Trinidad.Adventist.Gay?! is doing a couple of posts on reparative drive theory with a focus on “why this idea is so seductive for conservative Christians…”
He is certainly correct about groupthink on the matter.
The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality recently released a journal.
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2009
Contact: David Pruden
Phone: (888) 364-4744
E-mail: [email protected]
New Scientific Research Refutes Unsubstantiated Claims Regarding Homosexuality
Encino, CA- A new report in this month’s edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Human Sexuality finds that sexual orientation is not immutable and that psychological care for individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions is beneficial and poses no significant risk of harm. The study, What Research Shows: NARTH’s Response to the American Psychological Associations Claims on Homosexuality, examines over 100 years of professional and scientific literature as well as over 600 reports from clinicians, researchers, and former clients principally published in professional and peer-reviewed journals.
This research, assembled over a period of eighteen months by three of the leading academics and therapists in the field and under the direction of the NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee directly refutes unsubstantiated claims made by some factions of the American Psychological Association and several other professional mental health organizations. The study, conducted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a network of professionals dedicated to upholding the rights of men and women dealing with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care, confirms the results of a 2007 longitudinal study conducted by researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark Yarhouse that found that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm on average.
“This research is a significant milestone when it comes to the scientific debate over the issue of homosexuality,” said NARTH president Dr. Julie Hamilton. “It also confirms what we have seen evidenced in hundreds of individuals who have benefited from the help of NARTH therapists. We believe that every person should have the right to independently determine their own course in life and for many that involves seeking counseling options that affirm their personal beliefs.”
In addition to What Research Shows, a collection of peer-reviewed scholarly and professional papers entitled Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Sexual Identity Confusion in Children and Adolescents, will be published in Volume II of the Journal of Human Sexuality.
Requests for copies or for a more detailed summary of the inaugural issue of the journal should be addressed to: Journal of Human Sexuality • 307 West 200 South, Suite 3001 • Salt Lake City, UT 84101. The journal can also be ordered by phone at 1-888-364-4744 or online at www.narth.com. A PDF summary of the journal may be downloaded at www.narth.com.
NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, it disseminates educational information, conducts and collects scientific research, promotes effective therapeutic treatment, and provides referrals to those who seek assistance. NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care.
I have a copy of the report heading my way and will review it later this summer. For now, it is worth pointing out that there is no new research in the response to the APA, rather it is a review of literature. If the paper “confirms the results” of Jones and Yarhouse, does that mean that NARTH will scale back the claims about change to the 15% found by those authors? That result would require a change in rhetoric from NARTH leaders when on the stump.
In any event, this paper and the journal as an effort is likely a response to the APA Task Force which will probably report in August at the APA annual meeting.
A reader emailed me to say that the American Psychological Association had recently changed the official view on homosexuality causation to endorse an environmental set of causes. The prompt for the email was this article from WorldNetDaily: “‘Gay’ gene claim suddenly vanishes”
To arrive at this startling conclusion, the WND writer, Rob Unruh quotes an article published more than a year ago from NARTH titled, “APA’s New Pamphlet On Homosexuality De-emphasizes The Biological Argument, Supports A Client’s Right To Self-Determination.”
In the article, Dean Byrd notes that the APA document shifts emphasis on causes to a more nuanced and complex view. Byrd cites this quote:
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles…”
However, oddly, Byrd leaves this last phrase from the APA website out of his quote:
…most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
Also in the APA paper, reparative therapy is discussed. The APA says
What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?
All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.
Helpful responses of a therapist treating an individual who is troubled about her or his same-sex attractions include helping that person actively cope with social prejudices against homosexuality, successfully resolve issues associated with and resulting from internal conflicts, and actively lead a happy and satisfying life. Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination; be sensitive to the client’s race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, language, and disability status when working with that client; and eliminate biases based on these factors.
From these paragraphs expressing concern, Byrd pulls out this sentence to portray a greater openness to change therapy than is warranted:
“Mental health organizations call on their members to respect a person’s [client’s] right to self-determination.”
I blogged about this article last year when it came out, commending the APA for their nuanced account of the research to that point. I think NARTH should do what the APA did a year ago and issue a statement about environmental causes. Then I wondered:
…when NARTH would make an APA-like statement about theorized environmental factors such as child abuse and same-sex parenting deficits. What if NARTH acknowledged “what most scientists have long known: that a bio-psycho-social model of causation best fits the data?” Wouldn’t there be a need for a statement cautioning readers of their materials that evidence for parenting playing a large or determining role is meager? Paralleling Dr. Byrd’s assessment of the APA pamphlet, shouldn’t NARTH say with italics, “There is no homogenic family. There is no simple familial pathway to homosexuality.”…
I wrote Dean and asked him about NARTH’s stance. He answered for himself by saying,
I think that the bio-psycho-social model of causation makes it clear that there is neither a simple biological or environmental pathway to homosexuality.
