Concerns Raised Over Researchers Revising Treatment Policy for Homosexuals

WASHINGTON – A group that advocates change in homosexuality has blasted the American Psychological Association for appointing a task force of clinicians, who are purportedly hostile to change in homosexuals, to review its policy on reparative therapy.

"This new APA task force was created to monitor 'reorientation therapies' – therapy for people who want to decrease their homosexual attractions and develop their heterosexual potential. But the APA has sent the foxes to guard the henhouse," said Joseph Nicolosi, president of National Association For Research & Therapy Of Homosexuality (NARTH), in a statement Wednesday.

"Reorientation therapy is for people who don't want to be gay – and it is now being monitored by gay activists who believe there is no such thing as a formerly gay person!" he added.

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The APA had authorized last month the creation of a task force on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation that would revise and update the Association's 1997 policy considering that new research on "sexual orientation conversion therapy" has been published. The current policy affirms that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, signifying that it can't be cured; recognizes the concern that those who promote the idea that it is a mental disorder are contributing to a hostile and prejudiced climate in culture; and identifies some ethical concerns such as respecting the rights of others to hold values that differ from their own.

Six clinicians and researchers were appointed late May after a nomination process that included 29 nominees, including those nominated by NARTH. Nicolosi pointed out that none of their picks were approved and that five of the six appointed members are "committed gay-affirmative activists who are openly hostile to the reality that individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction can be helped."

Dr. Clinton W. Anderson, director of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns office at the APA, responded saying, "We had a very careful and thorough process of deciding who would be appointed to this task force that involved a number of levels of our governance system. We think that we appointed a group of highly qualified people who will do the job that we asked them to do."

The task force is expected to generate a report addressing the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who want to change their sexual orientation or their behavioral expression of their sexual orientation and the presence of adolescent inpatient facilities that offer coercive treatment designed to change sexual orientation or the behavioral expression of sexual orientation among other things.

Anderson had earlier told CitizenLink, the news publication of Focus on the Family, that he believes there will be a "strong concern to have on the task force people with substantive expertise" about the specific population of homosexuals who have changed.

NARTH head Nicolosi, however, believes the eventual findings of this committee are "already predetermined," predicting that the report issued will call upon the APA to declare reparative therapy to be unethical and harmful and then call to ban such therapy.

Explaining the process of review by task force members, APA spokesperson Rhea Farberman said, "First, our charge and motivation is to be informed by the science."

"We are also balancing two critical considerations," she said. "One is patient autonomy. The other is the therapist's ethical obligation to obtain informed consent for the therapy process."

"Therapists must determine whether patients understand that their motives to 'change' may arise from the social pressures of a homophobic environment, Farberman further explained. "[T]herapists have an obligation to ensure that patients understand the potential consequences of any treatment and fully inform the patient about the state of the science on what therapy techniques are effective."

Primarily, they "need to look at the science to determine if a therapy technique is effective, ineffective, or even potentially harmful."

NARTH advocates for "diverse understandings" beyond scientific knowledge that psychologists claim settles the issue of homosexuality.

"Our mental-health associations must leave room for diverse understandings of the family, of core human identity, and the meaning and purpose of human sexuality," says a statement on NARTH's website. The group's primary goal is to "make effective psychological therapy available to all homosexual men and women who seek change."

APA's task force is expected to meet twice in 2007. Anderson predicts the new policy statement will be adopted early to mid next year.

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