JONAH Guilty of Consumer Fraud According to NJ Jury

That didn’t take long.
Today, the jury in the sexual orientation change case in NJ said Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH) was guilty of consumer fraud by claiming sexual orientation can be changed.
According the report, the jury found that JONAH founders Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk and life coach Alan Downing:

…engaged in unconscionable commercial practices” and misrepresented their services.

This is a big deal and should have a chilling effect on such services elsewhere. Hopefully, fewer therapists will engage in such practices and instead work with clients in conflict over sexual attractions to explore realistic options.
JONAH will have to refund fees collected.
 

Major New Study Finds Sexual Orientation Change Efforts To Be Ineffective

A study in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, released online in March, examined sexual orientation change efforts by over 1,600 current or former Mormons. Some beneficial results were noted but the primary finding was that sexual orientation is highly resistant to change attempts, and the efforts were either ineffective or damaging. The study was conducted by John P. Dehlin, Renee V. Galliher, William S. Bradshaw, Daniel C. Hyde, and Katherine A. Crowell.*
Here is the study abstract:

This study examined sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) by 1,612 individuals who are current or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Data were obtained through a comprehensive online survey from both quantitative items and open-ended written responses. A minimum of 73% of men and 43% of women in this sample attempted sexual orientation change, usually through multiple methods and across many years (on average). Developmental factors associated with attempts at sexual orientation change included higher levels of early religious orthodoxy (for all) and less supportive families and communities (for men only). Among women, those who identified as lesbian and who reported higher Kinsey attraction scores were more likely to have sought change. Of the 9 different methods surveyed, private and religious change methods (compared with therapist-led or group-based efforts) were the most common, started earlier, exercised for longer periods, and reported to be the most damaging and least effective. When sexual orientation change was identified as a goal, reported effectiveness was lower for almost all of the methods. While some beneficial SOCE outcomes (such as acceptance of same-sex attractions and reduction in depression and anxiety) were reported, the overall results support the conclusion that sexual orientation is highly resistant to explicit attempts at change and that SOCE are overwhelmingly reported to be either ineffective or damaging by participants.

There is much to digest in this study but a couple of items stand out. First, self-reported results of change efforts were dismal. On page 6 of the online paper, the authors report:

Reported changes in sexual identity. With regard to self-reported sexual attraction and identity ratings, only one participant out of 1,019 (.1%) who engaged in SOCE reported both a heterosexual identity label and a Kinsey attraction score of zero (exclusively attracted to the opposite sex).

No doubt others reported a straight label but their attraction scores told a different tale.
Many participants reported harm, but the quality of life measures did not show a difference between those who had attempted change via an explicit method and those who did not. However, the subjective distress over sexual orientation did significantly differ between the two groups with more distress experienced by the change effort group.
My understanding is that several other articles based on this study are in the pipeline. I look forward to a fuller description of this study. The number of respondents from one faith group makes this survey stand out and worth considering. One would think that change would show up if it happened frequently in a sample of this size.
*Dehlin, J. P., Galliher, R. V., Bradshaw, W. S., Hyde, D. C., & Crowell, K. A. (2014, March 17). Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Among Current or Former LDS Church Members. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000011

I Have Updated My Post on Generalizing Research on One Type of Therapy to Another Type of Therapy – UPDATED

UPDATE 2: Yes, I changed my title to exclude reference to horse therapy. Read why here.

UPDATE: There is now a dispute over the facts reported in this story. On the Cowboy Church website, this alert was published. Bell appears to be saying that he never talked to the media about EAP and homosexuality. I wrote to Rev. Bell and he wrote back taking me to task for referring to the HuffPo story without talking to him first. He has declined thus far to disclose whether or not he has any views on horse therapy for gays. If he informs me of his perspective, I will report it here.

As for the post, I think the basic argument stands.Substitute any outlandish sounding therapy for horse therapy and the point is still valid. Reparative therapists often use data that are not directly relevant to what they do.

——-

 

If you read about the reparative therapy wars, you have probably come across the Virginia pastor who has been quoted as advocating Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) for homosexuality.

Raymond Bell is the pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia and promoter of horse therapy as a sexual orientation change effort, according to Gay Star News.

Gay Star News quotes Bell as follows “because of rape, abandonment, lacking a male role model, abuse and having low self-esteem.” This seems like the standard reparative therapy line. Bell now contests these reports, although has not clarified what he does believe.

As far as I can tell there is no proof for these claims. And in this, horse obscure therapies have something in common with other forms of reparative therapy. If pressed, perhaps purveyors of strange therapies would do what other reparative therapists do – point to studies that claim to document change. However, the problem for Bell and for other reparative therapists is that the studies they point to rarely have anything to do with what they do.

Most of the early studies of sexual orientation change featured behavioral techniques such as aversive therapy. As far as can be determined, none of the current crop of reparative therapists use these techniques. Some of the early studies rely on psychoanalytic treatment but these are mostly case studies or reports from psychoanalysts who were practicing traditional psychoanalysis. Current reparative therapists use pillow beating and screaming, orange therapy, body therapy and other fringe techniques that have not been evaluated for most uses, let alone their use to support sexual orientation change efforts.

