Core Issues on the Conversion Therapy Consensus Statement

It’s interesting stuff and all to do with exactly what evidence is being provided to support policy decisions.

Core Issues“There is no good evidence this works and we believe it has the potential to cause harm…”

1. What is Conversion therapy? Following a helpful reminder that the subject under discussion is ‘talking therapy’, the document’s main argument is that there is “no good evidence this [type of therapy] works and we believe it has the potential to cause harm.” It implies that this approach is based on religious interpretation rather than science. We note the reference to “no good evidence”. In fact the best study that we have did find good evidence of change in people seeking to reduce or eliminate same-sex attractions (see below). We note too the statement that “we believe it has the potential to cause harm”. This statement is premised on the view that sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable. They may indeed believe this, but where is the science? Their own flawed claim rebounds against them: there is no good evidence that talking therapies cause harm.

“We believe it would be irresponsible and potentially damaging for a therapist to offer to try and change sexual orientation.”

2. Why do professionals consider Conversion Therapy unethical?
The document answers this question by saying that “this particular approach is based on [certain assumptions or views]. But which particular approach do they mean? It seems that their objection is not to any particular approach, but to the principle of trying to reduce a person’s same-sex attractions at all – even if the person wants to hold together marriage and family.

They say that as homosexuality “is not an illness, it is both logically and ethically flawed to offer any kind of treatment.” But this statement is itself both logically and ethically flawed: one can have ‘treatment’ for anything from smoking to nervousness at having to make a speech in public, without being declared ‘ill’. Their statement does not answer their question: Why is it considered unethical?

“We believe that offering to change a person’s sexual orientation … would be likely to reinforce the notion that these feelings are wrong or abnormal.”

3. What does research tell us about reparative therapy?
The document’s answer to this question is effectively ‘very little, really’. There are no randomised controlled trials; studies showing reparative therapy to be effective are seriously flawed; and “oral history studies” of patients going as far back as the 1970’s (when electric shocks and nauseous drugs were used in treatment of homosexuality) show “potential for harm” – a disingenuous reference which is entirely irrelevant to the ‘talking therapies’ used today.

The fact that the document’s writers have to go back to the electric shock treatments of the 1970’s shows that they are having to scrape the bottom of the barrel because they are unable to come up with any research that shows a causal link between talking therapies and harm.

The best research available to us contradicts what these mental health bodies profess to ‘believe’. Jones & Yarhouse (2011) conducted a longitudinal study of people undergoing religiously mediated change in sexual orientation. They found significant effect, (achievement of a shift from homosexual towards heterosexual as desired by the client) and evidence of psychological benefit rather than harm on average. They said, “the findings of this study appear to contradict the commonly expressed view that sexual orientation is not changeable and that the attempt to change is highly likely to result in harm for those who make such an attempt.”

It would appear that the major UK mental health bodies who have collaborated to publish the ‘Consensus Statement’ on Conversion Therapy are not basing their views on science, but on ideological commitments expressed in terms of what they ‘believe’.

That is not good enough. It amounts to replacing good science with gay science. Good science is best for all – “gay science” is a poor substitute.

As I’ve said before, I do not believe Reparative Therapy is a “one-size fits all solution” to same-sex attraction. Far from it. But regardless of your position on such therapy, we should all be disturbed when a therapeutic body decides to ban a particular approach despite the lack of proper research evidence to support their policy.

96 Comments on “Core Issues on the Conversion Therapy Consensus Statement

  1. Mental health professionals consider conversion therapy to be harmful because of the overwhelmingly negative experiences reported by people who have undergone it.

    Practitioners are faced with this evidence in their day to day work on a regular basis. It’s such a politicized issue that every study undertaken to provide evidence for or against claims of harm is routinely attacked by the side that doesn’t agree with it to the point where no consensus is possible.

    I wonder if I need to remind you that when treatments are suspected of doing more harm than good, even in the absence of incontrovertible proof, the responsible thing to do is to call a halt to them until such time as the evidence shows clearly and beyond reasonable doubt that they are safe, or not.

