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Thursday, July 28, 2005

 

Love in Action on Good Morning America and beyond: Distortions in the current coverage

I didn't see the segment but the article about it is on the ABC website. Love in Action is getting much attention lately but the media are making generalizations that are staggering. Here are the four major ones that come to mind.

1. LIA is lumped in with all reparative therapies. This is inaccurate. LIA is not a therapy program but a ministry model to assist clients to identify with Christ and Christian teaching. As such, not everyone will agree with all their practices (I don't) but I will defend their right to practice their Christianity in the peaceful manner that they do so. Reporters need to distinguish between ministry based programs and therapists.

2. Reparative therapy is an umbrella term for change programs and therapy. Not true. Reparative therapy is based on psychoanalytic ideas and is associated with Elizabeth Moberly and Joe Nicolosi. Umbrella terms might be reorientation therapy or sexual identity therapy. For instance, I believe that sexual orientation is a murky concept and fluid but I am not a reparative therapist. I would label what I do as sexual identity therapy since I attempt to help a person integrate a sexual identity that is consistent with their total personal identity.

3. The APA, AMA, ACA, you name it, have all said reparative therapy doesn't work. Not really. What they oppose are therapies that take the stance that all gays must enter treatment because homosexuality is mental disorder to be cured. This broad statement implies that seeking to live in accord with one's beliefs does not work and all change approaches have been proven ineffective. Not true. I challenge readers to produce such studies.

4. Belief in change is a conservative Christian thing. I agree that many who are conservatively Christian believe in change in sexuality but there are those who are pretty far from CC who believe change occurs as well.

Going forward, I hope reporters not only seek to produce a "news product" but also learn about the diversity of views on this issue. Otherwise, they are simply reinforcing distortions.

Comments:
I agree with a lot of what you say here, Warren.

-Speaking of professional organizations, the AMA has recently invited NARTH to be on its advisory committee for the next AMA medical encyclopedia (www.narth.com). Lets just hope that the LIA ordeal won't make the AMA change its mind about this.

-Is there any conclusive research that re-orientation therapy is always harmful? So far, the only quantitative research seems to be the Shidlo and Schroeder study. But even they admit that their results are NOT to be generalized to ex-gays at large, and it did take them quite a while to find 173 (?) subjects. Plus, weren't a lot of the subjects involved politically in the gay-community? If so, this would heavily bias the results.

-I personally think that some reparative therapists should drop the first premise that homosexuality is a developmental disorder. Because to my knowledge, I don't think it is, and to assume so needlessly insults those gays who are high functioning and truly happy and content. Instead, therapy should be aimed at extending one's sexual repertoire, so that one may not (always) need homosexual stimulation to have a good sex romantic life. I think it IS possible to do Heterosexual Affirming Therapy WITHOUT the first premise that homosexuality is fundamentally disordered. In fact, it seems that the professional organizations OPPOSE therapy that operates from a pathological first premise, but do not oppose doing therapy to extend one's potential, sexual or otherwise.

-In fact, re-orientation therapy really should be called Heterosexual Affirming Therapy, to pull it away from its controversial, some-what homophobic roots.

-Regarding Sexual Orientation: Is it really murky? For instance, can we deduce a person's orientation by hooking him up to a penile plesmograph (sp?), showing him gay and straight porn, and gauging his penile reaction? I brought this up with my therapist (a member of NARTH), he responded with the following (paraphrased of course):

"I love my wife. I'm attracted to her. But if you show me a naked picture of a young blonde and a naked picture of my wife, most likely I will have a stronger reaction to the young blonde. Most likely, I won't have much of a reaction to my wife. So am I lying about loving her and having good sex with her? Just what is the extent of the information gained?"

Just some food for thought.

Nathan
 
-Is there any conclusive research that re-orientation therapy is always harmful? So far, the only quantitative research seems to be the Shidlo and Schroeder study. But even they admit that their results are NOT to be generalized to ex-gays at large, and it did take them quite a while to find 173 (?) subjects. Plus, weren't a lot of the subjects involved politically in the gay-community? If so, this would heavily bias the results.

It was 5 years to find 176 and yes, the participants were recruited (there's that word again :) from activist organizations. Spitzer took less than 2 years to get 200 and some of them were from ex-gay groups.

I do not think of same sex attraction as a disorder. I do think people can come to SSA via difficult histories much in the way heterosexuals with disordered lives may have these backgrounds. In my experience, though, many of my gay clients do not have such backgrounds and many straights do.

The penile plethysmograph is pretty unreliable and I do not think it can be used to measure change.

Heterosexual affirming therapy is certainly one framework that is accurate in my estimation.

I wonder how your therapist would answer if his wife said, "Honey, does this make me look fat?"
 
Heh heh,

My therapist would probably nervously answer in the negative, for fear of getting his ears torn off.

How come the penile plethysomograph wouldn't be a good measure of change? I never thought to look into whether or not it was effective--i just assumed it was.

Nathan
 
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