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Focus on the Family defends gay "cure" after past supporter rejects it

dr robert spitzer.jpg
Video below.
Update:In an interview on view below, One Colorado executive director Brad Clark predicted that Dr. Robert Spitzer's repudiation of his own 2001 study, which suggested that gays could be "cured," wouldn't dissuade Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family from continuing to support so-called reparative therapy. And he was right, as an FOTF spokesman makes plain.

Spitzer shared his current views in a letter to the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal that published his original study; look below to see the missive, originally published by the website Truth Wins Out. But Glenn Stanton, Focus' director of family formation studies, encourages readers to place Spitzer's new stance, and his formal apology to the gay community, in context.

"What it shows is that Robert Spitzer changed his position," Stanton says. "And Robert Spitzer is not the only academic who has addressed the issue or that the total fount of understanding on this issue is rooted in Robert Spitzer. It just means he's changed his position -- and why did he change it?

glenn stanton.jpg
Glenn Stanton.
"Usually an academic changes his position because new evidence comes forth, and they point that out in an article or some academic presentation explaining the thoughts and rationale behind the change of position," he continues. "And from what I see, we don't have any of that from Dr. Spitzer."

Stanton doesn't denigrate Spitzer for shifting his conclusions based on "personal reasons -- because personal reasons are incredibly legitimate. But let's just know that they are personal reasons. This isn't necessarily new academic findings knocking down old academic findings."

As One Colorado's Clark points out below, reparative therapy has been rejected by a wide range of medical organizations. Stanton stresses that these opinions aren't universal, citing the work of Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, authors of Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate. Even so, he says Focus' belief in reparative therapy isn't built upon academic studies, but "on the lives of real people who we know and interact with, who have clearly been healed, and healed successfully."

At that point, Stanton pauses. "I don't know if 'healed' is the right word," he allows. "We could use a lot of different words. Maybe it would be better to say 'overcome.' And I have personal friendships with many who have clearly overcome. They were uncomfortable with their homosexual identity -- an identity that was with them from as early as they can remember -- and they sought help. It was a very difficult, very long process, but they have successfully left their homosexual orientation and are living heterosexual lives today."

Indeed, Stanton notes that he recently spent time with just such a person -- someone who is "married today and has children. That's not the definitive test, but it does indicate something."

Reparative therapy isn't monolithic, Stanton feels. "There are reparative therapists who use very different types of therapy -- some we agree with and some we wouldn't agree with. That's a very important thing to understand. We don't necessarily support everybody who does it. And we have some very specific criteria for the right way to do it.

"Many misrepresent this, but it's all about self-determination -- all about people who say, 'I'm not comfortable with these feelings and I want help dealing with them.' And for individuals who are highly motivated and highly committed, there is success that can be found. The process is long and difficult and not absolute all the time, but it can happen, and it does happen."

Here's Spitzer's letter, followed by our previous coverage.

Several months ago I told you that because of my revised view of my 2001 study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation, I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct. After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana, a reporter for American Prospect, and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.

Basic Research Question. From the beginning it was: "can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual?" Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question, "how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?" - a not very interesting question.

The Fatal Flaw in the Study -- There was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientation. I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject's reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject's accounts of change were valid.

I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some "highly motivated" individuals.

Robert Spitzer. M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry,
Columbia University

Page down to read One Colorado executive director Brad Clark's take on reparative therapy in the wake of Spitzer's apology.



