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APA Rejects Sexual Orientation Change Therapies

The American Psychological Association releases a report that says therapies that encourage homosexuals to become straight could be damaging.

The American Psychological Association released a report yesterday saying that psychologists should not tell homosexuals that they can become straight through therapy.

The APA's general council adopted a resolution with a 125-to-4 vote citing research that suggests such therapy could be damaging, the Associated Press reports.

"Religious faith and psychology do not have to be seen as being opposed to each other," the report says. It encourages approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."

One of the largest organizations promoting the possibility of changing sexual orientation is Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."

Its president, Alan Chambers, describes himself as someone who "overcame unwanted same-sex attraction." He and other evangelicals met with APA representatives after the task force formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.

"It's a positive step — simply respecting someone's faith is a huge leap in the right direction," Chambers said. "But I'd go further. Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

Later this week, Mark Yarhouse of Regent University and Wheaton College Provost Stanton Jones will release findings from their six-year study the Exodus programs. (Christianity Today has reported on their earlier research here and here)

Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College professor, praises the report for its discussion of religion and sexual orientation. The Wall Street Journalexplains how Throckmorton approaches therapy.

He tells them that he cannot turn them straight.

But he also tells them they don't have to be gay.

For many years, Dr. Throckmorton felt he was breaking a professional taboo by telling his clients they could construct satisfying lives by, in effect, shunting their sexuality to the side, even if that meant living celibately. That ran against the trend in counseling toward "gay affirming" therapy – encouraging clients to embrace their sexuality.

...The APA report mentions as one possible framework the approach taken by Dr. Throckmorton, who teaches at Grove City College and has a Ph.D. in community counseling. He starts by helping clients prioritize their values. Then he shows them stock video of a brain responding to sexual stimuli. When the clients see how quickly the brain lights up, they often feel relieved, he said, because they realize that their attractions are deeply rooted.

Over at USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman highlights data from a 2008 study:

– 48 percent of Americans says homosexuality is a sin.

–If a congregation teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin, 29 percent said they'd be more likely to visit or attend that church but 32 percent said they'd be less likely to visit.

–49 percent of unchurched said teaching that homosexuality is a sin would negatively affect their decision to join a church.

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