Americans Show More Openness to Gay Therapy

Change from a homosexual to a heterosexual lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. And when change does occur, some opt not to use the term "ex-gay."

"For too long, many have gotten the impression that transformation is an overnight process," said Alan Chambers, head of Exodus International, the nation's largest Christian organization that promotes the message of freedom from homosexuality. "In reality, it is an extremely difficult journey."

For the most part, former homosexuals have conquered their same-sex desires but admit they are not completely rid of the homosexual attraction even when happily married and with kids, like Chambers.

"By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete," said Chambers, a former homosexual, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.

Although Exodus is often referred to as the nation's largest ex-gay ministry, Chambers denounces the term "ex-gay," according to the LA Times. He has said that to never be attracted to men again or never be tempted again would mean "I'm not human."

His comments come as more churches are teaching congregants to love homosexuals. Southern Baptists just came out of an annual meeting where they announced efforts to step up ministry to the homosexual community and to share the love of Jesus Christ with them. And increasingly popular are Tim Wilkins' Cross Ministry and Focus on the Family's Love Won Out conferences, which teach Christians how to love the homosexual who is often rejected by the church community.

And people do change, whether it's through the love of Jesus Christ poured forth by a church or their own religious convictions.

Jeff, a 41-year-old patient who asked that his last name not be used, has been undergoing therapy for 20 months with Christian therapist Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College to sort out a conflict between his religious values and homosexual urges.

Although his attraction toward males still exists, Jeff told The Chicago Tribune that the therapy has worked for him.

"He's helped me to put the same-sex attraction in the same category as any other sin," he said, according to the Tribune.

Throckmorton came out with a new paradigm this year with Mark Yarhouse, professor of Psychology at Regent University, on sexual identity conflicts. The paradigm helps clinicians to work collaboratively with their clients who want to align their behavior with their religious values and beliefs. It ultimately makes that option available to help people pursue lives they value.

Also this year, the American Psychological Association, which says homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated, announced that it had appointed a Task Force to revise the group's policy on sexual orientation therapy. The new policy statement, expected to be adopted early to mid next year, would respect the autonomy and dignity of the patient which may give patients who are unhappy with their same-sex attraction the right to seek therapy. At the same time, the policy would respect a duty to do no harm.

And now, by a vote last month, the American Academy of Physician Assistants provides leeway for patients who seek therapy for their homosexual desires. While the national organization stated that it "opposes psychiatric treatment directed specifically at sexual orientation, such as 'conversion' or 'reparative' therapy, which is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based on the prior assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual orientation," there was no stated opposition to treatment for individuals wanting to change for personal or religious reasons.

"For many years, mental-health professionals have taken the view that since homosexuality is not a mental disorder, any attempt to change sexual orientation is unwise," said prominent Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Spitzer, according to the LA Times. "But for healthcare professionals to tell someone they don't have the right to make an effort to bring their actions into harmony with their values is hubris."

Spitzer noted there are cases where people have had bad experiences with "reorientation" approaches and more research is needed to determine the beneficial and harmful aspects of aligning sexual behavior with religious beliefs. But even if people cannot change their homosexual feelings, Chambers said they can "live in accord with their beliefs and faith" by renouncing homosexuality and not engaging in same-sex relationships, according to the Orange County Register.

And there are success stories, Spitzer acknowledged.

"[I]nstead of being harmful to these individuals, they felt they were helped by having therapy available that took their religious values seriously," he stated earlier. "In my study, the majority of subjects reported moderate to severe depression before they went into therapy. After therapy, there was a marked change – very few were depressed."

"For thousands of us ... [change] has resulted in lives that have been transformed and characterized by the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ," said Chambers. "The definition of change will always be debated when it comes to this topic, but for those of us who are living remarkably different lives, we know what it is because we are living it."

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