Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality
"Nicolosi makes an all important distinction: Being homosexual does not mean being gay.... [The author] is to be congratulated for taking up the gauntlet for a much neglected population--the homosexual male who experiences his sexual orientation as ego dystonic and wants to change."
--Elaine Siegel, Ph.D.
Offers Hope to Thousands of Men
"In this major and compelling work, Dr. Nicolosi addresses the issue of changing homosexuality with courage and clinical integrity. Refusing to give in to political pressure and attack, he has listened, instead, to his patients--to their developmental dilemmas and to their developmental needs. Basing the treatment plan on this clinical data and on recent advances in understanding gender identity, he offers hope to the thousands of men who do not want to feel coerced by either their own internal conflicts or by outside political pressures to live a life inimical to who they are and to who they want to be."
--Althea J. Horner, Ph.D.
Speaks to "Non-Gay" Homosexuals with a Tone of Clinical Empathy
"Dissatisfied homosexuals have finally been addressed in a modern work that will satisfy the standards of professionals and laity alike. Direct and comprehensive, [it] speaks to the seldom recognized 'non-gay homosexuals' with a tone of clinical empathy that is long overdue."
President of Exodus International
Reversal to Heterosexuality is Possible
"Dr. Nicolosi has produced a clearly written, scholarly book that covers the developmental, physiological, social-psychological, familial, interpersonal, and gender identity aspects of male homosexuality. Although the influence of mothers in the developmental and adaptive process is given its importance, the more compelling role of an inadequate father-son relationship in a boy's subsequent homosexuality is again corroborated and becomes a salient theme in reparative therapy. "It has become unpopular to propose that homosexuality is the consequence of a disturbed boyhood and that reversal to heterosexuality through psychotherapy is possible. Influenced only by what the clients were telling him, the author offers a rich harvest of observations that justifies the reparative treatment he describes. "This book is recommended reading, not only for mental health workers, but its easy style makes it attractive for those outside the profession."
--Irving Bieber, M.D.
The Homosexual Who Wants to Change Can
"This well-written book by a courageous clinician addresses an important societal and clinical issue: How can a homosexual male deal with his orientation without succumbing to the extremes of a gay life style? Nicolosi makes an all important distinction: Being homosexual does not mean being gay. He sees that the usual rite of coming out of the closet can be an enforced trauma, preventing further psychological growth. Instead, Nicolosi sees the quiet spaces of privacy as a growth-producing environment that can foster meaningful insight followed by change and genuine, instead of coerced, decision making. In addition, he stresses the father as an important role model and cites many vignettes in which men have found their full masculine selves during therapy. Nicolosi is to be congratulated for taking up the gauntlet for a much neglected population: The homosexual male who experiences his sexual orientation as ego dystonic and wants to change."
--Elaine Siegel, Ph.D.
Book Excerpt: Introduction
For many years, I have found myself in the odd position of being a psychologist whose profession says homosexuality is not a problem---yet many homosexual men continue to come to me in conflict.
The fact that so many men continue to feel "dis-eased" by their homosexuality can be explained in one of two ways. Either society and the Judeo-Christian ethic have coerced these individuals into thinking they have a problem; or, the homosexual condition itself is inherently problematic.
In reflecting on the homosexual condition for more than ten years as I have guided many men who are struggling with the problem, I believe some truths have become apparent.
Today, new studies place the homoerotic drive in better perspective by showing us that it originates from the search for health and wholeness. Many homosexuals are attracted to other men and their maleness because they are striving to complete their own gender identification. From this perspective, we now better understand the nature of the homosexual person's struggle. And with this understanding, we can offer more than tolerance, but--for those who seek it--hope for healing. More than civil rights, we can offer a way toward wholeness.
Empirical research and clinical evidence together will be presented in this book to demonstrate how the homosexual condition is in many cases the result of incomplete gender-identity development. Consequently it is a condition characterized by erotic but frustrating same-sex relationships.
Through my treatment of over l00 men, I have applied clinical observations to the wider body of research, and from these resources I have formulated a psychotherapy. This psychotherapy is not a "cure" in the sense of erasing all homosexual feelings. Nevertheless, it is a valid treatment offering a framework for understanding the homosexual condition and growing in masculine identification.
It should be noted here that "homosexual" is a relative term. Each individual falls somewhere along the heterosexual-homosexual continuum, possibly moving from one direction to the other during different life stages.
Also, the word "homosexual" is used in this book as convenient shorthand to denote "the man with the homosexual problem." It must always be borne in mind that no man's personhood can be reduced to a simple sexual identity.
I have chosen the term "reparative therapy" to draw attention to a neglected psychoanalytic perspective of homosexuality which traces its roots to Freud. Due to incomplete development of aspects of his masculine identity, the homosexual seeks to "repair" his deficits through erotic contact with an idealized other. Reparative therapy has recently found support through object relations theory and empirical studies in gender identity.
This book is not for everyone. Some readers will find our theoretical model irrelevant to their personal histories. We do not attempt to propose the reparative model as the sole cause or form of homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a single clinical entity and homosexual behavior results from a variety of motivations. However, the model described here fits the majority of the treatment population I have encountered, and I have no doubt that it is the most common homosexual developmental pattern.
