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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

 

CNN segment involving Richard Cohen



CNN, the Paula Zahn Now show (transcript), about a 6 minute clip, I was speechless for a few minutes afterwards. My wife and the rest of the sane people in the house were watching Idol. At last count, my daughter voted for Taylor 62 times.

Anyway, when my wife watched the clip (I taped it), she said she couldn't get past the "ick factor" to even evaluate what was said. We discussed which was the ickiest, the tennis racket slamming the pillow while screaming at mom; or the client-cuddle technique where Richard holds his client like a baby in a kind of nursing position. We couldn't decide.

I am reminded of a 1995 PBS Frontline documentary called Divided Memories. Part 1 of the documentary examines past-life therapy and Part 2 examines repressed memory therapy. The documentary crew was allowed to film "therapists" from the now defunct counseling group, Genesis & Associates. Genesis & Associates used something called Rage Work, that required clients to beat on pillows with bats while envisioning maltreatment from family members. Sound familiar? The two therapists who ran G&A lost their licenses and a significant malpractice action. I show Divided Memories to every intro to counseling class I teach. It is a powerful teaching tool about the proper role of therapy and the boundaries that are absolutely critical. Then we discuss why some people who were seeing the Genesis counselors described improvement. It is an amazing thing indeed how people can allow themselves to do something like Rage Work and still come away saying it was helpful. Well, at least at the time. One of the (at the time) satisfied customers on the video, later sued and as recently as 2004 described scars from her experience at Genesis.

I digress. The CNN segment focused mostly on Cohen and a current client. There were interviews with Jack Drescher and an ex-ex-gay. Drescher fudged a bit on the research but he didn't get much face time in the segment. I thought the ex-ex-gay was articulate. I think Deborah Feyerick did a good job of keeping her journalistic game face on during the pillow assault and client hugging.

During the segment, Richard was described as one of the leaders in the reparative therapy "movement." Did I mention that I am not a reparative therapist?

You can view the segment on the CNN website.

Comments:
Nice Blog :)
 
Thanks.
 
Actually, a ref. to dear old Genesis & Ass. is most on topic...

It is an amazing thing indeed how people can allow themselves to do something like [that] and still come away saying it was helpful. Well, at least at the time.

Indeedy. Drescher's main point, most of the time, no?

Being more familiar with the manipulative techniques used by Cohen you prob. did get the ick factor. But most would not. CNN went very soft on Cohen -- at best we had Drescher say the rest of us don't do because it's dangerous.

But imagine anti-gay person sitting at home. Or even gay person. They hear CNN declare

He offers the theory that some kind of childhood trauma triggers
homosexuality. All it takes is figuring out what it is, healing from it and moving on.


And all this involves is some hugging and a few beatings of an inanimate object with a tennis racket. Hardly sounds dangerous does it? No mention of exactly why Cohen is "unlicensed".

And it all ends with "Rob" claiming to be this side of deliriously happy, and, jeez, it must work because now he's even chatting to women on-line!

The big ick factor was not the creepiness of Cohen per se. Perhaps we're now immune.

It was having a 42 year old man describe his mother -- a woman who suffered through a bad marriage -- as "emotional incest". Sheesh, grow up; if the poor woman leant on her kids for support and comfort it was because she probably needed to. (No mention, of course, of all that she may have shielded the children from. Or whether "Rob" is inventing the entire thing.) A mature adult son would accept, and move on with good grace.

"Emotional incest" -- nope, that's not "Rob" speaking. That's the manipulative Cohen getting his own jollies out of a dependant, ever immature, and readily persuaded client.

The infantile raging and the lap-top nursing are only the tip of that iceberg. It's a wonder he hasn't suggested a nappy and a dummy (sorry, diaper and pacifier).

(And, OK, you're not a Reparative Therapist. We get it. :) But what was the name of that organisation you worked with before, the one that Cohen heads?... and wish there was a "eye brows shooting up in a meaningful way" icon at this point)
 
Also agree that Feyerick did a magnificent job stifling whatever must have been bubbling up inside. The expression on the tennis photo is worth a million words.

