2 min

Stop the presses! Gay therapy doesn’t work

Study says reparative therapy does more harm than good

BAD THERAPY. The American Psychological Association is advising shrinks to stop performing gay-to-straight reparative therapy. Credit: Hemera Technologies © Getty Images

In unsurprising news the American Psychological Association (APA) has announced that gay-to-straight therapy doesn’t work.

Telling gay clients that therapy, or any other psychological treatments, can make them straight is more or less bullshit, an approach that does more harm than good and is a route of treatment that mental health professionals should avoid, the APA suggested Jul 5.

In discussion are gay clients whose sexual orientation conflicts with their religious faith. Instead of therapy the APA is urging shrinks to offer alternative options to gay clients, such as celibacy or switching churches.

“Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome,” says the APA report.

Therapists who have gay clients from conservative faiths that frown on homosexuality should be “very cautious” about suggesting treatments that seek to change one’s sexual orientation, the report says.

Such treatments, says the report, have negative, harmful effects on gay patients, such as depression and suicide. Moreover, due to lack of evidence, the APA, which has criticized gay-to-straight therapy in the past, expressed doubt over whether actually changing one’s sexual orientation is in fact possible.

The report is one of the first major studies in the US to address how shrinks treat gay clients struggling with their sexual identity while trying to remain devoted to a religion that disapproves of homosexuality.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Judith Glassgold, a New Jersey-based psychologist who chaired the APA study, said she hoped the report will snuff the debate between religious conservatives who argue that sexual orientation is a disorder that can be cured and therapists who disagree.

“Both sides have to educate themselves better,” Glassgold told the AP. “The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality.”

Gay men who want to be straight is a cultural phenomenon that has evolved over the past few decades, the report says. Homos who want to try to convert are typically well-educated white men who value religion and who belong to rightwing faiths that view homosexuality as morally wrong, blasphemous and a disease that can be cured through the power of Jesus Christ.

Glassgold told the AP that faithful gays could focus on all-encompassing aspects of religion, like hope and forgiveness, as means of surpassing religious homophobia. She also said that such gays should decide to either remain devoted to their faith within limits — for instance, by taking a vow of celibacy — or embrace a faith that likes gay people.

“There’s no evidence to say that change therapies work but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them and when they don’t work they feel doubly terrified,” Glassgold told the AP. “You should be honest with people and say, ‘This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'”

Comprised of 150,000 members, the APA announced its findings after a 125-to-four vote by the association’s governing council. The report has been endorsed by the APA’s governing council in Toronto, where the association will hold its annual meeting the weekend of Aug 8.