Provided nothing breaks in London or Aruba, I will be on CNN Sunday night at 10:15pm opposite the president of the Human Rights Campaign. We apparently are to talk about LIA, Zach Stark and reorientation therapy. My understanding is that Zach Stark has completed the program and is doing well.
Destructive Trends in Mental Health – Book Review
BOOK REVIEW: Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, edited by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings
A new book by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings rightly exposes how psychology has been overtaken by psychologists who advance social advocacy over mental health care. Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm documents how the mental health professions have been overtaken by social activism to the detriment of scientific inquiry and quality mental health care. Anyone in mental health or who cares about the profession should read this book.
Wright and Cummings are not conservatives, at least in the sense that they necessarily support social conservatism. However, they have been pragmatic and keen observers of the mental health professions over the past 40 years. As a young counselor, I first met Nick Cummings when American Biodyne, the first real managed behavioral health care company, came to Ohio as a manager of the state employees behavioral health care. This was around 1985 at the beginning of the managed care revolution in mental health. I just started my counseling private practice in Portsmouth, Ohio and was looking to get on board the managed care train. Biodyne did something very novel; all therapists in the preferred network were required to be trained by the company leaders, including president, Nick Cummings. In all my years of education both in school and post grad, I have never listened to a better trainer than Nick Cummings. He believed therapy could be a powerful influence in a person’s life but it was never to be used to gratify the therapist or to promote a political agenda. That same theme permeates this book.
Cummings and Wright believe that modern psychology has been taken over by forces of social activism and as a consequence face irrelevance. Here are two quotes from the book regarding psychology and sexual orientation therapy:
“In the current climate, it is inevitable that conflict arises among the various subgroups in the marketplace. For example, gay groups within the APA [American Psychological Association] have repeatedly tried to persuade the association to adopt ethical standards that prohibit therapists from offering psychotherapeutic services designed to ameliorate “gayness” on the basis that such efforts are unsuccessful and harmful to the consumer. Psychologists who do not agree are termed homophobic. Such efforts are especially troubling because they abrogate the patient’s right to therapist and determine therapeutic goals. They also deny the reality of data demonstrating that psychotherapy can be effective in changing sexual preferences in patients who have a desire to do so.” (From the introduction, page xxx, emphasis added).
“Although the APA is reluctant or unable to evaluate questionable practices and has thus avoided addressing the issue of best practices, this did not prevent its Council of Representatives in 2002 from stampeding into a motion to declare the treatment of homosexuality unethical. This was done with the intent of perpetuating homosexuality, even when the homosexual patient willingly and even eagerly seeks treatment…Vigorously pushed by the gay lobby, it was eventually seen by a sufficient number of Council members as runaway political correctness and was defeated by the narrowest of margins…Although the resolution was narrowly defeated, this has not stopped its proponents from deriding colleagues who provide such treatment to patients seeking it.” (From Chapter One, by Nick Cummings and William O’Donohue, pp. 17-18).
There are fine chapters regarding the misuse of the term homophobia (“It is most unfortunate when scientists attempt to pass implicit or explicit pejorative evaluations of individuals holding certain open and debatable value positions as part of their science”), abortion, pluralism, political correctness and so on. As noted, Wright and Cummings are less concerned about the social outcomes of psychology’s misadventures into social activism than they are with the consequences to the profession. They paint a picture of psychologists being unable to support themselves as psychologists because the profession has become enamored with social change.
Mental health care in the US is adequate but barely so. Any practicing counselors knows how difficult it is to find quality services anywhere outside of the metropolitan areas of this country. Cummings and Wright correctly observe that the professions preoccupation with social activism threaten to make the professional associations irrelevant as forces for quality and affordable health care for all people. The book was apparently completed before both APA’s went headlong into the same sex marriage debate, but I believe favoring same sex marriage is just more of the same activity lamented by the Cummings, Wright and colleagues. When it comes to mental health delivery, Nick Cummings has rarely been wrong in his predictions. I don’t think he is wrong this time.
Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm, edited by Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings is published by Routledge.