    There is more than enough clinical and research based evidence of the potential harm caused by conversion therapy to jusitfy a moritorium on the practice until such time as definitive answers can be arrived at.

    • ” Mental health professionals consider conversion therapy to be harmful because of the overwhelmingly negative experiences reported by people who have undergone it.”

      Please point us to the academic studies which demonstrate using clinical measures that these therapies cause harm.

      • Conversion Therapies for Same-Sex Attracted Clients in Religious Conflict, A. Lee Beckstead & Susan L. Morrow, The Counseling Psychologist, 2004.

        Changing Sexual Orientation, Ariel Shidlo & Michael Schroeder, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2002.

        The findings of these studies are of course disputed by supporters of conversion therapy, but were considered compelling enough by the APA to be cited as evidence of the harm that conversion therapy can do in their 2007 report “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation”.

        Reasonable doubt exists as to the efficacity and safety of conversion therapy. A moritorium should be placed on it until its harmlessness can be demonstrated.

          • Please don’t reduce this discussion to ad hominem “you only want to ban it because you don’t like it” nonsense. It’s got nothing to do with what I like or don’t like and I resent the inference that I would lobby for the suppression of any kind of therapy based on my likes and dislikes.

            I am against conversion therapy because a substantial body of evidence exists to show that it causes harm and does little or no good. This has been confirmed by representative mental health care bodies throughout the Western world. The very least that should be done is to place a moritorium on the practice until such time as further research proves that conversion therapy does no harm. If the strong suspicion of harm that weighs on the practice can be clearly and unequivocally refuted then of course it should be allowed. You’re right when you say I don’t like it, but my belief in personal sovereignty requires me to support the right of people to do all sorts of things I don’t like. I don’t like cosmetic surgery but I don’t believe it should be banned, apart of course from specific procedures that have been shown to be harmful such as “pumping”. I don’t like abortion but I support a woman’s sovereign right to decide for herself what she does with her own body (and whatever you say about a fetus’s rights, the fact remalns that the uterus it grows in belongs not to it but to the woman in whose abdomen it is situated and she has the final say over whether the fetus can stay there or not.)

            So like it or hate it, conversion therapy stands or falls on the harm it does or doesn’t do. In the presence of a strong suspicion of harm it should be stopped until that suspicion is allayed.

            • Well said.

              I see J&Y gets wheeled out yet again: a (self-reported) success rate of 11% is, on its own terms, nothing to boast of.

              Several factors combine to rule out using talk-theraphy to alter sexual orientation.

              1) No established method
              2) Question of harm
              3) Sexual orientation isn’t a disorder

              It doesn’t even make sense from a conservative theological position: if God is sovereign, and no effective method of change has been found, why not focus on prayer?

              • From memory that 11% success rate was based on the number of participants who finished the study. It doesn’t take into account those who dropped out along the way. If you factor them in the success rate drops markedly, well into the realms of the statistically insignificant.

                Unless I’m mixing it up with another study by some other highly impartial Christian researchers with no pre-determined outcome, of course. ;-)

                • Of course. ;-)

                  You’re right, J&Y give the unadjusted figure — somewhere between 20-30%. The 11% is the adjusted one. This is, of course, based on self-reporting. TMK, no biological measurements were made of a shift in orientation.

                  • So you reject (again) the self-reporting of J&Y but you don’t reject the self-reporting of S&S. That’s just naked double standards. Can you not see that?

                    • I don’t reject J&Y, I do treat it with skepticism, as it’s a declaration of interest, and makes biological claims for which there’s no corroborating evidence. In short, the J&Y participants were strongly motivated to report change.

                      Even on its own terms, an 11% success rate is not promising.

                    • Right, so you treat S&S with scepticism as well since its sample was recruited asking for those who had had negative experiences?

                      This really does work both ways.

                  • Ah, well that’s what happens when you’re posting whilst walking your dog on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame de Paris. My phone’s 4G signal got sucked up by all that old stone. Couldn’t get enough bandwidth to check my facts. :-s

            • Where is the “substantial body of evidence”? It is entirely anecdotal. I do not know of one single proper controlled piece of research that uses clinical measures of harm demonstrating reparative therapy is harmful. There is no such study (and it’s certainly not Shidlo and Schroeder).

