by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.
The scientific prestige of the American Psychological Association (APA) was evidenced recently during the legal debate over treatment for unwanted homosexuality.
Over and over in the courtroom, one piece of evidence trumped all other information -- the APA’s’ Task Force Report, “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation” (2009).
With unbroken success, that gay-activist trump card was used as the decisive factor in all recent court decisions. For this reason, it is necessary to reexamine the Report’s origins.
While numerous methodological critiques have been made against the Report (1), this paper will focus exclusively on the inherent bias of the seven members who made up this panel of experts.
When “The Foxes Are Guarding The Henhouse”
If the APA wanted to do an objective investigation of the therapeutic effectiveness of sexual-orientation change therapy using a representational demographic, and if 1-2%, of the U.S. population is gay, then we would expect that of the seven Task Force members, perhaps one would be gay. But of the seven members of the Task Force Committee, six have publicly documented themselves as gay-or bisexual-identified.
Not only were these members gay, but all - including the one non-gay-identified member, and the one bisexual member- engaged in gay activism before their selection for the Task Force.
In my previous paper, "Why Gay Cannot Speak for Ex-Gays," I offered a psychological explanation as to why the identity process of “coming out” which results in a gay identity will bias the individual from accepting the possibility of change for others. Abandoning the hope of ever overcoming their unwanted homosexuality (which is a necessary prerequisite for accepting a gay identity) creates a resistance in the mind of the gay-identified person that change could be possible for someone else: “If it was impossible for me, then no one else can do it.”
Has Homosexuality Been Scientifically Proven To Be “Positive”?
Beside this bias, another overlooked fact is that, prior to the start of their investigation, the Task Force members admitted to being opposed to the very existence of reorientation therapy, based on their view that homosexuality must be viewed by others as “positive.” In the introduction of their report, they state:
“The task force…[accepts]… the following scientific facts:
Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.” (2).
Here the Task Force members are “a priori” acknowledging that they would not consider any non-normative causes of homosexuality, nor any reasonable motivation for a person to change. But this view is not a “scientific fact” -- it has not been scientifically demonstrated; and, furthermore, it is as much a question of philosophy as of science.
The Task Force’s assumption that a homosexual orientation is a good and desirable orientation (and by logical extension, that any attempt at change is bad for the individual), was not unique to the Task Force members, but reflects the official policy of the APA. The Report was from the start, not intended to open an investigation into the matter, but to reaffirm APA policy.
In addition, before approval, every applicant for admission to the Task Force had to be first “recommended” by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Concerns (3).
Who, then, were the seven APA Task Force members?
Chair: Judith M. Glassgold, Psy. D. is a lesbian psychologist. She sits on the board of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy and is past president of APA’s Gay and Lesbian Division 44.
Jack Drescher, M.D. is a well-known gay-activist psychiatrist, and serves on the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy and is one of the most vocal opponents of reparative therapy.
A. Lee Beckstead, Ph. D. is a gay counseling psychologist who counsels LBGT-oriented clients from traditional religious backgrounds. He is a staff associate at the University of Utah's Counseling Center. Before joining the Task Force he expressed strong skepticism that reorientation therapy could be helpful. As a Mormon he urged the Mormon Church to revise its non-gay-affirming policy on homosexuality and instead, to affirm church members in a gay identity.
Beverly Greene, Ph.D., ABPP, is a lesbian psychologist and was the founding co-editor of the APA Division 44 (Gay and Lesbian division) and serves on the Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues.
Robin Lin Miller, Ph.D. is a bisexual community psychologist and associate professor at Michigan State University. From 1990-1995, she worked for the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City and has written for gay publications.
Roger L. Worthington, Ph.D. is not homosexual, but in 2001 was awarded the "2001 Catalyst Award," from the LGBT Resource Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, for "speaking up and out and often regarding LGBT issues." He co-authored "Becoming an LGBT-Affirmative Career Advisor: Guidelines for Faculty, Staff, and Administrators" for the National Consortium of Directors of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resources in Higher Education.
Clinton Anderson, Ph.D. is a gay psychologist, officer of the APA's Office for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns and served as Task Force Committee Liaison.
Remarkably, the APA rejected, for membership on this committee, every practitioner of sexual-reorientation therapy who applied for inclusion.
The rejected applicants included--
- NARTH Past-President A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., (now deceased), a distinguished professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, longtime practitioner of reorientation therapy, and co-author of several peer-reviewed journals and articles studying change of sexual orientation. Dr. Byrd is considered one of the foremost experts on same-sex attraction and reorientation therapy. He has published numerous articles on sexual reorientation, as well as gender and parenting issues.