Love in Action on Good Morning America and beyond: Distortions in the current coverage
I didn’t see the segment but the article about it is on the ABC website. Love in Action is getting much attention lately but the media are making generalizations that are staggering. Here are the four major ones that come to mind.
1. LIA is lumped in with all reparative therapies. This is inaccurate. LIA is not a therapy program but a ministry model to assist clients to identify with Christ and Christian teaching. As such, not everyone will agree with all their practices (I don’t) but I will defend their right to practice their Christianity in the peaceful manner that they do so. Reporters need to distinguish between ministry based programs and therapists.
2. Reparative therapy is an umbrella term for change programs and therapy. Not true. Reparative therapy is based on psychoanalytic ideas and is associated with Elizabeth Moberly and Joe Nicolosi. Umbrella terms might be reorientation therapy or sexual identity therapy. For instance, I believe that sexual orientation is a murky concept and fluid but I am not a reparative therapist. I would label what I do as sexual identity therapy since I attempt to help a person integrate a sexual identity that is consistent with their total personal identity.
3. The APA, AMA, ACA, you name it, have all said reparative therapy doesn’t work. Not really. What they oppose are therapies that take the stance that all gays must enter treatment because homosexuality is mental disorder to be cured. This broad statement implies that seeking to live in accord with one’s beliefs does not work and all change approaches have been proven ineffective. Not true. I challenge readers to produce such studies.
4. Belief in change is a conservative Christian thing. I agree that many who are conservatively Christian believe in change in sexuality but there are those who are pretty far from CC who believe change occurs as well.
Going forward, I hope reporters not only seek to produce a “news product” but also learn about the diversity of views on this issue. Otherwise, they are simply reinforcing distortions.
Wanna send your kid to this?
How is this a responsible program?
Paula Zahn, CNN and Love in Action
I watched the CNN/Paula Zahn show regarding Love in Action. Good reporting is allowing the principle characters to tell their stories and to report both sides of related controversies. This program came close but fell short. Director John Smid was interviewed. Fair enough. A satisified graduate and a dissatisfied graduate were interviewed. Fair enough. But then the bias was in interviewing APA’s Jack Drescher as the lone representative of the professional class. Fair reporting would be to interview a professional who has no dog in the fight (Drescher does not qualify) or balance his perspective with another professional who takes another view. Humorous, however, was Paula Zahn’s closing when she referred to the concept of change as if it were an idea from another planet.
PFLAG wants discussion on reparative therapy?
PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) released a statement yesterday saying they want a discussion about “reparative therapy.” Well, that is interesting news since they have already decided they don’t like it. I wonder what they want to discuss.Here is the statement with commentary from yours truly.
Statement on Tennessee Teen’s Release from “Ex-Gay Camp”
July 26, 2005 â€“ Washington, D.C. â€“ As Zach Stark, the Tennessee teen who recently gained national attention after blogging his fears of being sent to Love in Action, is released from the program this week, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) calls for an ongoing and substantive discussion about the effects of â€œreparative therapyâ€ on young people and their families. â€œAs families who have faced these very issues in our own lives, we must give Zach and his family the space and privacy they need to deal with this situation,â€ said Jody Huckaby, PFLAGâ€™s executive director. â€œWe also must insist, as allies and advocates for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) loved ones, that â€˜reparative therapyâ€™ programs are not allowed to prosper unchallenged at the expense of our family members and friends.â€
=”Our families and friends?” I thought this was about giving Zach and his family space. They say they want discussion but they really don’t want to discuss, they want to pass judgment. In Columbus, at the PTA convention, we wanted to discuss what reorientation counseling is about but they did not support the presence of Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays. If two sides to an issue are not present then it is not an “ongoing and substantial discussion.”
The â€œreparative therapyâ€ industry uses disproved medical theories to â€œcureâ€GLBT persons and preys upon those in pain and confusion about matters of sexualorientation.
=There is no “reparative therapy industry.” If there are therapists who prey on people then they should be out of business. No one I know who believes in change as an option believes in preying on anybody. I don’t know what theories are referred to here but change in sexual orientation has not been disproven. This news release comes from the PR firm of “Hyperbole R Us.”
