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Skype, freemasonry, and the International Healing Foundation: more strange tales of reparative therapy

7 Feb, 10 | by Steven Reid, Evidence-Based Mental Health

Following last year’s Sex and the City conference in London, Patrick Strudwick writes in the Independent of his undercover exploits in the world of reparative therapy: therapists claiming great results in switching a person’s sexual orientation and “helping people exit the gay world.”

Struck by a study published in BMC Psychiatry reporting that 1 in 6 of UK mental health professionals surveyed had tried to help lesbian, gay or bisexual patients change their sexual orientation, he went in search of such treatment and came across a psychotherapist (accredited with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) and psychiatrist willing to oblige. And what a bizarre experience it proves to be:

I ask how she views homosexuality – as a mental illness, an addiction or an anti-religious phenomenon? “It’s all of that,” she replies. “At the heart of homosexuality is a deep isolation, which is where God needs to be”. A search for cause follows with questions about birth: “It’s just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment.” Excuse me? And what about family: “Any Freemasonry in the family? Because that often encourages it as well. It has a spiritual effect on males and it often comes out as same sex attraction.”

Sessions with the psychiatrist are by webcam, and include a recommendation to join Christian men’s groups. I’m not sure what the Royal College of Psychiatrists would make of that. If you want to know more, you should head for the International Healing Foundation where you can find therapists and ‘ministry leaders’ to guide you, and a compelling introductory video. Alternatively, if you’re interested in the evidence you might want to look at an overview on the RCPsych website. However, do bear in mind that, in the words of one correspondent, this may have been written by ‘active homosexuals’.

Something for the weekend sir?

27 Apr, 09 | by Steven Reid, Evidence-Based Mental Health

If you were at a loss for something to do in London this weekend, and the marathon didn’t sound appealing, you could have opted to ‘increase your heterosexual potential’ by listening to psychologist Joseph Nicolosi speak at the 2009 Sex and the City conference.

Then again, maybe not. This was no ordinary conference on sexual health. Organised by Anglican Mainstream, a Christian organisation “committed to the traditional biblical teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality”, Sex and the City was billed as a Judaeo-Christian conference for all and featured Arthur Goldberg, author of Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change. The keynote speaker, however, was Dr Nicolosi of the US National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality who apparently has “a proven track record over almost 30 years in helping people exit the gay world”. Despite the opposition of both the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations to psychiatric treatment or psychotherapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation, Nicolosi considers homosexuality to be a consequence of a ‘gender-identity deficit’ and as such advocates a treatment, reparative therapy, which he claims provides a complete cure for 75% of his patients. I’d like to see the supporting evidence for that.

You can hear Dr Nicolosi on the benefits of so-called reparative therapy here; and this article gives a view from a therapist’s couch. You might just dismiss all of this as half-baked ideology coming from a screwball fringe but last month Annie Bartlett and colleagues published their survey of UK mental health professionals finding that 1 in 6 responders had attempted to help lesbian, gay or bisexual people become heterosexual.

Unfortunately, even if you really were interested in spending your weekend listening to Dr Nicolosi “redeeming sex today” you would have to uncover the conference’s secret London location. Such discretion seems unnecessary, given the popular appeal of his last London meeting: Time for Truth – Is Gay Real?

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