From: "Psychology and You: Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality"
By: The American Psychological Association
[This pamphlet is available from APA, 750 First St NE, Washington DC 20002-4242, phone 202-336-5700]
Sexual orientation is different from sexual behaviour because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviours.
Sidebar: Homosexual orientation is not limited to a particular type of person. Gay men and lesbians are of all ages, cultural backgrounds, races, religions and nationalities. They work in all occupations and live in all parts of the country.
Homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness in the past because mental health professionals and society had biased information about homosexuality since most studies only involved lesbians and gay men in therapy. When researchers examined data about gay people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was found to be untrue.
In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association confirmed the importance of the new research by removing the term "homosexuality" from the official manual that lists all mental and emotional disorders. In 1975 the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting this action. Both associations urge all mental health professionals to help dispel the stigma of mental illness that some people still associate with homosexual orientation. Since the original declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, this decision has subsequently been reaffirmed by additional research findings and both associations.
Another stereotype about homosexuality is the mistaken belief that gay men have more of a tendency than heterosexual men to sexually molest children. There is no evidence indicating that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.
Sidebar: The APA encourages all mental health professionals to work to help persons of all sexual orientations to accept and integrate their inner feelings and to overcome their prejudices and false beliefs about one another.
In addition, homosexuals are frequently the targets of discrimination and violence. This threat of violence and discrimination is an obstacle to lesbian and gay people's development. In a 1989 national survey, 5% of the gay men and 10% of the lesbians reported physical abuse or assault related to being lesbian or gay in the last year; 47% reported some form of discrimination over their lifetime. Other research has shown similarly high rates of discrimination and violence.
Furthermore, protection against violence and discrimination are very important, just as they are for other minority groups. Some states include violence against an individual on the basis of her or his sexual orientation as a "hate crime" and eight US states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In 1990 the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good. Changing one's sexual orientation is not simply a matter of changing one's sexual behaviour. It would require altering one's emotional, romantic and sexual feelings and restructuring one's self-concept and social identity. Although some mental health providers do attempt sexual orientation conversion, others question the ethics of trying to alter through therapy a trait that is not a disorder and that is extremely important to an individual's identity.
Not all gays and lesbians who seek therapy want to change their sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians may seek counselling for any of the same reasons as anyone else. In addition, they may seek psychological help to "come out" or to deal with prejudice, discrimination and violence.
References: Garnets, L.D., et al, "Issues in Psychotherapy With Lesbians and Gay Men", _American_ _Psychologist_, Vol 46 #9, pp 964-972. Goodchilds, J.D., _Psychological_Perspectives_ _on_Human_Diversity_In_America_, American Psychological Association, Washington DC, 1993. Garnets, L.D., and Kimmel, D.C., _Psychological_ _Perspectives_on_Lesbian_&_Gay_Male_Experiences_, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. Gonsiorek, J.C., and Weinrich, J.D., _Homosexuality:_ _Research_Implications_For_Public_Policy_, Sage Publications, California, 1991. Herek, G.M., and Berrill, K.T., _Journal_of_ _Interpersonal_Violence_, Vol 5 #3. Organisations: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 1734 14th Street NW Washington DC 20009 Telephone: 1-202-332-6483 National Institute of Mental Health 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 7C02 Rockville MD 20857 Telephone: 1-301-443-4513 Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays 1012 14th Street NW Suite 700 Washington DC 20005 Telephone: 1-202-638-4200 Sex Information and Education Council of the United States 130 West 42nd Street, Suite 2500 New York NY 10036 Telephone: 1-212-819-9770
Special Thanks: Special thanks to the following APA members and staff whose assistance made this brochure possible: Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D., University of California at Davis. Oliva M. Espin, Ph.D., San Diego State University, president of APA division 44. APA Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns. Clinton W. Anderson, M.A., APA Office on Lesbian and Gay Concerns.Brochure written by Stephen J. Blommer.
Produced by the APA Office of Public Affairs.
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This is an overstatement of their position. It is more accurate to say that no such therapy has met APA standards of testing and proof. This includes our techniques, which have not EXISTED long enough for the requisite 10 year followups.
APA: Even though homosexual orientation is not a mental illness and there is no scientific reason to attempt conversion of lesbians or gays to heterosexual orientation, some individuals may seek to change their own sexual orientation or that of another individual (for example, parents seeking therapy for their child). Some therapists who undertake this kind of therapy report that they have changed their clients' sexual orientation (from homosexual to heterosexual) in treatment.
But few (other than CTG) have reported changing heterosexual SO to homosexual SO, or changing both to bisexual SO, or changing bisexual SO to either heterosexual SO or homosexual SO.
APA: Close scrutiny of their reports indicates several factors that cast doubt: many of the claims come from organisations with an ideological perspective on sexual orientation, rather than from mental health researchers;
CTG has no "ideological perspective on sexual orientation."
APA: the treatments and their outcomes are poorly documented;
By APA standards, this remains true of the CTG techniques. As we accumulate and document more treatment outcomes, this will be answered.
APA: and the length of time that clients are followed up after the treatment is too short.
Once again, this is currently true by APA standards. 10 and 20 year followups will be conducted when enough time has elapsed to make such evaluations. Shorter term followups have been remarkably stable to date.
APA: In 1990 the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good.
We agreed with that statement in 1990, and we agree with it now. Our techniques are not yet part of that "scientific evidence" and the "conversion therapy" techniques which ARE a part of that record do appear to be both ineffective and often harmful.
APA: Changing one's sexual orientation is not simply a matter of changing one's sexual behaviour. It would require altering one's emotional, romantic and sexual feelings and restructuring one's self-concept and social identity.
We agree. That is why such alterations and restructuring are integral parts of our approach to (primary) sexual orientation. It is also why we make VERY sure our clients understand the nature and extent of the likely effects of such a change.
APA: Although some mental health providers do attempt sexual orientation conversion, others question the ethics of trying to alter through therapy a trait that is not a disorder and that is extremely important to an individual's identity.
While that matter is certainly worthy of evaluation and debate, we feel that it is satisfactorily answered by the parallel with the "cosmetic surgery" form of rhinoplasty. That is also why we refer to our services as "cosmetic psychotherapy" for the most part.
APA: Not all gays and lesbians who seek therapy want to change their sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians may seek counselling for any of the same reasons as anyone else.
Once again, we entirely agree. That is another reason for our careful evaluation of our clients BEFORE we start any transformation. While our sexuality services are a high-profile part of our practice, we have been providing other services, such as grief, trauma, and conflict resolution to various "unusual" populations for decades. Our techniques are specific and narrow enough to allow addressing the presenting complaint without unnecessarily disturbing other important aspects of their lives.
APA: In addition, they may seek psychological help to "come out" or to deal with prejudice, discrimination and violence.
Certainly true. When they request such help, they should be given it or referred to someone who WILL provide it. They should Never be subjected to attempts to "convert" them.
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