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Reparative therapy

Reparative therapy, or conversion therapy, is the controversial practice of allegedly 'helping' a person transition 'voluntarily' from homosexuality to heterosexuality. It is based upon the belief that homosexuality is mental disorder, and not a fixed sexual orientation, and should thus be repatholigized as such. Reparative therapy uses a number of techniques, including counselling, aversion therapy[?], male bonding, fasting, reading scripture, and prayer. Some organizations, such as Exodus International[?], NARTH and the International Healing Foundation, which advocate the idea that sexual orientation is not fixed by genetic factors, support the belief that reparative therapy is genuine. Generally, reparative therapy can be divided into two categories: secular and religious. Secular reparative therapy seeks to distance itself from religion, although it typically originates from religious thinking.

Conversion therapy is not a new idea and, in fact, harks back the start of psychology itself. Until revealing research in the 1950s, researchers such as Irving Bieber[?], Lawrence Hatterer[?] and Sigmund Freud believed that homosexuality could be 'cured' through a variety of techniques, including "aversion therapy[?], nausea producing drugs, castration, electric shock, brain surgery[?], breast amputations[?], etc."[1] (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exod.htm). Modern reparative therapy is a re-reading of this research and stems from the clinical work and theories of Elizabeth Moberly[?], a British Christian theologian. In her book, 'Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic[?]', she states that homosexuality is purely a result of environmental factors, primarily a failure to bond with the subject's father as opposed to the domineering mother theory in Freudian psychoanalysis.

Initially, reparative therapy was welcomed by many 'Ex-Gay' and homosexual Christian groups who saw it as a means of reconciling their beliefs with their sexuality and as a way of gaining greater acceptance in their respective churches or ministries. Latterly, it has been adopted by much larger, mainstream religious groups, particularly in the USA. Many in these mainstream groups see it as a kinder way of approaching the 'homosexual problem'. It has also been used by some of these groups to influence public opinion and sway legislators "from supporting equal rights,[?] domestic partnership and hate crime legislation."[2] (http://jgford.homestead.com/Fordessay)

Reparative therapy has had mixed results and a conclusive, peer-reviewed study is yet to be made. In general, whilst some conversions appear successful some are not permanent or only partially successful, i.e. subjects still have some homosexual feelings/attractions. Most scientific organizations believe that sexual orientation is fixed by genetic factors or otherwise unchangeable in adults and thus believes reparative therapy is misleading and potentially damaging.

The issue of changing sexual orientation has become a highly politicized topic in western countries, especially the United States. Both the theory and practice have come under heavy criticism from gay rights groups, doctors, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics[?], the American Medical Association[?], the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association[?], and the National Association of Social Workers[?], the Royal College of Nursing[?] and other organizations.

Position of the American Psychiatric Association The American Psychiatric Association (APA) concluded in 1973 that homosexuality is not a mental illness and states that there are no scientifically rigorous studies to indicate the actual "efficacy or harm of 'reparative' treatments" and that "reparative" therapists have yet to produce "any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure." The APA position statement on reparative therapy states that "recent publicized efforts to repathologize homosexuality by claiming that it can be cured are often guided not by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research, but sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for gay men and lesbians." The APA position statement ends with a recommendation to ethical practitioners to "refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm."

External Links

  • NARTH (http://www.narth.com/) advocates right of patients to seek therapy to re-orient from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
  • The IHF (http://www.gaytostraight.org/) advocates a form of reparative therapy "for those who wish to change".
  • religioustolerance.org (http://religioustolerance.org/hom_repar.htm) -- strongly criticizes reparative therapy as "useless and probably harmful".
  • American Psychiatric Association: Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (http://www.psych.org/pract_of_psych/copptherapyaddendum83100.cfm)
  • Exodus International (http://www.exodus-international.org/) is an interdenominational Christian organization advocating reparative therapy and repentance for homosexuals.
  • The Courage Trust (http://www.courage.org.uk/) is a nonprofit, UK Christian Ministry "offering understanding and support for homosexual people" that no longer offers conversion therapy.
  • NOMAD (http://members.aol.com/exgaynomad/) Ex-ex-gay movement information site.

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