              • There are three kinds of harm that are pretty obvious without any documentation:

                (1) The pushing at gay clients of the completely unproven “explanation” that their “same-sex attraction” is a form of psychological dysfunction for which their families (probably one of their parents, if not both) are to “blame”. One doesn’t need to be super-perspicacious to perceive the potential damage to clients’ relationships with their families.

                (2) The pushing at gay clients of the notion that they must have been sexually molested in childhood, and if they insist that they haven’t, that just means that either they are in denial or they must have forgotten it. The possible trauma to a distressed client, severely conflicted over his/her sexuality, hardly needs to be pointed out.

                I’m not saying that all conversion therapists hawk the above theories, but they are extremely common. One hears and reads them being constantly bandied about by proponents of the ex-gay philosophy.

                (3) The precious years and sometimes even decades of people’s lives wasted in pursuit of the ex-gay chimera. As Mrs Cheveley rightly observes in Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” (although what she is getting at in that context is something rather different), no man is ever rich enough to buy back his past.

                • If those are your objections, then why not oppose your specific (1) and (2), rather than opposing the entire idea that people who want to change the way they feel should be allowed to seek professional help doing so?

                  (Re: (3), I would hope you would allow people to decide for themselves whether their time has been wasted, rather than making that judgement for them.)

                  • If there is a version of conversion therapy that is not based on and does not include harmful and unproven dogmas such as those in (1) or (2), then I agree that those specific objections will not apply to it. I am not for one moment presuming to dictate what people should or should not be allowed to seek. On the contrary, people must be allowed to seek anything that they want (unless, of course, it is something criminal). The question is not whether they should be allowed to seek it, but whether other people who make at best highly dubious claims to provide it should be allowed to use professional status to give spurious validation to their claims. My view is that they should not. To say that you are offering something that people want isn’t by itself a justification. Of course some people do. Name me any form of useless quackery or any scam offering something that NOBODY wants.

                    If someone has invested years of his life in something that doesn’t work, e.g. an ex-gay program, I have every right to judge that he has wasted his time. He has every right to disagree with me. Not only that; he has the right to try another useless ex-gay program. I have the right to judge that he is wasting his time again. He has the right to disagree with me again.

              • It convinces the APA and most other professional bodies. Being that they’re the experts in mental health care and you’re a clergyman with a background in statistics, I wonder who has the best experience of a clinical landscape in which psychologists are confronted on a regular basis by the fallout of conversion therapy ? You or them ? Perhaps it’s not so very strange that what appears to them to be convincing reseach fails to satisfy your more demanding (but perhaps not entirely realistic) criteria.

                It’s a hard one to call, but when faced with the admittedly difficult choice between trusting trained mental health professionals or a vicar with a statistics degree and many opinions to decide what constitutes harmful malpractice, I think I’ll go with the professionals. Not that I’m not fascinated by the opinions of armchair experts in general and yours in particular. But on balance, six or seven years of intensive training followed by decades of case work, research projects and field experience just pip you to the post.

                    • No evidence. None. Just anecdotes. Not one single longitudinal study. Not a single one.

                      Name it. Name just one longitudinal study that shows reparative therapy causes harm. Just one.

                    • You don’t seem to understand that strong anecdotal evidence is grounds for further investigation. You want incontrovertible evidence before applying the principle of precaution.

                      My position is there is a strong suspicion that conversion therapy can harm. The safest cause of action is to ban it while studies are carried out on those who have undergone it and conclusions can be reached.

                      Your position is that as long as you don’t have concrete evidence that it does harm then it should continue until such point as that evidence becomes available. Never mind if a few more gays are traumatised while we wait for that evidence to materialise. What matters is the process, not the people.

                      You’d think a vicar would have a slightly more … oh, I don’t know …. pastoral and compassionate (?) approach.

                    • Society has decided that testimonial evidence is sufficient to lock someone up until they die. In which case, it’s certainly sufficient to call a halt to an unproven therapeutic approach.

