WASHINGTON New research on reparative therapy for homosexuals has prompted the largest association of psychologists to re-examine its policy on treatment and sexual orientation.
The American Psychological Association established a five-member task force to look at its policy on appropriate therapy for gay and lesbian people and is currently soliciting nominations for the panel. The task force comes after years of pressure from homosexual groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays) that say the promotion of gay therapy is harmful.
Homosexual activists have "continued to communicate to us that they are very concerned about reparative therapy and the way it is promoted out in the world," Dr. Clinton W. Anderson, director of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns office at the APA, told The Christian Post.
APA adopted a policy statement on sexual orientation in 1997. The three major points, Anderson summarized, are: APA affirms that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, signifying that it can't be cured; there is concern that those who promote the idea that it is a mental disorder are contributing to a hostile and prejudiced climate in culture; and APA identifies some ethical concerns such as respecting the rights of others to hold values that differ from their own.
Over the past decade, however, there has been substantial new research published on reparative therapy for homosexuals and new policy statements by other organizations, Anderson noted, which weighed heavily in APA's decision to re-examine its policy. If appropriate, the task force will propose revisions to the organization's current policy and Anderson predicts that a new policy statement may be adopted early to mid next year.
APA's decision comes as the recent Ted Haggard drugs-and-sex scandal with a former male prostitute refueled the debate over gay therapy and "conversion." Some say that change is possible for homosexuals and others arguing that conversion therapy could cause harm and leave people depressed. Haggard had allegedly come out of three weeks of counseling "completely heterosexual," according to one of the ministerial counselors, early this month.
The claim raised skepticism as psychologists and Haggard's accuser say three weeks is too short for any kind of "conversion." At the same time, many have raised the question of whether gay therapy can completely heal someone of same-sex feelings.
As homosexual activists look to psychologists to possibly state that gay therapy can be harmful, a former homosexual argues that the debate has shifted heavily to the clinical sciences even among evangelicals who have adopted such terms as "reparative therapy."
Tim Wilkins, who speaks at churches and universities across the country telling people, particularly Christians, how to love and disciple gays and walk them out of homosexuality, says same-sex attraction is not an orientation, as the clinical sciences have stated. Rather it's a temptation. Thus, the thought of "converting" homosexuals is "faulty thinking" and "unbiblical," says Wilkins.
And even those, such as Wilkins, an evangelical, who have freed themselves from same-sex feelings, cannot say they would never have attractions toward men ever again, which is equivalent to saying they would never be tempted again.
Anderson told CitizenLink, the news publication of Focus on the Family, that he isn't sure if the task force will include a member who would represent homosexuals who has successfully sought change. But he said he believes that there will be a "strong concern to have on the task force people with substantive expertise" about that specific population of homosexuals who have changed.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology and fellow for psychology and public policy at Grove City College, warns that if the APA comes out with a new policy statement against reparative therapy, homosexuals who are discontented with their lifestyle will have fewer options.
"What we're talking about is the right of clients who are unhappy with their feeling (of same-sex attraction)," he told CitizenLink. "Those people have the right to seek therapy to help them live the way they want to live the way they value."