Why I Am Not a Neutral Therapist
by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.
"How could I have been designed by my creator for homosexuality?" the client asked.
Recently, a client told me about his experience with another psychologist. The psychologist told him he was born gay, and said that his unwanted attractions in fact revealed "who he really was."
The client asked if he could be referred to a different therapist who would help him explore the possibility of change. The psychologist (who, it turned out, was a gay activist) said, "No. I won't participate in something unethical. This denial of your homosexuality is a reflection of your self-hatred. There is no other valid position on this issue !"
Staying Away From Values Issues
Today, psychologists who see heterosexuality as the norm are extremely reticent to speak up.
A Christian psychologist contacted me to discuss reorientation therapy for SSA men. Hoping to find a politically "safe" compromise with the American Psychological Association, he was anxious to avoid value judgments and remain noncommittal about homosexuality. The solution, he thought, would be a simple behavior modification program.
Speaking from my 25 years of experience in this field, I told him I found his approach naive and ultimately unworkable.
Our men do not come to us just to change their unwanted behavior. They come to us to change their sense of self -- to be more heterosexual, not just to "act" heterosexually; to feel comfortable in relationships with straight men, to learn to hold onto their masculine autonomy with women -- in short, to fulfill their latent heterosexual potential. A behavior modification program might be politically safe, but because of its shallowness, it would inevitably fail.
The developmental model we suggest must deeply resonate with the men we work with, or they will (rightfully) leave our office and pursue a different therapeutic approach. We explain that our position differs from the American Psychological Association, which sees homosexuality and heterosexuality as equivalent, and along the way, we encourage them to clarify and re-clarify the direction of their identity commitment. Gay-affirmative therapy should, of course, be available for any such client.
Philosophically, I am an essentialist -- not a social constructionist: I believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are grounded in biological reality. The body tells us who we are, and we cannot "construct" -- assemble or disassemble -- a different reality in which gender and sexual identity are out of synchrony with biology.
The belief that humanity is designed for heterosexuality has been shaped by age-old religious and cultural forces, which must be respected as a welcome aspect of intellectual diversity. Our belief is not a "phobia" or pathological fear.
Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind's collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience. This would explain why so many people -- even the nonreligious -- sense that a gay identity is a false construct.
In fact, the very man who was instrumental in getting homosexuality removed from the list of mental disorders, psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, told us in an interview (published several years ago by NARTH at www.narth.com), that in homosexuality, "something's not working." This is a thought-provoking admission from the man whose life's work in the psychiatric profession resulted in the normalization of homosexuality.
The fact is, the vast majority of clients who come to us have found SSA to be maladaptative in their lives. Their impetus for change comes from their deep conviction that, underneath it all, they really are heterosexual men, and they seek a therapist who sees their inner potential.