North Texas Daily

Conversion controversy: understanding reparative therapy

Conversion controversy: understanding reparative therapy

Conversion controversy: understanding reparative therapy
July 08
14:31 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

In early June, when Texas Republicans gathered to establish their group platform for the November elections, they endorsed something called reparative therapy for the LGBT community. This is in response to California and New Jersey passing laws that ban conversion therapy for minors and teenagers.

The American Psychiatric Association hasn’t classified homosexuality as a mental disorder since 1973. Because of this, anti-gay therapy can range widely, from Pray the Gay Away church camps to aversion therapy, which has been against the APA’s code of conduct since 2006. What exactly is the GOP endorsing with this language?

The platform could mean the specific form of psychoanalysis known as reparative therapy. The term was coined in 1991 by Joseph Nicolosi, who believed that same-sex attraction was caused by a poor relationship with the same-sex parent. This form of therapy is mostly discredited.

If a Texan wants this specific therapy, they’ll probably end up visiting David Pickup in Dallas. Pickup studied for several years under Nicolosi, and said reparative therapy is essentially the practice of removing shame. Pickup said he only practices the therapy on people who come to him asking for the treatment, and he has declined to practice on adolescents whose parents brought them against their will.

“To do anything else would be unethical,” he said. “Anyone who does coerce should lose their licenses.”

Pickup said the therapy works by looking for underlying issues in the client’s past that could lead to sexual confusion. Pickup said common causes include a sense of inferiority to other members of the same gender, a poor relationship with the same-sex parent or molestation. Pickup said once the negative feelings are removed from these causes, the client no longer feels unwanted attractions. He compared it to APA-approved gay affirmative therapy, which centers on helping clients accept their attractions.

Psychiatrist Jack Drescher, who drafted the APA’s position on sexual orientation change efforts in 2000, referred an article in the North Texas Daily to testimony he gave to congress in May. Drescher said these efforts do not tend to work, and can cause damage to the client.

“The theories upon which SOCE [Sexual Orientation Change Efforts] practices are based have no scientific basis,” Drescher said. “SOCE practitioners tell people that client motivation or faith, rather than therapist skill or treatment technique, is mainly what leads to change. However this is a con artist’s set up for ‘patient blaming,’ as most clients don’t change. After much time, energy and money spent, many feel worse when treatment fails—which it does in most cases, leading to increased depression, increased anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts, feelings and attempts.”

The GOP platform makes no mention of Nicolosi, and could refer to other practices that are even more condemned by the APA.

Kathleen Hobson with UNT’s Pride Alliance said the organization declined to comment on political issues.

Feature Image: Parade participants march down Market St. carrying the rainbow flag during the annual Gay Pride parade in San Francisco, California, Sunday, June 30, 2013.  Photo courtesy of Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT

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