Just this past week, at the group’s annual meeting in Toronto, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a 138-page report concluding that scant evidence exists for the effectiveness of so-called “ex-gay” reparative programs aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation from gay or lesbian to straight. The report further asserts that such programs may be harmful to the client.
Judith M. Glassgold, chairperson of the task force that presented the report, stated, “Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.”
The Washington, DC-based APA, a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States, has some 150,000 members, making it the largest association of psychologists worldwide.
Wayne Besen, Founding Executive Director of Truth Wins Out (TWO), a nonprofit organization that debunks antigay cant, applauded the APA report, but urged caution. Specifically, he pointed out that therapists still can bring coercive measures to bear on conflicted patients.
“Religious therapists…can manipulate the framing of priorities,” Besen explained. “For example, they may ask clients what they find more important to their value system: ‘ephemeral hedonism’ or ‘eternal life in heaven.’ Given this loaded option, clients may feel they have no ‘choice’ but to live a life of hell on earth in order to get the keys to the Kingdom when they die.”
Besen’s remarks are of import to any individual seeking professional help concerning his or her sexuality, particularly those from strict religious backgrounds.
“Clients,” Besen continued, “can also be easily manipulated by therapists who induce guilt by saying, ‘It is fine if you choose to exercise your options in a selfish manner by choosing your sexuality over Scripture.’”
Besen stated in no uncertain terms that “such diabolical therapists may be within the new guidelines (barely) by ostensibly offering a troubled client the ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ to be a ‘bad’ person. But, we all know this is just a tricky form of psychological abuse. While the APA guidelines are helpful, the group may need to address in the future how unsavory counselors use loopholes to continue tormenting the fragile minds of clients.”
It is welcome news that one professional medical organization has stepped forward to defend formally the rights of patients to explore their sexuality unfettered by shame or guilt. But, as in any other area of life, one must be on the alert for hidden agendas among the healers.
When seeking help, keep Besen’s caveats clearly in mind.