Frankly, even if we thought it did work, we'd rather die old and gay than die young from embarrassment and humiliation!

Just trying to imagine Dad's face if his 42 year old son wanted to cuddle up on the couch. "Urgh, right, oo-kay... wouldn't you rather a beer and help me with the painting?"
 
Nope Warren, you've NEVER mentioned before that you're not a reparative therapist...
 
Nope, Warren just takes awards from reparative therapists, presents at reparative therapy conferences, and leads a reparative therapy email discussion list. Can't see why that might cause any confusion.
 
So who is Anon that knows so much about me?

Actually I was just booted off the NARTH listserv since I am not a member. Not sure what list I lead but you probably do.
 
Sorry, that was me. Your comment page wasn't letting me sign in as a blogger for some reason, but that's all stuff I documented from NARTH's site in an earlier post. Interesting to know they booted you. That Cohen thing gets more and more disturbing the more I read about it. Was he actually doing his "cuddle therapy" on that guy while he was being interviewed?! Is he, like, trying to take Paul Cameron's crown as most unethical anti-gay whackjob?
 
I was given an award for my 2002 article. And I present there because there are reasonable people who also present there. For all of my disagreements with RT, the aim of constructing a valued identity is one I share with them. If there were standards or guidelines in place, this stuff would be excluded. The leadership are tepid toward our guidelines however. Many others who are involved at one level or another think the guidelines are needed.
 
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
as a graduate student in counselling I am studying about many different techniques used for different therapeutic purposes. In your opinion is there a therapeutic reason why "bio-energetics" which resembles much of what I've read and seen in Gestalt therapy would be inappropriate in this instance. Also, is there a place for healthy and safe touch therapy when treating unwanted same sex attraction. I appreciate your insights.
 
Well first, allow me to congratulate you on the draft of your guidelines. I gave it a cursery read last weekend, and plan on going over on more detail soon. My first impression is that it is a remarkable and well-thought effort, one that is long overdue. I'm sorry to hear about the tepid response.

Since we're not therapists (well, I'm not anyway) I think many of us would be interested in a more detailed critique of Cohen's methods.

The Genesis "digression", I'd say, is very appropriate.
 
"Actually I was just booted off the NARTH listserv since I am not a member."

Congratulations. I consider that to be a compliment to you, Warren.

While I have areas of disagreement with you, I do respect that you are unwilling to allign yourself completely with crackpots like Cohen. But aren't the two of you both still affiliated with PFOX?

Timothy Kincaid
 
I am a evangelical student
at Columbia Univeristy;I think
Richard Cohen is a bad image for the ex gay cause.

Richard Cohen showed that he has little understading of the liberal media.He should be banned from televison,he did great damage.
What is so sad is that the only image people left with was this guy hitting a pillow, and screaming.

Many people have left the
gay lifestyle but Richard Cohen's
performance on televison mocked there struggle!

Julie Spicer
 
Julie- what is the gay lifestyle?
 
I don't mean to put Richard's methods down in any way b/c I'm sure his intentions are ligit, and I am sure that his methods worked for him and the others who say it worked.

However, my progress in dealing with SSA is not due to hitting a pillow with a tennis racket nor having someone hold me.

My progress in dealing with SSA is a result of giving my life to Christ, knowing that He knows my struggles and still loves me and forgives me, trusting Him and allowing Him to help me, strengthen me, assure me, love me, forgive me and comfort me.

Hitting a pillow and yelling out the name of the person(s) who may have hurt me is trusting that action to help me instead of trusting Him to help me.

Hitting a pillow cannot help me (us), screaming out the name of the person(s) who may have hurt me cannot help me.

Calling out to Him WILL help me, forgiving the person(s) who hurt me DOES help me.

Thus far I've come a long way from where I was and I owe it all to Him.
 
Appreciate the comments about the guidelines. Following them would prevent the stuff we saw on CNN last night.

