APA Task Force Report -- a Mockery of Science

by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has just released its “Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation” (August 2009), a report issued by five psychologists and one psychiatrist who are all activists in gay causes.

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., a distinguished professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, longtime practitioner of reorientation therapy, and co-author of several peer-reviewed journal 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..

  • Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D. (author of this article), a founder of NARTH, practitioner of Reparative Therapy® for 25 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 has published many peer-reviewed articles on homosexuality.

All of these highly-qualified candidates were rejected by APA President Brehm. Instead, Dr. Brehm appointed the following individuals:

Chair: Judith M. Glassgold, Psy.D. 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., well-known as a gay-activist psychiatrist, 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 counseling psychologist who counsels LBBT-oriented clients from traditional religious backgrounds. He is a staff associate at the University of Utah's Counseling Center and although he believes reorientation therapy can sometimes be helpful, he has expressed strong skepticism, and has urged the Mormon Church to revise its policy on homosexuality and instead, affirm church members who believe homosexuality reflects their true identity.

Beverly Greene, Ph.D., ABPP, was the founding co-editor of the APA Division 44 (gay and lesbian division) series, Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues.

Robin Lin Miller, Ph.D., is a 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 the interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 2001 he 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.

Why a Gay Identity
Obstructs Objectivity

The fact that the Task Force was composed entirely of activists in gay causes, most of whom are also personally gay, goes a long way toward explaining their failure to be scientifically objective.

To be “gay-identified” means to have undergone a counter-cultural rite of passage. According to the coming-out literature, when a person accepts and integrates a gay identity, he must give up the hope of ever changing his feelings and fantasies. The process is as follows: the adolescent discovers his same-sex attraction; this causes him confusion, shame and guilt. He desperately hopes that he will somehow become straight so that he will fit in with his friends and family. However, he eventually comes to believe that he is gay, and in fact can never be otherwise. Therefore, he must accept his homosexuality in the face of social rejection, and find pride in his homoerotic desires as something good, desirable, natural, and (if he is a person of faith) a gift from his creator.

The majority of the Task Force members clearly underwent this same process of abandoning the hope that they could diminish their homosexuality and develop their heterosexual potential. Coming to the Task Force from this perspective, they would be strongly invested in discouraging others from having the opportunity to change -- i.e., “If it did not work for me, then it cannot work for you.”

Conducting the Task Force Study

As the basis of their report, the Task Force members say they reviewed several hundred studies which, over the past century, have found subjects who changed their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

The published and peer-reviewed studies they considered are all in some way flawed, the committee concluded, and therefore constitute “insufficient evidence” of the possibility of change. As a result, psychologists are advised to avoid telling their clients they can change their feelings. (The committee does grant, however, that some people can and do change their sexual identity--their sense of "who they are"--and go on to live heterosexually functional lives.)

How could the committee have reached a conclusion that would so sweepingly dismiss decades of research evidence? Some of it was conducted by well-known and highly prestigious professsionals, such as Irving Bieber, Charles Socarides, Houston MacIntosh, and Robert Spitzer--the same psychiatrist who oversaw the removal of homosexuality in 1973 from the diagnostic manual.

It was Dr. Spitzer who concluded in his recent report (published thirty years later by a prestigious journal -- the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417):

"Many patients, provided with informed consent about the possibility that they will be disappointed if the therapy does not succeed, can make a rational choice to work toward developing their heterosexual potential and minimizing their unwanted homosexual attractions."

He adds, "[T]he ability to make such a choice should be considered fundamental to client autonomy and self-determination."

Lack of Diversity Among Task Force Members

If the APA truly wished to study sexual orientation, they would have followed established scientific practice by choosing a balanced committee that included individuals with differing values and worldviews. Particularly, they would have selected clinicians who see the value of sexual-reorientation -- not just such therapy’s philosophical opponents.

Instead, they "turned the henhouse over to the foxes" by selecting gay-activists members who are well-known for their disapproval of efforts on the part of other homosexual individuals to seek change. The committee prefaces their report by stating as “scientific fact” their view -- which has not been scientifically demonstrated (and, which is as much a question of philosophy as of science) that homosexual attractions and behavior are no different from heterosexuality.

Why did the APA select only such individuals? Perhaps, in well-meaning ignorance, they thought only gay activists could be experts on homosexuality. Perhaps they were intimidated by the threat of “homophobia” if they invited reorientation therapists to participate.

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 factors associated with the development of same-sex attractions. Instead, the Task Force failed to study the risk factors—instead, saying that it is a “scientific fact” that homosexuality is “as developmentally normal as heterosexuality.”

  • 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 unnecessary and 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 necessitate some degree of lifelong struggle. Many of these conditions are, in fact, notoriously resistant to treatment. Yet there is no debate about the usefulness of treatment for these conditions: psychologists continue to treat them, despite their uncertain outcomes.

Different Concepts of Wholeness

The Task Force moved on to address religious beliefs that conflict with the affirmation of homosexuality. They attempt to resolve this conflict through creating a false distinction.

Organismic Congruence. Their report says, “Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., 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 integrate their homosexuality; they are instead “living consistently within one’s valuative goals.”

This is a half-truth, and a deceptive distinction. It implies that persons striving to live a life consistent with their religious values must deny their true sexual selves. They will not experience organismic wholeness, self-awareness and mature development of their identity. These attributes are only possible, by their definition, for individuals who embrace, rather than reject, their same-sex attractions. Religious individuals seeking “valuative congruence” are assumed to experience instead a constriction of their true selves through a religiously imposed behavioral control.

This erroneous distinction (one that can only be made by persons who have never known the harmonious integration of religious teachings) misunderstands and offends persons belonging to traditional faiths.

Rather, the members of the Task Force need to understand that the person of traditional faith finds his biblically based values to be guides, signposts, and sources of inspiration that will guide him on his journey toward wholeness. He intuitively senses that they lead him toward a rightly-gendered wholeness which allows him to live his life in a manner congruent with his creator’s 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 religious wisdom that is integrated into a scientifically accurate psychology.


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