                      Not that it’s necessary: the fact that conversion therapy is not only unproven, but lacks even a method to test, is by itself sufficient grounds to call a halt to it.

                      As ever, the burden is on the proposer.

                    • I’ve answered that above but for clarity’s sake I’ll repeat it here. More than enough people have undergone conversion therapy to provide the data needed for studies. If questions are being asked about its safety it would not be responsible to subject others to it until the existing data are properly studied.

                    • “You don’t seem to understand that strong anecdotal evidence is grounds for further investigation.”

                      Good. Let’s do the further investigation. Set up the longitudinal studies.

                      Or is the case that you’re not actually interested in finding out the answer to your question as to whether these therapies actually work?

                    • In medical ethics it isn’t a case of innocent until proven guilty. The precautionary principle places the onus on proponents of controversial treatments to prove their safety. All opponents have to do is highlight credible safety concerns. The existing research does this quite effectively, which is why conversion therapy is opposed by every major mental health care body and also why several governments are now considering outlawing it completely.

                      If proponents of conversion therapy can answer their critics by producing convincing evidence of the safety of their techniques as confirmed by rigorous, peer reviewed research then there will be no reason to ban the practice. But the onus is on them. That’s how it works in the medical world.

                    • So what about gender reassignment surgery? I would say this is pretty unsafe. Many people have undergone this drastic and invasive surgery and it has not measured up to expectations, sometimes even leading to suicide.

                    • Well, what about gender reassignment surgery, Jill? I admit that I know little about it. I have seen a few TV documentaries, and that is about all. I know that it is certainly the last thing that I would ever want. But it is a separate issue. Even if your criticisms of it are absolutely correct, that can do absolutely nothing to validate conversion therapy.

                    • I merely wonder where is the outrage from LGBT lobby groups and demands for getting it banned.

                    • Well, obviously the T lot out of LGBT don’t want gender reassignment surgery banned because they consider, rightly or wrongly, that it’s worth the risk. But personally I don’t want conversion therapy banned, as long as it is not offered under the guise of legitimate psychotherapy, and as long as it is not inflicted on minors. Adults must be free to play around with conversion therapy at their own discretion and at their own risk, just as they are free to play around with astrology, reincarnation therapy, tasseography, spirit healing etc.

                    • ” Adults must be free to play around with gender reassignment surgery at their own discretion and at their own risk, just as they are free to play around with astrology, reincarnation therapy, tasseography, spirit healing etc.”

                      Discuss.

                    • My immediate and unconsidered reaction is to say, “Yes, that’s a perfectly tenable position”, but things are rather more complicated than that. Gender reassignment surgery is SURGERY. Anyone can offer to plot my astrological chart, to help me to discover which Roman emperor I was in a previous life, to read my tea-leaves, to suggest ways of trying to alter my sexuality to make it fit some paradigm etc., and as an adult I am and should be free to go to those people if I’m foolish enough. When it comes to PHYSICAL treatment of any kind, however, the law imposes restrictions, and rightly so, in my view. A pharmacist can’t just sell me a bottle of chloroform because I fancy one (although they could in Victorian times), and only a qualified and accredited surgeon is allowed to cut bits and pieces off people and to perform other surgical operations on them.

                      So if adults want to play around with gender reassignment, only surgeons qualified to perform it can provide it, and I would be surprised if any – in this country, at least – would simply make such an irreversible procedure available on tap, so to speak.

                    • Can I just be clear? Where we have some really good proper longitudinal studies tracking people through gender reassignment surgery (for example see here – https://www.peter-ould.net/2013/11/13/transgender-mortality-rates/) and that research using clinical measures demonstrates that mortality decreases post transition, we should still allow people to, on average, shorten their lives by engaging in this surgery. BUT, if we have a similar longitudinal study (for example Jones and Yarhouse) that demonstrates NO statistically significant harm for a non-invasive therapy, you want to to ban it?

                      Makes perfect sense.

                    • No, Peter, I don’t think that it ought to be banned. I have already made that clear. I just think that, like the other fringe practices that I have mentioned, it should not be practised under the guise of mainstream medical or psychotherapeutic care.