I hope that further understanding of the homosexual condition will lead to a more realistic public attitude, and also to the wiser parenting which would aid in prevention of homosexual development. Most important, I hope to show an option for those who find the gay lifestyle unacceptable--either because of disillusionment in having lived it, or because it is in fundamental violation of their personal identity.
The vast majority of my homosexual clients are men; consequently, the etiology and treatment described in this book will be in regard to the male homosexual. I believe some of the principles stated will apply to women; nevertheless, it will take another writer to refine and apply these ideas to the problem of lesbianism.
Book Excerpt: Chapter One
Non-Gay Homosexuals: Who Are They?
Much has been written in recent years about embracing the gay lifestyle and "coming out of the closet." "Coming out" is said to mean throwing off the burdens of fearfulness and self-deception to embark on the road to freedom and personal integrity.
Yet there is a certain group of homosexual men who will never seek fulfillment through coming out into a gay identity. These men have chosen to grow in another direction.
The word "homosexual" names an aspect of such a man's psychological condition. But he is not gay. "Gay" describes a contemporary socio-political identity and lifestyle which such a man will never claim. Therefore, I call him a "non-gay homosexual."
The non-gay homosexual is a man who experiences a split between his value system and his sexual orientation. He is fundamentally identified with the heterosexual pattern of life. The non-gay homosexual feels his personal progress to be deeply encumbered and by his same-sex attractions. He usually holds conservative values, is identified with a religious tradition, and holds no deep resentments toward Judeo-Christian teachings on homosexuality. In fact he most likely finds them reinforcing and supportive of his struggle.
Before the gay liberation movement, such a man was portrayed in psychiatric literature in a one-dimensional manner from the perspective of his "medical condition." Now the gay movement has encouraged new research, often conducted by gay researchers, to shed long overdue light on the personal and relational issues of the gay experience.
With the help of these studies, men can now decide whether they want to embrace the gay lifestyle, or to take the road that leads to growth out of homosexuality. It is my hope to help illumine the latter road--the one which leads toward wholeness.
A sixteen-year-old young man came into my office, concerned that he must be homosexual. I told him that if he was, he could choose Gay Affirmative Therapy, or he could seek to grow out of homosexuality. I then proceeded to tell him about the men in therapy with me.
At first he seemed confused and then after some consideration said: "Oh, you mean they're not yet out of the closet?"
The young man had been confused by the popular rhetoric which assumes that if you are homosexual, then the only honest response is to live out the gay identity. Believing this, he was surprised to hear that there are men who out of the fullness of their identities, choose a different struggle.
Those who seek reparative therapy do not blame social stigma for their unhappiness. Many have looked into the gay lifestyle, have journeyed what became for them a "via negativa" and returned disillusioned by what they saw. Their definition of self is integrally woven into traditional family life. They refuse to relinquish their heterosexual social identity. Rather than wage war against the natural order of society, they instead to take up the sword of an interior struggle.
As one 23-year old client explained:
"I've had these feelings and these urgings, but the idea of being of gay person is just ridiculous...it's such a strange lifestyle, on the fringes of society...it's something I could never be a part of."
Another young man said:
"I have never believed I had homosexual tendencies because I was 'born that way.' It is quite an insult to my dignity and a gross disservice to my quest for growth to be told that I have no hope for change."
"To me, embracing a homosexual lifestyle has been like living a lie. I have found it to be a painful, confusing and destructive force in my life. Only since I have started to look at what is behind these homosexual feelings have I really begun to find peace."
I hope to be one voice in support of the non-gay homosexual--to explain in psychodynamic terms who he is, and to gain acknowledgment for his commitment. For non-gay homosexuals are typically seen as an insignificant group of people, and if society does consider them, it is with a certain derision. Their identity is lost between the cracks of popular ideology. The straight world shuns them, and the gay world considers them not their own.
The mental health profession is largely responsible for the neglect of the non-gay homosexual. In its attempt to support the liberation of gays, it has pushed underground another population. By no longer categorizing homosexuality as a problem, it has cast doubt on the validity of this other group's struggle.
This social neglect is also caused in large part by the non-gay homosexual himself. He is not likely to be found at parades or rallies celebrating his identity. He would rather resolve his conflicts quietly and discreetly. How paradoxically conservative are the men who wage this counter-cultural struggle! Today, even child molesters and prostitutes tell their stories to Oprah or Geraldo.
It is unfortunate that the non-gay must be identified by what he is not. The gay world's assumption is that what keeps him in the closet is fear or ignorance, and that with enough time and education he too will find liberation. Yet not to be gay is as much a decision and a conscious choice about one's self-identity as deciding to be gay.
For such a man, "not coming out" can be a dynamic place of growth and self-understanding, a place committed to change. To him, "the closet" is a place of choice, challenge, fellowship, faith, and growth---an interior place which has often opened up into transcendence.
We have recently made great progress in acknowledging the gay man in society. Now, the same understanding must be extended to the non-gay homosexual. He has made a valid philosophical and existential choice. He is not a guilt-ridden, intimidated, fearful person but someone who from the fullness of his own identity, seeks not to embrace--but to transcend--the homosexual predicament.
Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality,
by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.
(Publisher: Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey. 1991. For information, visit the publisher's website at www.aronson.com)