The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Some Scientists Still Seeking Truth on Homosexual Therapy

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By Nathan A. Cherry

A recent study by Psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse challenges the traditional APA (American Psychological Association) premise that it is not possible to change sexual orientation, specifically, homosexual orientation, and that attempting to do so is harmful, according to a report by Inter Varsity Press.

In recent years ministries such as Exodus International, whose president, Alan Chambers is a former homosexual, have been highly criticized for engaging in what is known as reparative therapy, or, therapy aimed at converting gay and lesbians to heterosexuality. Critics have said that no long-term studies have been conducted to validate the effectiveness of such therapy. Or, in the words of the APA,

“Treatment outcome is not followed and reported over time as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.”

But Jones and Yarhouse are about to change all that. Their longitudinal study has spanned three years, and follows 98 people all seeking religiously based intervention and change stemming from unwanted same-sex attractions. The experiment was designed to be a longitudinal, prospective, and validated eye-witness study of these persons as they progress through the change process. This was done intentionally to counter the skeptics’ criticism of previous studies.

From my perspective, a notable conclusion to the study is that it “does not prove that everyone or anyone can change, but rather that some can. It does not prove that no one is harmed by the attempt to change, but rather that on average the attempt does not appear to be harmful.”

What they are saying is that not every program works for every person. The 12-step program doesn’t help every alcoholic. The patch doesn’t cure every smoker. And rehab doesn’t save every drug addict. What is evident through this study is that those that truly want to change have the potential to accomplish that goal.

The APA for years has seemingly tried to confine persons with unwanted same-sex attractions to their condition. They have repeatedly stated that reparative therapy, or any other conversion therapy is harmful, despite the evidence to the contrary, and that any person dealing with same-sex attractions needs simply to be affirmed and reassured. What’s the difference between this method and telling an alcoholic that the 12-step program is a waste of time and really doesn’t work?

The APA has done the scientific community, and people in general, a grave disservice by ignoring the needs of people seeking help in order to play political and social games for the furtherance of its own agenda. It seems to me that if a person wants to be rid of unwanted attractions of any kind, whether to drugs, nicotine, alcohol, or persons of the same-sex, and that change is indeed possible, then it is the duty of the APA and every mental-health professional out there to work tirelessly to help achieve this goal. It is not for any professional to inject their own personal agenda or the agenda of their association when dealing with the struggles of other people.

I, for one, will be anxious for Jones and Yarhouse to discuss the findings of their study at the upcoming APA convention on August 9th. I hope that the APA concedes that religiously mediated intervention and change programs have enough empirical evidence and validity to be backed and affirmed.

Further Food for Thought: Ex-Gay? – Is it possible to be an ex-gay? Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse present social science research on homosexuality designed to answer the questions: Can those who receive religiously-informed psychotherapy experience a change in their sexual orientation? Are such programs harmful to participants?

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  1. […] A. Cherry writes at the Blog of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia: “A recent study by Psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse challenges the […]

  2. […] Family Policy Council of West Virginia and the North Carolina Family Policy Council discuss a recent study “challeng[ing] the […]

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