                      As for the matter of significant harm, I have already drawn attention previously to the years and sometimes even decades of people’s lives wasted on it. 54 (more than half) of the subjects in the J & Y study, prior to their involvement with Exodus-affiliated ministries, had already spent time going through other ex-gay programs: 21 for between 3 and 5 years, 18 for between 5.5 and 12 years, and 15 for 13 years +. That, as far as I am concerned, is more than sufficient condemnation.

                    • Slow down. A surgical process that demonstrably reduces life expectancy is OK? A talk therapy for which there is no actual evidence of harm is a “fringe practice”? And of course, everybody is just crying out for gender reassingment surgery. That’s in no way fringe…

                      And let’s tot up all the years those who go through gender reassignment surgery have already spent working towards that moment while we’re at it. Look, how much time have THEY wasted?

                      It’s just double standards all the way.

                    • Peter, let me just make one thing clear. I am not taking it on myself to defend gender reassignment surgery. I have to admit that my own personal reaction to the idea is not a positive one. I remember hearing the late Hungarian-American psychiatrist Thomas S. Szasz – who was, I think, a liberal humanist – saying on television that he didn’t think it was a solution to anything, and feeling that he was probably right.

                      But that was only how I FELT – and still do, to be honest. I actually KNOW very little about gender reassignment surgery, and I still do not understand why anyone wants it. For that very reason I am reluctant to say much about the subject. So there is no point whatever in pointing out to me what you understand to be the drawbacks of this kind of surgery. If there are any double standards here, they are not mine. I merely pointed out to Jill that her criticisms of it, even if they were 100% valid, had no bearing on the legitimacy or effectiveness of conversion therapy. In this context, whatever one’s opinion of it, it is a red herring.

                    • Jill, you might say that gender reassignment surgery is unsafe, but why should we take account of your opinion ? Are you a mental health practitioner or a gender reassignment surgeon ? Are you a medical ethicist ? Have you conducted or can you refer us to research that casts doubt on the outcomes of gender reassignment surgery (excluding Daily Mail exposés, of course) ?

                      Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, but for that opinion to carry weight in debates such as this it has to be backed up by credentials. And strangely enough, the armchair experts that want to remake the world in their own image never seem to have many of those.

                      If you want my personal opinion on the subject of gender reassignment surgery, I consider it in much the same light as cosmetic surgery and don’t support it. But as with cosmetic surgery, the decision to undergo it falls within the remit of personal sovereignty. We have quite a few years of perspective on the outcomes of gender reassignment surgery and if it was perceived that harm was caused by these procedures then the data would support halting them while the relevant research was carried out. As far as I’m aware, and this despite the occasional tabloid story of woe, it does not.

                      But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there’s a whole slew of studies out there that point to a strong suspicion of harm. If so, let’s see them and if they look credible, then let’s alert the relevant medical authorities to the potential problem. If it exists I’m a little surprised it hasn’t been picked up on it yet, but maybe your concerns will set that ball rolling. Or maybe they won’t…

                    • What bothers me about the kind of page you linked to is that it’s so clearly been posted by someone with a huge axe to grind. The language used, the overreliance on statistics lifted from who knows where and totally devoid of context, and the overall shrill tone do not inspire confidence.

                      In saying that however, there are studies quoted that demand consideration. If it’s true that eminent centers of learning such as Johns-Hopkins no longer perform gender reassignment surgery because of concerns about outcomes then I agree there are grounds for reviewing the practice.

                    • I am pretty sure there would be howls of outrage if this kind of surgery were banned. So why no howls of outrage about the proposed ban on reparative therapy? Some double standards here, I think.

                      I feel desperately sorry for people who feel they are trapped in the wrong body. It must be awful for them. Some obviously feel desperate enough to want to take the risks associated with transitioning. I also feel really sorry for people whose same-sex attraction causes them grief. If they are happy to be gay, well good luck to them, but if they are not – to close off all avenues of help to escape seems like a recipe for despair, which I think is downright cruel.

