New American Psychological Association Journal Article

In an interesting sign that the APA is slowly moving to review their previous position on “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts”, Psychotherapy, one of the in-house journals has just published an interesting article co-authored by Mark Yarhouse. Here’s the abstract.

With the increasing relevance of sexual minority concerns, including the process of navigating sexual and religious identities, clinical practice has focused on helping sexual minorities address methods of self-expressio…n that are most congruent with the client’s values. Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT) (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006) has been developed to assist individuals who are seeking to address potential conflicts between religious and sexual identities by focusing on personal congruence. To facilitate this process, the practice of mindfulness is applied. As an adaptation from its spiritual origins, mindfulness is used to facilitate the treatment of various disorders, such as chronic pain, substance abuse, and depression. It has also been the crux of several different third-wave cognitive and behavioral therapies that consider the “…context and functions of psychological phenomena” (Hayes, 2004, p. 5) for the purpose of helping clients to develop “…broad, flexible and effective repertoires” (p. 6). In this instance, mindfulness is applied to SIT to assist individuals with same-sex attraction to become nonjudgmentally aware of their thoughts and feelings related to same-sex attraction such that they are able to experience their attractions in an open and honest manner without feeling compelled to either dismiss or augment these attractions. Mindful awareness of same-sex attraction facilitates congruence because there is less emphasis on changing behaviors, thoughts or feelings, but rather, changing the relationship the individual has to their experiences of same-sex attraction so that they are experienced as neutral, as opposed to aversive.

Interesting. Mark’s piece highlights a very similar thing we do in pastoral practice in this area, namely to get men and women to be honest and open about what they are experiencing. Truth after all is the first step towards wholeness, because God is truth and he wants to deal with the real us.

Sexual Identity Therapy appears to be increasingly favourably viewed by the APA.

7 Comments on “New American Psychological Association Journal Article

  1. Peter: Thanks for highlighting Mark's work. However, I do not see the APA moving toward a reconsideration of change efforts. In fact, this approach does not work with clients to change anything, rather to accept what is.

      • There are two kinds of acceptance here. One is that the client accepts, although does not of necessity approve of same-sex attractions. The other is that the therapist accepts the client whatever the client's value direction. The client's wishes are important but they might be barriers to the kind of acceptance proposed by the mindfulness approach.

        E.g., I wish I could come to England today and have tea with you. However, I accept that I cannot. If my wishes were so strong and preoccupying that I either used lots of mental energy to deny them or wasted away hours hoping I can fly there, then my wishes are not helping me.

        Efforts to change can be like that for people. I get far more happy clients when they simply accept what is and make plans to effect valued behavior in their lives.

  2. Hi Peter, I managed to download the full paper. It is very interesting and insightful for any person doing some kind of counselling. It is indeed clear that the concept of SIT has passed peer-review, it is well described in the paper, and it makes reference to previous work of Yarhouse. This is good news in the sense that the scientific community seems at least more open to the reality of conflicting religious values and sexuality. What I find particularly appealing is the mindfulness approach that could be easily applied by Christian pastors.

    Regarding the client's wishes, from my first screening of the paper, I would agree with Dr Throckmorton, that wishes could become a barrier, particularly if they are not fully/clearly expressed.

    To Tom, the paper refers to the historical practice of mindfulness accross vrious religious practices and mentions Buddhism indeed.

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