Lesley Pilkington tells British radio being gay is about “daddy issues”

According to reports, a threat against a witness for UK reparative Lesley Pilkington has postponed her hearing before the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy. I have heard through sources there that the threat is being investigated. Ms. Pilkington is being scrutinized due to her statements about homosexuality made to Patrick Strudwick, a journalist who went undercover to find out how a reparative therapist operated.

On the 17th, Ms. Pilkington went on radio to explain her approach and discuss the situation. Click the link to hear the broadcast.

In it, she refers to the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) as the largest reparative therapy organization in the world. I suppose it is, but she doesn’t mention that there are fewer than 100o members, with a smaller subset actually having advanced mental health degrees.

When asked by the host how one can convert someone from gay to straight, Ms. Pilkington said surveys show that “daddy issues,” namely relationship with father is the main factor involved. She says that the bond is the problem, but then hastens to add that “we’re not blaming parents, I am not blaming any father at all.” Hearing the contradiction, the host asks if Pilkington’s husband failed their son (he is gay), and she answered, “we don’t use words like that.” However, she then says, “there were serious mistakes” and adds that there was “a failure at some level.”

This kind of double speak is typical of my interactions with reparative therapists. Pilkington says reparative therapists don’t use the word fail, and then she uses it in the next breath. Reparative therapists often say they are not blaming the parents, and then proceed to do so.

Mrs. Pilkington then says she seeks to bring healing in her therapy because “there will always be pain.” No doubt in any therapy situation, one can find something that is painful. However, finding pain in the life of someone who is gay does not mean that it relates to the cause of the sexual orientation. Furthermore, many gays with warm, loving parents would have to manufacture problems in order to meet up with Mrs. Pilkington’s expectations.

Finally, Pilkington conflates spiritual healing with the repair of some kind of parent-child break. She believes God can heal the relationship problems which she is sure are at the root of the same-sex attraction. Sadly, when the religious techniques don’t work to effect change, as is often true, the result can be despair and a sense of failure. I know of young men who have become disillusioned with their faith, leaving it since it promised change without delivering on the promise.

British reparative therapist may lose professional association membership

Fallout from the Patrick Strudwick sting continues. Strudwick presented himself falsely as a client who desired to change his sexual orientation to two therapists, Paul Miller and Lesley Pilkington. Richard Cohen acolyte, Paul Miller apparently avoided sanctions from his professional medical body. Now Pilkington’s case is being decided by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). In the UK, counsellors are not regulated directly by the government, but can become members of charity professional associations such as the BACP. I suspect Ms. Pilkington could still practice if she lost her standing in the BACP but it would cast a shadow over her.

If the news account is accurate, one can hear the reparative theory loud and clear:

Mrs Pilkington says her method of therapy – Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) – is legitimate and effective. The therapy is practised by a handful of psychotherapists in Britain.

Mrs Pilkington, whose 29-year-old son is homosexual, said she was motivated by a desire to help others. “He [my son] is heterosexual. He just has a homosexual problem,” she said last week.

Mrs Pilkington has accused Patrick Strudwick, the award-winning journalist who secretly taped her, of entrapment. On the tape, Mr Strudwick asks Mrs Pilkington if she views homosexuality as “a mental illness, an addiction or an antireligious phenomenon”. She replies: “It is all of that.”

And then…

“We say everybody is heterosexual but some people have a homosexual problem. Nobody is born gay. It is environmental; it is in the upbringing.”

The SOCE method involves behavioural, psychoanalytical and religious techniques. Homosexual men are sent on weekends away with heterosexual men to “encourage their masculinity” and “in time to develop healthy relationships with women”, said Mrs Pilkington.

Mrs. Pilkington, who has a gay son, sounds like a nice lady. Perhaps, she has helped people with other types of problems. However, on this issue, it sounds to me like she could use some assistance. It also sounds like her objectivity might be effected by her personal situation.

In any event, I am ambivilent about this situation. I agree that professional associations may intervene where false information and potentially harmful techniques are being offered. However, she was set up by the journalist who did not actually participate in counseling. Those opposing her might have a hard time proving actual harm to Mr. Strudwick. If other real clients who say they were harmed have come forward, I think that would change the deliberations. 

Instead of removing her membership, the BACP could ask her to complete additional courses in sexuality and perhaps consult with religiously compatible therapists who do not use reparative therapy. Even if Mrs. Pilkington escapes penalty, as Paul Miller seems to have, the BACP could use the incident to advance a balanced position, such as this one from the APA.