                    • Jill, I don’t think that “reparative therapy” is going to be banned. I am sure that people will remain free to dabble in it, just as they are free to dabble in any of the other fringe practices that I have mentioned. What is being banned is people using their status as accredited psychotherapists and counsellors to peddle it, which is perfectly reasonable. It is not allowed to practise Christian Science healing as a registered physician or to practise “psychic surgery” as a registered surgeon. What I hope will also be banned is its infliction on minors. As the Chair of the UKCP summed it up in conversation with the founder of Core Issues Trust, “If you want to be a psychotherapist, you have to keep to the consensual standards of practice of our profession. If you don’t want to be a psychotherapist, then it’s fine: I think you can say and do what you like, subject to the law.”

                      Reparative therapy is as much an avenue of help to escape for people whose “same-sex attraction” causes them grief as premium rate psychic phone lines are an avenue of help to escape for people whose bereavement causes them grief. If anything is downright cruel it is leading people up the garden path by encouraging them to believe that their sexual orientation is somehow “wrong” and needs changing, and that this can be achieved by investing precious years of their lives in what will almost certainly prove to be a wild-goose chase.

                    • I don’t suppose people who have been helped by reparative therapy would agree with you there.

                    • To work towards their stated objectives of heteronormativity. You are never going to be able to stop some ssa people wanting that outcome, no matter how long and hard you campaign, and I think you just have to get over that.

                    • Jill, there are any number of things that people want, and which they are almost certainly never going to get, but they will go on wanting them just the same. I am not campaigning to stop anyone from wanting anything, no matter how unrealistic their desire. If some “ssa” people refuse to accept their sexuality and prefer to waste away their lives crying for the moon, I am certainly not going to waste away my own life pursuing the equally delusive goal of trying to stop them. What I can and will do is to warn them against being cruelly hoodwinked – even if by well-meaning people who sincerely believe in their own nonsense – and to remind them that, while “À la recherche du temps perdu” may have made a good title for one of Proust’s novels, wasted time can never in reality be recouped: it is gone for ever. But they must make their own decisions, for better for worse.

                    • But this isn’t medical ethics, it’s talking therapies. CBT, gestalt, Jungian, all these approaches are used by various reparative therapists. Are you seriously suggesting you want to ban CBT, gestalt, Jungian et al because no-one has proved them to be efficacious?

                      Do you know the body of research on those harmed by talk therapies? Do you know the rate of harm? How does it compare to reparative therapeutic approaches?

                    • But this isn’t medical ethics, it’s talking therapies. CBT, gestalt, Jungian, all these approaches are used by various reparative therapists. Are you seriously suggesting you want to ban CBT, gestalt, Jungian et al because no-one has proved them to be efficacious?

                      Do you know the body of research on those harmed by talk therapies? Do you know the rate of harm? How does it compare to reparative therapeutic approaches?

    • I understand that this therapy has a similar success rate to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Do you feel that AA should be banned also? After all, alcoholics who fail must also report overwhelmingly negative experiences.

      • Jill, can you please tell us (1) the factual basis of your understanding that conversion therapy has a similar success rate to that of Alcoholics Anonymous? It would be most interesting and helpful if you could also tell us (2) what the success rate of conversion therapy is, and (3) where that information can be found.

        The late husband of a work colleague of mine was a long-standing alcoholic. (She made no secret of this, and it was common knowledge in our workplace, so I am not breaking any confidences.) She herself was one of the local contacts of AlAnon, which offers support to the families and friends of alcoholics. As she was a good friend as well as a colleague, we had a number of conversations on the subject. What I gathered from her was that an alcoholic needs to give up alcohol altogether and to keep off it for good. That is sufficient to count as success, by AA’s criterion. It is NOT claimed that an alcoholic will be converted into a non-alcoholic. As her husband put it, “I haven’t touched alcohol for years now, but I’m still an alcoholic.”

        In view of the above, can you please tell us (4) what, in your view, counts as a successful outcome of conversion therapy and what does not? For example, if someone’s “same-sex attractions” continue to be just as same-sex as ever, but they are no longer having sex with anyone, is that success? In sum, what exactly does conversion therapy convert, and into what?

