Is it possible for men and women who experience unwanted same sex attraction to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality? Or were such individuals born that way and efforts to change their sexual orientation are harmful?
These questions have been the subject of raging debate amongst therapists and researches, and the Summer 2009 newsletter of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) discusses a new study that delivers a major blow to those who maintain that homosexuality is untreatable.
JONAH Co-director Elaine Silodor Berk reports that the Scientific Advisory Committee of NARTH (The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) spent 18 months reviewing and documenting the professional literature to determine whether commonly stated objections to providing psychological care to those who are distressed by unwanted homosexual attractions have validity.
NARTH found such objections to be scientifically unsupportable, providing a landscape review of 125 years of scientific literature involving more than 600 studies - primarily from professional and peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Entitled "What Research Shows: NARTH's Response to the APA Claims on Homosexuality," the study concludes that over a century's worth of experiential evidence, clinical reports, and research documentation demonstrate that it is possible for both men and women to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality; that psychological intervention motivated by efforts to change sexual orientation are beneficial and not generally harmful; and that actively homosexual men and women do indeed have greater risk factors for medical, psychological and relational pathology than do the general population.
The study states, "Based on our review of 125 years of reports by clinicians, researchers, and former clients, we conclude that reorientation treatment has been shown to be beneficial--and not harmful--and therefore should continue to be available to those who seek it. ... [Moreover,] clients who seek sexual reorientation deserve properly informed and competent psychological care from therapists who use interventions that have been scientifically demonstrated as helpful for achieving this goal."
The study highlights nearly a dozen different treatment modalities and provides an exhaustive 26-page reference list for those desirous of looking at the underlying literature.
At one time, the focus of the anti-therapeutic intervention strategy of gay advocates and their allies was to simply state that people are born that way and that any form of therapeutic intervention was useless - a myth that is still widely believed by large numbers of citizens in Western society. However, recognizing that no scientific basis exists for this canard, the anti-healing camp invented three additional concerns about the ethics, efficacy, benefits, and potential harm of therapies that seek to reduce or eliminate same-sex sexual orientation.
NARTH systematically deconstructs the following three major objections, finding each of them to be false: (1) There is no conclusive or convincing evidence that sexual orientation may be changed through reorientation therapy. (2) Efforts to change sexual orientation are shown to be harmful and can lead to greater self-hatred, depression, and other self-destructive behaviors. (3) There is no greater pathology in the homosexual population than the general population. To the contrary, the monograph shows:
I. There is substantial evidence that sexual orientation may be changed through reorientation therapy.
II. Efforts to change sexual orientation have been shown to be beneficial and not shown to be harmful or to regularly lead to greater self-hatred, depression, and other self-destructive behaviors.
III. There is, in fact, significantly greater medical, psychological, and relational pathology in the homosexual population than in the general population.
JONAH compliments the principal authors of this study, Drs. James E. Phelan, Neil Whitehead, and Philip Sutton: "They have performed an immense service to the mental health profession and to the healing ministries by gathering the pertinent information documenting the lack of any credible evidence proving that anyone is born gay while simultaneously summarizing the literature showing how so many different therapeutic modalities have proven effective for those who are unhappy feeling same-sex attractions (SSA)."
A more complete summary of the study can be found by clicking here.
For further reading on this topic, click here.