APA declines to meet with religious coalition

I will have more to say about this in due time, however, while it is current, I wanted to post this Citizen link article regarding the APA sexual orientation task force.

In a nutshell, the APA solicited opinion from gay advocacy groups in regard to the sexual orientation task force mandate but thus far has declined to meet with a large religious coalition which asked for a meeting regarding that mandate. The letters to the APA are linked in this report.

For the record, Clinton Anderson and the APA GLBT office is open to conversation with callers and has been responsive to my inquiries and input. I do not want to imply otherwise. And I know that the task force is aware of a diversity of views. However, that being said, I do think it would be productive for the APA leadership to have a formal sit-down with those representing a major US demographic group.

APA resolution on religion and psychology

At the San Francisco convention, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution regarding the relationship between religion and psychological practice and research. I have posted it elsewhere on the blog for your review. Here I am going to pull out some points relevant to our discussions on sexual identity.

It is important for psychology as a behavioral science, and various faith traditions as theological systems, to acknowledge and respect their profoundly different methodological, epistemological, historical, theoretical and philosophical bases. Psychology has no legitimate function in arbitrating matters of faith and theology; and faith traditions have no legitimate place arbitrating behavioral or other sciences. While both traditions may arrive at public policy perspectives operating out of their own traditions, the bases for these perspectives are substantially different.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association take a leadership role in opposing discrimination based on or derived from religion or spirituality and encouraging commensurate consideration of religion and spirituality as diversity variables.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association views no religious, faith or spiritual tradition, or lack of tradition, as more deserving of protection than another and that the American Psychological Association gives no preference to any particular religious or spiritual conventions.

This statement of religion as a diversity variable dovetails very nicely with the religious coalition’s letter to the APA regarding religious diversity.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages individuals and groups to work against any potential adverse psychological consequences to themselves, others or society, that might arise from religious or spiritual attitudes, practices or policies.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are encouraged to recognize that it is outside the role and expertise of psychologists as psychologists to adjudicate religious or spiritual tenets, while also recognizing that psychologists can appropriately speak to the psychological implications of religious/spiritual beliefs or practices when relevant psychological findings about those implications exist. Those operating out of religious/spiritual traditions are encouraged to recognize that it is outside their role and expertise to adjudicate empirical scientific issues in psychology, while also recognizing they can appropriately speak to theological implications of psychological science.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are careful to prevent bias from their own spiritual, religious or non-religious beliefs from taking precedence over professional practice and standards or scientific findings in their work as psychologists.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages collaborative activities in pursuit of shared prosocial goals between psychologists and religious communities when such collaboration can be done in a mutually respectful manner that is consistent with psychologists’ professional and scientific roles.

When religious belief seems to associate with some adverse mental health outcome, the psychologist can point this out but still may not opine about the religious value of holding a belief. In some traditions, for instance, suffering is valued, even it could be prevented via psychological interventions. Psychologists should not be shy about saying such suffering could be prevented but the psychologist may also respect the tradition of the client and recognize where personal beliefs can bias psychologists.

All in all, I think these are important statements and have relevance to sexual identity ministry and therapy. I will have more to say later on this, so let’s consider this an open forum on this topic.

APA sexual identity therapy symposium

APA conference

The symposium went well with about 130 in attendance. Here are my power point and notes that were distributed. Later, after I get permission from the other presenters, I will post their slides as well.

APA symposium

In the picture below, Lee Beckstead and I are fielding a question; Mark Yarhouse is trying to get us off stage so the man on the left can start his presentation. APA symposium

Above, from left to right, are Mark Yarhouse, Erica Tan and yours truly. Lee had to run off to another session. Thanks to each of the presenters and especially Mark and Lee for organizing the symposium.

San Francisco: A nice place to visit

Golden Gate Bridge

My heart is safe but this beautiful spot on earth has my attention. I am blogging from a little cafe in Sausalito and have had a nice day. Through the miracle of wireless, I have been able to work most of the morning and see sights through the afternoon. Perhaps it says something about me that the first place I wanted to go (my first time here) was the Fillmore (couldn’t get in, a band was setting up). Haight-ashburyFrom there, I went to Haight-Ashbury (trippy), to Castro (colorful), then to the Mission District (amen), then over the Golden Gate Bridge (wow!) and now here in Sausalito (very hip).

That is my attempt at a travelogue.

Well, Blakeslee just called so I am heading back to the city of the all time home-run king.

Tomorrow, the APA convention…


Sexual identity therapy and neutrality, Part one

Continuing the discussion about sexual identity therapy, I want to contrast our framework with both gay affirming and reparative therapies on the dimension of value neutrality in two posts. As a springboard for my thoughts, I want to quote from an article by Joseph Nicolosi on the NARTH website called, “Why I Am Not A Neutral Therapist.” He led with this explanation:

A Christian psychologist contacted me to discuss reorientation therapy for SSA men. Hoping to find a politically “safe” compromise with the APA, he was anxious to avoid value judgments and remain noncommittal about homosexuality. The solution, he thought, would be a simple behavior modification program. Speaking from my 25 years of experience in this field, I told him I found his approach naïve and ultimately unworkable.

Then he adds:

“Furthermore, why should I refuse to discuss philosophical issues with clients,” I told him, “when gay-affirmative therapists are working very hard as boosters of their philosophy? They tell clients that same-sex feelings are ‘sacred.’ They push them to revolutionize society’s and the church’s attitudes. Any client’s conviction that heterosexuality is the norm will be redefined by the therapist as a ‘psychological illness — homophobia.'”

“The fact is, neutrality fails for clinicians on both sides of this issue,” I told the psychologist. “Clinicians like you and me, who believe that humanity was designed for heterosexuality, must speak up about our philosophy. These men with unwanted SSA want boosters, allies, advocates, as they claim their masculine identity — someone who believes in them and stands strongly at their side.”

Dr. Nicolosi parallels his disclosure of reparative drive theory as an ideology to what he believes gay affirming therapists do with clients but from an opposing perspective. After all, if it is ethical for gay affirming therapists to promote homosexuality as a moral good, then why shouldn’t reparative therapists promote heterosexuality as God’s design?

Before I discuss this further, one might question whether gay affirming therapists or therapists in general really have a worldview on the matter. I cannot go into this exhaustively but a statement from the APA’s Clinton Anderson from a recent AP article by David Crary suggests there are favored and disfavored religious views on matters gay. Speaking about religious views which are at odds with homosexual behavior, Dr. Anderson said:

“We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality — they don’t fit into our worldview,” Anderson said.

So can therapists be neutral?

In my view, not all therapists can practice in a neutral manner. In our sexual identity therapy framework, we have clear guidance which allows for referrals when value conflicts impair what therapy has to offer a client. In other situations, the role of the therapist is to assist clients clarify their own perspectives and work toward congruence. For clients who do not know what they believe, it can be very valuable for the therapist to refrain from imposing a religious worldview or stigmatizing conservative religious views.

Some people want a non-neutral therapist on either side of the worldview spectrum. Perhaps they would not be happy with sexual identity therapy. My investigations into this arena suggest that retrospective assessments of therapist helpfulness are associated with therapists not attempting to impose a contrary value position on to the client. And so, I continue to believe that SIT occupies a niche that offers something not available in ideologically-driven approaches. For those who are still figuring things out or have not felt successful with other approaches, our framework could provide something different.

Part two will explore where the sexual identity therapist isn’t neutral.