There has been some debate in recent days about whether or not reparative therapists use pornography as a therapeutic tool. Recently, Alan Chambers stated that reparative therapists use porn as a part of the change process. This practice is one of the reasons Exodus no longer recommends reparative therapy. One other large reason relates to the unrealistic hope it generates for total change. I will take that up in a future post. For his part, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi denied Chambers claims.
In a Facebook posting, Nicolosi summarizes the allegation and then provides his response: First he says:
Alan: It has been brought to my attention that you have posted the following comments on Facebook:
“As for Reparative Therapy, I do not support it. I don’t think it’s ‘fine’. They use pornography as a means of making people “100% straight”. We stopped allowing Joe Nicolosi to teach because he encouraged attendees to pick up heterosexual porn to encourage heterosexuality. Also, he and others have said that they can “cure” people 100% of SSA.”
“Joe Nicolosi and a few others are on record in workshops and other places saying that they employ pornography. We do not wish to slander Joe, but it is important for people to know that this is a part of the RT practice even if it wasn’t used in your therapy. This is a fact.”
To these accusations, Nicolosi responded:
Furthermore, I do not use heterosexual pornography with my clients. I do ask them (if they wish to do this; some clients do not, and I never expect my clients to do anything they do not wish to do) to bring up a compelling image from gay porn that they wish to reduce the power of, and we work on diminishing its power (a technique with which we have had considerable success).
However, I do not use straight porn; I use pictures of women they find attractive in mainstream magazines and we work on developing a physical attraction to them, through their imagination, while looking at these non-pornographic pictures.
On point, I have obtained a description of a workshop proposed by Dr. Nicolosi which was not accepted for the 2010 Exodus conference. The description is pretty clear:
Gay Pornography as a Therapeutic ToolReparative Therapists have recently developed a therapeutic technique utilizing gay pornographic images to expose deeper emotional needs beneath mere sexual arousal. While many clients have been told that their homosexuality is a defense against emotional needs, this technique offers “experiential knowing” resulting from personal experience. The result is a diminishment of pornographic appeal and movement toward resolving deeper conflicts.For men and leaders.
The belief appears to be that same-sex pornographic images are only attractive because of the emotional wound of the person viewing it.
I have also obtained audio from an Exodus workshop that was approved and conducted by Dr. Nicolosi that certainly seems to encourage the use of gay pornography and to a lesser degree straight porn. Listen to the explanation:
It appears that everybody agrees that at times gay porn might be a part of reparative therapy. However, it appears that there is some assumption on the part of Dr. Nicolosi that clients might use a similar technique with straight porn.
As I noted above, this all seems to be based on the idea that same-sex attractions derive from a trauma (hence the EMDR) and that the attractions are akin to fear responses in people who have other kinds of trauma. Repeated exposure does tend to help some clients with phobias and various anxiety reactions. However, here Nicolosi seems to think sexual attraction can be reduced in a similar manner. The idea is, shall we say, creative, and I will let my gentle readers have a go at their opinion on that theory.
I will note that I can understand why Exodus might have a problem with this approach and I wonder how the new Restored Hope group will react to it.