By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 5, 2009
The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.
In a resolution adopted by the association’s governing council, and in an accompanying report, the association issued its most comprehensive repudiation of so-called reparative therapy, a concept espoused by a small but persistent group of therapists, often allied with religious conservatives, who maintain that gay men and lesbians can change.
No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the resolution, adopted by a 125-to-4 vote. The association said some research suggested that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.
Instead of seeking such change, the association urged therapists to consider multiple options, which could include celibacy and switching churches, for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.
The association has criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member panel added weight to that position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its report was endorsed by the association’s governing council in Toronto, where the association’s annual meeting is being held this weekend.
The report breaks ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.
Judith Glassgold, a psychologist in Highland Park, N.J., who led the panel, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.
“Both sides have to educate themselves better," Ms. Glassgold said. “The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality.”
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.” Mr. Chambers and other evangelicals met with association representatives after the panel was formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.