I have had clients who want me to hold them. I refuse and point them to the emotions that seem to prompt that request. I find a much better outcome from examining the desire to act-out feelings as opposed to figure them out and let that awareness assist them to chose valued action.

I used to do a lot of child therapy and we would do lots of active things. I didn't direct it though. If a kid wanted to yell and punch things I generally allowed a certain amount but always asked for the feelings to be put into words.

I know people who have done this kind of hugging and touching and holding, etc. and all that happens is that they feel gratified for a spell and then the "hunger" returns.

Give a man a fish and he is filled today. Teach a man to fish and he will be forever filled.
 
George:

Also, is there a place for healthy and safe touch therapy when treating unwanted same sex attraction. I appreciate your insights.

I can't envision a situation where the therapist should provide this. I spoke to this above.
 
Julie Spicer
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 1:53:29 PM

Richard Cohen showed that he has little understading of the liberal media.

No, he showed he has little understanding of therapeutic practices. The media (liberal or otherwise) merely allowed him to present his practices. I agree, though, it is quite sad that the president of PFOX is mocking ex-gays as you say.
 
I agree...with all of you! LOL!
I'm such a suck up! LOL

Anyway...my husband has been involved in a bit of that "holding therapy" in the beginning of his journey toward diminishing his same sex attractions. I'm like Warren, in that, I know for a fact that it helped or comforted him for at least a short period of time but as far as it being an integral part of his journey toward "me" (me being opposite sex)attraction....uh....not so much.
I appreciate the discussion here!
love,
grace
 
Richard Cohen is a disgrace. He's almost becoming a self parody. The Ex-Gay movement ought to pack up their bags and hit the road.

I think the future lies in your sexual identity therapy. Whether or not someone can really change their inner feelings is perhaps something that we may never be able to accurately answer, given the subjectivity and lack of strict criteria when it comes to reporting on those feelings. However, by moving away from trying to change inner feelings, to trying to integrate one's sexuality into a the worldview that one possesses, seems to be a much more pragmatic, and fruitful goal.

I used to think that feelings can indeed change. However, now I am not so sure. I used to have predominantly gay feelings, but now I have predominantly straight feelings, with short periods of time where the gay feelings increase temporarily.

Now, I have no idea if any change occured, or if that was perhaps the way that I always was ( born with a fluctuating orientation I.E. some form of bisexual?)

But I don't care, because whatever it is, my sexuality goes together nicely with my worldview and religious beliefs, and I've finally been able to integrate the two together.

Donni Vaughn
 
Donni: Well said. I do think long term change occurs but who knows how often? I am plodding along at a follow up on this question and I think there will be some additional data out on 2006 from a couple of sources. And we know from recent research that spontaneous change occurs. However, we attempt to locate sexual feelings within the context of the whole person. Sex is not an end in itself, it has a function. What it is for each person is subject to and informed by the unique aspects of that person.
 
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
thank you for your reply. I agree that a therapist must take into consideration the ethical guidelines of the profession, while at the same time balancing that against the needs of the client.

You stated in your previous post:
"I know people who have done this kind of hugging and touching and holding, etc. and all that happens is that they feel gratified for a spell and then the "hunger" returns.

Give a man a fish and he is filled today. Teach a man to fish and he will be forever filled."

What does fishing look like in this situation? Is it possible or desirable for two heterosexual males to have a physically and emotionally intimate relationship, without sex? Isn't this what Richard Cohen and others like him are advocating and teaching to men who struggle with SSA?

I would like to echo Jim's request of yesterday that you provide us with a more thorough critique of Cohen's methodology, (not his personality or ethics) specifically bio-energetics and holding.

respectfully,
George
 
What does fishing look like in this situation? Is it possible or desirable for two heterosexual males to have a physically and emotionally intimate relationship, without sex? Isn't this what Richard Cohen and others like him are advocating and teaching to men who struggle with SSA?

