Gay Therapy Framework to be Reviewed

Authors of a new therapy paradigm, aimed at helping people resolve conflicts between their religious beliefs and homosexual desire, are encouraging public and professional comments for possible revision.

The Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, which was released last April, will be reviewed this year in acknowledgment of continual changes that are occurring in the area of therapy for individuals experiencing same-sex attractions.

"We believe this area of counseling practice is changing rapidly and we want to be sensitive to how therapists and consumers of sexual identity therapy feel the framework helps or hinders excellent practice," said Dr. Warren Throckmorton, co-author of the framework. "We want to hear from professionals and consumers alike."

Throckmorton and co-author Mark Yarhouse are collecting comments on the framework they crafted over the next two months.

The framework was proposed last year as a means to help counselors work with clients struggling with homosexual desires and who want to align their values and religious faith with their lifestyle. It is designed as a general map to help clinicians work collaboratively with their clients to ultimately arrive at a place of congruence.

There are no other means of sexual orientation assessment that has found wide acceptance, according to the two authors. They have stressed that their recommendations "are not sexual reorientation therapy protocols in disguise."

The so-called reparative therapy, or sexual orientation therapy, remains a heated debate between gay rights activists who oppose such counseling and religious groups who argue that counseling should be offered to those who want to rid their same-sex desires.

Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse are anticipating a review by the American Psychological Association (APA) which is currently re-examining its 10-year-old policy on appropriate therapy for gay and lesbian people. The APA is expected to adopt a new policy statement on counseling for homosexuals mid this year.

A task force was appointed last year to review the old APA policy after years of pressure from homosexual groups that say the promotion of gay therapy is harmful.

As gay rights activists are hoping for a revised policy – banning attempts to change sexual orientation – in their favor, religious groups have expressed concern that the APA task force may not recognize persons who have religious commitments and unwanted same-sex attraction.

More than 250 religious leaders from various denominations and organizations as well as individual professionals signed a letter last year calling the task force to respect religious diversity.

"There are folks who struggle with same-sex attraction who, because of their religious beliefs, do not find living homosexually to be acceptable to them," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issue analysis at Focus on the Family Action, according to the ministry's Citizenlink publication. "They should have a right to have access to therapy, to therapists who can help them live out the fact that change is possible."

The Sexual Identity Therapy Framework has been commended as a work that transcends polarized debates about whether gays can change their sexual orientation, noted Robert L. Spitzer, professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University.

"This framework helps therapists work with clients to craft solutions tailored to their individual situations and personal beliefs and values," Spitzer has commented. "I support this framework and hope it is widely implemented."

On the Web: The Sexual Identity Therapy Framework can be reviewed at

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