June 18, 2007

Is There Middle Ground For "Ex-Gay" Therapy?

Surprisingly enough, there is movement toward common ground by people representing both sides of the "ex-gay" issue.

As reported in this article in the Los Angeles Times, two key players in this debate are involved in finding some common ground regarding how to approach homosexuals seeking therapy regarding their sexual desires.

Alan Chambers, the director of Exodus International, the organization best known for saying "change is possible" regarding a person's homosexual inclination, is moderating that approach.

.....he's come to resent the term "ex-gay": It's too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. "By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete," Chambers said.

At this point that is a personal opinion, not one publicly stated by the Exodus organization.

On the other side is Michael Bussee.

"Something's happening. And I think it's very positive," agreed Michael Bussee, who founded Exodus in 1976, only to fall in love with another man — a fellow ex-gay counselor.

Now a licensed family therapist in Riverside, Bussee regularly speaks out against ex-gay therapies and is scheduled to address the Ex-Gay Survivor's Conference at UC Irvine at the end of the month.

But Bussee put aside his protest agenda recently to endorse new guidelines to sexual identity therapy, co-written by two professors at conservative Christian colleges.

He and other gay activists — along with major mental-health associations — still reject therapy aimed at "liberating" or "curing" gays. But Bussee is willing to acknowledge potential in therapy that does not promise change but instead offers patients help in managing their desires and modifying their behavior to match their religious values — even if that means a life of celibacy.

"It's about helping clients accept that they have these same-sex attractions and then allowing them the space, free from bias, to choose how they want to act," said Lee Beckstead, a gay psychologist in Salt Lake City who uses this approach.

I have mixed feelings about this approach, which is still being ironed out and has not been officially adopted by anyone. On the plus side, it's better than people being misled that they can lose their same-sex desires and driven to suicide when that does not happen, feeling that they have failed. It seems, however, that people are being counseled to deny themselves what most of think is a very important part of their lives.

It's hard for me to put myself in that position since I've never been told that my natrual desires were sinful. I'd be interested in getting feedback from someone who has.

1 comment:

  1. Jim -- The sexual identity therapy approach does not teach therapists to tell clients what their desires mean in any general sense or how they should be valued. We know so little about how sexual attractions develop and it is not the job of the therapist to place value. Reparative therapists may do what you are suggesting and certainly ministers will have prescriptive things to say but this is not the role of a neutral therapist.