Thus, when reparative therapists point to studies of change, ask them what methods were used in those studies. The chances are extremely likely that the techniques used in those studies are not what today’s reparative therapists use.  The fact is that what is today being defended in courts in CA and NJ has not been evaluated for use in changing sexual orientation. Some techniques (catharsis) have been evaluated for other purposes and found to be counterproductive. And at least one technique commonly referenced by Joseph Nicolosi (Affect Focused Therapy) has been rejected as a technique for reorientation by one of the developers of the approach (Diane Fosha).

To sum up, reparative therapists tell us that 70-100 years of research prove that change is possible. Then they defend what they do and say research supports them. So if Raymond Bell ever says horse therapy people who advocate unusual therapies work because research proves that change is possible, they will be using the same rhetorical device as is being used by their professionally trained colleagues.

 

NPR Segment on Changes at Exodus International

A segment on changes at Exodus is coming up on NPR sometime between 4:30 and 4:45pm. It should repeat again between 6:30-6:45pm.

I have a few lines but I am not sure who else is in on it.

Listen, learn and comment.

The audio will be posted at 7pm, but the transcript is here.

Rob Gagnon has emerged as a vocal opponent of Exodus. I am baffled by his approach, which seems to make grace conditional on one’s behavior or attitude.

I intend to write more about this next week. Gagnon says he thinks reparative therapy sometimes works. I suppose for some it can work to give them a way to think about their lives but the burden of proof is on NARTH and others who support the group to demonstrate some kind of categorical change. Nothing has come from NARTH that approaches good research strategies and as a result, NARTH is currently on the defensive. They have been fighting a defensive battle with no real offense. After awhile, if you have nothing to offer, people will look elsewhere.

CA Senate committee passes bill to ban sexual orientation change efforts for minors

According to the Washington Post, a CA Senate committee voted to refer CA Senate Bill 1172 to the full Senate for a vote. SB 1172 would require practitioners of sexual orientation change efforts to get written informed consent from adult clients and prohibit such interventions for those under 18.

The bill defines SOCE as:

“Sexual orientation change efforts” means psychotherapy aimed at altering the sexual or romantic desires, attractions, or conduct of a person toward people of the same sex so that the desire, attraction, or conduct is eliminated or reduced or might instead be directed toward people of a different sex. It does not include psychotherapy aimed at altering sexual desires, attractions, or conduct toward minors or relatives or regarding sexual activity with another person without that person’s consent.

Continue reading “CA Senate committee passes bill to ban sexual orientation change efforts for minors”

New study: Sexual behavior changes but not sexual orientation

Media have been all over the Bachmann clinic story this week with lots of related discussion about how much, if at all, sexual orientation changes. As a part of this discussion, I noted that a study I am writing up found that over all married gay people assess themselves as growing more same-sex attracted over time.

Along the way, colleague Mark Yarhouse wrote to remind me that he found something similar in a study recently reported in the new issue of the Christian journal Edification (check out the entire journal for background on the whole arena of evangelicals in the study of sexual identity).

The study Mark referred to was authored by his team at Regent University and titled, “Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study” (start reading at page 41). The sexual minority participants had been married an average of just over 16 years and the average age was 45. While it was not a study of efforts to change, one could reasonably assume that if a group had participants who had shifted orientation very much, then this would be the group. However, that is not what they found, at least not at the level of attraction. See Table 5 below:

You will have to click the table to see it more clearly, but the table  demonstrates that the Kinsey scores shift more toward the heterosexual side when the participants were asked about their sexual behavior but when asked about their attractions, fantasies, and emotional attachments, there was no change. The Kinsey Expanded scale included an average of participant Kinsey assessment of behavior, attractions, fantasies and emotional attachments.

The authors summarized the results:

The mean score of the Kinsey behavior scale before marriage was 3.60, which falls in between the Largely heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual and Equal amounts of heterosexual and homosexual categories. The mean score of the Kinsey behavior scale currently was 2.80, which falls in between the Largely heterosexual, but incidental homosexual and Largely heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual categories.

On the Kinsey Expanded version, the mean score for both before marriage and the current assessment were 4.33 and 4.57 respectively. Both of these scores fall in between the
Equal amounts of heterosexual and homosexual and Largely homosexual, but more than incidental heterosexual categories.

I need to ask Mark, and perhaps he can comment, what the Expanded Kinsey result would look like if the behavioral Kinsey score was removed from the average of all Kinsey scores. Perhaps, the attraction, fantasy, etc., scores would rise moderately.

At any rate, the results are consistent with what I am finding as well. People adapt their behavior to their beliefs and commitments but their orientation does not shift, on average.

In all of the bluster about change therapies and clinics, I think evangelicals need to face what evangelical academics are finding in research. Also, a word to the media, both Christian and mainstream, quoting advocacy groups will get you two sides for dramatic tension, but if you want to know how research informs the questions you are asking, please consult those who, despite their religious loyalties, will report accurately.