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24 comments
Jean Pierre Katz
Jean Pierre Katz

Focus on the Family is really a hate group pretending to be an agent of Biblical love. It is far to the right of religious groups that denounce homosexual sex as a sin such as the Catholic Church or Orthodox Judaism. It endorses a failed therapy because it fits better with their theology, and because it is a great weapon in their Holy War.. It is speaking out of both sides of its mouth about Dr. Spitzer. It is saying that after reparative therapy people "  .. have successfully left their homosexual orientation .." Aside from all the mainstream psychiatric, psychological, social work, the World Health Organization and counselling groups even many experts among people that have been involved in "reparative therapy"  mostly agree on this. It does not work in changing orientation. Dr. Abba   Borowich, an Orthodox psychiatrist who practiced reparative therapy for Orthodox homosexuals for nearly 30 years concluded that this was an ineffective course of therapy which only increased suffering among his patients and their families . According to those who do believe in such conversions, the success rate is around 0.5% http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_exod1.htm Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and professor at the evangelical Grove City College recently surveyed 239 men in "mixed-orientation marriages," in which the husband is attracted to other men and the wife is heterosexual. About half the men had been through some conversion therapy. Over the course of their marriage, the men's "attractions to the same sex ... increased" and "the attractions to their spouse decreased," according to Throckmorton. Another study by Mark Yarhouse, a researcher at Regent University — which was founded by Pat Robertson and is cited my Glenn Stanton — came to the same conclusion.  The leader of Exodus the largest public group of people (several hundreds) who changed from a gay to heterosexual lifestyle admits that this does not include an end of same sex attraction for 99.9% of the group.  "There has been a change in our beliefs about orientation change focused therapy and we don’t believe it’s effective.” Dr. Spitzer  “If people can recognize that being a homosexual is something that cannot be changed and that efforts to change are going to be disappointing and can be harmful, if that can be more widely known that would be very good. " Without having clear evidence that a treatment is effective you cannot in good conscience recommend an unproven treatment that can cause undo pain, suffering, and death.

Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.
Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.

I think it's important to have a clear understanding about what the so-called reparative therapy movement is about, and how dangerous their pseudo-science is.

Just for the record, every major US professional organization has made a policy statement that reparative therapy is ineffective, wrong, and unneeded. Who supports it, a fringe organization that the Sourthern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group.  For a list detailing what the professional organizations state see: http://bit.ly/Jck4ZV  For a look a letter that I wrote current president of NARTH, the pseudo-science hate group that defends reparative therapy see: http://bit.ly/Kutkqw (consider writing your own and let her know what you think about this being an American export) For a look at what a responsible psychologist does see (full disclosure, it's me writing here): http://bit.ly/Kp5kDB  To hear what Julie Hamilton, the president of NARTH thinks, see: http://bit.ly/JQ6daZ  Julie has responded to my letter (see above), with nonsense, on the NARTH website. Look for 'Misinformation Rampant in the Mental Health Field.' I am the 'concerned psychologist' she speaks of. 

Daniel Gonzales
Daniel Gonzales

HA! I love how you write about pretty much everything I'm involved in.   I'm a former patient of NARTH founder Joe Nicolosi and was actually asked to participate in the Spitzer Study after the conclusion of my therapy.

Dan Gonzales

bizzygeek
bizzygeek

Is there such thing as a straight cure? That seems like it would be worth a lot more money. It is entirely too difficult to pick up random ladies on a regular basis in order to get laid as a straight guy.

InsideTheWall
InsideTheWall

Why is the Christian Taliban not classified as a terrorist group?

David
David

How many people do you think are voluntarily attending these conversion seminars? I'm sure the vast majority if not all do so out of pressure from their church or family. That is a far cry from choosing your destination. There is also zero data to show this stuff works. Just ask Marcus Bachmann. The man is SO gay. 

Bigdaddygenius
Bigdaddygenius

The good doctor said he was wrong - what else do you need Focus on the family?.....he also probably should have said how much he was paid for the study, or who commissioned it because in 2001 that myth was long discredited, but, nonetheless, he said he was wrong.   I look forward to hearing focus on the family's apology to the gay community as well.

thinker
thinker

If someone is gay wants to make an effort to change and be straight by any rehabilitative or therapeutic method, shouldn't we all be supporting them in the same way we would support someone who was born a man but is now a woman through transgender therapy/surgery?

