Reparative Therapy

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on

What a Small Portion of the Religious Community is Saying
Is a change in sexual orientation possible?

Policy Statements Denouncing Reparative Therapy
APA Council of Representatives Passes Resolution on So-Called Reparative Therapy
Fighting right wing lies and the "Ex-Gay" Fraud
Psychologists to review stance on gays
Hate Crimes
An exchange with the editor of Psychology Today regarding their ad policy for “ex-gay” advocates

Related Issues: Ex-Gay or Sexual Anorexic?; It's Past Time for this Ex-Gay Business to Get with It
American Academy of Pediatrics -
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychoanalytic Association -
American Psychological Association -
Psychiatric News -
Social Work Today -
UC Davis -
Joe Kort - Extreme Makeovers: What Reparative Therapy is Really All About, Tell CNN To Cover The Facts About "Reparative Therapy"!, Reparative Therapy and Health Insurance and Anti-Gay P-Fox President Expelled from American Counseling Association for life.
Bob Minor - "The Psychological Debate is Over", "Case Closed! Responding to Psychological Arguments Against Gay People" E-book

Organizations to Watch Out For: American Anglican Council, Desert Stream Ministries, Exodus International, Focus on the Family, Life Ministries International, Love in Action International, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and Redeemed Lives Ministries (RLM).



The term "reparative therapy" has multiple definitions:

The term "conversion therapy" is sometimes used as a synonym for reparative therapy.

A person's "sexual orientation" is normally defined by the gender of those to whom the person is sexually attracted; homosexuals are attracted only to members of the same sex; bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, but not necessarily to an equal degree. However, promoters of these therapies often define "sexual orientation" in terms of sexual behavior.

The effectiveness of these therapies has yet to be properly evaluated. They may be found to be helpful; it may turn out to be useless; they may be eventually recognized as ineffective and potentially harmful. Many information sources do agree that:

Although there have been a few studies, all have serious deficiencies. Some anecdotal evidence is available -- both negative and positive.

Therapists who engage in these therapies are exposing their clients to an unproven, experimental treatment. Clients should realize that little is known about the potential benefits or dangers of these therapies. Dr. Jack Drescher, a medical doctor who works extensively with homosexuals stated: "It is not clear...if reparative therapists ever provide informed consent to explain these substantial risks to the patients they treat, or even if they are fully aware of the costs to the unrepaired."

Many recent, experimental forms of therapy have proven disastrous to the quality of life of the client-victims. Recovered memory therapy was one; another is multiple personality disorder therapy (a.k.a. dissociative identity disorder). Both triggered many suicides and caused a great deal of pain, at both the personal and family level. Therapies which attempt to change sexual orientation may be similarly dangerous.

Terminology used:

There are two "solitudes" within society dealing with homosexual issues:

Each of these groups assigns different meanings to common English words and phrases. This is not unique. The same phenomenon occurs in the field of abortion, corporal punishment and other areas of social debate. It makes dialog and communication very difficult.

Common conservative
Christian usage
Common usage by other groups

Homosexuality is a behavior.

Homosexuality is an orientation

Homosexuality is what one does.

Homosexuality is what one is.

Sexual preference

Sexual orientation

"I am cured of homosexuality" OR

"I am an ex-gay."

"I was a sexually active homosexual; I am now homosexual who has chosen to be celibate."

"I was once in the homosexual lifestyle, but I am a heterosexual now."

"I was a bisexual who engaged in same-sex relationships. My orientation is still bisexual, but, I now choose to have only relationships with the opposite gender."

A person involved in the homosexual lifestyle

A person with a bisexual or homosexual orientation who is sexually active with members of the same gender.

History of these therapies:

In the past, researchers attempted to change sexual orientation through psychotherapy, aversion therapy, nausea producing drugs, castration, electric shock, brain surgery, breast amputations, etc. All failed. These methods were largely abandoned by the mid-1970's. Reparative therapy and transformational ministries emerged in the early 1970's.