Their claims and methods have been roundly denounced by the American MedicalAssociation (AMA), American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other medical professionals.
=Who are “they?” Have my claims been denounced? Spitzer’s? Nicolosi’s? Repeat: There is no reparative therapy industry. Those who believe change occurs are a pretty diverse bunch. A real discussion which I welcome would reveal that. But revealing accurate information is not what PFLAG has in mind here.
PFLAG applauds greater scrutiny of â€œreparative therapyâ€, â€œconversion therapyâ€ or â€œex-gayâ€ programs.
=So do I.
Because of the attention surrounding Zachâ€™s story, the Tennessee Departmentof Health began an investigation and notified the unlicensed Love in Action thatit was functioning illegally by claiming to offer therapy and could faceprosecution by the district attorney.
= Read the Memphis Commercial Appeal on this story. I spoke to John Smid at the Exodus conference and they are cooperating with the state. Further, as the result of an earlier conversation he and I had, LIA has clarified that they are a ministry and not a treatment or therapy program. Given the level of cooperation and the fact that they are a ministry program, it is extremely unlikely that they will face any legal difficulties.
Immediately before entering the program, Zach wrote, â€œIâ€™ve been through hell. Iâ€™ve been emotionally torn apart for three daysâ€ and â€œHonestly how couldyou support a program like this? If I do come out straight Iâ€™ll be so mentally unstable and depressed it wonâ€™t matter.â€ Zachâ€™s fears were well-founded. According to the AMA and APA, â€œreparative therapyâ€ does not work. But the dangers of these programs are real. At a minimum, those in â€œreparative therapyâ€ must cope with the emotional damage of being relentlessly badgered with fear tactics and being told to change who they are. At worst they are at risk for self-destructive behavior including suicide. Mary Lou Wallner and her husband Bob know the damage of â€œreparative therapyâ€ all too well. Speaking at a recent PFLAG conference in Bothell, Washington, Mary Lou told the audience that herreaction when her daughter came out was based on the teachings of Dr. James Dobson, a leading â€œreparative therapyâ€ proponent. â€œI raised my kids on Dobson. I read his books and listened to his radio broadcasts for years. ” In December of1988, when she was about 21 years old, my daughter wrote us a letter and told usthat she was a lesbian. I flipped out and the next nine years were pretty stormy. Then in February of 1997, at age 29, she committed suicide.â€ â€œLookingback, I think a lot of it had to do with the way I taught her about homosexuality. I have since come to understand that almost anybody gets depressed if they can’t be who they really are.â€
=I think this may be the most destructive and distorted part of the press release. No one knows how this boy feels now. I read his blog, he sounded like he needed counseling independent of any issues with same sex attraction. PFLAG never even considers the evidence about suicide and mental disorders. The Wallners did not say that their daughter said she was depressed because of her parents beliefs but they now think part of it was their beliefs. I feel so bad for people who have children who are troubled. I have first hand knowledge of these things and to use the suffering of people to sensationalize the matter is irresponsible. No ethical therapist would ignore depression and suicidal ideation in clients.
Like the Wallners, Zachâ€™s parents and other parents considering â€œreparative therapyâ€ only want the best for their children. However, PFLAG families and ourallies must re-double our efforts to educate about the dangers and alternatives to this soundly discredited â€œtreatment.â€ â€œUltimately we want Zach to be who he is and we accept whatever decision he makes,â€ said Dr. Arnold Drake, president of PFLAG Memphis. â€œWe also want Zach and his family to know that weâ€™ve been through this before and we are ready and able to support them.â€
=This statement of acceptance doesn’t sound very genuine but it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be if Zach says he is ok with the program now.
Next up – I am fixing to watch the CNN Paula Zahn program on the LIA program.
Judge Roberts will be confirmed
I am way outside my area of expertise when I wax upon things political. However, my opinion is that the liberal opposition to Judge Roberts is mostly about rallying the troops and fundraising. On what basis would he not be confirmed? If Ruth Bader Ginsberg can be confirmed with her history with the ACLU then questions about former clients and charities and personal beliefs should be off the table.
