In my recent article regarding the founders of Exodus, I made the following quote referencing a study of counseling with gays and lesbians:
"For instance, in a recent study of 2000 episodes of counseling with 600 gays, only 13 episodes were identified as involving sexual reorientation therapy."
The reference for the study is: Jones, M.A., Botsko, M., & Gorman, B.S. (2003). Predictors of psychotherapeutic benefit of lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients: The effects of sexual orientation matching and other factors. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40, 289-301.
There were a number of factors examined but the authors asked 600 glb people who had been involved in any kind of counseling to report on their experiences with their counselors. The word episode refers to all the sessions with one counselor. So roughly we are talking about 600 people who consulted nearly 2000 counselors for an average of 3.3 episodes (counselors) each.
Of the nearly 2000 episodes of counseling reported on by these 600 clients, only 13 were with counselors who engaged in reorientation counseling. Remember this is more than 13 sessions but thirteen different counselors out of nearly 2000 reported on. So less than 1% of the episodes involved counseling situations that the gay and lesbian clients now see as being at odds with their current orientation. Remarkably, 48% of the clients were confused about their orientation at the time they went into counseling. These are the kind of clients that would seem to be vulnerable to therapists offering or attempting to impose reorientation interventions. However, less than 1% the counseling episodes included reorientation therapy. This does not sound like evidence of widespread harm done by counselors to vulnerable clients.
Also, on the point of widespread harm, the one other study (Shidlo and Schroeder) that surveyed clients who said they had been harmed by reorientation counseling took 5 years to find 176 people that experienced harm. This is a long period of time, despite the fact, that the effort was sponsored by gay and lesbian organizations and publicized widely in these circles. In contrast, Spitzer took less than 2 years to find 200 people who met his stringent criteria for change.
Those who have been harmed I do not doubt. What I think this evidence supports is that there are people doing things in the name of reorientation that are harmful and they need to be stopped. However, as evidence of widespread harm, I do not think the case is made.
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About Dr. Warren Throckmorton
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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