        • “For example, if someone’s “same-sex attractions” continue to be just as same-sex as ever, but they are no longer having sex with anyone, is that success?”

          J&Y certainly thought so!

                  • Exactly. “Identity” only arose because “cure” was off the table. To their credit, J&Y did recognize that: a great shame they didn’t go further, and reassess their theological opinions.

                    • Can you please explain clearly and unambiguously the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual identity? I really want to know. If you can make your explanation even clearer by adding a concrete example or two, that would be fantastic.

                    • P.S. Just to clarify. If I were asked what my sexual identity was, I would reply “male”. If asked my sexual orientation, I would reply “gay”. The two things, although obviously interconnected – you couldn’t have a sexual orientation without having a sex – are quite distinct from each other. But it sounds as though you want to give the term “sexual identity” a different kind of meaning altogether. If so, what meaning exactly?

          • Yes, you’re right. J & Y tried to inflate their “success” figures by adding on those who were still “same-sex attracted” but were no longer having sex. It makes you wonder, if a heterosexual person is, for one reason or another, no longer having sex, have they become “ex-straight”?

            • They didn’t inflate anything. They asked people is they felt the therapy had been successful. They are very clear that although on average sexuality moved one point on the Kinsey scale, it was not statistically significant.

              • If I remember correctly, they classified what they called “chastity” despite continuing “same-sex attraction” as “success”. If that isn’t inflating the success figures, I don’t know what is. But as a friend once jokingly said to me, “When you’re presenting the accounts, the figures aren’t sufficient. You’ve got to be creative with them.”

        • How can one define success? How long is a piece of string? Even if the recidivism rate of alcoholics is 99%, does that mean AA should be banned?

    • Um. While I don’t feel competent to hold an informed position on the pros or cons of this particular issue, that’s circular logic. Roughly: “This may be harmful. So we can’t allow it until studies are conducted which show it isn’t. But once it’s banned there will never be evidence on which to reach any definitive answer of whether it is or isn’t harmful. So it has to stay banned because it may be harmful.”

      The question seems rather to be whether it is more appropriate to apply a blanket precautionary principle (guilty until proven innocent) or a common law approach, albeit with health warnings, that allows for informed personal discretion (innocent until proven guilty). The balance of pluses and minuses of each approach is contextual. Neither fits all cases. But the former would seem to me, on the face of it, to be rather more vulnerable to prejudice in the tecnical sense of the word – as in the conclusion reached is based on a prior judgment.

        • It’s not spot on – it’s a bad analogy. Under clinical trials regulations, trials of new drugs take place prior to licensing. The reason for this is to minimise the exposure to potential adverse events (harm) from an agent whose therapeutic properties are unknown.

          There is no contradiction at all in banning the administration through standard care of an unproven therapy while still conducting controlled trials. If the implication is that safety standards should be lower in psychiatric interventions than in pharmacological interventions… well, we’re heading back towards 19th-century medicine.

      • More than enough people have undergone conversion therapy to provide the data necessary for judging its efficiency and safety without putting further people at risk.

      • It’s more, “This may be harmful, sexual orientation isn’t a disorder, and there’s no proposed method to evaluate.”

        The second is the biggest sticking point: sexual orientation only becomes a disorder when certain theological frameworks are applied. It isn’t inherently harmful.

        Given that, it makes a lot more sense for therapists to work through and challenge beliefs instead of attempt to change orientation.

        • The issue is whether a person wants to change something about themselves. Small breasts and foetuses do not constitute disorders of the body.

          In the former case, our society has permitted implants that have over the years have exhibited significant health risks. In the latter, doctors can agree that self-identified stress or even the sex of the unborn child are enough to meet grounds 1(b), or 1(c) of the Abortion Act 1967.

          This is a society that has happily permitted risky implant therapies for augmenting bodily characteristics and eliminating the unborn for trivial inconveniences. Yet, it’s apparently unethical for a therapist to respond to a request for unwanted sexual attraction therapy…because it’s not a disorder.

          Got that.