Immediately, PFLAG and HRC are out in front along with NARAL in opposition to the nomination. Interesting connection, gay rights organizations and pro-abortion groups – it appears they believe Judge Roberts may not find an implied right to privacy in the constitution when he officially looks. Said better, he may not find that an individual right to privacy is an absolute truth to which all other rights and morals bow.
Having said that, let me predict the following: Roberts will be confirmed, he will not vote to overturn Roe, he will not vote to overturn Lawrence v. Texas, but he will strengthen parents rights, including over abortion and contraception for minors, he will allow states to place restrictions on abortion and he will vote with Scalia and Thomas on church – state relations.
Fayetteville Arkansas controversy over sexually explicit books
This is a developing story and is already pretty big in Arkansas. As I said in the article, I cannot understand what educational value these books have. I remember in helping with child abuse investigations in Southern Ohio, perpretrators would give material such as is in these books in order to groom kids for a sexual advance. I don’t care what your political ideology is, I would hope we could get to some common ground on removing sexually explicit material from public schools.
Arkansas Parents Uncover Volumes of Vile Literature in School Libraries
By Jim Brown July 22, 2005
(AgapePress) – An Arkansas mother who succeeded in getting three sexually explicit books removed from Fayetteville school libraries says she has found there are more than a hundred books of that nature in the school district. Now a mental health counselor is recommending a parental audit of all the books in the city’s school libraries.
According to a search conducted by Fayetteville mom Laurie Taylor, out of 502 books listed under “sex” in the city’s middle, junior high, and high school libraries, there are 66 books on sex instruction, and 32 of those are on child sex instruction. Another 75 of the books deal with homosexuality, 23 fall under the category of lesbian fiction, 16 are on rape, 9 on incest, and there are even some books on bestiality.
Taylor and other concerned mothers and fathers are calling area school officials on the carpet for allowing books filled with profanity and gratuitous sex to remain on the shelves in the city’s schools. The group has asked Superintendent Bobby New and school board members to restrict students’ access to the materials. Meanwhile, Taylor and other parents have begun reviewing the libraries’ collections and are providing a summary of some of the shocking and offensive content they have found on the “http://www.wpaag.org/” website.
“The majority of these … are fiction books,” the Arkansas mom notes, “so there’s no educational
value in them outside of the fact that they’re literary — and I hesitate when I say ‘works’ — but they’re literary works that have been put into our library system to, in my opinion, desensitize and indoctrinate our kids to thinking that sex with whoever, whenever, whatever you want to is okay.”
Taylor points out that, although the bulk of these books are actually in the middle school and above, in Fayetteville any child in the entire county — which covers several school districts — can access any book from the library. “And here’s the terrible thing,” she adds; after choosing a possibly inappropriate book from any of the libraries, boys and girls can “have it delivered to their home school without their parents’ consent or knowledge.”
So far, Taylor says, “irresponsible” Fayetteville school officials have refused to address the issue, at least until school resumes. The National Coalition Against Censorship and other left-wing groups have written a letter to Superintendent New and the school board, urging them to resist removing or imposing a parental consent requirement on the sexually explicit books.
Mental Health Expert Appalled by School Libraries’ Explicit LiteratureGrove City College professor and psychologist Dr. Warren Throckmorton says he, too, is appalled by the content of scores of books on human sexuality in Fayetteville’s school libraries. After reviewing just a portion of literature, the noted sexual orientation researcher and mental health counselor says he found the literary value of many offensive books to be of insufficient weight to overlook their sexually explicit content.
“We’re talking not just about descriptions of sexual thoughts or feelings,” Throckmorton says, “and certainly we’re not talking about any kind of sexual education material. What we’re talking about are things that are problems in schools, such as adult-child sexual relationships.”
The psychology expert notes one particularly egregious example in particular, a book called Doing It by Melvin Burgess. In it, he says, “there’s a description of a boy who has a sexual relationship with his teacher. He doesn’t tell the authorities.”
