Thursday, August 06, 2009

So Much For Reparative Therapy

For the last ten years or more, the "Pray away the Gay" crowd in the religious right has been trying to prop up NARTH to provide the appearance of legitimacy for their position that "homosexuality can be changed/cured/prayed away".

As reported on CNN, the American Psychological Association chose to review the real research on such programs (not the spewage from Paul Cameron, or the various lobby groups, but actual peer reviewed research that has been published in reasonable journals), and released their report titled Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.

The upshot of their findings:

The appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions with adults is built on three key findings in the research: (a) an enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation as a result of SOCE is unlikely, and some participants were harmed by the interventions; (b) sexual orientation identity, not sexual orientation, appears to change via psychotherapy, support groups, or life events; and (c) clients benefit from approaches that emphasize acceptance, support, and recognition of important values and concerns.


In short, reparative therapy is snake oil. Something which most critically thinking people would have long ago figured out.

Ironically, NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi's work is heavily cited in this study:

Nicolosi, J. (1991). Reparative therapy of male homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Nicolosi, J. (1993). Healing homosexuality. Northvale, NJ:Jason Aronson.
Nicolosi, J. (2003). Finally, recognition of a long-neglected population. Archives of General psychiatry, 32, 445-447.
Nicolosi, J., Byrd, A. D., & Potts, R. W. (2000). Retrospective self-reports of changes in homosexual orientation: A consumer survey of conversion therapy clients. Psychological Reports, 86, 1071-1088.
Nicolosi, J., & Nicolosi, L. A. (2002). A parent’s guide to preventing homosexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Although, Nicolosi's work is cited primarily in the background chapters describing the discussion itself, and in particular advocacy from groups like NARTH.

Where Nicolosi's research is actually cited or discussed for its merits, it comes in for some fairly harsh criticism:

A meta-analytic review of 14 research articles (Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002) is not discussed in this report. The review suffers from significant methodological shortcomings and deviations from recommended meta-analytic practice (see, e.g., Durlak, Meerson, & Ewell-Foster, 2003; Lipsey & Wilson, 2001) that preclude reliable conclusions to be drawn from it.


For instance, to assess whether sexual orientation had changed, Nicolosi et al. (2000) performed a chi-square test of association on individuals’ prior and current self-rated sexual orientation. Several features of the analysis are problematic. Specifically, the nature of the data and research question are inappropriate to a chi-square test of association, and it does not appear that the tests were properly performed. Chi-square tests of association assume that data are
independent, yet these data are not independent because the row and column scores represent an individual’s rating of his or her past and present self.


Recent studies have investigated whether people who have participated in efforts to change their sexual orientation report decreased same-sex sexual attractions (Nicolosi et al., 2000; Schaeffer et al., 2000; Spitzer, 2003) or how people evaluate their overall experiences of SOCE (Beckstead & Morrow 2004; Pattison & Pattison, 1980; Ponticelli, 1999; Schroeder & Shidlo, 2001; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002; Wolkomir, 2001). These studies all use designs that do not permit cause-and-effect attributions to be made. We conclude that although these studies may be useful in describing people who pursue SOCE and their experiences of SOCE, none of the recent studies can address the efficacy of SOCE or its promise as an intervention.


Childhood interventions to prevent homosexuality have been presented in non-peer-reviewed literature (see Nicolosi & Nicolosi, 2002; Rekers, 1982). ... Thus, we concluded that there is no existing research to support the hypothesis that psychotherapy in children alters adult sexual orientation.


Not exactly a promising assessment ... and arguably invalidates many of the shibboleths held by the advocates of "change therapy".

H/T: Commenter "SB" for bringing this to my attention

3 comments:

Lori D said...

I'm glad the APA clarified this. People I know on the PFOX side were using the previous statement as proof that one is not born gay but chooses a lifestyle to live that way. This ought to invalidate any further use of the APA to promote homophobia.

Ernie said...

According to the AP story:

"The APA task force took as a starting point the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences."

Well with such a presupposition, their findings aren't findings at all. They are just natural conclusions from this presupposition. Any behavior that they determine is a normal variant would find the same conclusions. The study is a joke and has very little to do with "science."

MgS said...

@Ernie:

Go read the study - you will find that it substantiates its claims far better than anything that has ever come out of NARTH ... as well as explaining the methodological problems with most studies that claim that sexual orientation can be changed in a meaningful way.