NARTH is widely known for championing a view of homosexuality that requires some kind of trauma as a causal factor. In point of fact, SSA can occur without bad parenting or abuse. Shouldn’t NARTH follow the APA’s lead and issue an official statement such as suggested above?
UPDATE: OneNewsNow and AFTAH have joined the echo chamber.
The ONN account begins:
The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there’s no homosexual “gene” — meaning it’s not likely that homosexuals are born that way.
I wonder if NARTH will correct this misunderstanding of the APA’s publication. In fact, no knockout punch has been delivered to any theory, except perhaps for those dogmatic views that stress one pathway. Let’s see leaving aside extreme biological determinism, who else gets a knockout punch here? The APA statement cuts both ways but NARTH, and the people quoted in this report only want to see it go one way.
The APA (over a year ago) handled the research with integrity. When will NARTH and related groups do the same?
During his visit to London, Joseph Nicolosi touted the research supporting reparative therapy. He also said on at least one occasion that NARTH was petitioning the American Psychological Association with studies which verify the approach.
Nicolosi said his organization – the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.
The BBC News quoted Nicolosi as saying:
“We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work.
“We are petitioning the American Psychiatric Association to look at the scientific data.”
In this BBC News radio interview at about 2:08, Nicolosi says,
We have a great deal of evidence showing that these individuals are not harmed and that the therapy does work…We are petitioning the American Psychological association to look at the data.
It seems clear to me that the APA at issue is the psychological group and not the psychiatric assocition. I asked David Pruden, NARTH Executive Director about the specifics of this petition to the APA. He referred the question to Dean Byrd, past-president of NARTH. Dr. Byrd replied:
NARTH has no plans to petition APA on behalf of reparative therapy (or any other therapy for that matter). Dr. Nicolosi, of course, is free to do whatever he likes.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of NARTH has been working on a number of projects aimed at preserving the rights of individuals to seek psychological care for unwanted homosexual attractions as well as protecting the rights of licensed professionals to provide ethical, effective care for this client population. When these projects are completed and ready for distribution, announcements will be made via press releases on the NARTH website and through other venues.
I am not sure what form a petition would take but it would be important news if some formal research report was available which purported to support reparative therapy (in the sense Nicolosi was using in the term in London – his brand of change therapy). There are various peer-reviewed professional journal articles around which review the available research (I have done two of them) on a host of approaches to behavior and attraction change. In my opinion, those reviews do not present evidence favoring the developmentally based, reparative drive theory and therapy.
On other threads, we have discussed why reparative therapy vignettes and ex-gay testimonies are so often alike. I have suggested that there are different causal pathways which lead to different sexual orientation outcomes. Also, therapists like Joe Nicolosi and Richard Cohen have strong public positions which promote a particular causal narrative. Clients who may have histories in line with those narratives seek counseling from those therapists. The same dynamic likely occurs in Exodus ministries where unhappy people seek help based on reading or hearing public testimonies.
People seeking help for unhappiness might be more likely to have life circumstances which they view as causal. Therapists looking for such causes ask questions which validate the hunches. It seems easy enough to imagine how therapists and clients can arrive at a common narrative without even trying to do so.
Same-sex attracted people who have not been traumatized in some way often react with puzzlement and frustration when, like palm readers, therapists go through a litany of questions about non-existent past trauma, seeking some confirmation of the predicted narrative. Eventually small, forgotten hurts and deprivations are identified as evidence for the expected patterns.
While I believe this occurs often, I have no idea how often. I also am pretty sure that the histories of some people are relevant to their sexual attractions. The research on the variability of pathways to sexual orientation is sparse but there is some and it demonstrates that on average same-sex attracted people who seek help of some kind (therapy or Exodus) recall more troubling relationships with parents than same-sex attracted people who have not sought therapy or ministry help.
The primary reference in this regard is Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith (1981) Sexual preference: Its development in men and women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. An important section on the differences between clinical and nonclinical groups is reprinted here from pages 202-203.
Homosexuals in Therapy
More than half of the WHMs [white homosexual males] (58%) said that at one time or another they had sought help for a personal or emotional problem from a professional counselor such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Most previous studies of the development of male homosexuality have been based on the reports of homosexuals “in treatment,” and many scholars have tried to generalize their findings to other homosexuals as well. When our own findings failed to support so many widely held clinical views, we were curious to see whether the reports of respondents who had been in therapy would differ from those made by respondents who had never sought professional counseling or therapy.