The source of modern-day secular reparative therapy can be traced back many decades to the research of Irving Bieber, Lawrence Hatterer and Sigmond Freud. Their conclusions about homosexuality had long been abandoned by almost all mental health professionals. However, Elizabeth Moberly, a British, conservative, Christian theologian studied those works and developed a new theory of the cause of homosexuality. She believes that it is solely caused by environmental factors -- incompetence on the part of the parent of the same gender. She also developed a technique in the early 1980's which attempts to change the sexual orientation of homosexual adults. She has done no clinical work to support the validity of her theory or the effectiveness of her therapeutic technique. She is a theologian, not a trained mental health professional. Her book "Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic" is still in print and is widely circulated among conservative Christians. 1

She abandoned "Freud's emphasis on the domineering mother and focused on the effect of the 'passive' or 'distant' father. Moberly determined...that the homosexual men in the studies were suffering from what she termed 'defensive detachment' and 'same sex ambivalence.' The theory presumes that the young boy, for any of a variety of reasons, did not bond with his father in a meaningful way." 2 Lacking a positive relationship with his father, the boy "defensively detaches" from any potential friendships with other boys his own age. After puberty, he redirects his longing for a close relationship with his father and other males into a search for love. He sexualizes the longing, feels attraction to other men, and becomes an active homosexual. (We have used a male example here because almost all reparative therapy is done on men).

During therapy, the gay client is encouraged to enter into an emotionally close, non-sexual, non-erotic relationship with another male adult. Once he achieves this, heterosexual feelings are expected to emerge over time and homosexual feelings are expected to fade.

As mentioned above, no peer-reviewed study has been published on reparative therapy. No longitudinal study has ever been conducted into its long-term effectiveness and hazards. However, many of the larger conservative Christian organizations, like Coral Ridge Ministries and Focus on the Family claim that this and other therapies have a high cure rate. Meanwhile many psychiatrists who do not support this therapy report anecdotal evidence of gays and lesbians who have become seriously depressed after the inevitable failure of their therapy; some have committed suicide.

Is a change in sexual orientation possible?

These conversion therapies are based on the belief that the "cause(s)" of homosexuality are found in the environment -- specifically from the parenting incompetence of the father while the boy is young. We have found six types of studies into the nature of homosexuality that appear to indicate that this is not true:

The first type appears to show that inadequate or non-existent fathering is not a factor in sexual orientation:

Five other studies appear to indicate that sexual orientation (at least for males) is largely genetically determined:

Acceptance of conversion therapies:

Within the mental health community there are two schools of thought about these therapies:

Many hundreds of conservative Christian therapists and ministries promote them as effective and safe. These therapies mesh well with their fundamental religious beliefs: Starting with three fundamental religious beliefs common to most conservative Christians, that:

Then it would appear irrational for God to create about 5% of the embryos as homosexual. Thus, sexual orientation cannot be genetically predetermined.

Starting with another two fundamental religious beliefs:

Then, sexual orientation must be changeable, at least for born-again believers, through effort, counseling, and prayer.

Almost all of the hundreds of thousands of remaining mental health professionals feel that therapy is:

Safety of these therapies:

Within medicine, there are strong governmental controls that govern the introduction of new medications and treatment regimens. But mental and physical therapies are largely unregulated. Anybody can introduce and promote a new, totally unproven, form of experimental therapy. If it catches on, thousands of therapists may adopt the concept and start treating their patients. Over the last two decades we have seen treatments based on therapists' beliefs in: abuse of patients during former lifetimes, abuse during UFO visitations, facilitated communication for autistic children, indwelling demonic spirits, mind control within religious Cults, multiple personality disorder/dissociative identity disorder, recovered memory therapy, ritual abuse in day care centers, Satanic ritual abuse, and therapeutic touch.

All of these treatment methods have a few points in common:

Most of these have been shown to be frauds; all might eventually prove to be ineffective. Many generate a trail of devastated lives; some have been shown to trigger deep depression and suicide.

No consensus exists on the safety, effectiveness, and possible adverse consequences of conversion therapies at this time. We urge extreme caution.

Effectiveness of these therapies:

From our study of reparative therapy, we suspect that:

When it proves unsuccessful:

We have been able to find a few documented case of individuals with a homosexual orientation who report having changed to a heterosexual orientation. Almost all of the cases that we have located turned out to be false leads: the individual later admitted that he/she had not changed their orientation. Many have left the "ex-gay" movement to become an "ex-ex-gays."

Unfortunately, these suspicions are based on inadequate evidence. Certainty awaits a meaningful, credible study by mental health professionals. Unfortunately, the studies that have been made to date are seriously flawed.

Related essays


1. Elizabeth Moberly, "Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic," (originally published in the early 1980's; reprinted 1997). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

2. Jeffry Ford, "What is Reparative Therapy?," at:

3. Mel White, Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America", Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, (1994) Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store


Policy Statements Denouncing Reparative Therapy

These Ex-Gay" programs have been denounced by every respected medical and mental health care organization and child welfare agency in America, including the:

Source: Columbia University mathematics professor, Peter Woit's blog:

Fighting right wing lies and the "Ex-Gay" Fraud





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My daughter is lesbian. She is also the light of my life...If society has some false notions about her, that is all the more reason she needs and deserve my support. - R. Bernstein

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