Another book to which Throckmorton took especial offense was Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez, which features a threesome of boys who believe they are homosexuals. “One of them has unprotected sex with an adult that he met through a Gay-Straight Alliance [club],” the mental health counselor says. And these kinds of books, he points out, “are touted as being recommended books by groups like the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. And they’re in these libraries. I don’t understand what educational purpose [books like] this could possibly have to be in a school library.”
Dr. Throckmorton says it is important to remember, researchers warn that kids who are exposed to sexually explicit material — whether it be in books or on television — are more inclined to engage in sexual activity. He feels an audit should be made of the books currently included in the Fayetteville School Libraries, to be conducted by a broad committee of parents in the school system.
Clarification regarding study quoted in essay about Exodus founders
In my recent article regarding the founders of Exodus, I made the following quote referencing a study of counseling with gays and lesbians:
“For instance, in a recent study of 2000 episodes of counseling with 600 gays, only 13 episodes were identified as involving sexual reorientation therapy.”
The reference for the study is: Jones, M.A., Botsko, M., & Gorman, B.S. (2003). Predictors of psychotherapeutic benefit of lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients: The effects of sexual orientation matching and other factors. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40, 289-301.
There were a number of factors examined but the authors asked 600 glb people who had been involved in any kind of counseling to report on their experiences with their counselors. The word episode refers to all the sessions with one counselor. So roughly we are talking about 600 people who consulted nearly 2000 counselors for an average of 3.3 episodes (counselors) each.
Of the nearly 2000 episodes of counseling reported on by these 600 clients, only 13 were with counselors who engaged in reorientation counseling. Remember this is more than 13 sessions but thirteen different counselors out of nearly 2000 reported on. So less than 1% of the episodes involved counseling situations that the gay and lesbian clients now see as being at odds with their current orientation. Remarkably, 48% of the clients were confused about their orientation at the time they went into counseling. These are the kind of clients that would seem to be vulnerable to therapists offering or attempting to impose reorientation interventions. However, less than 1% the counseling episodes included reorientation therapy. This does not sound like evidence of widespread harm done by counselors to vulnerable clients.
Also, on the point of widespread harm, the one other study (Shidlo and Schroeder) that surveyed clients who said they had been harmed by reorientation counseling took 5 years to find 176 people that experienced harm. This is a long period of time, despite the fact, that the effort was sponsored by gay and lesbian organizations and publicized widely in these circles. In contrast, Spitzer took less than 2 years to find 200 people who met his stringent criteria for change.
Those who have been harmed I do not doubt. What I think this evidence supports is that there are people doing things in the name of reorientation that are harmful and they need to be stopped. However, as evidence of widespread harm, I do not think the case is made.
New Essay: Are Sexual Preferences Changeable?
Are Sexual Preferences Changeable?
Warren Throckmorton, PhD
July 19, 2005
Wayne Besen tracks down a dizzying array of former ex-gay leaders who later came out of the closet for good, including the two founders of Exodus. From an article by Mark Benjamin on Salon.com, July 18, 2005.
The article containing the above quote is entitled, Turning Off Gays and is the first of a four part series on the Internet site, Salon.com. The series is billed as an investigation into the Christian netherworld of reparative therapy,™ a disputed practice to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals. The topic is important to many due to the current curiosity, both scientific and popular, regarding the nature of sexual orientation.
Are sexual preferences changeable? Activist Wayne Besen, quoted above has made a career out of claiming that such change is impossible. As evidence, the Salon article, referencing Mr. Besen, claims that there were two founders of a prominent organization of former homosexuals, Exodus International, and that both of them reverted to homosexuality.
Are these claims accurate? Let me cut to the chase. Mostly, they are not true. In fact, after investigating the matter, I found that there were more than two people on the founding board of Exodus. Of these founders, only one reverted to homosexuality. Furthermore, one of the two men referred to by Mr. Besen was never in leadership with Exodus.
Here are the details….
To read the rest of the essay, go to DrThrockmorton.com. (This website is no longer functional). I am not sure if the above essay exists anywhere in full which is just as well since I don’t stay by the conclusions.)