American Psychological Association reviews policy on counseling gays
By DAVID CRARY
The Associated Press
NEW YORK | The American Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old policy on counseling gays and lesbians.
Gay-rights activists hope that the step will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation. Such efforts — often called reparative therapy or conversion therapy — are considered futile and harmful by many gay-rights activists.
Conservative groups defend the right to offer such treatment, and say that people with their viewpoint have been excluded from the review panel.
A six-member task force set up by the association has its first meeting beginning next Tuesday.
Scores of conservative religious leaders and counselors, representing such groups as the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family, have written a joint letter to the association, expressing concern that the task force’s proposals would not properly accommodate gays and lesbians whose religious beliefs condemn gay sex.
“We believe that psychologists should assist clients to develop lives that they value, even if that means they decline to identify as homosexual,” said the letter, which requested a meeting between APA leaders and some of the signatories.
APA spokeswoman Rhea Farberman said that a decision on when and how to reply to the letter had not yet been made.
The current policy, adopted in 1997, opposes any counseling that treats homosexuality as a mental illness, but does not explicitly denounce reparative therapy.
Conservatives contend that the review’s outcome is preordained because the task force is dominated by gay-rights supporters.
Joseph Nicolosi, a leading proponent of reparative therapy, predicted that the task force would propose a ban of the practice — and he vowed to resist such a move. Nicolosi, who was rejected as a task force nominee, is president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
Clinton Anderson, director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, insisted that the panel would base its findings on scientific research, not ideology.
One of the task force members, New York City psychiatrist Jack Drescher, said that conservatives don’t acknowledge the harm that might be caused when a gay patient — even voluntarily — undergoes therapy to suppress or change sexual orientation.
Jody Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said that reparative therapy had been particularly harmful for young gays whose parents insisted on trying to change their sexual orientation.