My2Cents
My2Cents

hmmm personal reasons.... sounds like a new boyfriend

Sam
Sam

Man, I remember the day so clearly.

That wonderful day when I chose to be straight, love women, and create rugrats in my own image. For FREEDOM® and LIBERTY©.

What a joke.

Stanley James
Stanley James

the fix the gays business is just another way that conservatives blame gay people for being gay.   You arent going to fix gay people any more then you can make str8 people gay.

its all BS.  BTW George Rekers of Narth (claims to fix gays )  -= he's #1 on the hit parade as a gay who certainly didnt get fixed

He also founded the hate group FRC.  Perkinss the head of it is a known racist and  their #2   PS seems to have aged an awful lot in the last couple years which suggests he has come terrible disease.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Focus on your own god damned family, losers!

Mike
Mike

Of course there's no cure.

For proof, recall the failed attempt by Dobson to cure his pal Rev Ted Haggard via the 3-week miracle cure, after which Dobson cut Haggard loose and got him out of town so as to not stop the money flowing into FOTF from the anti-gay-rights homophobes at which FOTF aims all of its scare tactics. What a joke.

Marco Luxe
Marco Luxe

This quote is a textbook example of dissembling:  "The main point Spitzer makes is that there are people who once identified themselves as gay, those people wanted to change, and ACCORDING TO HIS CRITERIA they did."What is left out is that there was NO CRITERION other than the empty self-reporting on a questionnaire /interview.  

Bigdaddygenius
Bigdaddygenius

um.....interesting thought, but No.    First, "reparative therapy" doesn't work - it's a snake oil and it is degrading and cruel.   Second, Trans surgery is about becoming who one is, torture the gay away therapy is about denying who one is.  And third - it's insulting to suggest to tens of millions of people through out the world that they should change the way they were born because it make some intelligence-free bigots in Colorado Springs uncomfortable.     Would you tell women to undergo reparative therapy to think more like a man?  would you tell black people to take a pill to make their skin white and solve all their problems?  would you tell muslims to rehabilitate as christians?Live and let live people.   FOTF is a disgusting institution leading its blind flock with a broken moral compass and getting rich in the process.  They have monetized the ridicule of gay people.  I would suggest we burn them to the ground, but I don't want to cause another forest fire lol.

Stanley James
Stanley James

 Most of whom are btw divorcing.   Thats how the phobes protect traditional marriage-  50% divorce rate and climging.

Stanley James
Stanley James

 eys aND HE WAWS FIXED TWICE  and got caught twice in bed with another guy.  He's also on the list i posted above.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Look for an update on this post soon. In the meantime, thanks for commenting, Mike.

Norman Dostal
Norman Dostal

no one changed-gay people were shamed into cellibacy, which is unhelathy and unnatural-see priests

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for weighing in, Big Daddy. We're going to make your post part of an upcoming Comment of the Day item. Congrats.

thinker
thinker

"First, "reparative therapy" doesn't work - it's a snake oil and it is degrading and cruel." This is an opinion, not a fact. Don't you demean and/or discriminate against someone who has changed themself through whatever reparative method? Your "live and let live" argument must apply here as well."Second, Trans surgery is about becoming who one is."Biologically, you are born a man or a woman. You may believe yourself to be another sex (psychology), but biologically, you are what your biology dictates until you change that. If being gay is, in fact, biology/genetics, then this is no different than if you are born gay and want to change and be hetero."And third - it's insulting to suggest to tens of millions of people through out the world that they should change the way they were born because it make some intelligence-free bigots in Colorado Springs uncomfortable."Isn't it also as insulting to suggest that people can't make their own decisions to want to change from gay to straight without some "intelligence-free bigots" influencing them?

If the "live and let live" principal applies, you must apply it evenly and allow those people to choose their own destiny and allow these organizations to help those folks reach the destination THEY choose.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for offering another point of view, Thinker. We're going to make your post part of an upcoming Comment of the Day item. Congrats.

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