Back in December, 2008, I posted a critique of Neil Whitehead’s re-analysis of Shidlo and Schroeder’s study of harm from reorientation change efforts.
In that post, I noted that Whitehead said Shidlo’s study actually demonstrated the value of reparative therapy because suicides were reduced. In her report on the 2008 NARTH convention, NARTH president Julie Hamilton wrote:
Regarding the claims that reorientation therapy harms clients, Dr. Whitehead cited studies that found suicide rates decrease after therapy. In fact, he pointed out that Shidlo and Schroeder (2002) sought to prove the adverse effects of therapy by collecting stories of harm; however, instead of finding therapy to be harmful, they found it to be helpful, in that suicide attempts by these clients actually decreased after therapy. For more information on the content and references for Dr. Whitehead’s keynote address, see the NARTH Collected Convention Papers or soon-to-be-released book, What the Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the APA Claims on Homosexuality.
In the original post I cited a number of reasons why Shidlo and Schoeder could not be used to make statements regarding the relationship between change efforts and suicidality. Also, along the way, I asked Ariel Shidlo his response to the NARTH claim and my critique of it. He recently responded:
The [NARTH] claims are obviously a wishful reading of data that does not lend itself to any such conclusions. You make these points eloquently in your column.
Thanks for educating readers to a critical reading of those who throw around “science” in their sermons.
In reviewing the original post, note that the topic was not merely the inappropriateness of the specific NARTH claim but the role of confirmation bias in making various claims regarding sexual orientation. Being aware of this should not prevent theorizing but we should be prepared to acknowledge data which contradict our theories and look for alternative perspectives with new and better research.