What we found was that those respondents “ever in treatment” did indeed have the kinds of paternal variables in their model that were consistent with what clinicians have always thought to be typical of homosexual males. The path model of those “never in treatment,” on the other hand, either did not contain such variables or showed their influence to be weaker. For example, as the literature suggests, the “therapy” group tended to have Detached-Hostile Father (t.e.= .29), a variable that is tied to the son’s gender nonconformity and early homosexual experiences. This variable does not even appear in the model for the men who have never been in therapy, however. Moreover, although the “nontherapy” group had more Negative Relationships with their Fathers, this variable (t.e.= .11) did not influence their gender nonconformity at all. In addition, two other variables that were important for the therapy group — Cold father and Negative Image of Father — do not appear at all for the nontherapy males. Although the rest of the path model is much the same for both groups, clearly the model for the therapy group corresponds much more closely to the way fathers have been considered in theories about the etiology of male homosexuality.
How might this discrepancy be explained? On the one hand, it could be supposed that cold, detached fathers make for troubled sons who are likely to seek psychological treatment at some point in their lives. Likewise, it could be argued that “therapy” often involves an “education” of client by the therapist in which the client comes to believe what the therapist supposes must be true of the client’s parents. Alternatively, it could also be argued that fathers tend to withdraw (become detached) from psychologically troubled sons, who are later to seek psychological counseling.
Whatever the case may be, at least on the basis of what our respondents could remember about their parents, Cold or Detached-Hostile Fathers cannot be regarded as important in the development of male homosexuality in general, since their alleged influence does not even appear among those who neve sought therapy or counseling. Finally, it should be noted that the differences between the therapy and non-therapy groups do not stem from differences between these two groups in terms of effeminacy or bisexuality. We found no significant correlations between being exclusively homosexual and having been in therapy, the more effeminate WHMs were only somewhat more likely than the non-effeminate WHMs ever to have been in therapy (64% versus 54%).
Bell et al, also compared WHMs and WHTMs (white, heterosexual males) who had and had not been in therapy. The findings regarding these comparisons are not drawn out in the same manner as above. However, there is a footnote on page 202 briefly describing the analysis.
The path analysis on which these findings were based included all the white heterosexual males, whether or not they had been “in treatment.” Separate analyses, one comparing only those WHMs and WHTMs “ever in treatment” and and one comparing those WHMs and WHTMs “never in treatment” replicated the results reported above.
For women, the picture was somewhat different. The authors noted that 2/3rds of the WHW had been in therapy and then on page 209, they wrote:
We do find some differences between the path model for the women who had been in therapy and those who had not. Notably, Childhood Gender Nonconformity appears to have been a more important factor for the respondents who had been in therapy or counseling (t.e.= .71 versus .52 for the women who had never been in therapy or counseling.)
In addition, the path model for the homosexual women who had in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to a sense of estrangement or unhappiness while they were growing up: Unhappiness in Adolescence (B=.14) and Felt Different from Other Girls in High School (B=.11). The path model for the nontherapy group contains no comparable measures.
Finally the path model for the women who had been in therapy or counseling includes two variables pertaining to an unhappy recollection of the mothers: Negative Relationship with Mothers (t.e. = .24) and Unpleasant Mother (t.e. = .22). The nontherapy group on the other hand, appear to have been slightly more influenced by their fathers. Their path shows significant — but weak — paths from Weak Father (t.e. = .20), Aloof Father (t.e. = .14), Controlling Father (t.e. = -.10), and Mother Dominated Father (t.e. = .14). Otherwise, the differences between the women in therapy or counseling and those with no such experience show little pattern.
In the path analysis procedure used in Bell et al’s research, the “t.e.” you see repeated throughout this passage refers to the “total effect” of one variable on another, in this case sexual preference. Think of it as a measure of the strength of effect of each variable mentioned and sexual orientation, with the larger numbers representing a larger effect. While there are many points we could discuss here, the primary reason for this series is to examine the possibility that multiple paths exist which yield the direction of sexual attractions. A practical implication is that therapists who frequently counsel those who are seeking help probably get a skewed picture of same-sex attracted people in general. Another implication is the effects noted by the reparative drive theorists are not huge and must rely on other pre- and post-natal factors. Also, those who take a solely biological perspective should expand the complexity of their model to consider that the sexual behavior of some people are influenced by certain environment experiences.
The next posts in this series will include additional research as well as more results from Bell et al. Some research does find differences between gay and straight groups on developmental recollections. What do these differences mean? Stay tuned…