a web design business. From the looks of all the domains and websites he has, no wonder no one is answering the phone; he probably is very busy.
UPDATE: 6/3/08 – I spoke with James Rough, Executive Director of the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & Marriage and Family Therapist Board who informed me that he has asked the Ohio Attorney General’s office to investigate potential consumer fraud by counselorlicense.com. If this office doesn’t have jurisdiction or ability to intervene, then he will write the Arizona and Colorado consumer fraud offices to ask for an investigation. I suspect other state boards will follow suit.

Is the Evangelical center in Xenia, Ohio?

I liked this op-ed online at USA Today titled: “evangelicals you don’t know.” Written by self-described blue-stater, Tom Krattenmaker, the piece describes his visit to the HQ of Athletes in Actions, an affiliate of Campus Crusade for Christ. While he found differences in ideology there, he found a tone he did not expect:

Like the people I interviewed at Athletes in Action, Hunter is intent on changing the way we work through our still-real differences. Will it be in the now-popular style of a shouting match, where we listen only so far as it helps us plot our next incendiary retort? Or will we have a civil and respectful dialogue, one that employs our ears as much as our mouths?

I vote for the civil and respectful dialogue.