NARTH not petitioning APAs

During his visit to London, Joseph Nicolosi touted the research supporting reparative therapy. He also said on at least one occasion that NARTH was petitioning the American Psychological Association with studies which verify the approach.
From Virtueonline:

Nicolosi said his organization – the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.

The BBC News quoted Nicolosi as saying:

“We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work.
“We are petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.”

In this BBC News radio interview at about 2:08, Nicolosi says,

We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work…We are petitioning the American Psychological association to look at the data.

It seems clear to me that the APA at issue is the psychological group and not the psychiatric assocition. I asked David Pruden, NARTH Executive Director about the specifics of this petition to the APA. He referred the question to Dean Byrd, past-president of NARTH. Dr. Byrd replied:

NARTH has no plans to petition APA on behalf of reparative therapy (or any other therapy for that matter). Dr. Nicolosi, of course, is free to do whatever he likes.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of NARTH has been working on a number of projects aimed at preserving the rights of individuals to seek psychological care for unwanted homosexual attractions as well as protecting the rights of licensed professionals to provide ethical, effective care for this client population. When these projects are completed and ready for distribution, announcements will be made via press releases on the NARTH website and through other venues.

I am not sure what form a petition would take but it would be important news if some formal research report was available which purported to support reparative therapy (in the sense Nicolosi was using in the term in London – his brand of change therapy). There are various peer-reviewed professional journal articles around which review the available research (I have done two of them) on a host of approaches to behavior and attraction change. In my opinion, those reviews do not present evidence favoring the developmentally based, reparative drive theory and therapy.

25 thoughts on “NARTH not petitioning APAs”

  1. Warren,
    Sounds like the study was divided along ideological lines. The people who didn’t like it did their best to downplay it.

  2. My suggestion is to use the search function on this blog and look for Shidlo and read more about it.
    Here is a place to start:

  3. Maybe I’m approaching this the wrong way – what was the nature of the S&S study? Why did they stop it?

  4. I’m curious why, if S&S were doing research on harm, the people who benefited from the therapy were contacting them? Did they not know the nature of the study?

  5. I knew one of them had had a good deal of trouble tracking down anyone who identified as ex-gay. Thanks

  6. but the outcry against therapies for people with unwanted SSA is not based upon any meaningful body of research….one study.

    But it is based on very personal tragedy experienced by untold numbers of people. And that is not something that can be simply dismissed.

  7. @Jayhuck: He did have some difficulty but he found more positives more quickly (not quite 2 years versus 5 years for S&S).

  8. It must have been Dr. Spitzer’s study – it may have been him who was having trouble finding any ex-gay people for his study!

  9. David,
    I personally haven’t seen people in those other groups hurt to the extent they have been hurt in various ex-gay groups – their numbers are troubling – and these are just the ones I know about.

  10. @ Everyone…
    Oops, facts are troublesome things…
    The fact seems to be that S and S is the only study.
    Then there are anecdotal accounts like Pathias.
    And support groups, such as Ex-gay survivor.
    I am aware of clients who felt harmed by referral to AA; I have had clients who were harmed by “recovered memories.”
    But studies to verify? None.
    I think it should be done…but the outcry against therapies for people with unwanted SSA is not based upon any meaningful body of research….one study.
    And they are outraged by Byrd’s and Nicolosi’s pay to publish studies and self-reports! How absurd and unbalanced this criticism is.

  11. @Jayhuck: They had trouble finding people who had been through ex-gay therapy or ministry in any form and were harmed. They began by seeking only the harmed and then started getting calls from those who benefitted. Then they stopped the study.

  12. Warren,
    My understanding re: the S&S study is that they had trouble finding ex-gay people period – not just ones showing harm but anyone.

  13. We do know to some extent that the success rate is very low for such therapie – J&Y as an example

  14. We only need to look as far as beyondExGay or any other various Ex-gay survivor support groups – IMHO
    THANKS for sharing Pathia – you aren’t alone.

