The Lived Experience Of Men In Reparative Therapy

Last year’s recipient of the Joseph Nicolosi Student Scholarship Award, William Stanus, has just completed a master’s thesis at Trinity Western University studying the experiences of men who have undergone reparative therapy.

Five men were recruited from the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic while in reparative therapy for issues related to unwanted same-sex Attraction (SSA). Open-ended interviews were conducted and analyzed via a phenomenological research methodology. Analysis yielded eleven themes which described the impact of therapy on their lives as a whole, including in domains such as work, relationships, and sense of self.

Reparative therapy for these men centered around their perception of a struggle to heal masculine identity. During sessions they worked on identifying bodily-based experiences of shame; understanding past family dynamics; and healing past incidents of abuse and rejection. They used Body Work and the Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) trauma protocol. All five men reported a positive experience of psychotherapy. Benefits included being able to build better non-sexual relationships with men, becoming more open to intimate relating to a woman, and improving their sense of themselves as men. While there was some reported decrease in their SSA, this did not involve a complete absence of any attractions to the same sex. Rather, the men reported lessening of SSA as well as a reduction in preoccupation with same-sex fantasies and unwanted same-sex behaviors. The men expressed gratitude at the opportunity to tell their stories, as well as the desire that their therapeutic choices be respected.

This research has added to the literature documenting client voices in psychotherapy as well as factors that clients find helpful in the change process.