By fishing, I mean providing the skills to address hunger. By suggesting that you can go to therapy, cuddle with a therapist and then never feel hungry again is as silly as saying that there is a restaurant that serves food designed to reduce or eliminate future hunger for food. Emotional hunger is akin to physical hunger in that it functions to drive a person toward something. In the case of physical hunger, we are driven to eat. In the case of emotional hunger for touch or closeness or the sense of being known and loved, we are driven to find real relationship. I see a therapist giving it out as one way but not very satisfying and potentially fraught with major problems for both the client and therapist. What if a client wants a midnight snack? Where does he go? What if the therapist decides he likes it too? And wants a midnight snack at the client's restaurant? (It's my blog so I can switch between explanation and analogies at will :)

The touch deprivation model has no empirical support that I can find. We all need touch; we all need held; we all need real connection. This is human.

The Genesis and Associates people that I refered to in a prior post made relationship addiction a disorder to be cured. They suggested detachment from all relationships to deal with the "co-dependency" (another made-up term for a disorder). The only relationships allowed were the therapists and the other group members. The only permanent cure for emotional hunger (need for connection) and touch deprivation is death. It is not going to a therapist and paying for a cuddle.

More later...
 
"The only permanent cure for emotional hunger (need for connection) and touch deprivation is death. It is not going to a therapist and paying for a cuddle."

I assume that we are in agreement that neither of the above are options that an ethical counsellor would recommend. At the same time the counselor has to help the client find healthy solutions to fill this "need for connection" which may include touch.

"We all need touch; we all need held; we all need real connection. This is human."

Taking into account healthy and ethical boundaries between a therapist and client, is it accurate to say that you see touch, holding, emotional connection etc . . . not as final destinations, but rather as potentially useful methods to helping a client achieve healthy emotional self-care?
 
George said:
Taking into account healthy and ethical boundaries between a therapist and client, is it accurate to say that you see touch, holding, emotional connection etc . . . not as final destinations, but rather as potentially useful methods to helping a client achieve healthy emotional self-care?

Touch should not come from the therapist as a therapeutic tool. Encouraging words, words of support and perspective, yes. Touch no. Should the therapist assist the client to make healthy connection with real relationships? Yes, absolutely. Some clients resist this; they want the counselor to be the cuddle buddy. I disagree that any form of therapy can make this a technique.

I hope to write more about this later...
 
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
thank you for indulging me in this dialogue, I am learning a lot from it. You stated:

"Some clients resist this; they want the counselor to be the cuddle buddy. I disagree that any form of therapy can make this a technique."

I agree that the "cuddle buddy" relationship would be both unhealthy and unethical. The client however may be overwhelmed in trying to establish these kinds of connected relationships on his own if the counsellor is only participating as a consultant. The danger I see in this is that these unsupervised "out of session" realtionships could also become unhealthy. Would a group setting provide the ethical and emotional safety necessary for the counsellor to teach appropriate physical and emotional connection to clients?
 
A group could do that but I would take real care as a therapist that assumptions would not be made that the group is a cuddle puddle. Now in groups people hug and put hands on shoulders and the like. I am not referring to that. I am referring to groups where people just hold each other. All of this assumes that the desire to be held by someone is a feeling to be obeyed. The assumption is that this feeling or any feeling is an imperative. I feel x so I must do what it says. I feel bad so I must rid myself of this bad feeling by (fill in the blank). The value of therapy is in expanding options and psychological flexibility so that people can have pursue a valued life.
 
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,

It seems to me that touch, like any technique when used correctly, is no more than a means to an end. When the technique becomes the end then it would seem to lose its effectiveness.

In that light, if healthy holding gives a client temporary relief, and sets him up for greater wholeness, then isn't it as valid a solution as the use of psychotropic drugs, which are intended among other things to bring relief, set the client on the path to greater emotional health, and ideally not create a dependency on the medication? Ideally shouldn't the medication, like touch, be a means rather than an end?
 