  15. Warren,
    What constitutes harm? Sometimes pain and suffering through some of these issues is necessary to come to a deeper understanding for yourself. I have left go of the myth that life should always be easy and in so doing I realize that it was not always easy for my parents either. They made mistakes that had lasting effects on all of their children, but it is time to move forward. Change is possible and it is up to me to decide whether I am being harmed or helped by the therapy that I am getting, not someone who refuses to accept that there is a need for change in their life. Trauma is a big part of so many of the difficulties we must endure. Forgiveness is the answer to finding a better way of coping with these difficulties. I must learn to forgive those who have wronged me but not ignore the harm that may have come to me because of that wrong. If still needs to be worked through.

  16. My therapy WAS trauma, my therapy led to conflict, discord and arguments with my parents. I don’t recall anything particularly bad between my parents and I before therapy, I mean I was only eight. Unless you count like “But I wanna stay up past NINE!” as an traumatic event.

  17. @Jayhuck: Your point would only stand if you had evidence for the point. S & S were seeking harm and took 5 years to get the less than 200 people to talk about their experiences. Other studies have found some harm but have also found some benefit from all kinds of efforts to change. Where I quarrel with the reparative therapists is when they say it is beneficial or is not harmful. The best we can say is that some studies have interviewed clients who benefit and some have interviewed clients who did not. We don’t know what the prevalence is of either outcome. When in doubt, you report the little bit of information you have to clients to help make an informed decision. What is not proper is for Nicolosi to say he has evidence that his approach has been demonstrated to be helpful when his specific approach has not been singled out for a test. All we have is his word that 33-67% are helped. That is not enough for me. However, I cannot say, I know with certainty that any number are harmed in specific ways.

  18. Hey warren – I was actually asking a question. My main point still stands though, enough harm, sometimes significant, has been done to enough people in the name of various “change” therapies to warrant cautioning any and all such clients seeking to enter them.

  19. Well Warren…. here’s one website I stumbled across a few weeks ago that is looking at some self-reported harm:
    Hmmm… I didn’t know that it has been suggested that a tort cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress might be sustainable against therapists who use conversion therapy on patients. The German Bundestag has ruled that homosexuality does not require therapy and cannot be changed through therapy and thus the have also said that any conversion therapy is harmful. And in Norway, a ‘treatment’ with the only aim of changing sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual is now regarded as ethical malpractice and it is said to have no place in the health system.”

  20. David,
    I don’t think the S and S study is the only one that has shown harm, often significant harm, to those who have sought “change”, whatever that means, is it?
    The harm that has occurred to many is significant enough to warrant warning anyone trying to undergo such therapy about the possible consequences. To do otherwise would be completely unethical.

  21. Harm comes in many ways. There may be no real pscychological harm, but there is always harm in trying to please someone other than yourself. The harm of time and moneys poorly spent when one should instead be living that life which some would instead demand that you deny to yourself.

  22. Agreed…
    The global generalization of Shidlo and Shroeder from a population who did not have any standardized form of treatment slanders all who seek to help those with unwanted SSA.
    S and S are not talking about the specific work of Nicolois, or Throckmorton (SIT) or Byrd…
    S and S are talking about a wide variety of groups, interventions and religious activities that were reported as harmful by a group of participants who were selected based upon harm.
    There is no way the S and S study can be used to critique psychodynamic, behavioral, or religious interventions specifically.
    There selection criteria makes it impossible to thoughtfully apply the word “harm” to those who seek treatment.
    If the selection criteria had been three fold: harm, no harm, help…then that would be more useful.
    As it was by selecting for harm, they still got people who reported benefit….
    Joe is right to say there are no studies that prove his interventions are harmful.

  23. Some people have been harmed but there is no basis for saying entrance into reparative therapy will be harmful for all who enter it. There are likely benefits for some percentage of clients. As I noted in the thread on different pathways, there may indeed be sexual behavior which is responsive to the kind of trauma he proposes. Resolving that trauma with a new nongay narrative will provide support for people to pursue opposite sex relationships (which many probably already had some desire for). The unknowable is the prevalence who have this causal pattern and how likely is reparative therapy to help those people.

  24. Your evaluation responds to half of Joe’s assertion…the other half of the assertion has to do with harm.

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