          • And because no clinically-established method is available to shift sexual orientation. The factors I listed (harm; disorder; effectiveness) have to be read in combination. Whatever you think of abortion and cosmetic surgery, they work: abortion terminates a pregnancy; cosmetic surgery alters the body.

            While pregnancy isn’t a disorder, it places substantial emotional and physical demands on a woman, and can lead to physical and psychological disorders. Early in pregnancy, before the fetus develops higher brain functions, I see no reason to deny the woman a choice.

            Cosmetic surgery can be ill-advised, and result from psychological disorders. Any responsible clinician would screen for those. If they’re not present, it’s in effect body modification.

            If a safe and effective method to shift sexual orientation were available, disagree as I might, it could be defended on those grounds. Right now, it isn’t, so the question’s moot.

            • The fact that pregnancy can lead to psychological disorders doesn’t justify a pair of doctors agreeing to terminate a child on the basis of its gender and framing that as an unacceptable risk to the mother’s mental health.

              Also, why isn’t homeopathy banned. Why is it left to the discretion of PCT’s to decide whether to fund it. How are ultra-dilutions clinically established treatments?

              Your corollary founders on these entirely permissible contradictions.

              • I agree about the English abortion criteria, their application’s a dishonest farce: English law should be honest & make abortion available on demand in the first trimester.

                If you want to clear homeopathy out of business hours, you’ll get no argument from me.

                Consistent enough?

  2. This is one manifestation of the trickle-down nature of Gender ideology: the mind has been given legal sovereignty over the body – how, then, can the law tolerate a request to align mind with body? Note that the law is more than keen to enable people to mutilate their body so as to accord with their mind. That which is immutable has been declared mutable, and that which is mutable has been declared fixed.

      • There’s no irony: disconnect between body and mind is itself a disorder. Sexual orientation only becomes one when certain beliefs are held.

    • And it all started when God ordered the Jews to mutilate their sons in order to align their bodies with their minds’ perception of themselves as the chosen ones.

      So is God the originator and ultimate proponent of “gender ideology”?

      • Haha er…no, Gender ideology begins and ends with Satan, not God. Regardless of what we might think of circumcision, it is not an attempt to turn male into female or female into male.

  3. One of the questions this opens up for me is the question of therapy in general. I did a course recently on pastoral counselling, which involved looking at three different secular models of counselling (Psychodynamic, CBT, Person-centred). I wonder if they are scientifically ‘proven’, or whether such a thing is possible.

    I’d also be interested to know (for example) if a counsellor using a CBT based technique took on someone who wanted to change their sexual orientation – would that be reparative therapy? I guess in this case it must be judged by the purpose rather than the process. Which does suggest to me there is something ideological going on.

    On a personal level with respect to counselling, not so long ago my wife went through about 14 months of psychodynamic counselling and ended up basically at the same place she started – it was pretty useless. In fact, I think at some points it really didn’t help at all – from my perspective I think it caused her harm, albeit temporary. I’ve also heard stories from other people who’ve been to counselling and had similar experiences.

    • Reminds me of a quote from the Woody Allen film, Sleeper – “I haven’t seen my analyst in 200 years. He was a strict Freudian. If I’d been going all this time, I’d probably almost be cured by now.” It is surely no coincidence that psychotherapy expands as recognition of God contracts. CBT apllied to unwanted same-sex sexual desires would probably take the form of “ownership” ie helping the patient realise that we might not be able to control which thoughts enter our mind, but we can choose how much value we attach to a thought.

      • One of the things which interested me about looking at the various secular counselling models was that they are all explicitly based on postmodern views, i.e. that there is no absolute truth. Which makes me wary as a Christian of basing opinions on insights from secular therapy techniques in this area as in others.

        • Although be careful not to throw the baby out with the postmodern bath water. When dealing with emotions and attitudes considering influences and perceptions and worldview can be quite useful in figuring out why we think the way we do. This might actually be an area where postmodern ideas have some use.

          • Thanks Jonathan, I agree. I think it’s helpful to be able to think through postmodern ideas, or ideas from other camps, and be able to take what’s helpful and Biblical and reject what’s not.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.