I disagree. Medications violate no boundaries, create actual physical changes in the body that correlate with mood states and an improvement in pathology. They are in some cases needed indefinitely (e.g., bipolar, chronic depression, psychotic conditions). Holding addresses no underlying pathology. It is not sick to want to be touched. I confess I am addicted to people. I am addicted to warm human contact. Just like I am addicted to food. I may need a nutritionist to teach me how to eat well and I may need a therapist to learn how to attach and relate well but I am not going to dine in the nutritionist's office.

When clients are leading disordered lives (cruising, promiscuous, etc.), they do not need the therapist to act out their feelings, they need to understand them and reframe them.

Client: I want to go engage in restroom sex.

Me: Is that a command or a feeling?

Client: A feeling

Me: Will it take you closer to your valued life or farther away?

Client: Farther away.

Me: What will happen if you are not bullied by this feeling? What is the feeling trying to get you to do? What would you tell this feeling if it were a voice coming from a person standing next to me?

And so on.
 
PS - In that light, if healthy holding gives a client temporary relief, and sets him up for greater wholeness,

You would have to demonstrate that this is true. Think of the trials drugs go through to see the light of day. Has anyone evaluated touch therapies in mental health for SSA in anywhere close to the way drugs are evaluated? I think you know the answer :)
 
While I have areas of disagreement with you, I do respect that you are unwilling to allign yourself completely with crackpots like Cohen. But aren't the two of you both still affiliated with PFOX?

Not any longer. He is president of PFOX.
 
I am not sure who I am addressing the response to my latest comment was from sitguidlines:

Anyway, you asked:

"Has anyone evaluated touch therapies in mental health for SSA in anywhere close to the way drugs are evaluated?"

Of course not, and yet I think you would acknowledge that positive human contact has shown to have beneficial health effects throughout human history, long before the advent of the FDA.

I agree that studies are needed to prove or disprove the connection with this and healing of SSA wounds. In the absense of an FDA (perhaps the FHA - Federal Hugs Adminstration) equivalent I think it is good to establish guidelines so these options can be explored safely, and the results documented.

I think it is a mistake however to avoid the subject because some might impose "sexual" judgments on healthy same sex intimacy.
 
I think it is a mistake however to avoid the subject because some might impose "sexual" judgments on healthy same sex intimacy.

That's not the entire reason why, as I have outlined. And I don't see me avoiding the subject. I don't think a therapist gratifying a client's wish to be held like a baby is health same sex intimacy. Same thing for opposite sex therapist-client dyads.
 
Dear Group, The therapy described was first practiced by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her "Life, Death, and Transition" week long workshops. It is called Externalization Therapy and, if done in a safe place in a safe theraputic relationship, can take years off conventional therapy.

Dr. Kubler-Ross went around the country doing these workshops in the early 1980's for people who were diagnosed with AIDS, family members of someone who had committed suicide, and other high risk groups. It was for people who had lived through extreme traumatic events and were at a high risk for committing suicide themselves.

The workshop was held at a lodge or camp and only the people who were excepted for the group could attend. There were clear rules for the 20 or so attendants. Once you started you could not leave. No one HAD to participate, but if you chose not to had to stay in the room and pray for the persons undergoing the therapy.

I was one of the people attending in around 1983 in Alaska. Elizabeth (we were sworn to only call her that and had to pay $1 every time we used anyother name) had been called to Alaska because of the high sucide rate in the Eskimo villages of teenagers and the rate of persons dying of AIDs. She also allowed people who had been traumatized by early sexual abuse and parents of children with severe disabilities.

The week long event started off with creating a sacred space in the retreat house for the therapy. People were asked to bring holy objects--I brought a crucifix--and there were alot of natives, so there were drums and feathers..whatever was sacred to the person. That created a safe place for us. We started each session with prayer and continued to pray right through the end. Each session was peaceful with Elizabeth leading and other trained therapists being there.

I don't think we got into the externalization therapy until Wed. eve or Thursday. Before that Elizabeth guided us in the ways children are supposed to be raised with unconditional love. She was gentle in her teachings and they encompassed everything you read in her books on death and dying. We all take those ideas for granted now, but back then she was known as a rebel and a crazy. She felt like Mother Teresa to us...and still does to me.