- George Rekers, Ph.D., Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina, editor of the Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems, a National Institute of Mental Health grant recipient, author of the book Growing Up Straight, as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles on gender-identity issues;
- Stanton Jones, Ph.D., Provost and Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, Illinois, the co-author of Homosexuality: The Use Of Scientific Research In The Church's Moral Debate, and a second book, titled, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation.
- Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. (author of this article), a founding officer of NARTH, practitioner of Reparative Therapy for over 30 years, and author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality and the 2009 book, Shame and Attachment Loss.
- Mark A. Yarhouse, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Dr. Yarhouse is co-author of Homosexuality: The Use Of Scientific Research In The Church's Moral Debate and Ex-Gays? and A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation and has published many peer-reviewed articles on homosexuality.
When Clinton Anderson, Chairperson of the Task Force, was confronted at an APA Town Hall Meeting as to why the above names were rejected, Dr. Anderson evaded the question with a bit of sleight of hand: “They were not rejected, they just were not accepted.”
If the APA truly wished to study sexual orientation--a values-laden issue with a strong (but unacknowledged) worldview component, they would have followed established scientific practice by choosing a balanced committee that included individuals with differing worldviews. They would have included clinicians who respect their traditionalist clients’ views on sexual expression. Instead, they chose only psychologists who are these clients’ philosophical opponents.
The scientific bias of the Task Force is further evidenced by four facts:
- The Task Force failed to reveal the well-documented, far-higher level of pathology associated with a homosexual lifestyle. If they had truly been interested in science, they would have believed it their duty to warn the public about the psychological and medical health risks associated with homosexual and bisexual behavior. Their failure to advise the public about the risks not only betrays their lack of commitment to science, but prevents sexually confused young people from accurately assessing the choices available to them.
- Why do some people become homosexual? The reader of the Report might justifiably expect some discussion of the varying factors associated with the development of same-sex attractions. This whole field of study was ignored.
- The Task Force did not study individuals who reported treatment success. Even if (for the sake of argument) therapeutic change had been reported to be successful in only ONE case, then the committee should have asked, “What therapeutic methods brought about this change?” But since the Task Force considered change undesirable, they showed no interest in pursuing this avenue of investigation.
- The Task Force’s standard for successful treatment for unwanted homosexuality was far higher than that for any other psychological condition. What if they had studied treatment success for narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or alcohol/food/drug abuse? All of these conditions, like unwanted homosexuality, cannot be expected to resolve totally, and usually necessitate some degree of lifelong struggle. Many of these conditions are, in fact, quite notoriously resistant to treatment. Yet there is no debate about the usefulness of treatment for these conditions: and psychologists continue to treat them, despite their uncertain outcomes.
A Gay Critique of Traditional Religion
The Task Force Report speculated about two types of response to homosexuality-- first, as seen in the person who claims his homosexuality as a source of his deepest self-identity: and second, in the person who believes he was not designed for homosexuality and chooses to reject it as a source of identity. They are defined by:
Organismic Congruence (claiming a gay identity), defined as “affirmative … models of LGB psychology” and “living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self" (p. 18).
Telic Congruence. This applies to people of faith who do not wish to identify with their homosexuality; they instead choose to live consistently within their values. Therefore, to live out one’s traditionalist religious values, according to the Task Force, is to make oneself incomplete and inconsistent within one’s experiential self.
In creating this distinction between organismic congruence and telic congruence, the members of the Task Force offer us a misleading dichotomy. Seen through the perspective of their own gay identities, the Task Force therefore claims that persons striving to live a life consistent with their religious values are denying their true, embodied selves. Religious believers who choose not to gay-identify therefore must constrict their true selves through unnatural behavioral control and cannot experience organismic wholeness, self-awareness and a mature development of their identity. These attributes are only possible for individuals who, like the Task Force members, identify with their same-sex attractions.
The Task Force members evidently cannot understand that the person of traditional faith finds his biblically based values to be guides and sources of inspiration that lead him on an authentic journey. The person of traditional faith holds the conviction that his religions teachings direct him toward a rightly-gendered wholeness which allows him to live his life in a manner congruent with his creator’s embodied design.
This wholeness is satisfying, experiential, and deeply integrated into the person’s being. It is achieved not by suppression, repression or denial--but by understanding homosexuality within the greater context of a mature wisdom that is integrated into a scientifically accurate psychology.
(1) NARTH Committee Response to APA report, September 11, 2009, narth.com.
(2) The Task Force Report of the American Psychological Association, 2009, “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation,” page 2.
(3) APA Press Release, Public Affairs, May/21/2007.