Conversion therapy, or psychotherapy to repair homosexuality, is controversial. If you believe that homosexuality is due to biological factors, then conversion therapy really won’t work. But, if it is true that homosexuality is a choice, conversion therapy could be a possibility.
Exodus International, a Christian website that advertises conversion therapy, describes itself as “offering hope and help to people seeking freedom over their homosexual impulses and behaviors.” They go on to emphatically state that you “do not have to live a life beholden to desires or temptations.”
NARTH is a similar organization. They describe themselves as a “a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality.” They go on to state: “NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care.”
It is apparent that these organizations view homosexuality as a choice and homosexual behaviors as unhealthy. Although the causes of homosexuality are still being debated, most of the evidence points to biological factors. Assuming that is the case, even if conversion therapy worked, why are we trying to change nature? Or, put differently, change what God himself created?
Just for fun, let’s go with the argument that homosexuality is a choice. Do people really need therapy to get over it? (I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not homosexuality is “wrong”, this is neither the time nor the place). In that case, if their sexual orientation is causing them distress, then therapy would be appropriate. But, we also need to look at why their orientation is causing them distress. If the problem is at a more global level, meaning that society has distorted and unfounded negative views of homosexuality, then it’s really society, rather than the individual, that needs help.
Let’s ask a different question: does conversion therapy work?
Recently, a student of mine did a project on conversion therapy and interviewed a therapist who practiced it. Interestingly, my student reported that the therapist really wouldn’t go into detail about how he treated homosexuality. If this methodology really works, and you do this for your job, why not come out and share exactly how it works?
Now, let’s look at the data.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the data showing the efficacy of conversion therapy is limited. Furthermore, psychiatrist Dr. Robert Spitzer, who offered data from a study showing its effectiveness, recently apologized and explained how the results of his study were misinterpreted, acknowledging that it had a fatal flaw. Here is the letter he wrote.
So, as you can see, conversion therapy is a controversial topic. It may or may not be effective, but, perhaps more importantly, it may not be appropriate. If homosexuality is not a choice, or if we can look to society as being “wrong” about its anti-homosexual views, then conversion therapy is inappropriate. In that case, its efficacy is immaterial.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,