Elizabeth taught us about spiritual, physical, emotional,and mental needs. She taught us about peace and real joy and natural emotions. She taught about triggers in our emotions that show us an underlying unresolved issue. That finally led us to the externalization therapy, after days and nights of peace and prayer and good meals and becoming caring about each of us.

Many people had problems with having a child with a severe disability. That is why I got in the workshop. I watched and prayed as a young mother beat up a telephone book with a rubber hose while sitting on a mattress. As her rage subsided she was overcome with love for her child--the one who changed her life. It did not trigger me at all.

Elizabeth asked that when you were triggered by another person's therapy to wait until that person was over and then take her place, or to go into a separate room that could be seen by the people in the big room and work with another therapist. I went into another room that was set up with a mattress, phone books, and a rubber hose when I was triggered by a lady who was sexually abused by an adult.

That was my issue. I stood up and went into the room crying and praying. Some people broke off and prayed for me through my session. I addressed the phone book as if it was my uncle that abused me. I yelled at it and then beat it up. And through it I found compassion and forgiveness for him. I cried and was hugged by the therapist as if I was the 4 year old child I was at the time. It did not feel like the therapist was hugging me. It felt like God was hugging me and keeping me safe.

I left that retreat at the end of the week a different person. I found forgiveness for many many people through forgiving him. And I was not afraid of hights like I was when I started the week. It was a massive healing in my life.

Elizabeth went on to have a home for AIDS babies. She shared her gifts with the world. I went on to have a more peaceful life and that issue has never bothered me again.

The pictures look to me like the work Elizabeth did. I trust Richard Cohen. The problem is that you can't tell what is happening to the person by looking at pictures.

If someone had taken a film crew to my session I don't know what people would see. I do know I yelled. I don't remember any words--though I was horse for a week or more. All I know is I got rid of my demons and forgave. I also forgave my Mom and Dad for not protecting me, even though they did not know it was going on. So, even though the man was ranting about his Mom, that does not mean that was the issue--that was just the sound bite.

God bless everyone who uses good therapy to help our loved ones. Dan did go to the week at another time, but he chose to sit quietly and not partake. And that has made all the difference.
God bless us all, Mary Ellen
 
Thank you Mary Ellen. My own experience with this type of therapy has been very similar; in a safe environment I have been able to "exorcise" my own demons (figuratively) and find peace and forgiveness.

Being familiar with these techniques, Cohen's methods didn't shock me, and I understand how shocking they can be to the "uninitiated" when taken out of the context of a safe environment. They are a means to an end, that end for me being healing and to get a taste of that unconditional love that you mentioned, that I now try to recreate in my daily life.

Thank you for sharing.
 
Dear Dr. Throckmorton,
you stated:
"I don't think a therapist gratifying a client's wish to be held like a baby is health same sex intimacy."

I believe that the role of the therapist and the validity of the techniques are two separate issues. I am not contesting the importance of client/therapist boundaries. My interest in this continued dialogue is to further explore the validity of the techniques. If they (touch, holding, bio-energetics, etc . . .) are valdid approaches then the delivery method (therapist, group, retreats, peers) can be worked out to fit within healthy and ethical guidelines.

As Jim requested the other day, I would be very interested in your insights on the techniques as they relate to emotional healing, SSA and otherwise.
 
Elizabeth (we were sworn to only call her that and had to pay $1 every time we used anyother name)

This is a big red flag for me. The description of the experience sounds very much like indoctrination into a cult. I'm not arguing that 'Elizabeth' is a cult leader, but the idea of forcing people to call you by your first name instead of by your professional moniker (Dr So-and-So) seems to set up a strange dynamic.

For myself, I do not see how one experience of emotional release can replace years of working through unhelpful cognitive habits.

I admit, though, I was not in the situation, and it may have been helpful for the woman leaving the comment. My personal bias is towards cognitive behavior therapy, though.
 
ck - I follow what you are saying. I would not feel comfortable in an environment like that.
 
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